Stephen Johnson Photography News, Events & Info November 2007

Sunstreaks. Glacier Point, Yosemite. 2007.
Yosemite in Autumn Workshop.


Welcome to the November 2007 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter. As always, we hope you enjoy this edition.

There are two places left in the Galapagos trip in late May, and places in the Fine Art Printing class in early December. Check 'em 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. The Black and White class had to be postponed until winter and we've also had a number of requests to repeat the RAW to Print Digital Boot Camp weeklong course. Let us know of your interest.

Great teaching, great facility.

What more could you need for the plunge into digital photography?


...Galapagos Photo Workshop
...Book Now Shipping!
...Special Edition
Lab Rental
...Al Weber Book
...Four Panoramics Poster
Featured Print Offer
...Trees and Mountains, Rocky Mountain NP
The View From Here
...Panoramic Photography

Workshop News
...Graduate Study Lab
...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
...Monthly Critiques
...Canon Lectures
...PDN On-The-Road
Recent Publicity
...book reviews
For Sale
...Epson Printers I'm no longer using
Photographic Services
...Stephen Johnson Editions
Visit Us
Newsletter Administration
...Newsletter Subscription
...Newsletter Archive


Galapagos Photo Workshop, May 30-June 9, 2008.
Eight person Catamaran. Approximately $5000, plus airfare.
email immediately if interested: info@sjphoto.com
2 places left!.

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography
Signed Copies Now Shipping!
Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography Special Edition
Limited Edition Slip-cased edition with original print

Now Shipping!

Some still available from early edition numbers at the best price.

State of the Art Digital Lab
Now Available As Classroom or Individual Workstation Rental

  • printing
  • profiling
  • image editing

Gallery Events

Critique Session
November 29, 2007, 7-10pm

New Products
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.

Book Poster: Four Panoramics
GrayCapsTM Digital gray card. The Digital gray card you will always have with you, even among 10,000 penguins.

November 2007
Trees and mountains. Rocky Mountain.
Wintery Trees and Mummy Mountain. Rocky Mountain National Park 1995
11x14 Pigment Print on Rag paper

$195 each

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


Panoramic Photography in the Digital Age
(from an article by Steve in PC Photo Magazine, March 2007)

The history of panoramic photography is long and full of ingenuity, both in terms of techniques for achieving a wide view, and some very interesting applications of the techniques.

Simple multiple exposures from a rotated camera are the most basic and oldest technique for a panoramic views. These were rarely seen as continuous, but rather simply what they were, individual views looking around. Of course, they were most likely displayed next to each other to create the wide view, even if broken by the edge of the frame and some overlap.

The desire to build a camera that made extremely wide views was clearly in place by the late 19th century. Various implementations of large format panoramic cameras were constructed, some with curved glass plates and special hand cranked moving lenses, rotating cameras with synchronized moving film and very wide format, wide lens combinations. The most famous of which was the geared Cirkut camera, circa 1906. Over 75 different pano camera designs are on record, dating back to 1844.

As early photographers often used very large format cameras, another technique was simply to use only a long rectangular portion of the more square format with a slightly wide angle lens, making for the illusion of a very wide view. Cameras were even constructed for this purpose with very long aspect ratios, such as the 12x20 inch Banquet camera introduced in 1914.

A few decades into the 20th century brought both medium format and 35mm versions of the rotating synced film advance design. This approach became a standard for panoramic work, although the wide-angle lenses coupled with long format frame has stayed with us, such as the Fuji 6x17.

Rotating Lenses and Moving film

  • Cirkut 1906
  • Hulcherama  1981
  • Globuscope  1982
  • Roundshot  1990

Fixed Lens Wide-Angle

  • #4 Kodak Panoram 1900
  • Veriwide 1961
  • Fuji G617, 1983
  • Widelux  1988


Quicktime VR

Apple Computer stepped into the panoramic photography world in 1995 with its QuickTime VR (virtual reality) software that included a multiple exposure stitcher and viewing architecture within its QuickTime movie software. Its electronic interactive viewing of 360° spaces quickly spurred a resurgence of interest in panoramic photography.

I was hired by Apple in the spring of 1995 to work with them on the development of QTVR as it came to be known. My first field tests were in the southwest, and were done with film, as that was the technique they were premièring, multiple film exposures and scans, assembled together into 360° panoramic files.

By that time, I had already abandoned film, and so it was quite strange to suddenly be shooting again with a film camera for this advanced test of digital technology. I soon replaced the film with my Kodak DCS460 and moved on to my own work.

As it turned out, 1995 became an even more interesting year with the advent of the Betterlight scanning camera's panoramic adaptor.

Digital Panoramics

In 1995, I sent out a New Year’s card to a bunch of friends in which I told people about this scanning camera by Michael Collette I was working with. One of the people that answered was my old friend Howard Barney, who had built the BarneyScan (the first desktop 35mm film scanner ) and originally licensed Photoshop from John and Thomas Knoll. Howard had sold BarneyScan, by then had opened a machine shop in Portland and just played with projects he wanted to do. Howard called me up to say that he knew Michael Collette from his work with Dunn Imaging and also that he had a design for a panoramic head for a scanning camera.

Howard and Mike got back in touch. Howard designed and hand-built a panoramic head for the 4x5. Basically, it was a rotating stage that could be computer controlled. His rotating stage was mounted on the tripod, the camera mounted on top of that, and the software controlled to the motor, instructing it how to turn. The BetterLight sensor is put dead-on center of the lens instead of traveling across the back of the imaging area of the camera, a sweet place to work from. Then the whole camera turns. In fact you get better quality if you make every photograph with the panoramic head because the sensor is dead-on center of the optic, and so there is no distortion, no chromatic aberration, no nothing other than the best image that optic can produce.

In November of 1995 we made the first digital panoramic photograph with Michael’s camera. There had been digital panoramic photos before; the Viking Lander that went to Mars in 1976 had a 12-sensor photodiode camera and panoramic capability. As far as we have been able to discover, there has never been a 360-degree digital camera until this. The BetterLight is actually capable of a 400-degree rotation. You will notice the same tree at both ends of the Ft. Point/Golden Gate Panorama. My approach for shooting panoramas with this technology has been generally to shoot about 370 degrees, creating a 10-degree overlap.

Big Prints and Panoramic Displays

Eventually, Hewlett Packard got involved and through the courtesy of Michael Stokes, who made us some big prints on their DesignJet printers. We had these rather long prints, where the Golden Gate Bridge looked really strange. It looms toward you and looms away, exactly the way it looked to the lens in this strange way of looking at the world. Back at the Digital Pond, my good friend Pete Hogg decided to host a little experiment where we took one of the prints, and glued its top edge to the outside of a huge round cardboard cutout, with the print facing inward. It was then hung by rope from their ceiling. When I stepped inside, it was like a photographic transport to another place, the most immersive photographic experience I had ever seen. My use of the term “immersive” was later picked up to refer to VR panoramic technology.

I wanted to replicate this experience. Hewlett Packard built a temporary display for their headquarters in Palo Alto. Apple commissioned a portable version in 1998, designed and built by my friend Robin Myers, who later constructed a 360-degree room for my gallery in Pacifica. These walk-in panoramic rooms allow viewers to be surrounded by the Grand Canyon or whatever print we manage to hang. The big prints do continue to amaze.

In many ways, I’ve been making photographs on the faith that I would someday be able to open the files. The very high resolution 1-gigabyte panoramics could not even be opened in Photoshop when we started to make them in 1995. On my second panoramic outing in late 1995, I stumbled onto a width limit in Photoshop; it wouldn’t open an image beyond 30,000 pixels. The new panoramics were up to 65,000 pixels long. I kept making them anyway, knowing that eventually this problem would be solved. I couldn’t resist these very detailed records of a scene. Of course, I also made lower-res, easier to deal with versions when I could. In 2003, this limit was overcome in Photoshop and I can now open these files and make good use of them in my software of choice.

Multi-Exposure Panoramics Techniques

Panoramic photography has been greatly enabled by the capability to build panoramic views from a sequence of exposures. This is done with a series of photographs made while rotating the camera between frames. These individual frames are then joined together in a (hopefully) seamless collage through a process called stitching. There are several software packages that are designed to composite these images together, including Apple’s original QuickTime VR Authoring Tools and Photoshop’s built-in panoramic stitcher, Photomerge.

Most applications and manual stitching processes will work best when the camera setup is level and the overlap of images is consistent. A panoramic stepping head for your tripod can be helpful to aid consistent rotation and overlap. About a 25% -50% overlap is helpful for blending these images together, but this will vary with the focal length of the lens used. It can also be very helpful for blending if you choose a single aperture/shutter speed combination and use it for the entire rotated set. This will minimize potential sky blending issues, which can be almost impossible to eliminate.

Hand-held work sequences require more care and work after the fact. Do your best to find a marking within the viewfinder to line up the horizon and keep it there as you rotate the camera. If major geometric distortion is present in the final set, correcting individual frames with Photoshop’s perspective correction controls might improve subsequent stitching success.

My stitching software traditionally has been Apple's original QuickTime VR Authoring Suite, but it has long since been left without updates by Apple since 1997.

have since used Helmet Dersch's Pano Tools and lately the Mac OSX front-ends to his software like PT GUI, PTMac and others. There are some other great tools out there, including RealViz and VR Worx. Many are only available for the PC running Windows. Most are worth looking into, as many are free or shareware. Part of the reason choosing one over another depends on your goals, making an interactive QuickTime VR for web of other electronic display, or simply assembling multiple exposures into a high-resolution image for printing.


1.   Generally a semi-wide, to wide-angle lens is used for VR files, but any focal length can be stitched. A long lens can be used to assemble a wide view from a very selected, zoomed-in part of the scene.

2.   Use a tripod if at all possible. Handheld sets are much more difficult to assemble because all axis’ are in play.

3.   Level the tripod head. Try to keep vertical and horizontal lines in the image straight throughout the rotation. Check various points of rotation to confirm the accuracy of your leveling. Supplemental bubble levels are available for your camera’s flash mount. A cinematic leveling head for your tripod can be very helpful.

4.   If no tripod is available, don’t pass up an important photograph, try anyway, stay as level and as consistent in overlap as possible.

5.   If near and far objects are part of the scene, set the nodal point of lens over the axis of rotation (usually near the middle of the lens-to-imaging plane distance). You can determine the approximate nodal point by watching near and far objects in relation to each other as you rotate the camera and slide the camera forward and backward on the tripod mount. No apparent shift in the near/far relationship is the goal.

6.   Shoot in RAW mode for maximum dynamic range and flexibility in processing.

7.   Set exposure mode to Manual so that all exposures will match and adjust to hold highlights.

8.   Use the same exposure for all images

9.   Overlap rotated images 25% to 50%

10. Keep in mind, you are not limited to horizontal sweeps of view, but can also build up resolution of your captures by making a set of four or more of your desired scene in a quad pattern.


1.   Auto assembly software is designed to correct and blend discontinuities between images. However, major mismatches may have to be pre-corrected. Correct these major distortions in Photoshop using Transform/Distort with Grid turned on for alignment guides. The correction needs to match in adjoining images.

2.   In Adobe Camera RAW, Synchronize processing. Be careful of your settings, using minimal noise reduction and little sharpening. If you over-process from RAW, and have to start all over, it might force you to redo much subsequent work.

3.   Even out lens vignetting in Camera RAW, as darkened edges are much harder to blend.

4.   Keep in 16 bit if your assembly process will support it.

Manual Assembling

1.   Manually assemble in Photoshop using Layers and limited opacity erasers to blend overlaps together.

2.   Re-align and custom distort as necessary.

Auto assembly with stitching software

1.   When asked for focal length of lens, check camera EXIF data if you don’t remember. If the camera sensor is not full frame, you may also need to know the multiplication factor.

2.   Decide if you want to assemble a flat image for printing, or a curved view for an interactive VR file.

3.   Take the time to custom align images at previewing stage of assembly software.

4.   Preserve Layers in Stitching software if possible for fine-tuning blends.


1.   13 inch wide Epson printers can print to 40 inches long, 44 inch wide printers to 90 inches.

2.   RIPs like ImagePrint can print hundreds of inches long

Web Sites:


Multi-node VR

Apple Tutorial


Tripod Heads: http://www.kaidan.com

International VR Photography Association http://www.ivrpa.org/

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.

Graduate Study Lab
November 30, 2007
Additional Dates by Arrangement
(Normally Fridays)
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

Days dedicated to labwork with guidance by Stephen Johnson in his specially-built digital photo lab. Afternoon reviews of work. Full lab access. Prior approval must be obtained before registering.

Call for details: 650 355-7507.

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 yyou like. info@sjphoto.com

Professional Image Editing
January 31-Feb 3, 2008
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 14-16, 2008

Optional extra day at Pt. Lobos

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

Critique Session: November 29, 2007
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

Canon's Explorer of Light Photographer - Stephen Johnson
November 14, 2007, 7 to 9pm
An ASMP Event. www.asmpasa.org
K2 Press, 2830 MLK Jr. Blvd.
Austin, Texas

PDN On the Road Seminars
  • Dallas - November 12-13
  • New York City - December 3-4
  • Los Angeles - December 10-11

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


O'REILLY podcast
MacVoices Podcast
MacEdtion Radio
DIMA Podcast
Photoshop World Podcast
Book Reviews
Book Comments online


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 11/26/07. Mail comments to: info@sjphoto.com
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2007, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.