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Nacimiento-Fergusson Road near Big Sur. CA 2011. Canon 1Ds MarkIII.

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

This month's View From Here essay discusses the recent Mission San Antonio Workshop, getting out to photograph and the passing of my father.

We are announcing our new Virtual Online Consulting Program this month. This new 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.

In a special recession-busting mode, we are offering a spectacular 50% off sale on our Mono Lake and Death Valley workshops coming up in October and January!. This sale was orginally only offered from May 6-10, 2011, but due to many requests for little more time, it has been extended to May 14. Call or email.

We've just received a special shipment of our Four Panoramics poster from Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography and we also are holding a special sale on them for $10 each.

In order to help make sense of where a particular workshop fits into our overall program, we have added a Digital Photography Curricula page to our website.

In a few weeks, we are offering a new one-day course Intro to Digital Day: Exposure, Composition & RAW May 15, 2011.

Our evening Critique Sessions continue with the May Photography Critique Session on Thursday evening May 26. The new Photoshop Straight workshop comes June 11-12.

The summer schedule is filling up with our RAW to Print Summer Digital Bootcamp, and the new Advanced Fine Art Print Hands-on printing refinement class both in July.

Our San Francisco Digitally weekend workshop has been moved to July 15-16 due to a scheduling conflict.

There is one scholarship spot in each of these classes.

My summer sessions at the Maine Media Workshops are are coming up the last two weeks of June and we are doing a Santa Fe workshop in October.

We have also added our exciting new workshop exploring southern China, Guangxi Landforms for mid-November.

This month's Tutorial is on Long Exposures.

In our Gallery One, the new exhibit Exquisite Earth has been extended through the spring.

We hope you can come by the gallery and see the show, 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.



Corner Shadows, Mission San Antonio, CA 2011




niagara fallsniagara falls

Bob Dylan or Joan Baez
35mm Tri-X
11x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase one or both of these prints.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez at the SNACK Benefit concert Kezar Stadium San Francisco 1975. Dylan was a surprise guest of headliner Neil Young. Order one, or both as a matched set.


2011 Stephen Johnson Workshops and Event Calendar
Intro to Digital Day: Exposure, Composition & RAW
May 15, 2011
Photography Critique Session
May 26, 2011
Photoshop Straight and True
June 11--12, 2011
Maine Media Workshops
Vision and Craft: Perfecting the Photographic Image: June 19-24
Printing Photographic Beauty: June 26-July 1
RAW to Print: Summer Digital Bootcamp
July 11-15, 2011
San Francisco Digitally
July 16-17, 2011
The Advanced Fine Art Print
July 18-22, 2011
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
October 8-11, 2011
Guangxi China
November 7-19, 2011

Death Valley in Winter
January 7-10, 2012



















Workshop Testimonials

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Dad. 1996.


Alive in a Photograph: Warren Johnson 1929-2011

My Dad died this week. He was 82. I didn't know him well, and so much of how he will live on for me is in the few photographs I have.

Photographs are remarkable artifacts of what once was, sometimes implying more, sometimes a palette for our own memories to gather, perhaps unintentionally even fictionalize.

This week, as I gather photographs for a memorial service for my Dad, they offer their own kind of comfort, they were, after all, all moments where we were together, he was looking right at me, with whatever thoughts may have been present in his mind.

He was a curious man, loved a good story, had a hearty laugh, found much absurdity in life, and saw evidence of mysteries beyond our ability to sense or prove.

Shortly after the news, I thought I was working through an acceptance of his death. As I found more photographs, many of which I had forgotten, my mood changed into a fairly heavy burden of loss. It seemed true that the photographs carried a weight of record, and now jogged memories that brought a greater truth home, that there were more precious times than were in the forefront of my mind, that the loss is even greater, that the reality of the photographs themselves had perhaps too much power to take in.

I know how to print, there is little labor beyond finding the files, many of which were made fairly early on in the digital age before I had many of my file protocol and filing procedures worked out. The effort is in standing up to the emotional loss, pressing on through the discoveries so that some precious images can be shared.


big sur

Trentepohlia, Fitzgerald Reserve. 2011.

Going Out

A short but somewhat determined trip to our local Fitzgerald Marine Reserve brought back a photograph of the orange moss I've been fascinated by for years. On workshops, the subject is too demanding for me as an instructor to spend the time on, too much attention to depth of field, subtle waves of composition and backlight exposure issues.

At least on this one particular afternoon, even while hoping for a new friend to join me, I took a little time and moved my fascination for the subject a little closer to a satisfying photograph. This strange life form is a subject that will continue to draw me in I'm sure.

The Trentepohlia is a fascinating life form. It is essentially a tree clinging algae, drawing nourishment from the air and sea. It has no leaves as a moss would, but rather microscopic filaments heavy with carotenoid pigments, masking the green of the chlorophyll. According to Wikipedia, "Carotenoids in general absorb blue light. They serve two key roles in plants and algae: they absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis, and they protect chlorophyll from photo damage." In fact, the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is ringed in orange by carotenoid molecules in algae, and similar forms seem to protect our eyes from ultraviolet radiation damage.*

*source: Wikipedia

Northern California Events


Al Weber. Mission San Antonio. 2011

Al Weber Aerial Photographs
June 4, 2011 through July 30, 2011
Lecture and Panel Saturday, June 4, 2pm-3:30pm (Steve is on the panel)
Opening Reception Saturday, June 4, 4pm-6pm

Center for Photographic Art
Sunset Cultural Center. San Carlos and 9th Streets Carmel, CA, 93921.



Art and Fear by Ted Orland and David Bayles now available as an eBook through Apple iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Free Canon film camera equipment

Bay Area Matting and Framing Business: Studio 4316 Discount Framing


...continued top of right column


Tower and Cross. Mission San Antonio, CA. 2011.

Al Weber's Mission San Antonio Workshop

A community of photographers, coming together for a few days of looking, questions, exploring and camaraderie, time with old friends, steeped in the traditions of fine art landscape photography while getting a kick in the butt to loosen up and try new stuff. A good three days.

I had never been to this part of California before, nearby, but never this mission, this valley, nor this connection to the coast. The California missions are about the oldest manmade stuff around in California, largely rebuilt, but still occupying some special ground in history. They are both antiquity and old story, old for here, but also very much of European army/religion overtaking native peoples and cultures.


Mission San Antonio. 2011

But the rural nature of this place, the long arched corridors, the adobe, the sense of history and stories do draw one in.  Of course we have mission cliche's: a kitschy gift shop and easy sense of visual been there/done that. But there is more here, particularly in the context of three days spent wandering, looking, and immersed in photography.


Mission San Antonio. 2011

It was also Easter, the Mission is still an active church, so ceremonies and visitation by parishioners and the public were part of the weekend. A fire was built in front of the Mission, which served as a gathering point and beginning for the evening ceremonies.


Mission San Antonio. 2011


Kazu Okitumi. Mission San Antonio. 2011

A few of us spent one late evening around the campfire. It turns out that photographer Victor Landweber is also quite a good guitarist and has a wonderful Leon Redbone kinda of voice and style. I had a great time playing with him, doing of few of my own tunes, hanging out with Ted Orland, David Bayles and a few other new friends.


Around the Campfire. David Bayles and Steve Johnson. Mission San Antonio. 2011. Ted Orland.

On coming home, I was tempted onto the Nacimiento-Fergusson road toward Big Sur, even with some doubts as to whether a known road closure on Highway One would leave me blocked from going north and force a very long southward loop. The oaks and hills were beautiful.

As the road rose over the coastal mountains, I drove into mist, then outright clouds of fog. The bucolic road became mysterious, the vistas blind, everything wet. It was a good drive. After 26 winding miles, when I got down to Highway One, the road north to home was open, it was closed a few miles to the south.



Long Exposures

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

Long exposures, at night for star trails, or simply because of low light, once meant simply the bulb setting (or T) on the shutter, and some calculations (guesstimations) of reciprocity failure exposure compensation, multiple tries and faith. Absolutely beautiful work could be done, but it took practice and patience–of course, most photography does.

Nowadays things are different, but challenges remain. Silicon builds up noise with long exposures, with heat being one of the problems. In astrophotography this is battled back by cooling circuits on the cameras, or even liquid nitrogen for the big guys.

Many of our cameras now have long exposure noise reduction modes which very cleverly takes a photograph subsequent to your exposure, of the same length, with the shutter closed, thus producing a noise map of the sensor. That so -called dark current image is then subtracted from the image. These features are well worth using.

Additionally, lower resolution dSLR cameras tend to be more sensitive as their pixel wells are larger, therefore have more silicon per pixel to gather photons. I've seen the difference between a 6 megapixel dSLR and a 22 megapixel camera, at the same ISO, aperture and time, reveal the Milky Way in the lower res photo, and barely see stars in the other.

Focusing can also be a real problem on low light photography. A green laser can sometimes help by providing a bright pinpoint of light to focus on when pointed at your subject.


Star Trails and Crosses (combined from 3 different exposures). Mission San Antonio. 2011

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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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 May 13, 2011 . Mail comments to:
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