sj news logo

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Bridge School Benefit. 2005. Click to order a print. Next Workshop: Black and White Digital Printing November 16-18, 2013

Welcome to the October November 2013 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

Just back from our Mono Lake Workshop, some beautiful skies and another plunge into the eerie landscape of this high desert sea. Some really friendly people came along with warm interactions and very nice photographs made. I'm looking forward to the Death Valley workshop in January.

This month's View From Here column showcases some recent work from Mono Lake and reflects on the loss of Steve's mother. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Featured Video this month is an out-take from our recent Mono Lake workshop.


mono lake

Sentinel Dome. Yosemite. 1997.

The Center for Photographic Art in Carmel has invited Steve to Keynote their Annual Members Workshop this November 9, 2013.

The Pt. Reyes Association Field Institute has asked Steve to teach a workshop for them and so we are offering The Beauty of the Real: The Land & Light of Pt. Reyes December 6-8, 2013

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

FEATURED PRINT October November 2013


Lee Vining Creek. 2013.

Water and Rocks. Lee Vining Creek.  2013
Canon 5D Mark III

9x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each. Purchase this print.

I'm always drawn to water, particularly water in motion. While I resist foggy water photos, this blend of motion and frozen water intrigued me, leading to many images tried, slightly adjusting composition and shutter speed as I viewed the previous attempt. This was at 1/20 of a second.


Black and White Printing Hands-on November 16-18, 2013
The Beauty of the Real: The Land & Light of Pt. Reyes December 6-8, 2013
Death Valley in Winter January 11-14, 2014
Fine Art Digital White Printing Hands-on January 25-28, 2014
Flora and Form Workshop February 6-8, 2014
Yosemite in Winter February 22-24, 2014.
Speaking Events (see below)
Center for Photographic Art in Carmel has invited Steve to Keynote their Annual Members Workshop this November 9, 2013.

Follow us onlinesjphoto twitter facebookfacebookgoogle+ blogger





New Photo Link

Sprayed Burn. Yosemite Rim Fire. Tuolumne Fire. 2013.

A massive mid-August to early September wildfire moved through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River and into Yosemite National Park. It was the fourth largest forest fire in recorded California history, burning over 250,000 acres.

The green is a soil stabilization growth medium sprayed along the roadside. It made for an eerie scene.



Aspen Forest. 2013.

by Stephen Johnson

It seems redundant to say things have been busy. Almost every column I write lately runs a similar narrative. In some ways it feels like we just returned from August's Alaska Workshop. I have certainly not had a chance to take in the work I made there. I do carry a sense that there are many possibilities.

As we headed for our Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra workshop last weekend, I was looking forward to the drive over the top of the Sierra Nevada. Tioga Pass is always a sacred journey for me, even when it is not the destination. On this trip, Yosemite was closed due to the dumb Federal shutdown, so although the road was kept open, we were instructed not to stop along the way. There were simply no Park Service resources available to manage visitation, protection nor rescue.

Going to Mono Lake is always a wonder. This trip we took a ride up a long gravel road and got an aerial view of the Mono Basin from 9,600 feet. The breadth of the expanse, the completely improbable blue of the lake in the desert surround, the blocks of stone beneath our feet, all made the view rather incredible. It reminded me of the more distant view from the top of Mt. Dana, a few miles further back and at over 13,000 feet.

Black Point and Land Bridge. Mono Lake. 2013.

In so many ways, it is the being there that counts. At altitude, at the first light, watching the stars. Where photography encourages or enables that, I am deeply grateful. The fixed images don't recreate the experience, but they suggest it, and even that is deeply special. Our lives of continuous experience can blur, become too complex and layered to really hold in memory alone. Ah, but when a photograph can hold a semblance of the scene, and the memory can fill in, life's richness can be wonderfully re-experienced. This is of course an internal pleasure, it has little to do with what others can glean from our photographs, but it is so much of what gives them value to us.


Tufa and Mono Lake at Dawn. 2013.

Where craft and luck can rise to the occasion of holding the moment in a way that others can get a glimpse in, then we have a fine result indeed, a photograph that can matter to many. But the experience of the cold dawn, the sky lightening, mist rising off the shoreline, silhouettes turning to detailed form, that is the magic of being there. I want my photographs to bring forward a strong suggestion of those moments, they are so frequently worth remembering.


Burned Brush and Grass. Mono Lake. 2013

I first photographed the burn above on a cloudy day in the late 1970s with 4x5 color negative film. I clearly remember the smell of the burnt wood and the bluish light from the overcast sky. I was just getting to know Mono Lake.

This trip found me back in the same area, thinking I had first seen this burn so long ago, and how slowly the desert heals itself. But that was my human timeframe imposed on the rhythm of the earth. Human time is so brief, to even the most ordinary forest, the oldest of us are mere babies This burn is growing back just fine, slowly bringing new beauty to the Mono Basin.


Clouds Above Mono Craters. 2013.

And what is it with clouds? Why are they so endlessly fascinating to watch? I do mull this over as I find clouds irresistible subjects to photograph, and look forward to flying mostly for the clouds. In countless dreams, clouds are landscapes. sometimes solid and mysteriously walkable, sometimes vaporous and more real. But somehow dreams are tied up in those clouds, our anthropormorphisms and other imagined forms forming and reforming in the wind. Where geometry is impossible, and commonplace.

I think maybe I am photographing the landscapes of my dreams, they just happen to be real.


...continued top of right column


Elvira. 1976.


My mother passed away a few weeks ago. Mom was a single mom for most of my youth, a sensitive and giving soul, friendly to all, balancing some sadness, determination, decades of hard work, a huge heart and deep empathy for others. As I said at her service, she was the source of all that is good in me. Even after her long drift ever further inward, I had a hard time with that final goodbye.

She passed away gently, with me and my brother holding her hands, in about the best way we might have imagined.

Mom's loss led to digging out some old and well loved photographs from her past. My brother reminded me of a favorite of mine, a 1977 twin-lens reflex color negative that I dug out and scanned. Mom and I were out on one of our precious drives through the Sierra foothills. It was a great day, a wonderful memory, and symbolized both our feelings of refuge in the countryside. As it happens, I also set the camera up on a small tripod and made a portrait of both of us together that day as well. These two photographs are among the most precious images I have ever made.

.elvira hills

She never knew exactly what to make of me. I certainly grew into a man with very different life choices. Even when she didn't understand my own evolution, she displayed respect and absolute love. When my choices worried her, she offered support. She was here pitching-in when my children were born, and spent many joyous hours playing with them, down on the floor, playing school, giggling at the kid's books, and delighting at their presence in her life.

Mom often worked late shifts, not getting home sometimes until 10pm. We were both night owls. Sometimes we would sit around her kitchen table and talk till the wee hours of the morning. I'll always remember those conversations. They gave me such a deep insight into the world she grew up in, and what she still longed for in life.

She was a child of the depression, a working woman her whole life. FDR was a hero to her, the president that saved America. Hard work was how one lived. Seeing her son pursue the arts as a career was almost incomprehensible to her. But she was so appreciative, even as my own work grew to more abstract images she didn't care for as much. She liked my earlier "pretty ones" better.

Photography has such a unique power to give life to our memories and bring a moment forward in time. In this case, at 49 years old, Mom was in her prime, strong, wistful, empowered by survival, out for a day with her baby boy, with his long hair, barely in his early twenties.

elvira steve hills

These two photographs have been of deep comfort to me, gradually displacing the images of mom 's last years with images of her prime years.

Such enormous power to comfort our wounded hearts...

My mother, Elvira, was the most remarkable person I have ever known.


A Few Talks Ahead

New York City: PhotoPlus

I am always happy to be going back to NYC for the PhotoPlus show which I've been doing for over 15 years. I've always had a good time in New York, and it has given me some wonderful photographic opportunities, photographing, going to shows, seeing so much work and so many old friends at the show. It seems I always make some interesting new acquaintances as well.

I will do a talk in the Canon booth on my recent work at 11:30am on Friday October 25.

I'm pleased to be presenting my "12 Steps to Improve Your Photographs" talk on Friday afternoon.

12 Steps to Improve Your Digital Photography Friday, October 25th from 4:00 to 6:00 PM

Carmel California

Keynote Address
Vision, Technology and Conservation: Stephen Johnson's New Realism

Art, technology and conservation merge for digital photography pioneer Stephen Johnson, who will present an exploration of his inspirational career spanning over 30 years of work in landscape photography, encompassing 35mm to large-format film work, experimentation with early and large-format digital cameras, to the latest digital technology. He has been pushing his work to have a real impact of endangered lands, and pushing the edge of photographic technology for over 20 years. Steve will share his personal history with the environmental movement, and with the evolution of technology, tracing his interests and insights from a young photographer, into an influential practitioner of his art. That embrace of technology empowered many of Steve's conservation efforts. Many photographs will be shown, including his fine art pigment prints. His groundbreaking digital national parks project "With a New Eye," a large-scale photographic project will be featured as well as renowned skill at fine art digital printmaking. A question and answer period will follow.

Center for Photographic Art's Annual Members Workshop
Carmel, CA. November 9, 2013 at 7:30pm

Talk Sponsored by Canon Explorers of Light Program.

email your comments to us



Mid-west Gallery Carrying My Work

steve 2004

A chance to see (and purchase) some of my original prints at the Armstrong De Graaf International Fine Art Gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan


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 talk in Palo Alto, at Tualitin near Portland, OR, in San Francisco and New York City in October and Carmel in November.

  • Pacifica: At the Gallery
    Come by and talk with Steve about his ongoing Exhibitions of work on display.
  • New York City. PhotoPlus Expo 2013 seminar "12 Steps to Improve Your Digital Photography" Friday, October 25th from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Center for Photographic Art. Members Workshop. November 9, 2013. Carmel, CA.


A Few Snippets from the October 2013 Mono Lake workshop with Stephen Johnson.



Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Product

National Park Notecards

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 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

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

To subscribe to the sjphoto-news mailing list

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

matting video

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 November 6, 2013 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2013, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide