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Some Things You Just Have to Photograph. The Beatles Back in San Francisco with Candelstick Hill in the Haze. 2011. Canon 1Ds Mark III.

Welcome to the February 2011 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

A short trip down to Big Sur this week prompted this month's View From Here essay and the posted photographs.

In our Gallery One, my new exhibit Exquisite Earth continues to be on display through Feb. 28, 2011.

In addition, we have some new workshops, Color Management and Highway One in March, and a Fine Art Printing workshop in April, with one scholarship spot in each. The summer schedule is now up through July.

We have also added our exciting new workshop exploring southern China coming right up in mid-April!

This month's Tutorial is on Contrast Without Saturation Change.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the show, join us on a workshop, or just say hello and let us know what you are up to photographically and what you might like to see us offer.


FEATURED PRINT for January 2011

Surf, Santa Cruz. 2011.
Canon 1Ds III
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each Purchase this print.

Out walking the dog on the cliffs of Santa Cruz's beaches. The low sun and reflected cliffs created a magical mix or color on the incoming surf.

2011 Workshops and Event Calendar

Niagara Frontier Regional Camera Clubs 50th Anniversary Convention
Stephen Johnson Keynote
February 25-27, 2011. Niagara Falls
Conference Center in Niagara Falls, NY.

Yosemite in Winter
February 12-14, 2011
Color Management in a Day
March 5, 2011
Highway One San Mateo Coast
March 12-13, 2011
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands on
April 2-5, 2011
Guangxi China
April 11-23, 2011
San Francisco Digitally
June 4-5, 2011
Photoshop Straight and True
June 11--12, 2011
RAW to Print: Summer Digital Bootcamp
July 11-15, 2011

The Fine Art Print
July 18-22, 2011


Workshop Testimonials

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Bixbee Bridge. Big Sur. 2011.


Photography and Refuge

I photograph seeking experience and comprehension. My instinct to explore coupled with desire to comprehend the planet as best I can keeps engaging me in this earth around me.

I seek solace in the natural world––under stars and watching the rhythm of the coming and going of the sun and night. In that exploration my heart is most at home, even more than home itself. The wander can put logistics, even safety on edge, but the engagement is riveting.

Out along the Big Sur coast just yesterday, I realized once again that for me, a contentment rests in the moving and seeing, taking in the world, letting it process through my heart and work toward holding photographic impressions. It is what I enjoy the most about photography, the being there.

For all of my love of the finished print, and all of the energy I pour into their making, it is still the experience out in the world that is unquestionably primary, vital, and the reason for all of this fascination with image making.

Working in the office, even on photographic tasks, much less business, web page or promotion, all has to be sustained by the initial engagement with heart and eyes. That is not easy to do, as the making of the photographs rarely pays as well as the organized results, skills built and process communicated.

But as my mind wanders through the years, streaming the motivations and challenges of this now 35 year career in photography, it has always been the making of the image that was primary. Nothing else even comes close.

That process of exploring form, design, light and color––the seduction of the seeing design and order becomes an emotional refuge, a precious place of beauty and perhaps even purity that rests in the interplay of heart and art.

big sur

Gulls and Surf. Big Sur. 2011.

...continued top of right column

big sur

Creek and Sand. Big Sur. 2011.

Big Sur

It's hard to talk about a place I know so little of, but since that's where I'm at, and not where I intend to be, I thought it might be worth vamping on a bit.

It was a beautiful sunny day, a kind of day we delight in being out and about if even only for the few hours spent. Sometimes in that sunshine is also the kind of day where the light is the most normal of all. The old adage comes to mind about the more uncomfortable the photographer is, the more likely the light is compelling. I was very comfortable in yesterday's afternoon sunshine, the cliffs and sea were clearly beautiful. The photographs made in such circumstances often emphasize design, with the quality of ordinary light playing less of a role.

It is peculiar though, how often the warm sun on my skin is the same condition where I make the most ordinary photographs. Sometimes it seems searing heat, fog or storms and bitter cold make for stronger images. That is not unexpected, as the more familiar and comforting sunshine is exactly the conditions under which we are most compelled to be outdoors, thus almost by definition the most ordinary and common views.


Fog Bank, Pacifica, CA. 2011.

It is often in those somewhat marginal conditions that the light is strange, wondrous, sometimes even magnificent, certainly unusual and therefore frequently engaging. It often tunes me back to the amazing gift we carry of our eyes and heart interacting with this precious earth.


Contrast Without Saturation Change

(excerpt from the book Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography unreleased revised electronic version)

Using Adjustment Layers to edit photographs in Photoshop is a wonderfully freeing and powerful way of working in a non-destructive manner. My most common edits involve small contrast changes in a Curves Adjustment Layer.

In color photographs, increasing the contrast will also likely lead to a perceptible increase in saturation when the Adjustment Layer is set for it's default Normal Blend Mode. This can create an unnatural level of saturation when only a contrast change is being sought. The default Blend Mode, normal is just that, the normal blend mode which edits all three grayscale channels making up the RGB file in a way that also pushes the contrast, even if such a side-effect is not desired.

A simple change in the Blend Mode from Normal to Luminosity will eliminate this saturation change, imposing the curve as though the image was currently in the LAB mode where the grayscale brightness values can be edited separately from the color.

ps layer normps layer lum

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 perfect Christmas 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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Last updated on January 6, 2011 . Mail comments to:
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