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Butano State Park. 2011. Email to order a print. See the California's Highway One: San Francisco South May 19-20, 2012

Welcome to the May 2012 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

I've been teaching a lot lately, and the pleasure of connecting with people and working to make a real difference for them has a terrific and life enrichining effect on me too...

This month's Newsletter's View From Here column walks through some of the places Steve loves along California's Highway One coast south of our studio here in Pacifica, California. We hope you enjoy reading it and perhaps will send us some comments. Our Tutorial this month discusses Adobe's new RAW Processor capabilities in Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4.

LATEST NEWS: We've also just added a new class to the summer schedule: Photoshop CS6 and Photographers July 28-31, 2012.

For those of you in the Rochester New York area, Steve will be lecturing at the George Eastman House on Thursday June 14 at 7pm.

We have a great coastal workshop coming up this spring. A roving workshop, in and out of our Pacifica studio and along the beautiful San Mateo Coast as the setting for our California's Highway One San Francisco South. Check it out!

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.

Our annual sojourn to Maine and the Maine Media workshops is coming up in Rockport for those of you who can join us on the east coast. Our Vision & Craft: Perfecting the Photograph landscape class runs June 18-22, 2012, and the Printing Photographic Beauty course runs June 24-30, 2012.

The Summer Digital Bootcamp, From RAW to Print is now on the schedule for July 16-21, 2012 with an early enrollment $200 discount for the first 4 students.

The individual opportunity to study printing with Steve this summer has been added with our very intensive The Fine Print: A Week of Advanced Hands-on Printing Work with Steve July 23-27, 2012.

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

Our busy schedules and limited budgets often keep us from destination workshops or classes, but many of you still have questions you need answered, or need 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 with thanks to the work of Alex Dziesinski and Sara Johnson.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the Exquisite Earth exhibition, its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1, 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.

Workshop Testimonials



Rocks. Pebble Beach, California. 1994.

Rocks Pebble Beach 1994.
BetterLight 4x5 Scanning back
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

my first trip out on the coast with Michael Collette and his prototype4x5 Betterlight Scanning back in 1994. It was a remarkable and historic day for me.

Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
California's Highway One: San Francisco South May 19-20, 2012
The Magnificent Wonders of Mono Lake. June 7-9, 2012
From RAW to Print July 16-21, 2012.
The Fine Print: A Week of Advanced Hands-on Printing Work with Steve July 23-27, 2012
Photoshop CS6 and Photographers July 28-31, 2012
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 13-16, 2012
Death Valley in Winter (full moon) January 24-27, 2013

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Pooch and Car. Pt. Reyes Station. 2012


cameras should always be ready, as visual wonders come in all forms


Trees, Fitzgerald Reserve. 2004.

by Stephen Johnson

Highway One Coastal Gems

Thinking about the Highway One San Francisco South workshop coming up, naturally made me think about times along the coast and some of places I return to again and again. There are so many gems along the way, but a few do stick out, and we will be spending time in some of those during the workshop.

For those of you in the Bay Area, or visitors to California, take these places in when you can.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

One of my favorite places along the coast is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach. Named for the former county supervisor who helped create its protected status, James Fitzgerald, the reserve is mostly known for its great tide pools and wide variety of species.

However, as a photographer, it is the scenic qualities of the place that keep me coming back. The forest on the cliffs above the tide-pools are what stay in my mind. A beautiful long stand of cypress trees lines the east side of the rise running roughly north and south. Most of the cliff top is covered in a forest of straight and tall Monterey pines, contrasting beautifully with the reach of the cypress.

Crossing San Vicente Creek SW of the parking lot leads to trails extending through a maze of trees, some fallen, and vines, including such diverse oddities as palms, german ivy and pampas grass. The trail can be looped south down to the beach, past the old foundation of the Smith-Doelger homesite from the early 1900s. It is a short 1.2 mile walk along the cliffside, down the beach and circling back to the parking lot via a walkway along the creek.

Views to the south include the well known Moss Beach Distillery and Seal Cove, to the north the mountains and cliffs of Montara mountain, Devil's Slide and on a clear day even Pt. Reyes stretching out to sea from Marin county.

The reserve exists because of tide-pools and marine life. The sea life drew people here longer than recorded history. What is believed to be a stone tool dating back 5,700 years was discovered here in 1994. People gathering seafood, researchers amazed at the biological diversity, and visitors simply fascinated by the unique glimpse into tidal life have been coming here for the last hundred years. I certainly came to know the place much better by bringing my children here many times.

Marine life is the heart of the reserve, including anemones, and sea urchins. Over 25 new marine species have been observed at the reserve, several of which are only found at Fitzgerald. Wildlife flying and swimming through the area include California sea lions, harbor seals, and many birds including Great Blue Herons, egrets, terns, and gulls.

Trentepohlia, Fitzgerald Reserve. 2011.

In the late 19th century by German immigrant Juergen Wienke built The Moss Beach Hotel here. He built a successful business, drawing tourists to the area, and planted the many cypress trees seen there today. The Ocean Shore Railroad brought more people after it reached the area in 1908. The Hotel flourished until burning down in 1911. The Reefs restaurant was built before World War I by Charley Nye who also made a successful business here. The Reefs was destroyed by storms in 1931, then later rebuilt further up the hill as Reefs II.


Cliffs, Pebble Beach.

In response to increasing damage to the area from visitation, motorcycles on the cliffs, cars on the beach and other high impact issues, the county created the reserve in 1969. Naturalist Bob Breen was hired and made a huge difference in the preservation, and understanding of the reserve.

Today the reserve is blessed with and endures 130,000 visitors annually and in the classic challenge of public conservation projects, is being loved to death by such high visitation.

Good resources on the reserve can be found on the web at:


Brush and Hillside, Stage Road. 2008

Stage Road and Pescadero

The hills and farms along the old Stage Road leading into Pescadero is one of my country road retreats. I love the wander, the hills, the views, all so close to the coast, leading to an entirely different view of the Bay Area.

The San Gregorio Store is a must stop along the way, as well Duarte's in Pescadero.



...continued top of right column


Butano Redwoods

The Redwood forests of 2800 acre Butano Redwood State Park keep drawing me back, into another world of a coastal rainforest with towering trees, banana slugs, creeks and ferns. The trails take you into a forest of redwoods on the hills, with fern lined creeks cutting through the lowlands.

Butano Creek. 2008

Although most of the park is second growth redwoods, some huge old growth trees remain. The park is drained by Butano creek, a name apparently derived from local native American stories as a gathering place for friendly visits.


Butano State Park. 2012

It is a magical place, where light is constantly scattering through the trees which sway in the wind and make their own creeky stand up sound. It smells like a forest, where life and decay are in a constant dance of renewal.


Cliffs, Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach (Bean Hollow State Reserve)

One of my favorite places anywhere is Pebble State Beach on Highway One near Pescadero. The tide pools, pebble beach and small bay are great. But the unearthly landscape of rocks is almost beyond belief in their abstraction and sensuality. Among the formations, a unique erosion pattern called tafoni is scattered about the the more sensual sandstone forms.

The beach is a great place to watch wildlife as well, from harbor seals, pelicans and the life-filled tide pools. On a field trip many years ago, one of my photo classes was blessed with a breaching whale, just offshore. Whether or not on the workshop, it is a place one must go!


Rocks, Pebble Beach


A few things I would like you to keep in mind...

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 and eye on when Steve will be near your town.

Catch Steve Live: Steve will be speaking here and there around the country over the next few months, June in NY, late June in Maine, early August in MI.



Photoshop CS6 and RAW

(excerpt from the book Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography unreleased revised electronic version)

Control of Highlight and Shadows, for Real

With the release of Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6, we now have a power in Adobe RAW processors to hold shadow and highlight detail like never before. Their new Black, Shadow, White and Highlight sliders essentially allow you to smoothly narrow the dynamic range of the capture through the RAW interpreter.

This has already enabled me to "rescue" high dynamic range images that really did have critical detail locked up at both ends of the histogram. In some cases it has already worked better than combining an HDR set, making me able to do more with a single, albeit difficult capture, than with a set of bracketed exposures as candidates for HDR.

This is a capability I've been asking for many years, and I had even sketched out various ways of handling the interface for Adobe, so I am delighted to have this power in place. It is a huge step forward for my RAW processing.

My general methodology on a very contrasty photograph is to move both the Black and Shadow sliders up, and the White and Highlight sliders down, to generally lower the contrast of the interpretation and getting control over the extremes of the encoded raw data.

I then fine tune the blacks and whites to only as much shadow lightening as is really needed, and the highlights to only as much highlight darkening as needed. This can easily yield a somewhat gray interpretation, but that is fine with me as I always emphasize that I use the RAW processor to reveal and preserve information, moving it toward what I want the photograph to look like. I leave the heavy lifting of real image editing to the powerhouse of control and finesse that is Photoshop.

Here is one example of both default (contrasty) processing and one customized as I've described.

You can download a free  30-day trial of Adobe Photoshop CS6 here.


Adobe's New RAW Processor Interface in Camera RAW's Basic Tab


Camera RAW Processor in Default mode letting high contrast go.



Camera RAW Processor in Custom mode with highlights and shadows now accessible.


Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley

Featured Posters  


Beautiful posters from Steve's National Parks work.

30x24 inches
Price $20.00

More Information

To order by credit card.



note card

National Park Color Notecard 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 May 16, 2012 . Mail comments to:
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