Grassfire and Oak. San Miguel. 2009. Canon 1Ds III.


Great teaching, great facility.
What more could you need for your plunge
into digital photography?


Road Posts. Stage Road (Old Highway One). 1978
see Highway One and the San Mateo Coast Workshop. June 6-7, 2009.



Welcome to the May 2009 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

I spent the last weekend in April with my old friend, longtime photographer Al Weber, helping out in his Mission San Miguel Portfolio Workshop. It was great to spend the time with Al, and see cameras everywhere I looked around the mission. The participants were accomplished, and hungry for knowledge. It was a great environment.

On workshop news, we're adding new variation on our most popular workshop, the Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-On, the Digital Image Editing and Fine-Art Printing Hands-On class will be offered for the first time from May 14-17. If you've wanted to take the image editing and the printing class, this is the first of its kind.

Also in the offing is our one-day class Color Management for Photography on May 30 This is the opportunity to really demystify color integration in the digital arena.

In June join us on our Highway One and the San Mateo Coast workshop exploring redwood rainforests, cliffs and beaches, old stagecoach roads and coastal hamlets.

Summer and Fall our answer to all questions digital, our intensive RAW to Print Summer Digital Boot Camp, July 13-17. This workshop is strictly limited to 10 people. The Iceland workshop could still use a few of you out there to join in on this great week- long sojourn to this great volcanic island country.

Field excursions include the spectacular 12 day Southwest Digital Journey workshop and the exotic Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra in October for the fall color.  For full descriptions see the workshop section below.

If you can help us get the word out better on the workshops, please be in touch. Referral credits are now available, giving you 10% off the next workshop you take for every enrollee you send to us.


Workshop Testimonials


New Class: Digital Image Editing and Fine-Art Printing Hands-On class will be offered for the first time from May 14-17. If you've wanted to take the image editing and the printing class, this is the first of its kind.

Highway One and the San Mateo Coast moved to June 6-7, 2009

New Video: Steve storytelling at Al Weber's Mission San Miguel Workshop

Larry Baca: My good friend Larry Baca passed away on April 27. More on Larry below.

May 2009


Trees and Grass, Stage Road. 2008.
Canon 1Ds Mark III
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each

Wandering down one of my favorite roads, Stage Road off Highway One near Pescadero, a bend I often stop at to gaze at the hills held this wonderful contrast of grass and Eucalyptus textures. I took the time to work with the Canon SLR to use it like I know I should, on a tripod, with mirror locked up and careful Aperture selection for maximum sharpness. I was rewarded with a 35mm digital format photograph that held far more detail than my more casual hand-held images, then with careful editing making for a silvery black and white print I am quite proud of.

We're offering an 11x14 inch print, matted to 16x20 and ready to frame for $195, framed in silver for an additional $75, wood for $150. This print at this price is offered through May 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by June 15th.

About the Program
Each month we offer a signed, original print, at a special price. This is a great opportunity to own a very affordable fine-art photograph. Orders are taken for a 30-day period, then printed and shipped within two weeks after the close. When it's over, it's over, these prints won't be available again at this price.



Audience, Al Weber's Mission San Miguel Portfolio Workshop. 2009

Digital Hunger

Lectures in a couple of workshops lately has once again brought to the surface the deep need for good simple information in the transformation into the electronic age of photography. This is particularly true in this very early age where these images are being handled by binary digital technology and people are anxious to get up to speed, but often poorly informed.

The lectures were at a fine workshop my old friend and mentor Al Weber conducted at Mission San Miguel as a class in producing a photographic portfolio and a joint east-bay camera club event hosted by the Berkeley Camera Club as a special event with Canon sponsoring both talks.


Brother Bill, our host, and (right) Al Weber at the Mission San Miguel Portfolio Workshop. 2009

I saw enthusiastic people in love with photography. Most were rich in their love of photography and many had considerable experience. But they were also somewhat frustrated in the medium, intimidated by endless digital jargon and seeming complexity, yearning for knowledge, and very open to possibility. In both situations, I saw a clear opportunity to help just by opening a few doors.

There are plenty of good reasons for advanced Photoshop techniques and classes where finesse can be gained. But more attention and attitude needs to be paid to the ordinary citizen just getting into the digital imaging world.

People need to know the basic information to function in this new digital photographic environment. The dazzling tips and tricks are way off subject for most people. Most are simply yearning for simple, easy to understand work flows that relate directly to their previous photographic experience and allow them to work with their photographs in a fairly straightforward way. What they often get is Photoshop in it's seemingly infinite complexity with way too many options and work around's to take in, and implied imperatives to make the simple complex, the basic tricky. This is a shame.

When teaching, I try to keep the information unembellished, simple, and down to earth. Since in reality, this digital transition is far simpler than it is often made, with many aspects not hard at all if explained in context and without undue high-tech jargon. Just as the technology of photography has fascinated and engaged conversation for more than half a century, so now the digital world immerses itself in a thousand steps needing a map rather than simply opening the door to the photograph already made, just as yet unrealized.



Photographers really need only a few of Photoshop's critical features to get their basic work done. The RAW processor is needed for interpreting the camera's raw data into a photograph. The Curves Editor can suffice for most all tone and color editing needs. Although still pretty basic after all of these years, the built-in Unsharp Mask Filter used gently usually suffices for most image "tightening" for that desired illusion of greater detail and sharpness. Of course there's many other dimensions to the program, but it is amazing how controlling a few simple and critical tasks can build confidence and empower.

That basic handle on the program can build some resistance to the "tips and tricks" mentality that is so pervasive in photo processing today. A basic approach suggests that people concentrate on the photograph rather than the gimmicks. Sophistication can grow over time, and becomes more effective anyway as tools get better and work arounds fall away.

In some lectures I just try to figure out where people are confused and going to stumble, then address those dead on. One lecture I've been giving recently is:

Twelve Things to Improve Your Digital Photography
with Stephen Johnson

Common problems make for common grief. In this lecture Stephen Johnson addresses many of the problems that come up for people, often with the user not even knowing what is going wrong. These issues are covered with an intent toward clarity and in a context so that their purpose and problem solving potential is understood and able to be applied to a photographer's workflow immediately.

1. Calibrate your monitor
2. Use RAW
3. Set jpeg to low contrast on camera
4. Use Histogram, expose to right to maximize tonal resolution
5. Spectrally neutral gray card in every unique lighting situation
6. Customize RAW presets to your tastes
7. Metadata: name, label and keyword your files
8. Preserve bit depth
9. Edit for image (tone and aspect ratio)
10. Curves for tone shaping
11. Calibrated print viewing light
12. Preserve whites in your prints

Although this list is elastic and usually gets customized on the fly by intuition and questions, it sticks to a few basic concepts. Empower your vision, do justice to it in the electronic darkroom, tune your printing, let light come through. In most photographic circumstances, beauty is seen, not edited into a file. Driving that point home has its own encouragement, the seduction of wanting to make a photograph remains the most important step.

Grassfire Smoke. San Miguel. 2009.

Fire, Color and Light

While we were in lectures and photo roaming the grounds of the Mission San Miguel, a fire broke out in the drying grasslands across the railroad from the mission. Although many of us waited a few minutes to react, many ran over with the press badges flying, others with their caught in the headlights looks, others still just taking in the visuals.

Fire is disturbing and frightening. Fear of fire can haunt some of the deepest reaches of our mind. Forces from local fire departments rushed in, the fire burned into some old tires and turned the smoke oily black. The blue sky behind, gold grass, orange flames and multi-colored smoke drew us all in.

The experience immediately raised in my mind the dichotomy between beauty and disturbance. Fire is destructive, even deadly, but can also be about renewal and beauty. Photography can force both right into your face, not to make you choose, but to record, hold and share. With fire being so representative of the worst of what have made and do, and yet simultaneously a fundamental force of nature we have found actually allows redwoods to sprout, and smaller fires to clear fuel to prevent massive firestorms.

I love photography! It makes me look and think!

Always Love A Good Story

A couple of stories I've told many times at talks from my digital national parks project, With a New Eye, captured by Anthony Mournian while recording Al Weber's Mission San Miguel Workshop. April 26, 2009. My talk was sponsored by Canon as part of their Explorers of Light Program.

To watch video...

Larry Baca (1953-2009)

Larry at Wedding 2001. Photo by Michael Kieran.

My good friend Larry Baca unexpectedly passed away on April 27, 2009 at his home in Paso Robles, California.

Larry had been deeply involved in design and publishing his whole adult life. Working at Aldus during its formative years in desktop publishing with Pagemaker, he helped desktop publishing become real, and then to simply become publishing. Larry went on to help envision and bring to market the first affordable color spectrophotometer, the ColorTron for Light Source in 1995, thus helping to birth a widespread empowerment for individuals to do their own color management.

ColorTron Illustration by Brian Lawler

Toast to Bruce, Bruce Fraser Tribute, Macwolrd 2007, San Francisco. Left to right: Larry Baca, Steve Upton, Jeff Schewe, Mac Holbert, Graham Nash, Liz Quinlist, Henry Wilhelm, Bill Atkinson, Stephen Johnson.

In 2007, Larry organized and produced the wonderful tribute to our good friend Bruce Fraser, from which a DVD has also been made. The tribute was meticulously produced, as was most everything Larry took on. Many of us will always remember a beach scene diorama that arrived from Larry inviting us to Cancun for a consulting/retreat he was organizing for an employer.

He was widely known and respected in the digital publishing world and had recently been working passionately on a multi-spectral fine-art reproduction project he was convinced could transform our appreciation of art. I agree with Larry's assessment and am very supportive of the effort with this specific project and multi-spectral capture for general purpose photography as well.

Larry was 56 and passed away in his sleep apparently from a heart attack related to lifelong diabetes. He was good friend and will surely be missed by many.


Heavy Paper Loading Issues with the Epson 2400/2800.

Try using the rear manual loading option You must install the additional paper feeder (Single Sheet Guide) that came with the printer, then be sure to select the paper correctly in “Page Setup” specifically the Letter (Manual - Roll) option to let the printer know where the paper is. Insert the paper into the top rear feeder, pressing it down until you meet some resistance, then keep downward pressure on the paper until the printer responds and pulls the paper in.




Order Now for a signed copy!

Professional Photographers of America 2007 Hot One Awards

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

Book Reviews
Book Comments online

* Upcoming Workshops
We trust you find our selection of classes interesting and useful for your needs. We take the imparting of information and the empowerment of our students quite seriously. The digital age has considerably enhanced our ability to teach, and we believe, your ability to capture what you see. This program is designed to help you benefit from both of these advances.

We hope you can join us on a workshop.

Referral Discounts

As we are always trying to enlarge our reach out to people to let them know about the workshops, we have instituted a discount policy that can be earned by referring people to the program. It is simply, if they list you are having referred them, and they take a workshop, you get 10% off the next workshop you take from us within one year. These referrals are cumulative and can even bring a you a free workshop. Again, they do have to be redeemed within one year. Deal? Deal

Request a Workshop

We are also starting a new program of letting people request the workshops they want. Check out the Workshops Currently Building List and help us build a list of workshops and people so we can then determine dates. See the workshops page for a list of previously offered classes that we would be happy to teach when we have enough people.

Workshop Scholarship Program

We're restarting our photography workshop scholarship program. We will try to reserve a spot in every class we can, particularly field workshops. To start, we will be be gathering applications from qualifying college photography students who would like to join us on a workshop.

We will be developing an application page, hold received applications, then choose awards as spots become available. Let people know who you think might be interested.

For applications, please email:

Digital Image Editing and Fine-Art Printing Hands-On
May 14-17, 2009
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

This workshop focuses exclusively on teaching solid image editing techniques and fine-art digital printing in our Digital Lab, primarily using Epson inkjet printers. Concentration basic image editing in preparation for prints. We will be working toward inkjet prints with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and cotton papers. Learn from the digital pioneer how he obtains his impressive results during four days of lectures, printing, and feedback in the studio.

We will cover RAW processing basics, gray balance, tone editing and color correction, workflow issues, color management, correcting color casts, adjustment layers, custom profile generation, editing and inspection. There being no magic bullet to making good prints, the workshop will also explore old fashioned testing, careful color judgments and interactive honing in on the best print possible.

We are also including a one-hour DVD prototype we have made on matting and framing for all enrollees.


Color Management Seminar
May 30, 2009

An exploration of Color Management in theory and practice designed to get you comfortable with the concepts and architecture of color management and build practical experience methods for using profiles for display and in printing. Monitor calibration and print profiles will be explained and you will have hands-on experience making both.

macbeth macbeth



Highway One and the San Mateo Coast
June 6-7, 2009

The coastline of San Mateo County is one of the most beautiful stretches of land and sea anywhere. From eroded, rocky shorelines, to cliffs, long beaches, redwood forests and small towns, this coast is complex and varied. We'll spend the day roaming the coast and mountain roads, stopping at state parks, county parks and checking out the lunch options along the way.

The workshop will be a dynamic combination of a traditional landscape photography workshop while diving deep into the digital age. Technical and aesthetic considerations will be discussed in detail. Our concentration will be on controlling your camera's operation to achieve your desired technical results, while building composition and visual skills to make the photograph what you want it to be. Digital exposure and dynamic range, composition, emotion and amazement-all will be part of our 2-day excursion into the evolving world of digital photography.

From RAW to Print in One Week
Summer Digital Boot Camp
July 13-17, 2009


An intense immersion into digital photography with one of its pioneers. In five days you will go from perhaps not even understanding what a RAW file is, to making well-crafted and thoughtful prints. Some fieldwork and extensive lecture and lab work will fill our time together. Every student will have full access to their own workstation in our lab. Topics include practical experience with digital exposure, RAW processing, image editing, color management and printing.

Included in the workshop is a copy of Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography, courtesy of O'Reilly Media.




A Digital Journey through the Southwest
12 Day Digital Photography Workshop
August 9-20, 2009

Join us on a twelve-day trek through the visual wonderlands of southern Utah and northern Arizona. We'll visit Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Betatakin, Monument Valley and end up at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The trip is designed to be a complete immersion in landscape photography and its digital evolution with the pioneer in digital landscape photography.
de chelly

dusk mono lake
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 10-13, 2009

The stark and beautiful scenery of this legendary lake is unlike any other landscape in the world. Its alkaline water, desert vistas, volcanoes and unusual tufa towers make it a remarkable place. The presence of this huge lake in the eastern sierra desert is improbable at best, its out of place character is pervasive, at times seeming more lunar than terrestrial.

Mono Lake can change from a tranquil expanse of silver water to a blue-green stormy sea in minutes. It is a most intriguing place. It is both a challenge and a pleasure to photograph at Mono Lake. But Mono Lake's beauty does not necessarily make it easy to photograph here. The desert sun can be harsh, and the horizon can appear endless. It takes time and patience to catch the subtlety of Mono's moods. The autumn weather should provide some interesting cloud formations. The lake's strange landforms can easily become ordinary when photographed casually. Consequently this place demands a certain intensity to do it visual justice. A primary goal of our time spent together will be to slow down and understand the lake on a more intimate level than might normally be possible.

These four days will be a dynamic combination of a traditional landscape photography workshop while diving deep into the digital age. Technical and aesthetic considerations will be discussed in detail, while we explore this high desert lake and its strange environs.



Personal Workshops and Art Consulting

Arrangements can be made to work with Steve individually at his studio or at custom locations. Call for a discussion of the possibilities. 650 355-7507


Steve and Tom
Olympic Peninsula, 2002.

* Check out our workshop web page for information on all of our workshops, including both our field and studio workshops.

UPCOMING EVENTS with Stephen Johnson

mmw logoMaine Media Workshops


Iceland: Mastery of Landscape
July 26-August 1, 2009

Interview on the Workshop


At The Studio Gallery

Critique Session
May 28, 2009

Feedback on our work has proven critical to many of us involved in the arts. In this emerging age of digital photography, it is hard to find people knowledgeable in the technology and with a background and experience in the fine arts.

After many requests, we are initiating monthly critiquing sessions at our studio in Pacifica, California.


Graduate Study Lab
May 29, 2009

Days dedicated to labwork with guidance by Stephen Johnson in his specially-built digital photo lab. Afternoon reviews of work.


Class Visits

Many of my fellow photography instructors have brought their clases by the gallery and studios for talks over the years. I realized I had never made this aspect of our actvities here public, so here it is:

We welome photography classes to visit.



Feature Story in the last issue of Studio and Location Photography. April 2009

7 Photography Questions
Interviews with top photographers to improve YOUR photographs
Podcast #37: Witnessing and Holding the Beauty in Landscape Photography -- An Interview with Stephen Johnson

Guest appearances on Bert Monroy's Pixel Perfect Web TV Series.
Episode 103

Episode 104

O'REILLY podcast
MacVoices Podcast
MacEdtion Radio
DIMA Podcast
Photoshop World Podcast

tsj interview pix

Photoshop World: March 2008 Interview


Parks Book Interview with Dianne Pitman. May 2008


Inside Digital Photo by Scott Sheppard: Stephen Johnson. Sept. 2008


Book Reviews

Barnes & Noble Review: From Our Editors
This is a passionate, deeply personal guide to digital photography by a true legend in the field. If you've been fortunate enough to participate in one of Stephen Johnson's seminars or to view his breathtaking national parks landscapes, you know his book has the potential to be truly extraordinary. And so it is.
Johnson teaches sophisticated technique without ever losing track of art. You will learn powerfully important things about digital sensors and high dynamic range photography; about multi-exposure panoramas and scanning; about tone, layers, and Photoshop curves; about Camera RAW Workflow and honest restoration.He roots digital photography deeply in its historical context without ever losing sight of the present -- or the future. He also captures the deep importance of digital photography -- and its ethical implications -- without ever becoming pretentious. And the images? No words suffice.

-Bill Camarda, from the November 2006 Read Only

Book Comments online

"Steve Johnson, one of the true visionaries of the digital photography era, offers us a technical tour de force and passionate artistic overview of the possibilities inherent in this new medium. On Digital Photography should be required reading for every aspiring photographic artist."

-Ted Orland, photographer & writer

...As Johnson says at the books very beginning in a Note from the Author: “I have often also been frustrated at the concentration on the technical aspect of digital photography with so little discussion of the aesthetics and the heart behind the imagery.” Indeed and at the book’s end he uses this frustration to deliver hugely enlightening home run. The book itself is an artistic treasure with a very meaningful subtitle: Text, Photography and Design by Stephen Johnson. Johnson obviously demanded freedom to create. Tim O’Reilly did well when he granted Johnson’s wish. Quite simple the best photography book I have ever seen.

-Gordon Cook's Collaborative Edge
September 9, 2006


Printers I'm no longer using. Make an offer. Must pick up. Donations to educational/charitable organizations will also be considered.

  • Epson 1280
  • Epson 5500 (with lots of ink supplied)
  • Epson 9000 (dye inks and Lyson grayscale set included)
  • Epson 9500
  • Epson 10000
  • HP 5500 Color Laser

Printers being replaced:
  • Epson 2200 $300

Featured Products


GrayCapsTM Digital gray card. The Digital gray card you will always have with you, even among 10,000 penguins.

graycap penguin

Hoodman Loupe 3.0

Imagine being able to see your camera screen in detail, in any kind of outdoor lighting.

This is a tool so terrific for viewing your camera LCD screen in the field that we felt that we had to resell them and make them directly available to our audience. This is a critical ingredient to your digital fieldwork.

2009 calendar
gray cap


gray acr


Visit Our Online Store

We continue to offer a wide variety of Steve's posters, books, notecards and a video or two from our Products page.

There is also a new page devoted just to books and one devoted just to products from our national parks prooject, With a New Eye.

Please take a look and browse. There are many one of a kind items there, available nowhere else.


The Bookstore  

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

There is something for everyone in this beautiful and definitive guide for digital photography enthusiasts, from cutting edge camera and software techniques to engaging discourse on the history and future of digital photography. Published by O'Reilly, 2006. 320 pages, over 700 color and duotone illustrations.


Art and Fear
by Ted Orland and David Bayles
1993. $12.95

A terrific book. A must read for every artist who has struggled with working, creating, reaching out and hanging in there.


Ted Orland's New Photographic Truths Poster.
24x36 inches. $20.

An underground classic, gracing the walls of university darkrooms and professional studios alike. But now (finally!) it’s available again in a new edition — still illustrated with the same friendly picture of Ansel Adams, but with a text that now includes many newly-discovered and critical digital truths.


Advice for Photographers: The Next Step
by Al Weber
2007. $12

Based on decades of teaching, Weber has collected and organized ideas and suggestions to aid those who would be photographers. A 72-page field manual.


We are now offering rental time in our new lab on an hourly basis during our normal business hours.

Tuesday-Friday 10am to 5pm.
$25 per hour, plus a per print charge

Includes full access to calibrated monitors, fast G5 Macs, Epson pigment inkjet printers, 5000°k viewing lights and color profile creation hardware and software.

Appointments can be made by calling 650 355-7507.
Familiarity with Mac OSX and Photoshop CS2 or 3 or Adobe Lightroom recommended. Staff tutorials available for additional charge.

A Great Opportunity!
  • Fully equipped lab
  • Make your own printer profiles
  • Finally have access to the equipment you need


Digital Portraits by
The Studios of Stephen Johnson Photography

  • Instant Feedback
  • Special prices
  • Satisfaction or no fees


  • Artwork Copying
  • Custom Printing
  • Custom Profiles




watercolor by Ralph Putzker


To purchase original prints, see:

11x14 pigment on rag paper $450 from existing prints

•Information on Stephen Johnson's Original Prints

With a New Eye: The Digital National Parks Project


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


We're open by appointment. To find us, use our map online at:

Map to studio
Studio directions and site layout.


We've sent you this newsletter because, at some point, you told us you were interested in hearing from us.

If you'd like to unsubscribe, change your email address, or give us comments about the newsletter, please send a note to

To subscribe to the sjphoto-news mailing list

To communicate with us regarding the list, email:

Newsletter Archive

Last updated on May 7, 2009 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2009, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.