Dawn over Mono Lake, North Shore. Mono Lake Workshop. 2009. Two Canon 1Ds III photographs stitched together.


Welcome to the September 2010 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

I've been thinking a lot about community lately, the groups we live among and work with, the professional and colleague-based world we move in. It doesn't take but a moment to realize how much richer my life is because of the many people I've met and befriended through photography. Each month as I write this newsletter I feel it is a kind of reach outward, saying hello, here's what I'm up to, some of my fascinations, some challenges, and some new photographs.

I know that much of it is Workshop announcements, I hope the monthly essay, the featured print and the Tutorials (a HDR Photo of the White House) are also useful. I hear from many of you after a Newsletter goes out, and I appreciate it, it then becomes dialog.

This month's View From Here column discusses the business of My Studio, an Art Center and Community and some specific challenges to our own space with a proposed dog park.

Our Photoshop and Photography class, Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color, is coming right up on September 11-12. We ran a section of this last January and people felt it was very valuable.

Our Summer Travel Adventure Workshops include our first ever Tuscany Workshop September 23-30, with a special discount for past workshop participants.

As the season turns to fall, we are offering our 4 day Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra Workshop October 14-17 .

Fine Art Digital Printing course is being offered again November 2010. A 3-day excursion to Pt. Lobos and Carmel follows November 13-15.

We will be heading to Death Valley for our early 2011 Death Valley in Winter workshop January 12-18, 2011.

We now have dates for our spring Galapagos Photography Adventure March 11-21, 2011. Jump on this quickly as it is a wonderful opportunity. We need a minimum of 5 students to hold the ship we be exploring this magnificent archipelago and will be our floating hotel.

There are scholarships available for the Mono Lake workshop. See below.

I hope some of you can join us yet this summer or over the next few months for some of these offerings.

In an effort to communicate more regularly without additionally burdening anyone with email, we have started a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed where we are making an effort to post a new photograph each week and a technique, tutorial or technical feed. Become a fan of Stephen Johnson Photography on Facebook and follow our Tweets on Twitter to broaden or touch up on your digital techniques and see newly posted photographs. You can subscribe to each with the links above to keep up to date with the latest from the studio.

We are also starting a Blog as another alternative that will feature the monthly essay, the new photographs, techniques and other things as they come to mind.

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maine class

Mono Lake Workshop. October 2009.

2010 Workshops
Photoshop and Photography: Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color
September 11-12, 2010.
The Tuscan Landscape with Stephen Johnson
September 23-30, 2010
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 14-17, 2010
Fine-Art Digital Printing Workshop Hands-On
November 6-9, 2010
Pt. Lobos and Carmel
November 13-15, 2010
2011 Workshops
Death Valley in Winter
January 28-31, 2011
Galapagos Photography Adventure
March 11-21, 2011


Thanks for an amazing experience during the recent RAW to Print workshop. Your course delivered considerably more than I had ever hoped for, and I learned a tremendous amount, as did all the students. Your professionalism and willingness to go the extra-mile for your students was most appreciated, your grasp of the subject matter mind-blowingly deep, the curriculum rich and well structured, and your personal standards very high. The lab is a fantastically complete environment that is very impressive. All in I cannot say enough about how impressed I was on a scale of 1 to 10, your Raw to Print class gets a 12.

-Russ Andersson. July 2010 RAW to Print class.

Additional Workshop Testimonials


Last chance to Register!
Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color September 11-12.
The Tuscan Landscape Workshop September 23-30.


Scholarships To Upcoming Mono Lake Workshop

September 2010


Lenticular Clouds over Mono Craters. Mono Lake. 1980.
120mm Kodak Vericolor film
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each

One of the more amazing sights of my life was the view coming around a dirt road above Mono Lake and seeing this bank of lenticular clouds over the Mono Craters lit by the last light of the day. In thinking through photographs I've made over the years of the Mono Basin to highlight our workshop coming up in October, this photograph stood out, but I've rarely shown it. I'm proud to offer it here as the Featured Print this month.

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 September 30. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by October 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.


My Studio, an Art Center and Community

In 2004 we moved our studio from a commercial space to a city-owned facility now called the Pacifica Center for the Arts. The site hosts a few nonprofit organizations that manage galleries and classrooms, The Sanchez Art Center and the Art Guild of Pacifica, Pacifica Performances, a performance center and a community credit union, in addition to my commercial space. Artists do their work here, community art classes are conducted, openings for group shows are conducted, public performances and community events held. The grounds are shared with various athletic groups playing soccer, baseball and other activities. The facilities are worn, the site needs investment in building maintenance and landscaping. It is located one mile from the beach, in one of the sunniest areas of this coastal community. It is a culturally rich place and important to the community.

Public Spaces and Community

I am a deep believer in public spaces for the Arts. Community Art Centers are often the hub of a whole network of activities both showcasing the art of the area as well as stimulating and supporting the local Art of the community.

In my own effort to build community I have done free public lectures and photo movie nights, held numerous open houses, conducted evening critiques and welcomed visitors. My photo book library is mostly at the studio and is always available to visitors to browse and well as videos and slide shows that are available. This in addition to almost 3600 linear feet of exhibition wall space filled with original photographs. Traditionally I do a Holiday Open House in mid-December further welcoming people to the site.

However, having a public space in the arts is a mixed bag. It is wonderful to have a site where you can do your work, display the results, and in my case teach the craft. But it is also essentially a commercial business trying to exist within marginal economic models. We now face the added stress of enduring ongoing competitive use of the public space.

We all want to be masters of our own destinies. Where we work on our art has a deep effect on that sense of destiny. More than anything else we want to do our work. All of the artists at the Pacifica Center for the Arts want and need quiet and space, and an ability to concentrate on our inspiration. This environment is a large part of what drew me to this site, a place set aside and dedicated to the arts had great appeal.

Artists are often loners and are often not great organizers. Early attempts the Center artists made at getting the artists at the site together on some issues proved very challenging. We did manage a name change of the site and signage design that has yet to be implemented.

The practicality and challenges of renting spaces rather than owning them has is own risks and advantages. Working out of your home, or going to a public space each have substantial implications. A public space is almost always a rental. A private space is almost always part of a home, which needs its own refuge from the public. Many of us dream of having a space we can live and work in, and many do. I did, but we made the decision to go public to finally give the home some space from the business.

When we moved into a public operation instead of just working out of our home, it was a major decision. It brought huge opportunities and huge stresses. Expenses skyrocketed, activities expanded. I quit renting spaces to teach in, and by the time I moved to my second larger space, I built a very high end hands-on digital lab.

And now here we are, again being tested in our resolve to stay in a public space and conduct public business by a proposed dog park next to my studio (see column to the right). The lab classes are what are at major risk. Last year, the external threat to the space was a proposal to build a cell phone tower beside my studios, this year it is a needed but inappropriately sited plan for a huge public dog park in a strip of land between my studio and seven homes. Sometimes it seems a public space is the worst of all, as it gives some people a sense of entitlement to violate your lease, and gives some other community members a destination for their ideas, however incompatible with current leased use.

A commercial space offers little additional protection as the primary motivation of the landlord may well simply be profit, and the arts are generally motivated differently and often stretching too few dollars. Of course this depends on the kind of photography business you may be in. Commercial work certainly has a generally much greater potential for income than the fine arts, although most find themselves under stress in this economy.

Pacifica Center for the Arts

A Dog Park Proposed Next to Our Studio

Unfortunately there is also some open space in the old playground of this former public school. This has attracted the attention of competitive and I believe inappropriate use of the site. The latest is the proposal to construct a huge dog park right next to my classroom, a row of private residences and a spawning Steelhead trout stream, San Pedro Creek.

Although I was aware of the proposal and had reluctantly come to oppose it, I was never informed of any of the meetings or study groups that led it to the brink of the project being approved. We are now in the final stage of trying to oppose this dog park having only had one 3 minute opportunity to publicly protest its placement.

We do not yet know how this particular imposition on the Art Center will work out. The Dog Park people have certainly done their homework in terms of lobbying, and for some reason those of us directly affected by the dog park proposal seem to be going unheard. I certainly have a right to conduct my classes and pursue my art in the quiet that I leased, and that is unlikely to be the case if this Dog Park proceeds. This issue is of deep concern to me.

Additionally, the site is right next to San Pedro Creek, a spawning stream for Steelhead trout that is suffering from existing pollution and recently had $875,000 invested in it to make it more habitable to the fish swimming upstream. Adding the obvious challenge of runoff from a Dog Park is undue stress on its struggling habitat.

I love dogs, my own golden retriever Sandy is a good friend and companion. I think a Dog Park would be good for this community. But not right next to homes, an Art Center with places of business and education, and a creek with spawning Steelhead trout.

Public Support

If you can offer support for the value of our business here and encouragement to find another more suitable location for the needed dog park, please write to us. If you would like more information and details of our concerns, please write.




The White House: Dynamic Range, Perspective and Toning

On the Labor Day weekend I was in Washington DC, on a absolutely gorgeous day, wandering through my favorite places, the Air and Space Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House. Standing among anti-BP Demonstrators I photographed the White House through the iron fence on the north side, looking up, somewhat into the sun and with brightly lit clouds and the building in its own shade. This produced a set of circumstances that were photographically challenging. It wasn't meant to be a serious day of photography, the tripod was in California, my heart was in the sunshine and the wonder of our nation's capitol. But why not try...

In Camera

  • I set the camera for auto bracket, rapid fire and did three photographs hand-held in quick succession, each two stops apart in exposure while bracing myself against the fence. The exposures were made at f9, at 1/2000, 1/500 and 1/125.

From RAW

  • I used Merge to HDR Pro to integrate the 3 exposures into a single 32 bit HDR file with Remove Ghosts enabled to correct for differences in the moving flag and water fountain.

In Photoshop

  • I converted the HDR file to 16 bit and carefully opened up the shadows while holding the highlights.
  • with Grids turned on, I corrected the vertical convergence created by tilting the camera up with Transform/Distort
  • an additional Curve Adjustment Layer was used to balance the deepest shadows into near black while still holding detail deep into those same shadows.

White House, Washington DC. 2010. Canon 1Ds Mark III


Photoshop CS5 Merge to HDR Pro screen on left, Convert to 16 bit on right. Click to Enlarge.



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

workshop head

The Digital Lab at Stephen Johnson Photography
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 as 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.

iCal Calendar of Our Workshop Program

-View our Workshop Calendar.
-Subscribe to our Workshop Calendar.
-Learn more about iCal or to download a copy.

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

In order to make workshops available to people who cannot afford them and to support students studying photography, we have started a photography workshop scholarship program. We will try to reserve a spot in every class we can, particularly field workshops.

Scholarships are available to full-time college students enrolled in a photography program. Let people know who you think might be interested. Applications must be for a particular workshop.

To apply, please download the application form and send it to us by mail or email




Photographers & Photoshop Series
Selections, Adjustment Layers, Tone and Color

September 11-12, 2010

This workshop births a new series concentrating on the tools within Photoshop critical to Photographers. It is a great chance to explore digital photographic editing with Steve. Hands-on help and demonstrations of his use of editing tools with restraint and finesse will benefit all of your digital photography work. This class is designed to break down the steps to really understand the processes, and to work through difficult images.


tuscany photo from Discover

The Tuscan Landscape with Stephen Johnson
September 23-30, 2010

Spend a week in Italy with renowned landscape photographer/educator Stephen Johnson. Centered in a 12th Century Tuscan monastery, this photography workshop promises to be an extraordinary opportunity to explore the Tuscan landscape and learn from one of the most dynamic educators and talented photographers working today.

Workshop headquarters will be San Fedele, an ex-monastery dating back to the 12th century.  It is situated in the Chianti hills, 12 km north of Siena and 45 km south of Florence.  The nearest towns are the medieval city of Radda-in-Chianti and the village of Vagliagli. San Fedele was completely restored beginning in 2001 and today has 17 guest rooms and several classrooms and studios.

Video on Program
What to See in Tuscany
Tuscany Photos

dusk mono lake
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 14-17, 2010

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.

Fine-Art Digital Printing Hands-On
November 6-9, 2010
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

This workshop focuses exclusively on improving your fine-art digital printing in our new Digital Lab, primarily using Epson inkjet printers. Concentration will be on inkjet printing with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and rag 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 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.


Pt. Lobos and Carmel: A Digital Photography Field Workshop
November 13-15, 2010

Ansel Adams called Pt. Lobos "the greatest meeting of land and sea" on earth. It is truly an amazing combination of rock, surf, wildlife, changing light and abstraction...aqua surf, orange lichen, organic rock forms and waving sea palms. We'll walk the trails, wander the rocks, get lost in form and light.

We'll talk to a gallery director, explore the Carmel photography scene, likely eat well and do a special session with photographer Al Weber at his Carmel Highlands studio in this three-day immersion into classical California landscape photography.

pt lobospt lobos map

pt lobos


death valley

Death Valley in Winter
January 15-18, 2011

Transformed from a searing 120 degree desert in summer to January's mild 60-70 degree weather, Death Valley is filled with intriguing landforms, delicate flora, strange mineral deposits and expansive views. Mile high Dante's View overlooks the patterned salt flats of Badwater and the Amargosa River below (the lowest point in the United States). Badwater's still water in turn mirrors the blue and white Panamint Mountains to the West. The lunar landscape of Ubehebe Crater's black volcanic fields rise from the rolling desert at the valley's north end with the steep gorge of Titus Canyon and Red Pass to the southeast

hill lakeiguanas

Galapagos Photography Adventure (preliminary announcement)
March 11-21, 2011

Join us on a 7 day photographic excursion to Ecuador's Galapagos Archipelago explored with photographer Stephen Johnson. A 12 person catamaran will be our home and vessel, with a journey through one of the wonders of the world.

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



PhotoPlus New York City
October 27-30, 2010

12 Things to Improve Your Photography
Thursday, October 27, 2010. 1:15pm-3:15pm


Canon's Explorer of Light Photographer - Stephen Johnson
Photographer Lecture Series

Photography And The Environment: Education Night talk
Marin Photography Club November 9, 2010 6:30pm

Marin Power Squadron Building, Hamilton Field, Novato, CA


Class Visits

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

We welcome photography classes to visit our studios and galleries.

At The Studio Gallery

Galleries open by appointment. 650 355-7507.



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

7 Photography Questions
Interviews with top photographers to improve YOUR photographs

f #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 are being Donated to educational/charitable or government organizations. Send an email. All working when last used. Must pick up.

  • Epson 9000 (dye inks and Lyson grayscale set included)
  • Epson 9500
  • Epson 10000


Printers being replaced:

  • Epson 2200 $300
  • HP 5500 Color Laser $1500

Featured Products


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

graycap penguin

Matting and Framing DVD

A one-hour video demonstrating how to prepare, measure, cut your matts, label and frame photographic prints.

To order

gray cap


gray acr

A Photographer's Journey DVD

A Photographer's Journey is an 8 minute mini-documentary on landscape photographer Stephen Johnson's ground-breaking all digital photography in America's National Parks, With a New Eye. Produced by Apple Computer in 1998.

Additional Features

  • Parks Project Gallery

More info

To order


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 project, 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.

By appointment only.
$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 CS4 or Adobe Lightroom 2 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


Stephen Johnson Editions

  • 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.


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Last updated on September 14, 2010 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2010, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.