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Saddle Rock. Farallon Islands, CA. 2015. Canon 5D III. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Acadia National Park. Maine August 29-30, 2015

Welcome to the August 2015 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

A series of recent adventures are featured in this months newsletter, from lecture tours in LA, to a workshop along Highway One's beaches and Redwood Forests, and then oh so many whales on the Pacific.

This month's View From Here column explores recent travels, including a trip out to the Farallon Islands. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section works though a small field check list I made this week for a mentoring student.


Maine Media Workshops

photo review

Steve in daily group discussion with his August Image Editing Workshop.
Photos by Fiona McDonnell.

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



Red-Tail Hawk, Pacifica, CA. 2015.

Red-Tail Hawk with Blue Eyes.
Canon 5D III

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

A red-tail hawk blinking though its nicitating membrane as it hovers on the sea breeze searching for prey.

2015 Workshop Schedule
Acadia National Park. Maine August 29-30, 2015
Printing Photographic Beauty September 6-12, 2015. Maine Media Workshops
Yosemite in Autumn October 10-13, 2015
Point Lobos and Carmel December 4-6, 2015

Death Valley in Winter January 23-26, 2016

printing class

Steve with some of the June 2015 Fine Art Printing Class.

Speaking Events (see below)

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Humpback Whale with Head Bumps.
Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary. 2015.





Great Arch, Farallon Islands. 2015.

by Stephen Johnson

LA, Highway One and the Farallones

Busy last few weeks.....on a lecture tour in Los Angeles, out along the coast on my beloved Highway One with a workshop, and a Whale Watching trip out to the Farallon Islands off the San Francisco coast. Along the way were some good views, a bad fall, and a few more fascinations explored.

The LA trip had been in the works for awhile featuring a few Canon sponsored lectures on Fine Art Printing. As this is one of my favorite subjects to encourage, it was nice to talk about some of the details of working an image into the most beautiful print possible. This jives well with my own photographic experience and the history of photography for the last 75 years or so. The idea that making a fine print as a carefully crafted, iterative process that requires time, testing and very high standards, sits well with my values and the prints that seduced me into caring about photography as art form.


Steve Showing Prints at the LA Center for Photography. 2015. Photo by Eric Joseph.

The challenge with the lectures is fitting the material into a few hours of presentation. I keep trying as so many requests are coming in for this exact lecture. Much can be done in a few hours, but so much more in a longer workshop, like my Maine Fine Art Printing class in September.

It was good to see so many acquaintances and friends at the Adobe Technology Exchange in Lakewood. I've enjoyed talking to this group over the years.

The talk at the Los Angeles Center for Photography was a great experience with some very old friends in attendence. It seems Julia Dean has built a very nice program there, and I will be back.

I met some great new people along the way in LA, such as Eric Joseph of Freestyle Photo who has clearly devoted time and energy to helping people understand and value the digital printing process. .I also was pleased to meet Paul Dupont who has been making profiles for many years with a unique dedication. Paul reconnected me with old friends in the color management world and it was good to have some discussions about how things could be made better with someone that understands the process. I'll look forward to more such talks.

There was a whole world of conferences on digital imaging that began in the early 1990s, MacWorld, Seybold, the original Photoshop Conference. Now there are very few left. I miss the camaraderie and sense of community very much. I miss the new friends that came out of those experiences. It was also a great forum for exchanging information, ideas and sharing challenges. There are very few venues left, PhotoPlus in NYC among them, and many friends are drifting into being distant friends.



Arrival Arbor. The Getty. 2015

While in LA, we also spent some time at the Getty. Although I had been down for an opening many years ago for a show with my work in it, I had never really had a chance to explore the museums and grounds. It was a wonderful experience, with interesting architecture and a great location.


The Getty. 2015

My Highway One Coastal workshop followed a few days later which took us back down to places I dearly love and are always a pleasure to share with my students. Pebble Beach, Butano Redwoods, the Fitzgerald Reserve are high points.

I took a bad fall at Pebble Beach. I climbed up a rock to get some elevation on some of the beach rocks and to do a few images of my students working. On coming down, I lost my footing from about 7 feet up, falling to my back hard on the rock, then flipping head over heals to land on the beach pebbles and rocks flat on my back. I could have easily been severely injured, and those that saw the fall did not think I would be getting up. By some good fortune, or instinctive fall move, I was uninjured, sustaining only some sore muscles and wounded pride. I think I must have picked up some seaweed on my shoes that I was unaware of, and the grip I had going up, gave way as I was coming down.


Fall Rock. Pebble Beach

Following Pebble Beach we headed for the quiet beauty of the Butano Redwoods, exploring both large and small subjects. I was moving slowly and rather deliberately after my fall, but the Redwood forest was healing.

Sometimes the small things are the details that catch our eye. The simple motion and tiny waves of the creek running over leaves was as interesting to me as the majestic trees themselves.


Leaf and Butano Creek. 2015. Click for video.

The following weekend Fiona treated me to an early birthday gift of a trip out to our mysterious Farallon Islands on a whale watching cruise. The Farallones are islands about 25 miles offshore, west of San Francisco. Made of the same granite as the southern Sierra, these rocks have been moving northward along the edge of the Pacific Plate for 90 million years and were the distant shoreline off San Francisco just 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.
Now a wildlife sanctuary and research station, the islands were once the egg supply for Gold Rush flush San Francisco.

We had beautiful weather, a slight overcast and calm seas, even west of the Farallones facing the mighty Pacific. It was a good glimpse, seeing in person the rocks I've seen portrayed by Watkins and Muybridge, and further feeding the imagination of future fog encounters and new vistas.


Eadweard Muybridge. 1871.

Apparently Muybridge was hired by the Lighthouse Board to photograph a number of lighthouses for $20/day. The Farallon stop was one of many.

As silhouettes on the distant horizon, the Farallones are iconic, but largely unknown. There are certainly aerial photos and maps easy to access, but there is something different about sailing up to the islands and slowly seeing their contours and dimensions revealed. It did seem a bit like unraveling a mystery, seeing the relationships between cove and tower, old trails and wind blown starkness.

I want to go back.

...continued top of right column of the essay


Wake Waves. 2015.

We had one Humpback whale come up to us during the Farallon trip. The boat deck was crowded, and my borrowed Canon 400mm 2.8 was a little heavy to move easily. But the chance to be so close, to see the massive submarine-like body, and then otherworldy details, was very special. The laminar flow of water over the whale's sleek body was itself quite beautiful.

The details revealed were fascinating. It didn't know Humpback Whales had hair, much less that the bumps on their head were in fact hair follicles that may well have great sensory abilities we do not yet understand. The bumps, called tubercles, were once again revealed by my photographs, which led to the obvious question of what are those bumps, leading to tentative answers on the web.

We weren't treated to any breaches, or flukes for that matter, as I have seen on other encounters. but seeing this fellow mammal come up to us and to get a real sense of the size of this living, breathing creature of the seas was inspiring.


Humpback Whale. 2015.


Humpback Whale. 2015.

The morning after our Farallones trip, news in my email told of yet another whale dead on the beach here in Pacifica. It feels like my beautiful coastal town is becoming a magnet for whale tragedy. It was another humpback, and by the time we got out the cliffs above it, the crews had already been in cutting it apart. What an irony it is that these beautiful creatures are washing up, then before we can even pay any sort of ritual respect, they are under knives and shredded on the sand. I know we need to learn, it is heart wrenching though, the death, and the dismemberment.

The necropsy indicated blunt trauma, in line with a ship strike as the cause of death in the August 2nd. whale. The body was towed out to sea a few days later.

Only 22 whales have washed up in the bay area in the 40 year history of the Marine Mammal Center up in Marin County. Three have washed up in the last 3 months. A dead Humpback was spotted floating offshore by another tour boat the same day we were out on the water, I don't know if is the same whale. The description varied.

I've spend the last two sunsets on our local cliffs watching whale spouts off in the distance, reassured by their clear aliveness. I needed to see whale life continue.


August 2 Beached Whale in Autopsy. 2015.

On August 8, just out on an errand to the store, my coast route took us alongside the beach only to see another humpback whale jumping out of the water repeatedly. Having never seen behavior like this, we thought it might be in trouble. But after of few minutes of jumping, and one longer dive, it seemed to resume normal swimming and headed further out into the sea. We decided to speculate that it was not in trouble, but simply playing.


Humpback Tail in Motion. 2015.

In all, it's been a very full month since the July Newsletter. Just reading this through makes me want to take a long rest. But there is so much to do and see!

Recently at SJ Photo

Mentoring, Calendar and Seminar

I continued my mentoring program with two students this week, working on field work, editing and printing. Some fine prints and I believe a deepened understanding resulted.

On Tuesday evening August 11, I conducted a free seminar on Artwork Copying for the Pacifica Center for the Arts Studio holders.


Prototype 2016 Pacifica Calendar.

I also started work this week on my 2016 Pacifica Calendar which should be ready for order in a few week.

Local Gallery Show Continues

Five of my photographs are on exhibit through the summer at the Cavallo Pont Art Gallery on the north side of the Golden Gate.


Cavallo Point Gallery
. 2015


please email your comments to us



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 talks in Maine, Dallas, Phoenix and New York City at Photo Plus.

  • FC1-The Craft and Passion of Fine-Art Digital Printing
    New York City. PhotoPlus. Friday Oct. 23, 2015 4:30-6:30pm
  • Ft. Worth, Texas. November 7, 2015
  • Phoenix, Arizona. November 14, 2015
  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display

Canon Sponsors Steve to speak at Universities, Colleges, Photo Groups and various events around the country. If you would like more information on arranging for Steve to do a Canon sponsored event, go to: Canon SJ EOL talk


Steve Lecturing at Photo Plus. New York City. October 2014.

Custom Workshop Scheduling

People often want to take workshops and the dates just don't match up with their schedules. Sometimes they watch the newsletter and webpage for years for their interest, free time and the workshop to all coincide. We've decided to be proactive in creating a forum for potential students to tell us what you need and when you can take a class. Please email us with workshop ideas and suggestions.

More formally, we are experimenting with a workshop poll to determine when interested people can make particular workshops they really want to take.

Currently we have up a few workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage




Simple Depth of Field Photo Workflow Checklist

Find your composition
Location, crop, lens (zoom)

Line, balance, simplicity

Nearest focus point, read distance
Most distant focus point, read distance

Rack focus between these two distances on the lens focus ring

Press depth of field button in Live View to check. Make sure Exposure Simulation is turned on so the image will not go dark. Zoom in and look to see if things seem sharp.

Make photograph

Zoom in and check depth of field with magnifying hood like the Hoodman Loupe

Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts


Steve with Coast Workshop on Pacifica Cliffs.


The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift notecard.

2015 Calendars

11" x 17"
Price $25.00

2015 Life Form Calendar
12 selections from Steve's Life Form work.

Life Form Calendar order


2015 Pacifica Calendar
12 selections from Steve's Pacifica, CA work.

Pacifica Calendar order.


Life Form Note cards
5x7 inches,

Click to Purchase

12 image Note card set with envelopes featuring photographs from Steve's new Life Form work.

Printed by Steve in his studio in very limited numbers on a color laser digital press


National Park Note cards

note card

National Park Color Note card 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 August 17, 2015 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2015, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide