Stephen Johnson Photography News, Events & Info December 2007

Fog and Rain. Wawona Road, Yosemite. 2007.
Yosemite in Autumn Workshop.


Welcome to the December 2007 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter. As always, we hope you enjoy this edition and have a happy holiday season.

Our annual Holiday Open House is December 15 from noon until 5pm. Come by and join us.

There are a few places left in the Fine Art Printing class in early December. Check it out.

The winter and spring schedule is shaping up, including Yosemite in Winter in early February, Highway One in March, San Francisco in April, Mendocino in May, and Ireland in June. We've started a new policy on more specialized courses, let us know of your interest and we will build a list until we have enough people to set a date.

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

Giant Sequoias in Fog and Rain. Wawona,.
Yosemite. 2007.
Yosemite in Autumn Workshop.


...Holiday Open House
Featured Print Offer
...San Francisco Aerial
The View From Here
...Photography and the Environment
Workshop News
...Fine Art Digital Printing

...Death Valley in Winter

...Professional Image Editing
...Yosemite in Winter
...Mendocino and the North Coast
...San Francisco Digitally
...Highway One to Pt. Lobos
The Book
...Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

Upcoming Events
...Canon Lectures
...PDN On-The-Road
Recent Publicity
...book reviews
Recommended Reading
...Al Weber Book
For Sale
...Epson Printers I'm no longer using
Photographic Services
...Stephen Johnson Editions
Visit Us
Newsletter Administration
...Newsletter Subscription
...Newsletter Archive


Gallery Events

Holiday Open House
Saturday December 15, 2007. Noon to 5pm.

In Celebration of 2007
Studios at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
780,000 visitors to our Website this year!

and the success of our highly acclaimed new book
"Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography"


Special Holiday discounts!
Spectacular Sale: 15% off every item in stock
Buy one poster, get one free!
Gift Certificates!

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

December 2007
Trees and mountains. Rocky Mountain.
Aerial, San Francisco. 2007
11x14 Pigment Print on Gelatin Rag paper

$195 each

I most always carry a camera onboard flights, and ask for a window seat, on the side of the plane whose terrain is most likely to fascinate. This photograph was taken from a commercial flight through the plane's typically marginal Plexiglas. It surprised me with its sharpness and seemed to demand a black and white rendition.

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


Photography and the Environment
Aesthetics, Advocacy and the Natural World (a work in progress)

I learned early on, that to draw attention and focus to an endangered landscape, photography had real power, but that my work failed miserably when I sought to create political statements. It was clear that being a sensitive witness to the world, rather than to impose self-portraits of my agenda created new sensitivities, new commitment and stronger work. Later, with my work in the national parks, nuance triumphed artistically over iconography.

On a larger note, it became clear that in my best work the specific instance of a place created a connection to the universal human need for the natural world. It became clear that an intimate relationship to the real world brings the photographs, and then naturally, the commitment the action.

As a backdrop, I had been inspired by photographic projects that had direct environmental impact from Carleton Watkins' Yosemite work in 1864, to Wm Henry Jackson 1872 in Yellowstone, Ansel Adams in Sequoia Kings Canyon, and Eliot Porter's Antarctica work, it was clear photography could make difference.

These inspirations drove me toward the nuts and bolts of a organizing photographic projects. From inspiration to insurance, the practical and aesthetic melded into a decade long project of why and how to. From working with grants agencies to Congress, museums to contributing photographers, my work has also become is an exploration at the art of influencing land preservation issues.

But where enviromental issues and art join hands to work rogether, there can be issues of conflicting agendas, very different perspecitives and short-term goals, even with long-term shared agendas. Working on the preservation of Mono Lake in California's eastern Sierra (the City of Los Angeles was diverting its water), it became evident that environmental groups often put agenda ahead of aesthetics (understandable), even when supporting an arts project (mistake).

I remember one incident where a decision was coming down on the At Mono Lake project, where one prominent environmentalist tried hard to convince us to put birds very up-front. Of our choice of a landscape image instead, he said "it looks like smog over New Jersey." It is natural for birds in jeopardy to be in the forefront of an agenda to save an ecosystem. This perfectly understandable, but as an art exhibit it took careful organization and determination to keep the focus on the art. What had to be made clear, was that beauty is the most seductive persuader of all. But not the surface beauty or a world bathed in the eternal sunset of contemporary scenic photography. But something more distilled, more essential, a deeper exploration of the there.

Keeping art up front and politics only from straight and simple stoytelling was part of what allowed the exhibit to be in the Los Angeles County Museum for 750,000 visitors. It was never necessary to say "Save Mono Lake." The message was implicit in the power of the art depicting the place.

I was an environmentalist before I was a photographer. My work on environmental issues dates back to early involvement in political campaigns, working for the California Coastal Initiative in 1972, helping to form a high school Ecology Club, and helping to found and manage a community Recycling Center in my hometown of Merced, California. These efforts continued into my professional life as an adult with my work on behalf of Mono Lake, the Great Central Valley and the national parks including recent direct involvement of saving Mori Point for addition into the GGNRA. My photographs have appeared in Sierra Magazine, Audubon, Pacific Discovery and numerous other environmentally focused publications. I currently serve on the board of the Pacifica Land Trust and continue to lend my photographic skills to a number of organizations.

My work is unmanipulated by intent, enhanced by the veracity of the technology, but unencumbered by the impulse to enhance the natural beauty that makes me pick up the camera. The technology became a great enabler, stripping away the fog of film and the distance of the darkroom. The making of the photograph also became the experiencing of the photograph. This fundamental change has deepen my appreciation of what I see, the magic of photography and my sense of duty to give back.

Technology and aesthetic have melded in my mind. As one commentator wrote: The bleeding edge of technology has left its marks on Steve, and left us all with new icons in the history of landscape. Johnson's subtle use of color, unbelievable detail, all wrapped in his light-filled pastel images reveal a fundamentally new way of seeing, redefining "straight" photography in an age of endless manipulation.

Steve is...a Landscape photographer that applies science to nature and makes art.
-Life Magazine 1997

In thinking through the art, the technology and what we come away from the interaction with, some quotes came to mind:

A New Realism: Photographer's Gallery 1998
Johnson's work births a "new realism," a post modern expression beyond the constraints of conventional photographic techniques and styles. Plunging into a rich pastel world rarely attempted in photography, yet uncannily familiar to human experience, he is doing battle with color photographic convention of contrasty, saturated renditions, forcing us to see a world we know, but which photography has largely ignored. His sensitive design and color take us into a remarkable world of sensual visual experience.

Contending that the real world is already "self-embellished" he prefers a straightforward attempt at rendering of what he sees, working hard to portray what is before the camera optic. This significant break from film's inherent distortion and recent digital trends of embellishment and enhancement reveals his affection for seeing beauty, compelling form and visual power in the world as he finds it.

"I want my experience in a place of visual power to be brought to the viewer. My ability to see the image as I make it gives me the on site power to test my vision as the two dimensional interpretation of a photograph. Judging the light presence and design fully realized is critical."

Art Historian Dianne W. Pitman: 2006
Photography is a kind of religion for Stephen Johnson, involving finding beauty in nature, opening our eyes, heightening our awareness. This is a grand tradition in photography, and I'm convinced he's an important figure in the history of the medium because of the way he modernizes and innovates within the tradition, with great intelligence and sensitivity, rather than trying to get attention by flouting it. He's devoted to a kind of realism that involves working slowly and deliberately, capturing as much detail and tone and color info as possible, messing endlessly with the camera and computer and monitor and printer to convey the effect of the original experience, and never collaging or compositing or retouching to alter the photographic image (as opposed to repairing damage such as scratches and stains in scanned old photos). His large landscape prints are stunning, not just for the magical degree of detail you discover in them when you look closely, but also for the entirely different, amazing, convincing quality of light. But Stephen is no scientific documentarian, he's very sharp about design elements such as composition and patterning, and his oeuvre has a subtle but very consistent personal style (which I suspect many viewers miss, as he more or less intends).

As a teacher he is both very self-confident and very modest, consistently demonstrating his convictions without forcing them on others, and his photographs work the same way. He distinguishes between what he considers to be true photography, or recording something that was visible at a particular moment and place, from image-making in general, which combines photography with all sorts of other processes. He sees it as a problem that digital imagemaking in general (e.g. all that Photoshop can do) is referred to and taught as "digital photography"; not that there's anything wrong with painting and collaging, but that they stand in a different relationship to the world, and that it's important to be aware of that difference. Not just to avoid being tricked into thinking manipulated images are truth, but more fundamentally in order to remain attentive, and responsible to, and passionate about, our relationship to our real world. These are big issues; this is art at its best.

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 hope 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.

Fine-Art Digital Printing Hands-On
December 6-9, 2007
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 judgements and interactive honing in on the best print possible.

Fundamentals of Digital Photography
January 12-13, 2007
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

This is an exciting exploration of photography's powerful new digital tools with one of the most knowledgeable artists in the field. This class is designed to provide you with the background and understanding to transition your work into the digital realm. The digital basics are covered here, in real world terms, with care to make sure the concepts are understood and the complications simplified. Those basics are built on to tackle the thorny issues of camera design and choice, data storage, color management and printing.

Death Valley in Winter
January 19-22, 2008 Full, but we'll add you to our waiting list if you like. info@sjphoto.com
(second session Jan. 24-27 added)

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

Professional Image Editing
March 27-30, 2008 (date changed by popular demand)
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

This 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 with the time to really understand the processes, and to work through difficult images

Yosemite in Winter
February 7-10, 2008

Winter in Yosemite Valley is a transformed world. Trees are wet and dark, the oaks are bare. The cliffs are blanketed with snow. Weather moves through in waves of clouds and mist. Ponds and river edges are frozen. There is usually snow on the valley floor. Visitors are dramatically fewer in number.

Our four days together will likely be cold, but we will no doubt be warmed by the special beauty that winter brings to this grand valley. Although we will drive to basic locations, I hope our basic mode of transportation through the valley will be our feet. There is really no other way to come to know a place.

Highway One and the San Mateo Coast
March 15-16, 2008

Optional extra day at Pt. Lobos March 17

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.

San Francisco Digitally
April 5-6, 2008
plus Friday evening pre-meeting and
post workshop Critique
Optional extra day at Alcatraz

A two day digital photography workshop exploring some of San Francisco's most visually interesting areas. We'll spend time in the Presidio with its old forts and forests, downtown skyscraper cityscapes, the Palace of Fine Arts World's Fair remnants, Fort Point with its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, (and possibly the Marin Headlands) and the urban eden of Golden Gate Park. We will also take in the restored Cliff House and its historic Camera Obscura. Much time will be spent walking and looking, knowing we will be in the area for awhile, giving you the freedom to explore, but also keeping help nearby.

Mendocino and the North Coast
May 3-4, 2008

Dive into the lush seascape of California's North Coast on this intensive two-day photographic workshop to Mendocino. Dark, musty redwood rainforests pierced by sunbeam shafts, spectacular rocky cliffs with the tumbling surf below, and rolling shoreline dunes will fill our two days with remarkable varied photographic experiences. The north coast architecture of this beautiful little township and the fishing port of Noyo will add plenty of man-made subject matter to our weekend. And, of course, we will find time to sample a few of Mendocino's good eating establishments.

Ireland’s Spectacular West Coast
June 20-30, 2008

Join Stephen Johnson and Anthony Hobbs for an unforgettable journey along the rustic West Coast of Ireland. This workshop will include hotel stays in several towns along our route from County Clare towards Achill Island. Along the way, participants will explore western Ireland's landscape with its rugged coast, lush greens, rocky islands, lake-filled valleys and remote castles.

Irish culture and history will also be part of this trip as we visit key locations and provide natural and human history discussions along the way. Some Gaelic language lessons and Irish folk arts performances might also be picked up on our travels along with the warmth and friendliness of the Irish people.

Personal Workshops

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 Penninsula, 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

PDN On the Road Seminars

  • New York City - December 3-4
  • Los Angeles - December 10-11

The Digital Landscape: Santa Fe Workshops
April 21-25, 2008

Canon's Explorer of Light Photographer - Stephen Johnson
Tuesday December 4, 2007, 7pm
School of Visual Arts, New York
209 East 23rd Street, Third Floor
New York, NY 10010

Canon's Explorer of Light Photographer - Stephen Johnson
Photoshop Users Group, San Jose
January 8, 2008 6:30 - 9:00 pm. Park Conference Room

Adobe Systems, Inc.
321 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA


Book Reviews
Book Comments online


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, measuring 6"x4", it will easily slip into your pack, purse, or pocket.


Printers I'm no longer using. Make offer. Must pick up.

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

Printers being replaced:
  • Epson 2200 $300


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 michelle@sjphoto.com 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 12/20/07. Mail comments to: info@sjphoto.com
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2007, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.