reyes grass

Pt. Reyes. Canon 1Ds III.


Pt. Reyes. 2010.

yosemite oaks

Highway One Workshop on Mori Point. 2006.

Stephen is a great teacher... continually attentive to student needs, always ready with suggestions for improvement, he is quite a presence. A week after the workshop my head was still spinning with ideas. I am deeply grateful to Stephen and my fellow participants for having made my trip so memorable.

-Andrew Stern
Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley


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

This month's View From Here column Landscape, Wonder and the Art Scene explores landscape, art, the art world and composition a bit. A new Tutorial on Paper Whites on Your Monitor follows the essay.

On our digital photography workshop program, the follow-up to the Fine Art Printing course is being offered for the first time in many years, Intermediate Fine Art Digital Printing on April 10-11. This is a great chance for those of you who have worked with Steve on your printing and would really like some help and guidance as you continue to fine tune and hone your skills.

Our four-day hands-on starter class, Fine Art Digital Printing is being offered again May 1-4.

May brings our rarely offered Pt. Reyes National Seashore 3 day workshop in Marin County from May 15-17. This expansive park encompasses a wide variety of landscapes, huge vistas and intimate detail. A visually striking park and a great experience awaits us.

June brings our attention back to San Francisco with the San Francisco Digitally workshop June 12-13 exploring the city's widely varying scenes and vistas in a fun two days knocking around the city. A third day add-on possibility to Alcatraz rounds out the workshop nicely.

The intensive RAW to Print: Summer Digital Boot Camp is being offered July 12-16.

I hope some of you can join us this spring and summer for some of these offerings.

Our Summer Travel Adventure Workshops include:


Workshop Testimonials


Intermediate Fine Art Digital Printing. Last chance to Register!

Printers Available for Donation!

Intern and Scholarship Programs

Video of Steve's Maine Media Workshops Artist's Lecture. Thanks to Patrick Durante. Needs Apple QuickTime plug-in.

DVD: Matting and Framing

April 2010


Escalante Canyon and Clouds, Sun and Rain. 2009.
11x12 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each

From the Southwest Journey workshop last summer, a dramatic stop on the road through Escalante National Monument.

We're offering an 11x12 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 April 30. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by May 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.


Landscape, Wonder and the Art Scene

Those of us in love with photography and the natural world are often regarded in the art world as creators of mere decor. I was reminded of this again recently when some students and friends went to a photo event for some critiques and were greeted with something less than enthusiasm, even with strong work (in my judgment) being presented. One comment I heard in frustration was that Ansel Adams starting out couldn't get a show in today's environment.

Witness to wonder of course doesn't translate to necessarily strong photographs, even for those of us that love landscape work. It is very easy to make boring landscape photographs.

However, it is not easy to describe those qualities that make something truly compelling. I can refer to intrinsic beauty, uniqueness, design and intensity of seeing, and all of those words do refer to qualities that strengthen images. But there is something more intangible, and it has to do with rising from the specific instance to a more universal appeal and reference. I realize there is not precision or formula to such language, but there may be direction.

I'm not going to rail against the pervasive taste for social angst in today's art world. Rather, I think it is more useful to explore what often disappoints, and what tends to move us, me at least. I explore many of these ideas in my composition lectures but it is always a struggle to express them.

The following suggestions and ideas are not indisputable facts, they are a few of my judgments and understanding of the facts. Perhaps they'll be useful to you Where I've written about them in the past, please forgive the repetition.


Simplify, exclude, include only what strengthens the photograph and exclude anything that weakens the photograph. Create a small piece of order and beauty out of a large complex world that often feels chaotic.

Light as the Subject

Only light can be photographed, not things, not ideas, not conclusions. You can't photograph what you can't see (at least with normal exposures), but you can photograph things that aren't literally real things, like shadows for example.


We often travel to exotic locations in search of the unique. This works to some degree. Many locations scream unusual, but it is still amazing how easy it is to make boring photographs. In my Mono Lake Workshop I often remind people of how easy it is to make a boring picture of Mono's strange Tufa towers. It doesn't take too many photographs of Antarctic icebergs to know unique photographs have to be worked for even under the most unusual circumstances.

As those of us teaching in Iceland this summer are anxious to see the erupting volcano, we also know that mere fire, even molten earth, doesn't make art, nor necessarily the remarkable. Although an erupting volcano may be an exception, it likely also depends on how close one can safely get.


Make an affirmative decision as to how the scene is arranged within the frame. Don't accept random first glances or fail to ask the absolute most you can of your wits and intuition.

Color and Black and White

I love color photography, but I think only when the color plays a deep role in the strength of the image is a color photograph of value. Black and white is inherently more abstract, and consequently much easier to see and distill design and abstraction. If you love black and white, perhaps all photographs ought to be black and white except for when there is a clear quality to the color that makes the photograph need to be in color.

Print Beauty

A beautiful alive print still reigns supreme in most of our eyes, one that glows, draws us in, becomes a thing of beauty in and of itself. Use the best paper, the most care, the print is only finished when it is as close to perfection as you can attain.

By the way, I've got some printing classes coming up:


PhotoCard samples

PhotoCard for the Phone

I love my friend Bill Atkinson's PhotoCard for the iPhone. It allows you to send postcards from your iPhone to someone's email, or a printed postcard through the US Mail. It is a great way to say hello, to be able to just punch a few buttons and send a picture off. It reconnects us to written communication even while using the computer to commit the act.

You can use either a selection of Bill's images, or use one of your own. The cost is about $1.50 each, printed and with electronic postage.

There is something wonderful about getting personal mail, real physical mail, in the mailbox, there always has been and still is. I still vividly remember when my first copy of an Indian printed book of Gandhi's writings arrived in the mail from India. I was 13 years old. This may not be the same as a hand-written letter, but its pretty damned good.

Bill Atkinson's PhotoCard for the iPhone and iPad

For the iPhone, the iPad and soon the Mac.

Bill Atkinson Demonstrating his PhotoCard App on the new iPad at the Apple Store, San Francisco. 4/3/10.


Printing Tutorials
Paper Whites on Screen Modes

A few years back my one request on a new feature in Photoshop CS4 was to enable the ability to customize the Screen Modes beyond the three that had been in Photoshop for some time, Standard Screen Mode, Full Screen with Menus and Full Screen. Although you had been able to customize the colors of those backgrounds with a key combination, my goal was to be able to also turn off the black border always surrounding the image, so that I could customize the surrounding color to my paper white and see the image whites in context.

I was rewarded with just such a feature in Photoshop CS4 Preferences under Interface and as an addition, the border option was customized to allow for a Line (as was always there), a Drop Shadow, and now also None. So I now normally work in Full Screen with Menus with a Custom color of my paper white. As I am normally using one of two papers, this has worked beautifully for me.

The papers I normally use are the rag paper I designed with Hahnemuhle, the Museum Etching, and what I think of as it’s gelatin-like companion, PhotoRag Pearl. Neither of these have the bluing agents of optical brighteners that will yellow over time.

Paper Whites
Hahnemuhle PhotoRag Pearl White
L: 97.9
a: .1
b: 1.6

As Photoshop will not take decimal points into their Custom colors, I enter L: 98, a: 0, b:2

Hahnemuhle Museum Etching White
L: 97.4
a: .2
b: 2.3

As Photoshop will not take decimal points into their Custom colors, I enter L: 97, a: 0, b:2



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 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

We're restarting our photography workshop scholarship program. We will try to reserve a spot in every class we can, particularly field workshops. To start, we will be gathering applications from qualifying college photography students who would like to join us on a workshop.

We will be developing an application page, hold received applications, then choose awards as spots become available. Let people know who you think might be interested.

For applications, please email:



Intermediate Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on
April 10-11, 2010

This workshop is designed to be a follow-up on previous printing classes, helping the students maintain their growth and increasing control of the printing process. More assistance than lecture, this class focuses exclusively on refining your fine-art digital printing using our first-class 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 working with Steve again to continue your printing progress.


Fine-Art Digital Printing Hands-On
May 1-4, 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. Reyes National Seashore
May 15-17, 2010

This three-day workshop includes field instruction, critiques, and discussion of composition, digital camera characteristics and exposure. Individualized instruction is designed to accommodate beginning and advanced students. The weekend will mix walking and driving, exploring the trails, beaches and rural countryside of the park. We will visit the windblown Point Reyes headlands that juts miles out into the Pacific, offering ocean views found nowhere else. Time will also be spent in the forest, looking for form and design in the rich flora.

A beautiful coastal forest, isolated undeveloped beaches and views encompassing hundreds of square miles of land and sea will be the rewards of this weekend at Point Reyes. This dynamic landscape promises an intensive and interesting three days on northern California’s rugged coastline

sf pyramid

San Francisco Digitally
June 12-13, 2010
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.



From RAW to Print in One Week
Summer Digital Boot Camp
Studios of Stephen Johnson Photography, Pacifica, CA
July 12-16, 2010


An intense immersion into digital photography with one of its pioneers. In five days you will go from perhaps not even understanding what a RAW file is, to making well-crafted and thoughtful prints. Some fieldwork and extensive lecture and lab work will fill our time together. Every student will have full access to their own workstation in our lab. Topics include practical experience with digital exposure, RAW processing, image editing, color management and printing.

Included in the workshop is a copy of Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography, courtesy of O'Reilly Media.



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.

dusk mono lake
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 9-12, 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.

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

mmw logo

Maine Media Workshops


Iceland: Mastery of Landscape
July 25-31, 2010

The wondrous and raw volcanic landscape, geothermal features and sheer remoteness are the settings for this Icelandic experience. Water and sea, weather and mountains, reflection and growth...come spend the week with us. We will work in the field and in the lab. We will interact with what has been done. We will look, ask much of our work and press on to make it as strong and sensitive as possible. Organized by Focus on Nature.

Iceland Workshop Gallery


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

Apple Store, North Michigan Avenue, Chicago
679 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 981-4104
Tuesday April 6, 6:30pm

The New Photograph
an evening with digital photography pioneer Stephen Johnson

College of DuPage.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 7:00PM
College of DuPage Student Resource Center (SRC) room 2800
425 Fawell Blvd. Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Stephen Johnson, Photographer
McHenry County College

Room A240 7PM
8900 US Highway 14
Crystal Lake, IL 60012

Raleigh Camera Club

Canon Lecture
Art and Technology Photography in the Digital Age
Saturday April 24, 2010. 12:45pm
West Regional Library
4000 Louis Stephens Road
Cary, NC

All Day Workshop
Digital Photography Technical Day: Exposure, RAW, Color Management and Printing
Sunday April 25, 2010, 9am to 5pm

Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC 27603

At The Studio Gallery

Galleries open by appointment. 650 355-7507.

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.



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

7 Photography Questions
Interviews with top photographers to improve YOUR photographs

Podcast #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 April 13, 2010 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2010, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.