sj news logo

Breaching Humpback. Pacifica, CA 2016. Canon 5DSr. Click to order a print. Next Workshop: Land, Air and Sea of the Golden Gate. June 25-26, 2016

Welcome to the June 2016 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Humpback Whales have come back to our coastal home town. Five or six were in Linda Mar Bay last week. What a treat!. Meanwhile, we've been deep in digital education land with our annual Raw To Print course and a great group of students.

This month's View From Here column tells the story of Steve's Digital National Parks Project in this centennial year of the National Park Service. Additionally Photography as Witness to Politics and Personal History features some recent and older photographs. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section explores using a DSLR as a film copier.


  • 2016 Summer Workshop Schedule has been posted with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.

    The Land, Sea and Air of the Golden Gate. June 25-26, 2016. A two day digital photography workshop exploring San Francisco's Golden Gate. We'll spend time in the Presidio with its tremendous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point with its spectacular views of the bridge, the Marin Headlands with Point Bonita Lighthouse, views along and San Francisco's ocean headlands of Land's End and the Sutro Baths near the restored Cliff House and its historic Camera Obscura. Much time will be spent walking and looking, knowing we will be in the area for awhile, giving you the freedom to explore, with great on-site help from Steve.

    Jut Added! Fine Art Printing Graduate Study. July 16 & 17, 2016. A chance to work with Steve on your advanced printing projects. One or two day options.

    Fine Art Printing Hands-on. July 23-26, 2016. 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 during printing demonstrations in the digital lab. 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.


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



Humpback Pair. Pacifica, CA. 2016

Humpback Whale Pair. Pacifica, CA 2016.
Canon 5DSr

11x13 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

Whales offshore right here in Pacifica! Again!


2016 Workshop Schedule
The Land, Air and Sea of the Golden Gate: June 25-26, 2016
Fine Art Printing Graduate Study Lab. July 16 & 17, 2016
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on: July 23-26-2016
Vision and Craft Bootcamp: October 2-8, 2016. Maine Media Workshops
The Wonders of Mono Lake. October 13-16, 2016
Death Valley in Winter. January 28-31, 2017

devils slide suset

Sunset over Pacific from Devil's Slide.

Speaking and Exhibition Events (see below)

Follow us onlinesjphoto twitter facebookfacebookgoogle+ bloggerblogger





Emerging Monarch. 2016. Canon 5D III and Sr

A monarch chrysalis made its way to the house in April. Caught a little bit of its amazing emergence


Purchase a print of this photograph

merced river

Merced River and Half Dome. Yosemite. 1994.
Better Light Scanning Back.

by Stephen Johnson

With a New Eye: The Digital National Parks Project Chronicled

The First Weekend. June 1994

1994 Press Release from Ansel Adams Gallery announcing my digital national parks project "With a New Eye." 22 years ago I began a journey through America's National Parks with my 4x5 camera and a hand-built Better Light scanning back that replaced 4x5 film with a stunning 6000x7520 pixels of full res 3 channel RGB data. I was stunned by the quality and the paradigm shift it represented in photography. I thought I would post a short history of the project in honor of this centennial of the National Park Service.

press release

Press Release for Parks Project New Conference. June 1994.

Thanks to Michael Collette founder of Better-light for inventing such a camera and being so supportive of the project. I first met Mike in September of 1993 when our mutual friend Jim Dunn brought Mike over to show me his prototype scanning back for 4x5 cameras. When the prototype was fully functional in January of 1994 we went to every cliche'd tourist spot we could think of in San Francisco, making film exposures (4x5 Ektachrome, Vericolor, T-Max 100, T-Max 400 and Agfapan 25.

The First Yosemite Photograph

At about noon, June 11, 1994 I made my first 4x5 digital photographs of Yosemite. I had a remarkable large-format digital scanning back camera in hand (6000x7520 pixels of full res RGB data). I had just called a Press Conference for the following weekend with the Ansel Adams Gallery, it seemed important to get up the park to make a few photographs. It was a bit intimidating, I knew the press conference was coming, I was announcing "With a New Eye," my digital national parks project, and we were converting Ansel's darkroom into a digital lab for the day. Many of my friends, colleagues and the press would be present.

I decided the first photograph of Yosemite National Park should be a contemporary view, perhaps with a tourist filled location. I couldn't resist showing the very peculiar way photographic time got turned on its head by the scanning back. So I chose the parking lot below Inspiration Point, often known as Tunnel View. I knew tour buses and visitors would be wildly distorted, and thought that was somehow appropriate for Yosemite in 1994. It seemed this photo should be about the movement more than the image quality. This photograph was the first, and it freed me to go on with a weekend of making more serious photographs with June haze, heat and mostly blank sun. I've never shied away from challenge.

The photograph was featured in a few publications, among them MacWeek, Micro-Publishing News.

yosemite parking lot

First Digital 4x5 Photograph of Yosemite. 1994.
Prototype Better Light Scanning Back..

steve with camera

Making the First Digital 4x5 Photograph of Yosemite. 1994..
Kodak film

macweek cover

MacWeek Cover. Canon 1Ds III.

The rest of that weekend was spent trying to make some serious photographs to show during the press conference, but more importantly, working to see if I could make any images I was proud of in Yosemite with this equipment. I didn't realize until digging them out, how many from June 11-12, 1994 I've used as highlight of my national parks project.



Foresta Burn. Yosemite.
Better Light Scanning Back.

That first 4x5 digital excursion into Yosemite had multiple motivations and some trepidation. I had to rise to the occasion as I had set up an event with an ambitious agenda and an influential guest list. My friends Ed Stone and Bill Schwegler helped out with driving, enthusiasm and carrying stuff.

This first weekend included work from Yosemite Valley, Foresta, Glacier Point and the high country near Teneya Lake and Olmstead Point. These were all old haunting grounds for me, but rarely had I felt that I had made strong image in Yosemite.

My own love of the place and awareness of its photographic heritage had always played into my perceptions of my work. This was somehow different. I felt I could hold aspects of what I could see, unlike I had ever been able to before. That notion kept me inspired to try and helped push the photographs I made into existence


teneya lake

Teneya Lake. Yosemite. 1884.
Better Light Scanning Back.

I remember a strong sense of privilege that first weekend out. I felt lucky to be out with this equipment, lucky to be in Yosemite working, lucky to have at least a partial handle on the importance of the transformation of photography that this work was helping to usher in.

I knew I wanted to share my excitement.

half dome

Half Dome IR. Yosemite. 1994.
Better Light Scanning Back.


In my own mind, I had to not only be a cheerleader for the possibilities I was seeing, but a advocate for the photographic heritage that has led me here. I needed to be clear, open to challenge and enthusiastic. It was putting myself out on a limb.

The press conference not only included people from the emerging digital media world, but also many from the traditional photographic world which could really be quite skeptical of this new digital stuff. The inventor of the scanning back was there. Michael Collette. Al Weber who ran Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshop program for many years was also there. Ansel Adams' son Michael and wife Jeanne, with their daughter Sarah were there, and their Ansel Adams Gallery had hired a video crew to tape the event. The editor of View Camera magazine Steve Simmons was present, along with writer Bruce Fraser, Anna Dever from Apple, Radius, Ricoh and other members of the press. My friend Bill Schwegler was there providing the early GPS support. The pressure was on, albeit all self-created. I was excited and proud to share what I had seen was possible.

river ir

Merced River Canyon IR. Yosemite. 1994.
Better Light Scanning Back.

More on the 1994 Yosemite Press Conference and first trips yet to come...

...continued top of right column of the essay

bernie rally

Bernie Sanders Rally. Palo Alto, CA. 2016.
Canon 5D III.

Photography as Witness to Politics and Personal History

I use my camera, as most of you do, not only to try to make art, but to record my life.

Taking in what you see is a fundamental point of departure for photography. I have no limits to my subject matter, only the opportunities I create and the awareness I manage to carry. It might be an oil slick, a whale, a political rally, or its audience.

As we gather life experiences, we gather photographs. I don't think we always understand why, but sometimes a group of unplanned subjects meld together into a body of work.

I've been going to public demonstrations since 1972, mostly in opposition to war. I find political demonstrations to be a great mix of American spirit, fun, and passion. A Bernie Sanders for President Rally in Pal Alto in early June brought many of these past experiences to mind.

bernie shirt

T-Shirt. Bernie Sanders Rally. Palo Alto, CA. 2016.
Canon 5D III.


Raging Grannies. Bernie Sanders Rally. Palo Alto, CA. 2016.
Canon 5D III


Flag. Bernie Sanders Rally. Palo Alto, CA. 2016.
Canon 5D III


bernie girls

Flag. Bernie Sanders Rally. Palo Alto, CA. 2016.
Canon 5D III


The 2010 Restore Sanity Rally in Washington DC also came to mind, so I revisited some of the photographs.


Mr. Liberty. Restore Sanity Rally. Washington DC. 2010.
Canon 1Ds III

The wonder of American political rallies The young faces, and old. The costumes, the sincerity and earnestness. I remember the same spirit at every such event I've been at, including the 500,000 in San Francisco on April 24, 1972.

corporate flag

Corporate Flag. Restore Sanity Rally. Washington DC. 2010.
Canon 1Ds III.

noting to fear

Nothing to Fear. Restore Sanity Rally. Washington DC. 2010.
Canon 1Ds III


Multi-lateral Communication. Restore Sanity Rally. Washington DC. 2010.
Canon 1Ds III

More on this subject later as my photographs date back to 1972.

Recently at SJ Photo

We had a very good Raw to Print workshop with friendly and appreciative students. It is such a pleasure to share knowledge and learn from others experiences.


Trentophylia on Cypress. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Raw to Print Field trip. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.

We had some good classroom time, and a couple of field-trips. The field-trips are an important part of the Raw To Print class as we cover so much information we have to get out to put it into practice.

Hadn't seen a notice like this before. A sign of the times.

no drone

No Drone. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Raw to Print Field trip. 2016.
Canon 5DSr.


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..

  • Rockport Maine. October 2-8, 2016
  • Central Oregon Community College. Saturday November 12th.
  • Napa College. November 17th.
  • 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


California: The Art of Water
July 13–November 28, 2016.
Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Group Exhibition.


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 a few workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage

DSLR Film Copying with my Canon 5DSr


Like many of you, I have thousands of photographs made long before digital photography came along. And also like many of you, I want that archive digitized for convenience and contemporary use. Film scanners are getting ever more rare, and they have generally been very slow. The idea of a quick single exposure to digitize my 35mm work is very exciting.

Last year, I was very anxious to get the Canon 5DSr 50mp camera, and have switched most of my normal 35mm format use to it exclusively. The resolution is very impressive, and for my landscape and aerial work it has been an amazing camera.

But there was another use I've been wanting to try, direct slide copying into the camera, on a copy stand, with a 1:1 macro lens and an even light source. I finally got around to trying an improvised set up last week and I am very please with the results.

I am taking the time to do a live view manual focus on the grain of every slide with my Hoodman Loop. This gives me a level of confidence that I like, but slows the process down.

I have to work a little more on getting a full spectrum light source and little jigs for mounted slides and film. In the meantime, the current set up copies black and white negatives really well.

More to come...


snow oaks

Snow and Oaks. Tehatchapi Pass. Kern County, CA. 1979.
Kodak Kodachrome film, copied with Canon 5DSr 2016.

Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

george harrison

George Harrison. Cow Palace, San Francisco. 1974.
Kodak Tri-X film, copied with Canon 5DSr 2016.

Purchase a Print


The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products


gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.


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


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

We're open by appointment. To find us, use our map online at:

Google Map to Studio
Yahoo Map to studio

Studio directions and site layout.


We've sent you this newsletter because, at some point, you told us you were interested in hearing from us.

If you'd like to unsubscribe, change your email address, or give us comments about the newsletter, please send a note to

Newsletter Subscribe

To communicate with us regarding the list, email:

Newsletter Archive


Home | Fine Art Prints | Products | Workshops | Announcements | Online Gallery
Consulting Services | Contact Info | Site Index | Related Web | Mailing List


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

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gallery Hours are by Appointment.

Last updated on July 9, 2016 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2016, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide