Stephen Johnson Photography News

April 2018

Life Form Installation. Viewpoint Photographic Art Center. 2018.

Life Form Installation. Viewpoint Photographic Art Center. 2018.

Welcome to the April 2018 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

I'm getting ready to pick up my Life Form work from its Sacramento showing. There are always mixed feelings about seeing such things come to a close, but I'm bringing the work back to my studio for a special expanded installation here and that is a big undertaking. So, on I go...

— Steve

This month's View From Here column explores exhibiting work, senses of beauty and some nuts and bolts of improvisational photo traveling. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.

Moth Orchid Lifescape. Shelldance. 2018.
Canon EOS 5DSr.

9.5x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
$195 each.

Complex topography.

We're offering a 9.5x14 inch print of the photograph, matted to 20 inch wide board and ready to frame for $195, framed in silver for an additional $75, wood for $150. This print at this price is offered through April 30. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by May 15.


2018 Workshop Schedule is building with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.

Upcoming Events & Workshops

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

Image Editing
Fine Art Printing
Photography Critique Session

Steve with most of the Death Valley Workshop in Titus Canyon. 2018..

Steve with most of the Death Valley Workshop in Titus Canyon. 2018..

The Studio, 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 original prints in 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

New Experience

Birdsongs. iPhone. 2018.

Pre-dawn, yesterday morning.....These bird songs of dawn are precious. This slowly brightening fog is filled with every possible tweet, call, chirp and melody filling my senses with this song of life. The air carries a hint of salt and surf from the beach down the road, but it is this sound out of quiet that so impresses me. It is a wild affirmation of life and the real earth. I am so lucky to be alive and able to feel such joy in this earth music.

A snapshot helped document the moment, and gave me a visual to add the processed iPhone captured songs.

March 31, 2018, Pacifica, CA.


Check out: Audubon Society Bird Recording Page.

by Stephen Johnson

Life Form Reactions, Conversations and Reflections

The opening weekend of the Life Form Exhibit was busy and exhilarating. It was a great time to see old friends and meet so many new people. The graciousness of the Viewpoint Gallery staff was deeply appreciated.

During the Life Form opening, someone came up to me commenting that the work is very "Wabi-Sabi." I had to ask what that meant. Her answer, and some research I've been doing since, has been interesting. It seems that embracing the real world, with its "flaws," evidence of age, imperfections and character, possesses some qualities that evolved down through time in Japanese culture that had associations with the tea ceremony. The wabi-sabi concept seems to have now become a respect for those very reality-based real world qualities that I have been talking about preserving in our photographs for decades now.

Wabi-sabi is often described as earth tones, without embellishment, simple and unencumbered organic form, nowadays certainly without Photoshop embellishment. It seems some of the Life Form work may be compatible with these concepts. On the non-visual level, thoughts that are intuitive, ambiguous, sometimes contradictory, embrace nature, sensual, incomplete, imperfect, primitive, temporary and embracing of change, decay and regrowth are more "wabi-sabi" than their opposites.

That the Life Form work has appeal to a way of thinking that embraces appreciation of life for life processes, it's roughness, it's ragged, spotted, real existence, resonates with me deeply.

I know I've barely scratched the surface of the wabi-sabi concept, but it feels like a good exploration that may well match much of my intuition. A quick search found a few videos on YouTube that further illustrates the concept.

Visitors at Life Form Exhibit, Viewpoint Photographic Art Center . 2018 Canon 1DX II.

Visitors at Life Form Exhibit, Viewpoint Photographic Art Center . 2018
Canon 1DX II.

Succulent in Transition. Echeveria. Life Form Series  2018. Canon !Ds III.

Succulent in Transition. Echeveria. Life Form Series  2018.
Canon !Ds III.

Opening remarks on Friday night.! 2018 Canon 5DSr.

Opening remarks on Friday night.! 2018
Canon 5DSr.

Visitors on Saturday night public opening, 2018. Canon EOS 1DX II

Visitors on Saturday night public opening, 2018.
Canon EOS 1DX II


I can't help but reflect on this work a bit more now that it is up on gallery walls. My notions of beauty and the purpose of art come into play. A new book by one of my favorite photographer/authors, Robert Adams just arrived "Art Can Help" together with my upcoming "Seeing Beauty" Lecture has stirred some thought. A past Tutorial features some quote form Adams.

After all of the work of putting a show together, never fully knowing its impact, a post-opening challenge can set in, questioning the why of such an effort. The years of photographic work, the printing, the money (and fund-raising), can all easily add up to real meaning of art (life) questions. 

The impacts of artwork are rarely sudden and dramatic. Even with much praise during openings, holding that encouragement to do the very hard work of promotion, follow-up and additional venues is plain hard work. I am not saying the good and kind words I heard didn't matter, quite the opposite, they were deeply encouraging.

Of course, the purpose of the work primarily was to satisfy my curiosity and exploration of the life forms that led to the photography. That I was able to make prints I felt proud of, added to that sense of satisfaction. It also matters to me that I understand more about the work now, looking back at its beginnings, more than I did at the time. All of these feelings led me to start seeking venues to show the work last year.

As we gear up for installing the exhibition at my gallery in the Pacifica Center for the Arts, I intend tweak it. I will take some weeks to do that without undue time pressure on myself. I'm not thinking about photographic changes, although there will be more large prints on display here, but more along the lines of supportive materials, more stories of the plants, perhaps a few of the 3D lenticular prints, groupings other than just visual relationships.

Visitors, Life Form Exhibit.

Visitors, Life Form Exhibit.

It may seem a little strange that after 60 years of living very connected to the natural world, surrounded by flora, that I need to know more about these fellow living beings of this earth. By any real measure, my actual knowledge is superficial at best. I want to know more of the why, the circumstances of their evolution and adaptation, our relationship to plants, not just as food, but the whole notion of gardens and paradise.

Consequently, I'm reading about 4 books simultaneously, gradually enlarging context for the work and slowly learning more about my subject matter. I know that learning will be long term, but I do hope the next few months will bring some insights that are now only hinted at. I think it is fair to say, there is much more plant life than animal life on this planet, it is a complex world.

Exhibit Transportation

I built in to my Kickstarter Project, some funds (thank you supporters), for shipping crate construction, but decided I need to take some time to construct those carefully. Consequently, we drove the show to Sacramento from Pacifica in a rented van, prints wrapped in paper, bubble wrap and moving blankets. For the pick-up this weekend, I've purchased mattress bags (the nearest size that would fit) and a huge roll of 48 inch wide bubble wrap that we couldn't even get in the studio door. It was actually a bit hilarious seeing us try to squeeze it through the door. I ended up off-rolling about a third of the roll to reduce its width, to fit it through.

I would not reccomend my bag and buble wrap soluion, but it was the practical short- term choice. Once the crates are built, driving the work anywhere become almost impossible for the weight and bulk. From that point forward, it is likely trucked by commercial carrier and the costs obviusly raise. We will see what the next venues need.

Hand transport materials.

Hand transport materials.

A Review of the Viewpoint Show

Today we live in a world where photography is digital, the product of the ubiquitous cell phone camera. It is perhaps fortunate, given that this is “Photography Month Sacramento,” that we are treated to an exhibit that allows us to see what this technology makes possible. The photography of Stephen Johnson, at the Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento, allows us to realize a view of our environment where we do not live in the Kodachrome world many photographic artists embrace. Johnson’s intimate explorations in this exhibition titled Life Form depict the organic forms to be found in flowers and other flora.

Although Life Form marks a departure from his much praised grand landscapes, Johnson maintains a high ethic that only someone with a total understanding of digital photographic technology can achieve. By mastering techniques known as focus stacking and obsessive color management, and joining them in marriage with his unique vision and respect for the natural world, Stephen Johnson’s Life Form exposes the often-ignored subtleties in his themes. These are large prints depicting small subjects and yet they retain, in exquisite detail, the structures to be found therein. It is hard not to find oneself drawn into this world that we are surrounded by yet seldom see.
— Gabriel Unda. Fellow, BioCommunications Association.
Life Form Exhibit, Viewpoint Photographic Art Center . 2018 Canon 1DX II.

Life Form Exhibit, Viewpoint Photographic Art Center . 2018
Canon 1DX II.

