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Rocks and Waves in Afternoon Mist. Pacifica, CA. 2016. Canon 5DSr. Click to order a print. Next Workshop: Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017

Welcome to the December 2016 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Much travel lately, with good and bad adventures along the way. A deer flew up in the air from a car hitting it in front of us and smashed into my windshield on the way up to Oregon. No human injuries, but the poor deer didn't do well. It made the rest of the trip a challenge, but it was also yet more of an adventurous exploration of northern California and Oregon.

With the holidays coming up, we are announcing a promotion where 20% of your purchase between now and December 31 can be applied to future purchases during 2017. Plus our print or class Gift Certificates rounds out some nice holiday options.

This month's View From Here column features photographs and explorations from recent travel to Oregon. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section re-visits Color Balance in the Field.


  • 2017 Workshop Schedule is building with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.

    Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017. 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.

    Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing. February 11-12, 2017. Explore black and white conversion, aesthetics and printing in the digital age with a classical landscape photographer who comes from the world of large-format black and white photography and years in the darkroom and has worked hard and early on for the development of high quality digital photography technology.

    Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. March 4-7, 2017. Focusing exclusively on fine-art digital printing, Stephen explores the possibilities of printmaking using Epson inkjet printers. Concentrating on printing with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and rag papers, students learn from the digital pioneer how he obtains his impressive results. Stephen covers workflow issues, color management, correcting color casts, adjustment layers, custom profile generation, editing, and inspection, as well as paper visual qualities and the challenges and advantages of printing.

    Crater Lake and Total Solar Eclipse. August 16-21, 2017 (filling fast) Awesome Crater Lake, a total Eclipse of the Sun among strange Painted Hills, check this out, an amazing opportunity! (only 2 spots left)


Steve in daily group discussion with his December 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 our Newsletter Archive and some 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 2016


Cloud Capped Mt Shasta. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

Mt. Shasta with Clouds. 2016.
Canon 5DSr

9.5x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

Any time I get to see Mt. Shasta, it is a treat. On this most recent trip, we were planning on going the coast route home, so would have missed the mountain. A need to get home sooner gave us this gift of the magnificent volcano capped with just forming lenticular clouds. It was a visual treat.


Workshop Schedule
Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017
Digital Black & White: Vision and Printing: February 11-12, 2017
Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. March 4-7, 2017
RAW to Print Bootcamp June 5-9, 2017
Crater Lake and Total Solar Eclipse. August 16-21, 2017 (filling fast)


Linda Mar Bay, just down the road from Stephen Johnson Photography.


Speaking and Exhibition Events (see below)

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Mussel Rock Gully. DJI Phantom 4

Landforms seen from above, even a gully with human detritus, can be visually interesting. I'm not sure how my notions of beauty figures into it or not. Beauty has many forms.


Purchase a print of this photograph


Columbia River and Clouds. Oregon. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.


Lumberjack. Willits, CA. 2016. iPhone 6.

by Stephen Johnson

Northern California Coast, Oregon and Road Calamities

Early November lectures in Bend and Portland took me up through the northern California coast, into eastern Oregon and back down. My old friend and photo traveling companion Ed Stone came along.

We didn't get far into the trip until fate struck in the form of a flying deer crashing into our windshield. Apparently the car passing us hit a deer, causing it to fly into the air and come crashing down on our front windshield. We pulled over safely and some good Samaritans stopped to helped us out. After dragging the poor deer off Highway 101, we started trying to figure out how to end its suffering. It died a few moments into those thoughts.



Smashed Windshield. 2016. iPhone 6.


We were towed back to Willits, got a room, pizza, a few beers and arranged for a car rental the next morning so we could carry on our journey to Oregon.

Our first stop along the way a wondrous mural laden medical marijuana shop soon to be transformed I suppose by the passage of California's new proposition. The art work on the buildings was enchanting.


Murals. Healing Harvest Farms. Highway 101 at Laytonville. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

A little further north, one of the many redwood sculpture places had not only a shop in a tree which Ed remembered from his childhood, but also a grand and imposing native American sculpture out front. I'm not sure that the feathered head-dress depiction has much to do with the many native American's from the area.


Indian Head Sculpture and Credit Cards with some Photoshop Emphasis. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.


We didn't make it beyond Crescent City that evening, but it was our last touch of the California coast on the trip. The trees along the harbor proved quite a contrast between night and morning.



Lights and Trees. Crescent City, CA. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.


Morning Trees and Sky. Crescent City, CA. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

The next morning, over the sounds of a Democracy Now radio broadcast covering the very depressing election just two days before, we wandered up the Smith River. The morning ground fog iced the basins and floated through the forests. Although there were very few vistas to record what I saw with a camera, the effect was soothing. The tranquility was at deep odds with news of another minority president and we finally turned the radio off, to concentrate on the real world before us. It was a good choice, the heavy anxiety of the wreck and the election lifted a little as we got lost in the winding mountain road and mist hugging the Smith River.


smith river mist

Morning Mist and Forests. Smith River. CA. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.


We were hoping to catch at least a little time on Crater Lake. Even with the Rim Road closed for the winter, it seemed we could be up on the edge at Rim Village, so pressed along on our journey to Bend over the Cascades.


crater lake

A New Moon Rises. Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

It was a bit early for much snow to be visible on Crater Lake's inner cliffs or Wizard Island. The soft color and stretch of space was well worth the 50 miles off route. It certainly made me again look forward to being back next summer for the Crater Lake Eclipse Workshop.

The projector set up for the Central Oregon Community College lecture in Bend did hurry us along unfortunately. The loss of a travel day due to the wreck was being felt.

There were many potential stops up Highway 97, volcanic, adding to the western artifacts series, and plenty of political commentary so close to the election. It was a very different sense than the San Francisco bay area, which I fully expected.


Tree and Tumalo Falls near Bend, OR. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

After my lecture, our host Robert Agli took us up to nearby Tumalo Falls for the afternoon. Clearly a popular area, the walks were easy and the view of the water quite dramatic. The play of naked tree against the feathery torrent was my strongest view.


Aspen Forest near Tumalo Falls. Bend, OR. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

smith rock

Smith Rock State Park. Oregon. 2016.
Canon 5DSr

We headed north from Bend toward the Columbia Basin via Smith Rock State Park. The weather was great, and the clouds complex and engaging. I immediately wished we had more time before my lecture in Portland to hike some of the parks compelling looking trails and check out the views.

Smith Rock was a very busy place, with barely any place to park on the Sunday morning we passed through. It was clearly a place weekend hikers flocked to. I would like to return, but probably not on a weekend. It would be easy to spend a few days exploring.


...continued top of right column of the essay


Microwave Tower west of Maupin Oregon. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

The road to the basin followed plateaus and wound into valleys and rangeland, revealing Mt. Hood and many curiosities along the way. The sudden high tech of a microwave tower got our attention, as much for the sky behind as the strange form.

I had not really spent any time along the Columbia since the early 1980s and at least wanted to drive through. As is so typically the case, the drive through was frustrating how little time I had actually allowed, particularly with the sun setting so early.

The bluffs along the river could easily have taken the afternoon to explore and photograph carefully. I kept thinking that my need is growing to just get out and wander again with no immediate obligations. It's really the only way I know to explore, to let the wanderlust override agendas. It is a bit hard to set things up that way, but more breathing room on these trips would be really nice. The last wander was only for a few days, almost exactly a year ago, driving from Dallas to Phoenix meandering through Texas, southern Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

Ah, but the Columbia River Basin is rich, with texture, fall color, and scale that stretches your notion of river. From the reveled geology, the salmon runs through history, deeply embedded creation stories from Native Americans of river and salmon, and such modern journeys from Lewis and Clark to the WPA, this river is a life center of the Pacific Northwest.


cliffs and river

Columbia River and Cliffs. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

I knew the Bonneville Dam was on the river near Portland, and was hoping to stop. I didn't fully account for the rapidly falling light. We did have some time, but only about 45 minutes and a single vista rather than time to really look around. Security was high, but of no bother to us, the 5pm closure and rapidly darkening sky was the real limit.

The structure was eerie in the bluing light. Water pouring through the dark spillway columns provided a highlight to the stained dark concrete. The color was unreal, consciously so, and that was part of the strangeness of the scene and the form of the dam complex. This large depression-era human construct on this mighty river seemed a product of another time and way of looking at the world. I would have liked to explore the fish ladders, other views and internal structures. A phrase came to mind that I'm using way too much, I guess "next time."


Bonneville Dam. Columbia River. 2016.
Canon 5DSr. Stitched from six photographs.

After my lecture at ProPhoto Supply in Portland, I was fortunate to be joined by my friends Stuart Worley who is helping on the Eclipse workshop next summer, and my good friend from graduate school, photographer Bill Washburn.

Returning home via the Oregon coast was my plan. I'm always on the lookout for habitable less-expensive places to live than the bay area, and the southern Oregon coast continues to interest me.

rain forest

Trees and Moss. Van Duzer Rest Area. Route 18. Oregon. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

From Portland, you can pass through a few different climates on the way to the coast. Not surprisingly, rain greeted us through the rainforest.

Lushness surrounds you in the rainforest, the smell of wet, moss and decaying wood fills the air. Rainforests are made of so many greens, of such variety and texture that it's hard to isolate. The photographs are often hard to see, hard to simplify, the designs, where possible tend to be very complex. I'm always grateful when I can see line and design through the sheer amount of form and texture.



Heceta Head Lighthouse. Oregon. 2016.
Canon 5DSr


Yaquina Bay Bridge. Newport, Oregon. 2016.
Canon 5DSr

As time ran low, we decided we had to take the big valley interstate home, so cut back across the hills heading for Ashland and southward via Interstate 5. Of course, this did take us past the spiritual center of California's northland, Mt. Shasta.



Shasta Looming over Interstate 5. 2016.
Canon 5DSr


Recently at SJ Photo

I've been spending a fair amount of time consolidating files from 2005-2009, back when my archiving process broke down. The files are a little scattered, and my task is to rearrange the drives into the orderly fashion that I now use. This involves mounting a number raw drives and transferring content into annual drives that then become the source of further backup.

Consequently, I am finding many files that I've lost tack of, including some I am quite pleased to see. One 2008 photograph from Death Valley struck a nice memory when thinking about my upcoming Death Valley Workshop in January.


ubeheebe hills

Sunlit Hill from Ubehebe Crate. Death Valley. 2008.
Canon 1Ds II.

2017 Calendar

2017 Pacifica Calendar now available.

20 scenes in and around Pacifica, California where Stephen Johnson Photography is located. Full page trail map included. Printed on a color laser digital press.


gift certificate


Recent Prints

As I build my next show, I make prints as I can, and usually because something in me compels me to. A new addition to the building exhibit was printed a few days ago, and I am quite pleased with the result.


agave print

Steve with his new 40 inch Agave print. Stephen Johnson Photography. Pacifica, CA. 2016.
Canon 1DS II

please email your comments to us




Consulting Programs, Speaking and Exhibition 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.

  • 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



Coming up in January, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA will be opening an exhibit Make Software which features Photoshop, and consequently video interviews with Steve and others, one of Steve's first digital view camera prints and features some of his equipment.

In 2013, the Computer History Museum interviewed Steve at his studio for the Make Software Exhibition opening in January. Here is excerpt of that interview.


Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd
Mountain View, CA 94043


Steve Lecturing with George Harrison at Photo Plus.
New York City. December 2016.
Photo by Dan Neri.

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

Color Balance in the Field Revisited


Judging color from field work can be a real challenge. As photographers, we are chasing the physics of the camera, the light of the scene, and our own human vision with its current state of color adaptation.

The X-rite ColorChecker Passport Photo is very effective to match the pigmented neutrals of the card to digitally neutral values. Bit it cannot accommodate our human visual adaptation to a particular color temperature, like early evening in the shade.

So a literal color balance made the photograph way too yellow, making it necessary to bring the temperature bluer to more accurately imitate my memory of the scene. This should be done as soon as possible after the photograph is made, so your memory is fresh and scene could be tracked.

In this case, the Canon camera's Auto White Balance was more accurate.


steve aerial

iPhone photo of camera screen and real scene.


Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

screen shot

Tree and ColorChecker photo in Adobe Camera Raw with "As Shot" too blue color balance from camera's AWB.

screen shot

Tree and ColorChecker photo too yellow in Adobe Camera Raw with "Custom" color balance from using White Balance tool on patch 4.

screen shot

Tree photo in Adobe Camera Raw with "Custom" color balance modified Temperature to match my adaptation memory, lowering the Temperature from 12000k to 7560k but keeping the derived Tint of +18.

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products

Holiday Special

With the holidays coming up, we are announcing a 20% of your purchase between now and December 31 can be applied as a credit to future purchases during 2017. Plus our print or class Gift Certificates rounds out some nice holiday options.

Buy a print or class now, and receive 20% of its cost back on future purchases!



2017 Pacifica Calendar

20 scenes in and around Pacifica, California where Stephen Johnson Photography is located. Full page trail map included. Printed on a color laser digital press.

11" x 17"

To order directly from MagCloud Printing

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.

Gift Certificates Savings for December 2016!
Last Minute Gift Idea
20% of any item can be applied to 2017 purchases

This holiday season 20% of your purchase between now and December 31 can be applied to future purchases during 2017. For example, you could redeem 20% of purchases before Dec 31 to purchases next year. If you buy a $600 print or class now, you can purchase something in 2017 for $120 off, 20% of the $600.

You might not know what to buy for your photographer friend or loved one. This last minute solution using our personalized Gift Certificates for prints or classes is a great holiday idea.

To Purchase

* Mentoring time, international and lodging/camping provided workshops are not included in the discount offer.


gift certificate

Life Form Note cards

5x7 inches (sold-out, on backorder)



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


gift certificate

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.


gift certificate



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

Studio Lab Rental

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Google Map to Studio
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Studio directions and site layout.


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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 3, 2017 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2016, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide