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Last Light. Fitzgerald Reserve. Moss Beach, CA 2015. Canon 5D III. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on March 14-17, 2015

Welcome to the March 2015 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Thinking of fantasy, science fiction and the real world wonder I see. I find myself pondering the loss of a science fiction icon, and the strange path that helped me understand the seduction of other worldliness right here on earth.

This month's View From Here column takes note of the passing of Leonard Nimoy and discusses art and science fiction. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section is a video of a Sharpening demo from a Fine Art Printing class last year.


  • New Zealand 2015 workshop is moving to a new date in November.

photo review

Steve in daily group discussion with his March Image Editing Workshop.
Photo by Fiona McDonnell.

Scholarships and Mentoring

As part of our ongoing commitment to photographic education, there is one student scholarship spot in many of our classes. Please pass the word along.

For discounted time studying with Steve, keep in mind our Mentoring Program.

With all of our busy schedules and limited budgets, destination workshops or classes become a challenge, but many of you still have questions you need answered, or feedback on some new work. We want to remind you of our Virtual Online Consulting Program. This service allows all of you out there around the globe to consult online live with Steve on technical, aesthetic and workflow issues using Skype and your webcam.

Our Essays and Tutorials from the past couple of years can now be found on Google Blogger.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the new Panoramic Prints we've added to the National Parks Gallery, and the Exquisite Earth exhibition with its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1. We invite you to join us on a workshop, rent lab space, or just say hello and let us know what you are up to photographically and what you might like to see us offer. We value your input.


Workshop Testimonials



Horizon Circle. 2015.
Canon 5d III

Horizon Circle on Sky and Water. Pacifica, CA. 2015.
Canon 5D III.

11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

The Pacific horizon circling in light and dark looking to an endless west.

2015 Workshop Schedule
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on March 14-17, 2015
Pacifica: Nature's Gem March 21-22, 2015
Critique Session for March 26, 2015
Digital Black and White Printing Hands-on March 28-30, 2015
Flora and Form April 23-25, 2015
The Golden Gate May 2-3, 2015
Raw to Print Summer Digital Bootcamp June 1-5, 2015
New Zealand November, 2015

printing class

February 2015 Image Editing Class. Photo from demo video by Fiona McDonnell

Speaking Events (see below)

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moon venus

Moon and Venus. 2015.


New Photo Link

Moon and Venus
, CA.
2015. Canon 5D III.

Click to order a print

The Moon and Venus glowing in a misty western sky at dusk.


Space Station with Moon and Orion. 2015

by Stephen Johnson

I've been watching the ocean a lot lately. Of course, I always do. The evening skies and Moon have been crystal clear above the water, with Venus and Jupiter prominent. Mars has been out, although hard to see next to shinning Venus. I watch out for the Space Station flyovers and a few nights ago it flew under the moon and Orion at dusk, and with just enough warning for me to set up my camera.

I love seeing the Space Station (ISS) fly over. I tried to follow the Shuttle when it was still flying as well. Apps on my iphone make the watching planable rather than just coincidental. My favorite ISS App so far is GoISSWatch.

There's been some nice light lately,


Rockaway Mist. Pacifica, CA. 2015

On the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

I met actor Leonard Nimoy twice, and like so many of us, felt a special kinship with his character Spock from the 1960s TV Series Star Trek. The character gave us another kind of hero, almost an anti-hero. He stood apart from all those around him, maintained most of his beliefs under much peer pressure, and was ultimately valued for who he was that was different, not how he fit in. He was fictional.

Of course, in the world of television entertainment, this man of non-violence did fight and kill, in way too many trumped up battle scenes. But to even suggest there might be another way made me curious about many things around me that I did not understand at the time.

I was not yet a teenager in the late sixties, but I was being shaped by my times. The civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam, the political assassinations, all were awakening me into a very disturbing world. I have often said that the night Robert Kennedy was shot was the end of my childhood. It was also the beginning of my real political awareness. Coincidentally, the fall of 1968 began the last season of Star Trek. In December humans traveled to the moon for the first time.

This fictional TV Series and the real world upheaval of the times were linked. My fascination with space travel was already deep in my blood. The exploration, the hope for human cooperation, the seduction of adventure, the unimaginable beings that must be out there.

Photo Credit: Paramount Television

Star Trek was inspirational and disappointing along these lines. The species discovered were mostly as messed up as we were. The few that weren't often didn't get our so-called good intentions.

Kirk's libido was over the top. The vampy music as short-skirted woman walked by was offensive, These aspects of the show were not healthy or inspirational. But Spock's raised eyebrow at Kirk's behavior added a little perspective. I believe it made the growing Woman's Movement of the late 1960s even more understandable to the 12 year old boy I was.

I first met Nimoy as he campaigned for George McGovern in 1972. I was the local county co-chair of the campaign at 16 years old. He came to town on a small plane and spoke at the local college. We picked him up at the airport and become his de facto hosts for the day. He spoke eloquently about the war and McGovern as a man who knew war too well and the peacemaker he had become. There are some videos of him during this campaign tour.

The event was well attended, including my mother Elvira, who couldn't resist telling Nimoy how much I loved Spock. Instantly seeing my obvious 16 year old embarrassment at the 12 year old boy she had just revealed, Nimoy immediately said how impressed he was by all of the young people like me, getting involved and trying to make a difference. He covered my back, and paid me a much appreciated compliment. At the end of his visit, he handed me his business card and said if I was ever in LA to look him up.

As it turned out, the next time I ran into Nimoy was at a photo trade show in LA that I was speaking at in 1997. I had both my kids with me, then 5 and 7. We were on a week long Dad and kids outing starting in LA and heading for the desert. I had a speaking gig at the Staples Center, and Nimoy had a booth of his black and white nude photographs. Of course, it was no secret to my kids that Star Trek and Spock had been a part of my youth.

After summoning up some courage, I took my kids over, introduced myself and my kids. As Nimoy had been before, he was incredibly gracious. he said that the campaigning he had done for McGovern was one of the most rewarding things he had ever experienced, thanking me for what was very special to him. I'm sure he didn't remember the 16 year old Steve, but he clearly had been moved by all of the young people he met dedicated to making this world a better place.

Nimoy's character Spock helped birth dreams. It helped cement my psyche as a dreamer. I'm happy I got a chance to tell him so, long removed from my mom revealing how much I loved Spock. Many of us shed a heartfelt tear at his passing.


Space Dreams. Digital Composite. 1993.

It's fair to ask what exactly science fiction characters have to do with art.

They both have to do with the imagination. Even as I relish the real world, I am constantly taken by its unbelievable other worldliness, beauty and wonder too big to really take in. That is also sort of the realm of science fiction, wonder too big to take in, possibility too wide to comprehend.

Letting my imagination wander is what allowed me to become an artist. It is that same wander and wonder that sustains me as an artist to this day.

...continued top of right column of the essay


Sand and Stream. Pacifica, CA. 2015

Science fiction depends on imagination, a seduction of the unbelievable into the possible, if not even the real. This earth we live on is often as bizarre and hard to believe as other worlds might be. Undersea creatures are easy examples, but so are the Hoodoos of Bryce, or the Tufa Towers of Mono Lake.

Being drawn into a real world of unbelievable beauty and intrigue seems directly related in my mind to the romance I found in so much science fiction I read as a boy. Other worlds, strange landforms, exotic light, surprising perspective, scale and sensual form.

So much of what I've seen in this very real world speaks of fantasy more than mundane reality. It is why I was seduced by the photographic landscape. It is why I continue to be drawn in.


Some New Work


Beach Mist. Pacifica. 2015


Hibiscus. Shelldance. from the Life Form Series. 2015.

New Developments at the Studio

Adobe Camera Raw Team Visits Stephen Johnson's Studio

On Feb. 19, The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA hosted a talk "Mastering the Pixel: 25 Years of Photoshop" with Photoshop author Thomas Knoll, his partner and brother John Knoll, Adobe Art Director Russell Brown and the first Photoshop Product Manger, my old friend Steve Guttman. We went to the talk and I was delighted to see so many of my old friends. My work was shown and mentioned during the talk, which was a real honor. Video now on Youtube

As it happened, the Adobe Camera Raw team was in San Francisco for a periodic meeting, and many of them decided to spend the afternoon of their last day at my studio in Pacifica.


Most of the Adobe Camera Raw Team with Steve and Fiona at Stephen Johnson Photography. 2015.
left to right: Richard Case, Krishna Singh Karki, Akiko Sherry, Michelle Qi, Jeffrey O'Donald, Max Wendt, Thomas Knoll, Adriana Ohlmeyer, Joshua Bury, Eric Chan
with Fiona McDonnell and Steve.


Max Wendt, Eric Chan and Joshua Bury from Adobe's Camera Raw Team at Stephen Johnson Photography. 2015. Photo by Jeffrey O’Donald.

The Computer History Museum is developing a an exhibit on Photoshop. In 2013 they did video interviews with a number of us for the exhibit. Interviews included Thomas Knoll, Russell Brown, painter Bert Monroy and me. I featured an excerpt from my interview in my June 2013 Newsletter.


Custom Workshop Scheduling

People often want to take workshops and the dates just don't match up with their schedules. Sometimes they watch the newsletter and webpage for years for their interest, free time and the workshop to all coincide. We've decided to be proactive in creating a forum for potential students to tell us what you need and when you can take a class. Please email us with workshop ideas and suggestions.

More formally, we are experimenting with a workshop poll to determine when interested people can make particular workshops they really want to take.

Currently we have up two workshops to experiment:


please email your comments to us



Consulting Programs and Speaking Events

Virtual Education: Our Virtual Consulting and Mentoring Program is working well. Readers of this Newsletter can still get a discount by mentioning this reference when you enroll.

Our One on One Program links you up with Steve at his bay area studio, or when he is on the road near you. Keep an eye on when Steve will be near your town.

Catch Steve Live: Steve will be speaking here and there over the next  few months, such as his up coming talks in New York City at Photo Plus.

  • The Craft and Passion of Fine-Art Digital Printing with Photographer Stephen Johnson. ProPhoto Portland Oregon. April 18, 2015.
  • McAllen Texas. November 7, 2015
  • Phoenix, Arizona. November 2015
  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display

Canon Sponsors Steve to speak at Universities, Colleges, Photo Groups and various events around the country. If you would like more information on arranging for Steve to do a Canon sponsored event, go to: Canon SJ EOL talks



Steve Lecturing at Photo Plus. New York City. October 2014.



Sharpening Demo

We often make screen recordings of my demos during the lab classes so students can take them home for review. In this case, the topic of Sharpening was demonstrated in my Fine Art Printing workshop last year. The demo was captured with ScreenFlow.

This is a simple demo of the optical illusion of greater sharpness we get from using tools like the basic Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop. It creates light and dark outlines around contrasty edges in the photograph, which suggests to our eyes/mind that there is greater sharpness in the photograph. This is not a substitute for the best focus possible in the camera, and does not restore any focus to the image.

If used with restraint, the filter can be helpful to create an illusion of greater tightness in the image. There are many ways of doing this, and many permutations of masking and channel selection. I hope this helps as a simple demo, with some repair work shown as well.

Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift notecard.

2015 Calendars

11" x 17"
Price $25.00

2015 Life Form Calendar
12 selections from Steve's Life Form work.

Life Form Calendar order


2015 Pacifica Calendar
12 selections from Steve's Pacifica, CA work.

Pacifica Calendar order.


2014 Life Form Note cards
5x7 inches,

Click to Purchase

12 image Note card set with envelopes featuring photographs from Steve's new Life Form work.

Printed by Steve in his studio in very limited numbers on a color laser digital press


National Park Note cards

note card

National Park Color Note card Set
Stephen Johnson
12 cards/envelopes $20 set

From "With a New Eye" Beautiful 300 line screen offset reproductions with envelopes in clear box. A great gift.




or call to order 650 355-7507



Please come visit us at our gallery and see our original prints in person. The subtle detail of the prints and the beautiful texture of the fine art paper have to be seen to be understood. And while you're here, browse through our books, cards, posters, and specially priced prints.

We're happy to mail you a copy of our product catalog, just send a note to or call us.

We're located at:

Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044
(650) 355-7507



Pacifica Center for the Arts from Linda Mar Boulevard

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Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044 650 355-7507

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Last updated on March 25, 2015 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2015, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide