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Kenmare River, Kerry Ireland. 1996. Email to order a print. Next Workshop: Flora and Form May 16-18, 2013.

Welcome to the May 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

I'm excited about some of my new close-up work with
the sensual and strange floral world around us.
Working with deep depth of field and some
big prints is proving very seductive.
big flower

This month's View From Here column explores the our Strange and Beautiful Close-up World. We hope you find the column of value and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial this month discusses print lables and provenance information.


  • New workshop: Flora and Form May 16-18, 2013. Shelldance Nursery and Stephen Johnson Photography Studios and Gallery...a great opportunity!
  • There are only 3 spaces left in our Alaskan Adventure Workshop August, 5-17 2013. This is an exciting journey to an unforgettable landscape, which never ceases to impress and inspire whether you are a first time or returning traveler. We will be moving about via trains, planes, and boats through Kenai Fjords, Denali and Katmai National Parks. These parklands are rich with color, wildlife, textures, abstraction and exciting compositional opportunities. Lodging and transportation seating fill up fast, so it would be wise to move quickly and join us on this great adventure.


Exit Glacier. Kenai Fjords National Park. Alsaka. 1996.



Don't miss the opportunity to join us on our Ireland Workshop this Summer! We are excited about our Summer 2013 Photography Workshop to Ireland's Spectacular West Coast July 21-31, 2013. This photography workshop on the emerald isle does all of the planning and itinerary work for you to maximize learning, exploration, comfort and enjoyment. Steve's good friend Anthony Hobbs of Ireland's National College of Art and Design, will be co-leading this ten day immersion into the Irish landscape and culture. Exciting field trips, on-site instruction, problem solving techniques and daily critiques are all fundamental to this workshop. Join us!

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 announced last fall.

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



Lady Slipper Orchid. Shelldance.. 2013.

Orchid and Fern. 2013
9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

creature from another world.


Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Flora and Form May 16-18, 2013  NEW!
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on June 1-4, 2013
RAW to Print Summer Digital Bootcamp June 10-14, 2013
Ireland 2013: July 21-31, 2013
Alaska's Parklands: August 5-17, 2013  NEW!
The Golden Gate September 7-8, 2013  NEW!
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 12-15, 2013
Death Valley in Winter January 11-14, 2014
Speaking Events (see below)

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st helens

Michael's Orchid. 2013.

by Stephen Johnson

Strange and Beautiful World Close-up

The difference between what we see, and what we can easily photograph, is an ongoing challenge in photography. The peculiar and wonderful world of the photographic image holds both an external freeze of a visual impression, and a simultaneous huge truncation of that very experience.

The behavior of optics and a single moment conspire to create a very different image than our flexible interpretive and time-fluid visual experience of eye and mind. Our rapid re-focus as we glance around a scene, combined with our stereo vision gives depth information way beyond a single fixed optic of a camera lens.

As we get more detail oriented in photography with close-up work, many of the inherent problems with our single moment photographs with fixed optics start to rear their heads.

Depth of Field Up Close

One of the fundamental problems I've always struggled with in close-up photography, is the extraordinarily shallow depth of field. I've rarely felt seduced by those small slices of focus and cannot recall an instance where I've found attractive the soft-focus outside of the narrow sharp area. This was one of the reasons I was drawn to Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) with their rather extraordinary depth of field. This resulted in a whole body of SEM work I produced in Graduate School at San Francisco State University.

I see objects of unique beauty and intrigue all of the time in the close-up world that I now need my reading glasses to see clearly. But the inherently shallow depth of field of photographic macro work has always been frustrating. Short of resorting to such an elaborate and expensive microscopic device as an SEM, I have sought other solutions.

Consequently, for many years, I've been making sets of depth of field expansion photographs to reassemble into deeply focused results. I went through the process in my November 2009 Newsletter and posted a tutorial on Depth of Field Expansion back in 2010 using Photoshop's built-in capability.



But Photoshop doesn't always do the job I'm working toward, creating spherical distortions and sometimes noticeable edge artifacts in the stitched image. So for a long time, I've played with a demo of Helicon Focus, a software dedicated to the idea of multiple images, using different focusing points integrated into a finished depth of field expanded photograph.

Often called focus-stacking, this process bypasses the optical limitations of a single image, integrating the sharp areas of multiple images into a single sharp result.


Helicon Focus

Helicon Focus is a handy and well crafted software I've been using for this integration, blending together multiple images with different focus points. It can also be used in conjunction with Helicon Remote which can be connected to your camera through a USB link (in some cases wireless) to your computer and control the image-making as well.

...continued top of right column


st helens

Shelldance Orchid Nursery. 2013.

In preparing for and teaching our Flora and Form workshop in April, I started working through some close-up flora photography and have been pleased by some of the directions this imagemaking is going. A few are featured in the little slide show below.

The results are allowing me to concentrate on a world of form and design outside of my normal photographic experience, and even more clearly rendered than I can see. I am deeply intrigued everytime photography reaches beyond our normal visual experience.

Whether in infrared, time-lapse, or space based imagery, photography has an ability to hold what we see, but also carry us into incredible, wierd, wonderful, and very real visual worlds beyond what we easily see. I love that possibility, and look forward to even more unique visions being revealed as technology, sciences and my own curiosity cotinues to grow.


Flora and Form Workshop Coming Up

Check out the Flora and Form  Workshop May 16-18, 2013 at Shelldance Orchid Gardens. Any and all cameras welcome.

Shelldance Nursery. 2013.

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 year, such as Rockport, Maine in late June, Amherst, MA in July, Dublin Ireland in mid-August, and near Portland, OR in October.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery

Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display.

  • Maine Media Workshops Artist Lecture.
    Rockport, Maine. June 25, 2013. 8pm
  • NECCC Photo Conference July 2013. Amherst, MA
  • National College of Art and Design
    Lecture. Dublin, Ireland. early August 2013.


Northern California Field Workshops Coming Up

The Golden Gate: September 7-8, 2013

A two day digital photography workshop exploring San Francisco's Golden Gate. We'll spend time in the Presidio with its tremendous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point with its spectacular views of the bridge, the Marin Headlands with Point Bonita Lighthouse, views along and San Francisco's ocean headlands of Land's End and the Sutro Baths near the restored Cliff House and its historic Camera Obscura.


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

Print Labels and Documentation

beauty cover

I am very keen on labeling my prints, both for identification of my work and declaring that ownership, but also to inform the print buyer, and later possible owner what it is they have in their hands.

This information should naturally include the name of the photograph, but also a declaration of your rights, which rights are not granted with ownership on the print, and the viewing light temperature the print was created to look correct under.

I also identify the basic process by which the print was made, such as pigment inkjet. I never use words of affectation like "giclée" or other such meaningless marketing terms. I am not ashamed of my processes, just as I identified a Type C print or gelatin-silver print as such.


Additionally, I add a Provenance stamp that identifies to possible future conservators the date the print was made, the printer, the ink-set and paper. This is particularly important in this age of so many different processes available to the photographer, some of which may need special care in the future.

Even as I'm using pigment inks that have tested upwards of 300 years in life, I still want anyone trying to conserve the work in the future to have as much information as possible. I owe it to my current buyers, and it is consisitant with the notion that buying a print from me is not only about enjoying it now, but that it is also an investment over time.


Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop Featured Product

National Park Notecards

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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matting video

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 9, 2013 . Mail comments to:
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