We had some nice moments from the opening weekend. Many good friends showed up, and many new acquaintances were made. I was very encouraged by how many folks said they were touched by what felt like a new insight into the plant world.

I think we reached about 500 visitors for the weekend. The Lecture on Sunday April 11 was standing room only. I will be editing some more of the video to share.

Thanks again to all of my Exhibit Construction Kickstarter Project supporters who funded a substantial amount of the framing costs for the exhibition. Thanks are also due again to Canon for the first six prints framed and so much help along the way.

Next Venue at SJ Photo

The Life Form Exhibition will open at my Pacifica Gallery in the Pacifica Center for the Arts in late April or early May. The date is a little uncertain at the moment as there is a lot of work to do to prepare the space.

Seeking Good Venues

We are seeking good venues to show this work. The Life Form Series is now available for museum and gallery exhibition.

Steve and friend/photographer  Bill Atkinson  at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center. 2018.

Steve and friend/photographer Bill Atkinson at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center. 2018.

Don't forget to Check out our next workshops

Next Studio Workshop


Next Field Workshop

Mossy Tree. Pt. Lobos. 2017. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.

Mossy Tree. Pt. Lobos. 2017.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.


At Stephen Johnson Photography

We've been having some nice skies here on the coast lately, not with storms like much of the rest of the country, but we have been treated to some grand rainbows. They make a nice addition to any day.

When rainbows appear, I chase them. It is often a choice of trying to hold what you see before it disappears, or continue to look for a great location and setting.

Rainbow looking into the GGNRA from Roberts Road, CA. 2018. Canon 5DSr.

Rainbow looking into the GGNRA from Roberts Road, CA. 2018.
Canon 5DSr.

Hand-held Sunset Sequence. Pacifica. 2014. Canon1Dx II.

Hand-held Sunset Sequence. Pacifica. 2014.
Canon1Dx II.

In my capacity as a member of the Pacifica Land Trust Board, I have been involved in many projects that I am proud of, including our effort to save local headlands Mori Point, and the Virtual Pedro Point Project.

We just got approval from our board to do a new mapping project that I am very excited about. More details later...

Life Form Folio

Life Form Folio.

Life Form Folio.

The new Life From Folio, a 36 page folio of images is available directly from my print on demand printer MagCloud or by dropping by my studio.

Free Stuff

We recently replaced the Epson 2400s in our lab with their new P600s and consequently have some printers to seed to photographers in need. We were also given some Epson Canvas to share. These are available for pick-up to those of you on my mailing list. Let me know of your interest. I do want to spread them out among a few people.

Epson Canvas rolls

Epson Canvas rolls

Epson 2400 printers

Epson 2400 printers


Featured Products

New Life Form Folio


The Life Form Folio

As we are premiering the Life Form Exhibition, I wanted to have a collectible item and record of the show prior to the full book I plan. So, now available is the 36 page 11x17 wire bound book, 5 years of work from 2013 to 2018 exploring these magnificent lives. 

  • Photographs from 2013-2018
  • 36 pages 
  • 11x17 wire-bound book
  • $40

New Exquisite Earth Exhibition Catalog

Page 41

Page 41

page 13

page 13

The Exquisite Earth Exhibition Catalog

As I've been on a roll on fixing bodies of work into POD books, I decided before the Exquisite Earth show could come down for new upcoming show, I wanted to create a printed record. So, now available is the 56 page 11x17 wire bound book, 5 years of work from 2005 to 2010 traveling this wondrous planet.

  • Photographs from 2005-2010
  • 56 pages 
  • 11x17 wire-bound book
  • $50

New Pacifica Book

Page 27

Page 27

Page 7

Page 7

  • 74 pages 
  • 11x17 wire-bound book
  • Pacifica Trail Map 
  • 32 years in Pacifica 
  • 10 years of calendars
  • $75

Pacifica Trail Map by Pease Maps special to the Pacifica Land Trust.

11" x 17" folded
$10 (free shipping) proceeds go the Pacifica Land Trust a non-profit 501c3.

Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!

Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.

Life Form Note cards

5x7 inches (sold-out, on backorder)


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

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.


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