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Dune. Death Valley.1978.  Click to order a print. Upcoming Workshop Death Valley in Winter January 27-30, 2018


Welcome to the January 2018 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

The New Years comes with ambitious plans, rolling out my first Kickstarter project and the first gallery showing on my new Life Form work on the horizon.


This month's View From Here column talks about current exhibition prep, looks back at 2017 and forward to new work. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.


  • 2018 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.

    Fine Art Editing & Printing Hands-on. January 20-23, 2018. 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 cotton 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.

    Death Valley in Winter. January 27-30, 2018 (only a few places left) 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.

    Yosemite in Winter February 24-26, 2018. Winter in Yosemite Valley is a transformed world. Trees are wet and dark, the oaks are bare. The cliffs are blanketed with snow. Weather moves through in waves of clouds and mist. Ponds and river edges are frozen. There is usually snow on the valley floor. Visitors are dramatically fewer in number. Our three days together will likely be cold, but we will no doubt be warmed by the special beauty that winter brings to this grand valley and the camaraderie of this plunge into landscape photography.

    Flora and Form March 22-24, 2018. Have you ever visited a nursery or greenhouse, and thought about how great it would be to capture the beauty, color, line and form of an orchid, or unusual succulent that inspires you and preserve it in a photograph? Access can be hard, and using a tripod can be impossible and not allowed. Perhaps you hesitated because you felt the need for instructional help with the technical, aesthetic and compositional framework to make it happen. This workshop is designed to enable careful photography exploring the wonder and beauty of orchids and other-worldly flora.

    Desert Light Photography Workshop. Palm Springs. May 6-10, 2018

    Aa special workshop exploring the desert landscape at the 2018 Palm Springs Photo Festival. Attendees will make work together in the spectacular landscapes near Palm Springs and its environs. Stephen will share his love of the desert, exotic flora, desert vistas and wonderful boulder-strewn fields and hills. This workshop is about desert color, organic form and exploration. It is about quiet, and wind, sun, dawn and twilight, star-filled nights and solid photographic information. The light and color will be as much our subject as the land itself.


Steve with the Fine Art Printing Workshop in early May 2017.

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 original prints in 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 flower

Hibiscus Petals, Shelldance. 2015.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Hibicus Petals. Shelldance. 2015.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III

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

Looking back through the "Life Form" photographs these past few years keeps turning up more photographs than I care about. This one has kept coming up, and this time I finished editing it and made a print I was proud of.


Workshop Schedule

Image Editing in Photoshop January 13-14, 2018
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on January 20-23, 2018
Death Valley in Winter January 27-30, 2018
Yosemite in Winter February 24-26, 2018
Flora and Form March 22-24, 2018
Desert Photography Workshop. Palm Springs. May 6-10, 2018


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


Speaking and Exhibition Events


Continuing Installation. Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA Jan. 17, 2017 onward. Make Software Exhibit

Coming March 10, 2018. Life Form. Viewpoint Gallery. Sacramento.

Follow us onlinesjphoto twitter facebookfacebookgoogle+ bloggerblogger





Drone over Montara.
DJI Phantom4 Drone. 2017

A two-image panoramic near Montara looking north.


Purchase a print of this photograph

mossy treee

Trentophylia. Pt. Lobos, CA. 2017
Canon 5DSr


by Stephen Johnson

2017, the Life Form Series and the Year Ahead

As 2018 begins, I am going through my annual look back at the photographs and adventures of these past 12 months. I've been privileged to see much beauty, meet some interesting people and make some new friends. The year ahead looks busy.

In March I will open my first gallery showing of the Life Form photographic series I have been working on over the past few years. I am proud to have the Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento be the opening venue. In April the exhibition will return to my gallery here in Pacifica.

The Life Form journey began with this work with a visit to the Shelldance Orchid Nursery here in Pacifica. The visit was meant to bring a life-filled start to a day of great sadness. That afternoon, I was speaking at the funeral service for my 30 year friend Michael Black who was killed in a hit and run after a hike some weeks before. Plunging into the fecund greenhouse of Shelldance did give us a boost for the day, both with oxygen-filled rooms and the wonder of life. I didn't know at the time it would inspire a multi-year project that would see whole new body of work emerge. The "Life Form" Series is dedicated to Michael Black.

What became clear to me, was that this new work had the potential to inspire a deeper appreciation of the magnificent texture, shape, color and variety found in nature. It is all part of the web of life around us that I believe we need to treasure. My photography has been a life-long attempt to help foster such appreciation.

As I say in the introduction to the exhibit: My fascination with sensual organic form knows no limits. The natural beauty that drew me to photography is most profoundly manifested by the very sensuality of natural form itself. It's beauty is deeply emotional, bound up in the basic instinct and desires of our humanness. Finding such form in the real world has been my career. This work concentrates that intrigue on the wonderful and strange form found in plant life. Closely examined, these seemingly familiar, fellow creatures of this planet, become profoundly compellingly, strange, almost alien and and irresistible to explore with care, deep focus, sensitively and without embellishment.

I will go into much more technical detail as the show approaches. Right now, transforming the idea, now made into prints, into a finished exhibition the wall, is my focus. The prints for much of the exhibition have existed for awhile. As I considered assembling the exhibition and seeking venues, I needed to live with the work for while. In some obvious ways, it is a subject matter departure for me. It is also a clear aesthetic connection to decades of seeing and inspiration.

The prints have been made on Canon large-format pigment printers, both the IPF8400 and P4000. From the beginning of this work, I have used the Hahnemühle Museum Etching paper I helped create.

Matting and framing the exhibition is the big job of the moment. Raising the funds for this is underway now. Exhibit construction was given a real boost with Canon hosting and funding a display of the work at the PhotoPlus show in New York at the end of October 2017. Last month's Newsletter covered the showing and the process. The resulting six finished prints gave a jump start to exhibit construction. 15 additional prints are ready to frame, with many more candidates waiting to be printed.



Life Form Exhibition in production. 2017
Canon 1DxII



My friend Darin Steinberg Cutting the short side of a 40 inch matt. 2017
Canon 1DxII


Of course, framing is expensive. Canon funded the exact construction that I aspired the whole show to be, and committed me to a presentation style that was almost all that I could hope for. Large 40 inch pigment prints, hand-built maple frames, 8-ply cotton overmatts, UV acrylic, all drive the cost up dramatically. Optium non-reflective acrylic would have been the crowning touch, but is simply too expensive, doubling the price of every frame. I do keep it as an option for my collectors.

This kind of investment needs assistance. I am about to launch my first Kickstarter Project to raise funds for this exhibit construction which I am hopeful will fund the remaining costs.

A promotional poster has been in place for quite some time and will be customized for the Viewpoint venue. It will also be for sale at the exhibition and my studio/website.


pp gallery

Spillway. Bonneville Dam. OR. 2017


Putting an exhibition together consumes all available energy and resources. It is very time-consuming to do well. More than 5 hours will go into every frame and matt. As is always true in the arts, the time creating the artwork is never fully able to tracked nor priced. As artists, we do this because we are compelled to, driven by a desire to create, and share our heartfelt reaction to being alive and taking in the world.

Emotionally, it is very easy in the arts for our aesthetics to get way ahead of our financial capabilities. It is not good business, as it can often create real shortfall, but these concerns come from different parts of the brain. In order to sustain our work we need to find a balance of art and money. For most of us, it is an ongoing challenge.

I knew my decision to pursue fine-art photography full time was clearly going to be a challenge, balancing earning a living, raising a family and feeling secure enough to keep at it. Even with forty years of navigating this path, creating and surviving, it continues to be a challenge. Of course, it has also been extremely important to me to make a difference as I go. That takes energy and time, but has alway returned far more to my life that I could ever have hoped for.


pp gallery

Smoky Dusk. Carter Lake, OR. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.


I want to turn some attention to the stories of these plants, their unique origins, life cycles and adaptations. Those stories will create the depth and breadth I hope a book can feature. Currently there is a print-on-demand 35 page Life Form Folio of the work that serves as an interim catalog of the exhibition. My aspirations for the work is the traveling exhibition I am building now and an exhibit-format book.

I am looking for a researcher/writer to collaborate on the book.



Life Form Folio. 2017.

This Newsletter is a good venue to look back and take stock of the photographs from 2017. The look back can seem a little schizophrenic as the variety of subjects are broad. But any single take on the world would be too narrow for me. Photographically, a body of work needs a point of view or approach, but I've never felt my eyes and attention should be constrained by anything but curiously. And curiosity can be broadened by simply trying new things.


purple flowers

Hillside. San Pedro Valley Park. Pacifica, CA. 2017.
Canon 5DSr

I love that every trail becomes an adventure in photographic exploration. It can be tedious for my family and friends, but it is precious seeing to me. The world seems always alive with possibilities.


purple flowers

Pinnacles. Crater Lake, OR. 2017.
Canon 5DSr


As photographers, we often talk about the light being the subject. It is deeply rewarding when the quality of light is dramatically evident, particularly when it is something other than the golden hour near sunset.



Don't forget to Check out our next workshops

Next Studio Workshop

Image Editing in Photoshop.
January 13-14, 2018


Next Field Workshop

Death Valley in Winter
January 27-30, 2018


Hills. Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2013.




...continued top of right column of the essay

seattle wheel needle

Lighting over Pacifica. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.


For me, the new year always brings an assessment of what the past year was and what the next can bring. It seems a common line of thought.

Going through the 2017 Newsletters gave me a bit of look at the year. I am often struck, and pleased, at how much it has been my privilege to see and experience in a year.

January 2017 Newsletter
February 2017 Newsletter
March 2017 Newsletter
April 2017 Newsletter
June 2017 Newsletter
July 2017 Newsletter
August 2017 Newsletter
September 2017 Newsletter
October 2017 Newsletter
November 2017 Newsletter
December 2017 Newsletter

When ongoing tasks take too long, or the tedium of what you must do in order to do what you want to do becomes too much. It is important to take stock of all that you have accomplished. It is often more than it seems. That is particularly true if you've had a chance to savor those experiences. Photography helps me slow down and savor.

A year of work can seem like too much or too little, depending on how and when you recall it. The same work can be seen in both ways. Complexity and tedium has a way of fading and taking a back seat to the accomplishment. I know I need to take encouragement form the amount of work, but even more importantly from the joy of the experiences.



Trump Protest. Inauguration Day.. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.


In many ways, 2017 was a struggle for optimism and faith. The political climate was one of real challenge for me and most of my friends. It seemed much of what I have worked for over decades was under attack. Environmental policies that strive to preserve the very land, sea and air that is the heart of my work feel under siege.



Lassen Meadow. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R


Perhaps it is part of life and the give and take of political trends, but it feels like battles long ago won are having to be re-fought. In a profession that demands faith, this has been very difficult. But my refuge remained the natural world, I am so grateful for the moon and sun lining up for an awesome cosmic experience, for the stars and planets of crystalline nights, for the fresh green scent of mountain streams, for the owls calling in the night, the whales of early summer, and the rolling surf of the mighty Pacific.



Humpback Whale and Sea Lions. Monterey Bay, CA. 2017
Canon 1dx II



Dolphin in Sunset Reflection. Pacifica, CA. 2017
Canon 5Dsr


I know as I look toward to this next year, my aspirations cannot be allowed to overwhelm my appreciation and gratitude.


ranier cranes

Total Solar Eclipse from Oregon. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.


color profile

Obsidian. OR. 2017.
Canon 5DSr


color profile

Broken Glass on Flag with Wine. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.


It was difficult to find ways of photographically reacting to frightening political news. One attempt was the broken glass above. Most others came from photographing protest demonstrations.

Beauty and disturbance live together in our lives, but in my art is difficult to reconcile. I remember some comments on our Central Valley work from the early 1980's with people saying we made an ugly place beautiful. We simply found the beauty in our homeland, and reacted to evidence of the disturbing by trying to see it with strength and grace.



At Stephen Johnson Photography


pacifica book

Steve at the "Make Software" Exhibit. Computer History Museum. 2017.
Canon 5DSr


This past year has held some remarkable experiences and some good stuff here at Stephen Johnson Photography. The opening of the "Make Software" exhibition at the Computer History Museum featuring my "Fitzgerald Reserve" print from 1994 was a nice highlight.



Steve at the "Life Form" Display. PhotoPlus. New York City. NY. 2017.
Canon 5DSr

Showing six of the "Life Form" prints at PhotoPlus in New York City. was another.


Free Stuff

Last summer we replaced the Epson 2400s in our lab with their new P600s and consequently have some printers to seed to photographers in need. We were also given some Epson Canvas to share. These are available for pick-up to those of you on my mailing list. Let me know of your interest. I do want to spread them out among a few people.

Epson Canvas rolls


Epson 2400 printers



please email your comments to us

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products



New Exquisite Earth Exhibition Catalog

pacifica book



ee book pageee book page

The Exquisite Earth Exhibition Catalog

As I've been on a roll on fixing bodies of work into POD books, I decided before the Exquisite Earth show could come down for new upcoming show, I wanted to create a printed record. So, now available is the 56 page 11x17 wire bound book, 5 years of work from 2005 to 2010 traveling this wondrous planet.

  • Photographs from 2005-2010
  • 56 pages
  • 11x17 wire-bound book
  • $50

Preview and Order Here

New Pacifica Book

pacifica book



pacifica bookpacifica book

  • 74 pages
  • 11x17 wire-bound book
  • Pacifica Trail Map
  • 32 years in Pacifica
  • Drawn from 10 years of calendars
  • $75

Preview and Order Here


Pacifica Land Trust Trail Map

Pacifica Trail Map by Pease Maps special to the Pacifica Land Trust.

11" x 17" folded
(free shipping) proceeds go the Pacifica Land Trust, a non-profit corporation.

I'm proud of my 16 years on the board of the Pacifica Land Trust, and happy to have Ben Pease's great trail map as part of our outreach to bring attention to the natural wonders of Pacifica.


trail maptrail map


Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.


To Purchase



gift certificate

Life Form Note cards

5x7 inches (now in stock)



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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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 17, 2018 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2017, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide