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Golden Gate Bridge South Tower in Fog. Marin Headlands, CA. 2015. Canon 5D III. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on July 11-14, 2015

Welcome to the June 2015 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Taking our class in and around the Golden Gate last weekend reminded me of how land and perceptions of space could change dramatically, even over short geologic time. Not so long ago geologically, the Golden Gate was not ocean flowing into a bay, but a narrows through which California's great rivers once flowed out to sea, 20 miles away. Picturing this different landscape pulled deeply on my imagination.

This month's View From Here column explores the Golden Gate as a region. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section lists a number of Tutorials I gathered for a Photo Assistant post.


  • We have set up polls for recently requested workshops to see who might be interested and able to make some July dates:

photo review

Steve in daily group discussion with his June Image Editing Workshop.
Photo 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


ice mountain

Japanese Maple. 2015.

Japanese Maple. Portland, Oregon. 2015.
HDR Capture for dynamic range.
Canon 5D III.

11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

After my Canon sponsored talk at Pro Photo Supply in Portland, Oregon, I spent some time wandering the Portland Japanese Garden.

This Japanese Maple was one of the many wonders there.

2015 Workshop Schedule
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on July 11-14, 2015
Highway One Coastal Journey. July 25-26, 2015
Acadia National Park. Maine August 29-30, 2015
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra October 10-13, 2015
New Zealand November, 2015

Death Valley in Winter January 23-26, 2016

printing class

March 2015 Black and White Class. Photo from demo video by Fiona McDonnell

Speaking Events (see below)

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Fog. White River AR. 2015.


New Photo Link

River Fog at Dusk. White River Arkansas.
Canon 5D III.

Click to order a print

Crossing over White River just outside of Eureka Springs Arkansas I saw an eerie bank of fog down river. Naturally I turned around and walked out onto the bridge. Fog was drifting toward the bridge from both upriver and down river. It was quite beautiful as dusk approached.

Of course, as I walked out on the bridge, hundreds of bridge nesting birds instantly took to the air, making it hard to photograph at all.

The light and fog kept me trying.



Unplanned Aerial Panorama of the Golden Gate from over the Pacific. 2000. A set of aerial stitched photographs made with the Kodak DCS460
Pacifica on the far right horizon, Marin Headlands on the far left.


Golden Gate Bridge at Dawn. Fort Baker. 2015.

by Stephen Johnson

The Golden Gate as a Region

I just finished a two-day workshop in and around the Golden Gate in San Francisco and it got me thinking about regions, how we name them and how we think of them.

The Golden Gate might be a good place to start. It is the exit channel of California's great river systems to the Pacific Ocean. It has long been the symbolic entrance to the dreamland of California. Strangely now, it has become synonymous with the magnificent bridge completed in 1937. The place had an identity in the human imagination long before the bridge. I imagine Ansel Adams, who grew up in the area, had a very different vision of the place. This was probably true of all who came to know it before the bridge, some having very mixed feelings about the bridge being built at all.


The Golden Gate. 1937. Ansel Adams.

We often define a place by our impressions at the time we name it, understandably so. Those names often shape perceptions to come. In the peculiar case of the Golden Gate, our constructions that overcame the place's biggest challenge, that land gap and the bridge, all became a redefinition's of the place.

In describing the recent workshop, I had to make clear that the famous bridge was only part of the workshop. It is true that our human constructions dominate our view of the region. It is very hard not to talk about our war defense against a Japanese invasion as so much of the region is surrounded by World War II defense structures. The view back from the Marin Headlands is dominated by the bridge and the fairyland skyline of present day San Francisco where bridge towers and skyscraper pyramids rise into the sky. But these are modern constructs. It is the great gap between San Francisco and Marin, where the bay meets the sea, where the tides flow dramatically and the wind and fog often dominate.

On the workshop, we spent a fair amount of time watching the cold fog ebb and flow, making the bridge and city disappear, and bridge towers float in snowy clouds and the sea itself below literally vanish and reappear. The fog has been here long before the city or bridge. It would have been the same cold 500 years ago, long before European influence or a city to obscure.


San Francisco and the Golden Gate from Space. NASA.

Visual evidence of our recent human history can be seen all around the Gate. The Civil War era Fort Point, the tourism of Lands End, the gun emplacements of WWII, the almost wild building boom of the 1930's with the spectacular and impossible Golden Gate Bridge and its art deco embellishments. Engineering in service of defense, conquering natural barriers and joining land forms, all are evident here. Controversies over building the bridge at all, or over the complex and deadly construction, or the finances, all seem long gone now. But they are part of understanding where we are standing. The book Spanning the Gate, by Stephen Cassady is a good pictorial history.

The geologic history is fascinating. My friend Geologist Ken Lajoie has done a lot of work on the California coast. I met Ken while working on the Mono Lake exhibition At Mono Lake when he worked for the US Geological Survey. Ken is helping the Pacifica Land Trust with an interpretive project we are doing on the Pedro Point Headland and provided some graphics that included the evolution of the Golden Gate as we know it today. I've modified a few of them for the graphic below:


Golden Gate Region from river channel to sea straights. Graphics by Geologist Ken LaJoie.

Thinking of the time passing reminded me of that geologic history I've recently learned from Ken. Although this great Golden Gate Gap has been present for a long time, San Francisco Bay itself has not. The Golden Gate Gap was likely a very dramatic river cut through mountains. San Francisco Bay may be as young as 2000 years, and was likely a flood plain of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers long after the last ice age just 13,000 years ago.

In fact, the dunes that were most of western San Francisco until we built the park and neighborhoods were formed from those same rivers eroding the mighty Sierra Nevada. The rivers carried soil out to sea, while the sea and wind built land back up as beaches and dunes with windblown sand from those same soils. It's a bit like a big circle game of water moving earth, carrying soil, then wind and sea taking it back to land once again from a shoreline that was 25 miles out to sea from present beaches.


Floating Feathers. Sutro Baths. San Francisco, CA. 2015.

The Lands End area, the northwest corner of San Francisco, and I suppose the westernmost section of the Golden Gate, is always intriguing to me, but often feels sad at the ruins and sense of what once was. From the remains of the Sutro Baths, to the demise of giant Playland, and the many rebuilds of the Cliff House itself, it is a place of much human history, grand ideas, fire and destruction.


Sutro Baths. San Francisco. circa 1900. NPS.

The Sutro Baths lay in ruins from disinterest, decay and a devastating fire that destroyed the structure in 1966. Wandering the ruins feels a tiny bit like exploring the Roman Forum, small remnants of a once life and activity filled area.


...continued top of right column of the essay


Point Bonita. Marin Headlands. 2001.

The Marin Headlands is not just a great vantage point from which to view the Golden Bridge and San Francisco, but also a dramatic peninsula of Point Bonita with its Lighthouse, World War II defense bunkers, Fort Cronkhite's Environmental Education Center and the Marine Mammal Center.


Aerial. San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Beyond..

The connection between San Francisco and its Golden Gate is inseparable. The Gate is the path through which all entries to this port of of San Francisco bay flowed. It was once synonymous with coming to San Francisco. As people now arrive by car or airplane, the symbolic passing through the Golden Gate has often become passing over the Golden Gate Bridge. These old straights, and once dramatic river canyon still remain the symbolic entry to the city for many.


Pilatus Prop-jet Ad Campaign over San Francisco's Presidio the Golden gate Bridge with the Marin Headlands and Tiburon beyond. Stephen Johnson. 2001.


Viewing the Projection. Camera Obscura. Cliff House. San Francisco. 2015.

The Camera Obcura at Lands End next to the Cliff House has always been one of the photographic treats for me when I spend time in the area or take classes there. It was built in 1948-49 as part of the Playland amusement park. Dating back to the 16th century, the principles of camera design, initially with a pinhole, then with optics, have been transformed into working projectors of scenes. Many large-scale Camera Obscuras have been built but few remain.

The Camera Obscura at the Cliff House was slated for dismantling in 1972 when Playland closed and then again in 1999 until a group of history and photo enthusiasts gathered funds and a National Register of Historic Places designation for the device. Today it remains an amazing experience to walk in the little structure, and see the sea scene outside projected onto the large convex screen.

New Developments at SJ Photo

New Camera, New Photographs
The new Canon 5Dsr just arrived and I've plunged into new work on my Life Form Project. With this camera, even my 40 inch prints are a breeze. More about this next month.


A new Life Form photograph. Aechmea Triangularis (Brazilian Bromeliad). Shelldance. 2015
Canon 5DSr.

New Gallery
Five of my photographs have just gone on exhibit at the Cavallo Pont Art Gallery on the north side of the Golden Gate. The show will be up through August.


Steve with Staghorn Fern print. Cavallo Point Gallery. 2015


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 Los angeles and New York City at Photo Plus.

  • Ft. Worth, Texas. November 7, 2015
  • Phoenix, Arizona. November 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 three workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage




On Line Tutorials

I recently needed to make a list of some basic skills required for a photo assistant, which created a list of my online tutorials that seemed relevant to the Newsletter as well.

Here's the list in case these basic photo skills are areas in which you might need some help.

Making Photographs

Raw Processing


Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts



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 June 26, 2015 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2015, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide