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Foggy Dusk. The Golden Gate. 2013. Email to order a print. Next Workshop: Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 12-15, 2013

Welcome to the September 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Some magical moments these last few weeks...some in my own backyard in the San Francisco Bay Area...a rare lightning storm with some amazing displays caught with a lightning sensor and common wondrous fog rolling in through the Golden Gate
out teaching my Golden Gate workshop.


This month's View From Here column showcases some recent work. We hope you find the column enjoyable and will consider sending us some comments. Our Featured Video this month is a short update and supplement to my 2006 Matting and Framing DVD.


mono lake

Mono Lake Storm. 1997.

We are looking forward to our Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra workshop October 12-15, 2013. Steve has a long history with the place, going there for more than 30 years and has worked hard to make sure it survives. There are still a couple of $300 off discounted seats left. Hope you can join us.

The Center for Photographic Art in Carmel has invited Steve to Keynote their Annual Members Workshop this November 9.

The Pt. Reyes Association Field Institute has asked Steve to teach a workshop for them and so we are offering The Beauty of the Real: The Land & Light of Pt. Reyes December 6-8, 2013

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

FEATURED PRINT September 2013


Lightning. 2013.

Lightning Over Pedro Point, Pacifica, CA  2013
Canon 1Ds Mark III, 30 second exposure

9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

An amazing lightning display along the coast on August 19.


Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 12-15, 2013
Black and White Printing Hands-on November 16-18, 2013
The Beauty of the Real: The Land & Light of Pt. Reyes December 6-8, 2013
Death Valley in Winter January 11-14, 2014
Yosemite in Winter February 22-24, 2014.
Speaking Events (see below)

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New Photo Link

Ice Ridges. Holgate Glacier. Kenai Fjords National Park. Alaska. 2013.

layers of ice and light, defining and redefining the scene before us



Cloud Capped Mountain. Turnagain Arm. Alaska. 2013.

by Stephen Johnson

It has been a full summer, from Maine, to Massachusetts, to Alaska. The variety of landscapes on this planet is amazing. I continue to be deeply aware of what wonderful visual richness photography has brought to my life.

A couple of moments from the last month have really stayed with me. Some from Alaska, some from home, ice, lightning, and fog all defining my visual memories and compelling me to photograph.

As a photographer, you don't travel to far-away paces without intent to photograph. We never know exactly what we will see, regardless of stereotypes we might hold of what a place looks like.

In the Kenai Fjords, I had certainly anticipated photographing glaciers, I scheduled our workshop to visit glaciers. But the view I found looking up at the Holgate Glacier was unlike any I had seen before. A layering of successively more distant ridges of ice tower on the glacier itself combined with changing sun and cloud patterns lighting some ridges and not others. This produced a series of views (see new photo link above) revealing the depth, dramatizing the differences and layers in the view, giving a perspective that literally appeared and disappeared before our eyes.


Holgate Glacier Overview. Kenai Fjords. Alaska. 2013.

At Denali, we joined the company of most visitors who don't get to see the mountain on their visit because of its cloud shroud. That disappointment made a few of us decide to do the scenic flyover the evening after our departure from the park.

I love aerial photography. I love the dramatic change in perspective, the sensual abstraction of the earth itself. Our flight up to the expanse that is Denali was full of wild design, improbable form, well beyond any normal sense of size and space.


Above Denali. Denali National Park. Alaska. 2013


Above Denali. Denali National Park. Alaska. 2013

Assessing the photographs from this flight around Denali will take months. I am very slow to consider what I've done, examine the compositions, look for tone and color that reach toward my memory of the flight .

It's a challenge that photographs made so rapidly take me so long to understand. It might be the difference between instinct while in the air, and slow, careful consideration after the fact. Of course it would be great to work as I do on the ground, slowly, to hold still over those fantastic aerial views. But that's not where our flying technology really is. Helicopters are great, but often much more expensive and even then, hovering for extended periods of time still involves movement and constant readjustment.

Dreams sometimes take me to mysterious flying devices that allow me to hover, move up and down, organically almost as an extension of my will. Flying dreams are common I understand.



...continued top of right column


Lightning. Pacifica, CA. 2013

Then there was lightning.

On August 19th. a lightning storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area and captured the attention of many photographers, with some remarkable images resulting. I had an opportunity to try out my new lightning trigger device, the Lightning Bug by MK Controls, during the impressive lightning display. The storm formed when a low pressure system combined with monsoon-like moisture conditions producing the dramatic bolts. Lightning was reported from San Mateo County to Napa County with firefighters reporting over 3,400 lightning strikes over a 24 hour period.

The Lightning Bug operates with a high speed photo diode sensor that detects the infrared burst that occurs before a lightning strike. The Lightning Bug device is designed to detect a significant change in infrared light, it then directs the shutter to trip and activate the camera just before a strike.

In this particular instance, many people watching were just leaving their shutters open, as I could have, and hoped for a strike during the 30 seconds. I saw some great shots from this method and as the strikes were so frequent, this might have captured something similar. I was very impressed however by the performance of the Lightning Bug, which seemed to work very well. This gave me confidence that in future lightning situations, where the long exposures would not work, nor the frequency of strikes make it so likely to capture something, that I now have a good piece of technology to trip the shutter much faster than my eye to hand reaction can ever achieve.

Data from NASA reports that at any given time there are approximately 2,000 thunderstorms around the world where lightning occurs at approximately 40-50 times a second, resulting in nearly 1.4 billion flashes per year. Peaks of lightning can range in the order of 10 to 100 million volts of electricity with an average about 30,000 amps. Energy goes into light and heat with temperatures at about 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 6 times hotter than the sun



Red-Tail Hawk. Pacifica, CA. 2013

I am not a wildlife photographer. I occasionally manage a good photograph of our fellow animal companions on this earth. But I often miss the photograph as I was not watching for it, did not have the camera ready for quick action, and have not invested in the optics to really bring me close in.

A recent experience in the most ordinary of places, a grocery store, did present an opportunity that turned out amazing. As we were walking into the store, my partner Fiona noticed a red-tail hawk standing on the roof, eating what was apparently a just caught smaller bird. The 357 frames that followed just kept following the actions of the hawk's movements and eventual fly away.

The visual wonders continue.

A Few Talks Ahead

Palo Alto California

On September 21 we're going to do a Print Day in Palo Alto at Keeble and Shuchat Photography. A small exhibition From the Beginning: 20 Years of Digital Photography (a few prints as retrospective) will hang from September 21 through October 5. Canon and Hahnamuhle are sponsoring the event.

Lecture and Exhibition. Palo Alto CA. Saturday September 21, 10am to noon

Near Portland Oregon: Focus on Nature Festival

We're spending a few days in Oregon in early October, doing a series of talks and workshops with the Tualitin River Photo Society for their Focus on Nature Festival.

I will give the keynote address to the conference "With a New Eye: Photography Forever Changed," my digital landscape photography project on the national parks. I will also be conducting three workshops: Twelve Steps to Improve Your Digital Photography; Photography and the Environment: A History and call to action; and Fine-Art Digital Printing.

New York City: PhotoPlus

I am always happy to be going back to NYC for the PhotoPlus show which I've been doing for over 15 years. I've always had a good time in New York, and it has given me some wonderful photographic opportunities, photographing, going to shows, seeing so much work and so many old friends at the show. It seems I always make some interesting new acquaintances as well.

I'm pleased to be presenting my "12 Steps to Improve Your Photographs" talk on Friday afternoon. I usually also do a talk in the Canon booth on my recent work.

12 Steps to Improve Your Digital Photography Friday, October 24th from 4:00 to 6:00 PM

Carmel California

Keynote Address for Center for Photographic Art's Annual Members Workshop
November 9, 2013 at 7:30pm

email your comments to us



Mid-west Gallery Carrying My Work

steve 2004

A chance to see (and purchase) some of my original prints at the Armstrong De Graaf International Fine Art Gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan


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 talk in Palo Alto, at Tualitin near Portland, OR, in San Francisco and New York City in October and Carmel in November.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display.
  • New York City. PhotoPlus Expo 2013 seminar "12 Steps to Improve Your Digital Photography" Friday, October 24th from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Center for Photographic Art. Members Workshop. November 9, 2013. Carmel, CA.


A Matting and Framing update

An addition to our Matting and Framing Video


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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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 September 18, 2013 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2013, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide