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Great Blue Heron in Flight, Pescadero Marsh. 2013. Click to order a print. Next Workshop :Death Valley in Winter January 11-14, 2014

Welcome to the December 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Holidays..Calendars, Open House, prints everywhere as I prepared to show some new work, and some brand new prints of older work at the Open House. The holidays are always a very busy time. Thanks to everyone that came to our Open House last weekend. We had a great time!

This month's View From Here column revolves around some local scenes made with a long lens over Thanksgiving weekend. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section reminds people of the subjects we have online.


photo tech


Sentinel Dome. Yosemite. 1997.

The end of the year presents a good opportunity to remind people of how much they are appreciated. My staff here at Stephen Johnson Photography make a huge difference in making this place work, Elizabeth Bredall, Fiona McDonnell primary among them. A deep thanks is offered to interns Eleanor Normille and Jennifer Fraser, my part-time assistant and good friend David Gardner and volunteer Carl Schwab. Thanks to you all.

Scholarships and Mentoring

As part of our ongoing commitment to photographic education, there is one student scholarship spot in many of our classes. Please pass the word along.

For discounted time studying with Steve, keep in mind our Mentoring Program.

With all of our busy schedules and limited budgets, destination workshops or classes become a challenge, but many of you still have questions you need answered, or feedback on some new work. We want to remind you of our Virtual Online Consulting Program. This service allows all of you out there around the globe to consult online live with Steve on technical, aesthetic and workflow issues using Skype and your webcam.

Our Essays and Tutorials from the past couple of years can now be found on Google Blogger.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the new Panoramic Prints we've added to the National Parks Gallery, and the Exquisite Earth exhibition with its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1. We invite you to join us on a workshop, rent lab space, or just say hello and let us know what you are up to photographically and what you might like to see us offer. We value your input.


Workshop Testimonials

FEATURED PRINT December 2013

blurred heron

Heron Lifting to Flight. 2013.

Launching Heron. 2013.
Canon 1Dx

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

Sometimes an unintentional blur becomes a beautiful sway of motion and color. This one certainly struck me that way. Being ill-prepared for a fast capture ended up being a gift. Serendipity once again makes magic.

Death Valley in Winter January 11-14, 2014
Basic Digital Camera Use Lecture January 21, 2014
Critique Session January 23, 2014
Fine Art Digital White Printing Hands-on January 25-28, 2014
Flora and Form Workshop February 6-8, 2014
Yosemite in Winter February 22-24, 2014.
Digital Photography Series: Introduction to Digital Photography Lecture. March 1, 2014
Coastal Journey: On California's Highway One March 15-16, 2014
Fine Art Digital White Printing Hands-on March 22-25, 2014
Digital Photography Series: Raw Photo Processing Day. April 19, 2014.
Pt. Lobos and Carmel. April 5-7, 2014
Guilin China  May 7-17, 2014

Digital Photography Series:
Photoshop Editing for tone and Color using Adjustment Layers with Selections and Masks. May 31, 2014

Raw to Print: Summer Digital Bootcamp June 2-6, 2014
Digital Photography Series: Beauty in Photography: Inspiration and Composition. June 14, 2014
Southwest Journey September 7-16, 2014
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 11-14, 2014
Speaking Events (see below)

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pedro point in fog

Pedro Point. 2013


New Photo Link


The misty dark rocks off Pedro Point Headlands are shrouded here in mist and light equal to their strange shape and complexity.


Wave Crashing. 2013.

by Stephen Johnson

Local Observations with a Long View

Living near the sea is an extraordinary privilege. Although the familiar often becomes harder to see, the Pacific Ocean has a way of reminding me of its presence, the light, the storms, the surf in the distance, the sense of almost infinite space, the pull of the water itself. The earth seems inhumanly vast here, with its largest expanse lapping against America's West Coast on one side and Asia to its east.

I recently borrowed a 600mm lens from Canon, in hopes of photographing the now seemingly gone Comet Ison. As the comet doesn't seem to have made it past its encounter with the sun, the lens inspired some alternative long focal length play over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. The opportunity became a sort of improvised photo project: what can I manage to see and record over a few days around the holiday? The coastline along Highway One near my studio and some points south became our wander road.

One thing my little mini-project did was make getting outside a priority. The sea, the light, the wildlife all seemed worth seeking out. It shaped the holiday a little differently than normal, but it was good to do exactly that this year.


Heron in Flight. 2013

A very long lens presents real challenges and real opportunities. All motion is exaggerated, so shutter speeds have to be even higher than following motion might suggest. The opportunity to get close and simplify are both real seductions.

The sheer size of a fast long lens feels a bit absurd. The lens shade makes it seem even bigger. But the light gathering power is important and the close view revealing of form and design often unnoticed with shorter focal lengths.

steve 600

Man with Big Lens. 2013
Waves crashing, herons flying, seals bobbing up and down, space collapsing into intersecting line forming some nice designs, all of these became part of my weekend. Although massive, and a little too attention getting, Canon's 600mm is a great reach outward

It was comical at one point while the seals were swimming closer to us, the magnification was so high that I had trouble finding them through the lens. That was also true of following the heron, if I didn't manage to keep him in the frame to begin with, it was impossible to find him during the flight and track his movement. Although I didn't need reminding, it did make clear again why wildlife photography can be so challenging.

surf reflections

Tunitas Creek and Beach. 2013

I found the compression of space in fog the most interesting of the effects. Already eerie scenes got even more so when appearing to be stacked even closer together. This is particularly true when the effect was mild rather than overt.

The space perception change had me stopping along the highway for possible photographs that would not have normally entered my mind as possible. A few vistas with long views that I may have enjoyed but rarely photographed became new opportunities.



...continued top of right column


Seal at Dusk. 2013.

We did make a few casual friends along the way. The seals at Bean Hollow State Beach were intrigued by our presence on the rocks next to a small bay. They did a little dance of approach and retreat, testing, we presumed, that we were ok to come in and check out. The golden highlights and blue shadows on the water didn't hurt the scene one bit.


Montara Lighthouse Rocks. 2013

cliff and surf

Cliff and Surf. Pescadero. 2013

pelican rock

A Gathering of Pelicans. 2013

I also borrowed a Canon 1Dx body to give their higher ISO settings another look. I knew I would need the sensitivity for the comet. The higher ISO's were handy for keeping shutter speed a little high while still holding a little depth of field by stopping down a bit.


please email your comments to us



First Showing of "Life Form" Work

steve 2004

Steve at his gallery with the first exhibited preview prints from his "Life Form" project. See the new 2014 Calendar below.

Consulting Programs and Speaking Events

Virtual Education: Our Virtual Consulting and Mentoring Program is working well. Readers of this Newsletter can still get a discount by mentioning this reference when you enroll.

Our One on One Program links you up with Steve at his bay area studio, or when he is on the road near you. Keep an eye on when Steve will be near your town.

Catch Steve Live: Steve will be speaking here and there over the next  few months, such as his up coming talk in Palo Alto, at Tualitin near Portland, OR, in San Francisco and New York City in October and Carmel in November.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display
  • PFLI Photographic Federation of Long Island: April 27, 2013. 9:30am
    Suffolk County Community College
    Brentwood, Long Island, NY
  • Rockport Maine: July 1, 2014 7pm
    Artists Talk at the Maine Media Workshop


A Reminder of the Tutorials We Have Online



Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Product

2014 Pacifica Calendar

11x17 inches, wire bound vertical

$25 Click to Purchase

12 page wall Calendar featuring photographs from in and around Pacifica California which is home for Stephen Johnson Photography. Printed by Steve in his studio in very limited numbers on a color laser digital press.


2014 Life Form Calendar
11x17 inches, wire bound vertical

Click to Purchase

12 page wall Calendar featuring photographs from Steve's new flora work.

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





National Park Notecards

note card

National Park Color Notecard Set
Stephen Johnson
12 cards/envelopes $20 set

From "With a New Eye" Beautiful 300 line screen offset reproductions with envelopes in clear box. A great gift.




or call to order 650 355-7507



Please come visit us at our gallery and see our original prints in person. The subtle detail of the prints and the beautiful texture of the fine art paper have to be seen to be understood. And while you're here, browse through our books, cards, posters, and specially priced prints.

We're happy to mail you a copy of our product catalog, just send a note to or call us.

We're located at:

Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044
(650) 355-7507



Pacifica Center for the Arts from Linda Mar Boulevard

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Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044 650 355-7507

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Last updated on January 8, 2014 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2013, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide