sj news logo

Half Dome from the Apple Orchard. Yosemite Valley, CA. 1998. BetterLight Scanning Back. Click to order a print. Next Workshop Yosemite in Autumn October 10-13, 2015.

Welcome to the September/October 2015 Edition of the Photography Newsletter.

I've been in Maine exploring and teaching. I feel lucky to see many places I've only heard about and grateful to share the experience with my old friend Pete Sucy, a pioneer designer while at Kodak of much of the digital world we now live in. I'm very much looking forward to our Yosemite's Many Faces Workshop in a few weeks.

This month's View From Here column chronicles the recent trip to Maine and features some photographs from the trip and some whales from home. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments. Our Tutorial Section works though new views of black and white conversion.


photo review

Steve in daily group discussion with his September 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 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 September 2015


Humpback Whale, Pacifica, CA. 2015.

Humpback Whale Lunging. Linda Mar Bay. Pacifica. 2015
Canon 5DSr

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

It was a whale day, as many as 8 in our local bay. I went to three different overlooks, eventually finding the place and standing mesmerized for three hours.

2015 Workshop Schedule
Yosemite's Many Autumn Faces October 10-13, 2015
Point Lobos and Carmel December 4-6, 2015
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on. January 16-19, 2016

Death Valley in Winter January 23-26, 2016

printing class

Waiting for Moonrise on Cadillac Mountain. Acadia Workshop. 2015. Peter J Sucy..

Speaking Events (see below)

Follow us onlinesjphoto twitter facebookfacebookgoogle+ bloggerblogger





Verso Paper Mill. Penobscot River.
Bucksport, Maine. 2015.

from the Bucksport Bridge Tower.

"The Verso Paper Mill in Bucksport, Maine opened in 1930 as the Maine Seaboard Paper Co. It permanently closed in December 2014." source

The mill closed due to declining demand for paper in this digital age and what has been argued as unfair foreign competition.

After operating for 84 years the remaining 570 workers were laid off in December 2014 when it was shut down.

It is now set for demolition.

Picking Up the Pieces





Capitol Columns. National Arboretum. Washington DC, CA. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

by Stephen Johnson

Maine Journeys

I've been wandering through Maine this last week, the third stage of a four part journey these last weeks which began in Washington DC and wrapped up at the Maine Media Workshops on Sept. 11.

My journey began in Washington DC at the National Arboretum with my friend Dan Pence. We had a good time just wandering among the plants, trails and ponds. We also found the strange remains of our original US Capital, replaced columns from the original 1860s Capital east portico. The day ended with a whirlwind walk through acres of amazing Lotus fields at the Keniworth Aquatic Park.


Lotus Bloom. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

The journey to Maine was joined by my old friend Pete Sucy, long ago of Kodak, and friend for 25 years. Pete is a Maine native, and came along with me on my Acadia workshop, then guided me through a northern Maine tour of some of his favorite places.

We went almost to Canada, and then further north still, deep into Maine's reach into our neighbor to the north, with much of Maine still further north of us. It is a huge place.


Sun on Western Mountains. Acadia. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

I started the week with my workshop at Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island near Bar Harbor. Arriving the night before the workshop, we couldn't resist heading to the highest point, Cadillac Mountain. Just as the road was starting to gain some elevation, the view to the west grabbed us with a looming sharp pink sun sinking into the distant mountains. A quick stop and a flurry of camera adjustments later, a few photographs were made just as the sun disappeared.


Moonrise. Cadillac Mountain. Acadia National Park. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

The next evening, we returned to the mountain for a full-moonrise over the Atlantic. With our various smart cellular connections we knew where the moon was supposed to rise, and where, but a denser-than-it-seemed cloud bank stood in the way until the moon was higher in the sky. It was still beautiful.

While waiting for the moonrise, we heard music from on top of the mountain. It was magical, bag pipes gracing the evening with a kind of mournful beauty. I went up and talked to the piper, David Weeda from Bucksport. He gave me permission to photograph and do some video, which was a pleasure. He wore a big "Bernie for President" button, and said he was piping for Bernie.


Bagpipes on Cadillac Mountain. "Piping for Bernie."2015.
Canon 5DSr.

Acadia National Park is basically split between Mt. Desert Island with Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mountain, and the more remote Schoodic Peninsula. Our second day wandered the Schoodic with its pink granite shoreline, dark pools and wildlife. We had a good and productive visit.


Schoodic Point. Maine. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

Rolling down long tree-lined highways became our days. Maine is vast, so much bigger than our notions generally encompass. Seeking rare high points, we slowly climbed logging roads and found secluded campsites, ponds and trails. One site was particularly remote, but nonetheless a well traveled trail complete with fresh moose tracks and a lake site campsite. Maine folks seem to know their backroads.


The Milky Way over Moosehead Lake. Maine.
Canon 5DSr.

At Moosehead Lake we watched the sun set and the Milky Way emerge. The Loon songs on the lake were mystical, mournful and enchanting. Drifting off to sleep in our campsite up the trail later that evening, the night Loon song kept pulling me into another world, dreamy, mysterious, but full of the earth's life forces. It was homemaking with the planet, and wonder with their song. It seemed so much more than some biological imperative. The Loon calls seemed almost religious.


Great Blue Heron. Maine Backwoods.. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

We followed many dirt roads deep into the Maine wilderness where there were few people, but endless trees, beaver-damed ponds, marshes and lakes. At one pond we came upon a Great Blue Heron standing on its edge, probably not more than 50 feet away.

Naturally we stopped, rolled down the windows, turned off the car and hoped we had not disturbed the bird too much by our approach. It gave me time to set the camera to focus tracking, a higher ISO for fast shutter speed, and waiting until it took flight. We did not have to wait long, and although most of the 17 frames I made were not as sharp as I might hope, about 5 were. A heron taking flight is a magnificent sight.

...continued top of right column of the essay


Lumber Yard and Flagged Crane. Dover-Foxcroft. Maine. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

The backcountry logging trucks were another matter. Booming down dirt roads, stirring a vast wake of dust and carrying downed forests away to be turned to paper. More than once along these roads we had to shelter our cameras from the dust.

Stripping the mountainsides of trees, hauling away forests, for paper and lumber, is but a consequence of our consumption that we do not like to see. But here we were on roads made for logging, not photographers, having gotten into a position to be here partially through massive consumption of paper acquiring some small measure of fame. Adding all of that up reminded me of discussions in Antarctica of the huge carbon footprint of our journey's there.


Successions of Hills and Mountains. Maine. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

There are not many vistas in Maine. The hills are not generally high, the forests tall, and viewpoints rare. We headed for the Rangely Lakes area for some elevation.

The view from above Mooselookmeguntic Lake (a Abnaki people name for "moose feeding place") was such an exception that it is even called Height of Land. At that dividing point between ranges, we watched the sun sink into receding layers of misty ridge lines of the Longfellow Range, finding it hard to leave even as the darkness came and the campsite was still miles away.


Height of Land. Maine. 2015.
iPhone 6.

When it came time to shift gear from wandering back toward Rockport and the Fine Art Printing class I came to Maine to teach, we were a little sad to be coming off the road, but looking forward to a week of printing. To my delight, Pete decided to say on with me and help with the class. My students did great, as was evident at the end of the week gallery we assembled for the traditional Maine Media Workshops Friday night celebration of the week.


Fine Art Printing class and Gallery. Maine Media Workshops. 2015.


From the Tower, Bucksport Bridge. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

On our way to Rockport, we passed the Bucksport Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge on Maine's Highway One. We always pass the bridge on our field trips to Acadia National Park from the Maine Media Workshop landscape classes that I teach. On the park outing, there never seems time to stop and explore Fort Knox at the bridge's base, nor the tower view from the top of the bridge.

In our Maine wander mode on this trip, this time I stopped. The sculpture that is the bridge, and the view from the tower was worth the time.


Surrounded by Trees. Rockport. Maine. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.

In Rockport Maine After Two Weeks on the Road

A quarter moon, white in the blue of the morning sunshine, floating above trees barely swaying in a light whispering breeze.

Insects and bird calls slip through the air as leaves dance back and forth in species-centric movement varying across my field of view.

The sun is already warm and the shade perfect, just enough air moving to remind me that this clear morning is filled with life giving substance, real gases of such density that as I wave my hands through it, I feel it's weight, resistance, and reality, despite its invisibility.

In this moment, life is precious, I feel contentment, all of my man-made worries seem distant. Being in this moment feels happy. I know the natural world brings me peace, opens me to love, and his driven my life's work. I know this, but I do not always live as though I know this. Today I am.

I know the company of my loved ones would make this time even more precious, but I believe they are all safe, they know that I love them, as I am not shy about telling them, so even this temporary distance is ok.

This morning feels sacred.

Recently at SJ Photo

Back in California, whales were again hanging out along the coast.

Humpback Whale slide show. Linda Mar Bay. Pacifica.2015.
Canon 5DSr..

There were about seven humpback whales in Linda May Bay yesterday. A text from my assistant Elizabeth Bredall set us off from the house early. I stayed on the cliffs for 3 hours, and went into the studio with scores of 17 frame bursts adding up to over 2000 photographs. As these photographs were made with my Canon 5DSr at full resolution, it added up to almost 100 gigabytes.

Obviously it was way more images than I wanted, but I had to make them to know what worked. It took most of the afternoon to offload and go through them.


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, Dallas, Phoenix and New York City at Photo Plus.

  • 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 a few workshops to experiment:

Workshop Polls Homepage


Black and White Possibilities Evolve


Traditionally, our black and white photography was tonally driven by the evolving sensitively of light recording film and paper.

The patina of a Daguerreotype, the delicacy of the ambrotype, the orthochromatic films (blind to red) of the mid-nineteenth century yielding white skies from blue, modern panchromatic films more sensitive to the human spectrum. Those images were, of course, then exaggerated by the use of red filters to darken those same blue skies, and careful use of the Zone System to further drive black and white tonality into the user's taste for drama.

Of course, modern photogaphy also offered black and white infrared, which was strange and beautiful with its white glowing green trees, dark skies and black eyes..

We now find ourselves in yet another new era of black and white, subjective and powerful tonal translation from color to BW with such tools as the Black and White Adjustment Layer in Photoshop. With multiple conversion layers, each masking a differ area of the image, a selective and user adjustable BW translation is now easily possible with wild and sometime wonderful results.


Previous Tutorial and Technique Posts


I say wonderful, fully aware of my conservative use of color for realism and subtly, while seeing the seduction of the unreal BW renderings of photography now free to became even more interpretive.

We don't see in BW anyway, so why not play, and it's a perfect opportunity to tell the viewer what you did while taking them on a magical mystery tour.

The Stephen Johnson Photography Gift Shop

Featured Products

gift certificate

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift notecard.


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 October 18, 2015 . Mail comments to:
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2015, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide