Stephen Johnson Photography News

January 2018

Dune. Death Valley 1978.

Dune. Death Valley 1978.

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

The New Years comes with ambitious plans, rolling out my first Kickstarter project and the first gallery showing of my new Life Form work on the horizon.

— Steve

This month's View From Here column talks about current exhibition prep, looks back at 2017 and forward to new work. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.

Hibiscus Petals. Shelldance. 2015.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III

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

Looking back through the "Life Form" photographs these past few years keeps turning up more photographs than I can use, and some images that I believe work well.

Hibiscus Petals, Shelldance. 2015. Canon 5DSr.

Hibiscus Petals, Shelldance. 2015.
Canon 5DSr.


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 the Fine Art Printing Workshop in early May 2017.

Steve with the Fine Art Printing Workshop in early May 2017.

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


Drone over Montara.
DJI Phantom4 Drone. 2017

A two-image panoramic near Montana, CA looking north.

by Stephen Johnson

Trentophylia. Pt. Lobos, CA. 2017 Canon 5DSr.

Trentophylia. Pt. Lobos, CA. 2017
Canon 5DSr.

2017, Life Form and the Year Ahead

As 2018 begins, I am going through my annual look back at the photographs and adventures of these past 12 months. I've been privileged to see much beauty, meet some interesting people and make some new friends. The year ahead looks busy.

In March I will open my first gallery showing of the Life Form photographic series I have been working on over the past few years. I am proud to have the Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento be the opening venue. In April the exhibition will return to my gallery here in Pacifica.

The Life Form journey began with a visit to the Shelldance Orchid Nursery here in Pacifica. The visit was meant to bring a life-filled start to a day of great sadness. That afternoon, I was speaking at the funeral service for my 30 year friend Michael Black who was killed in a hit and run after a hike some weeks before. Plunging into the fecund greenhouse of Shelldance gave us a boost for the day, both with oxygen-filled rooms and the wonder of life. I didn't know at the time our visit would inspire a multi-year project that would see a whole new body of work emerge. The "Life Form" Series is dedicated to Michael Black.

What became clear to me, was that this new work had the potential to inspire a deeper appreciation of the magnificent texture, shape, color and variety found in nature. It is all part of the web of life around us that I believe we need to treasure. My photography has been a life-long attempt to help foster such appreciation. After all, we need to help be stewards of this gift that is our earth.

As I say in the introduction to the exhibit: My fascination with sensual organic form knows no limits. The natural beauty that drew me to photography is most profoundly manifested by the very sensuality of natural form itself. It's beauty is deeply emotional, bound up in the basic instinct and desires of our humanness. Finding such form in the real world has been my career. This work concentrates that intrigue on the wonderful and strange form found in plant life. Closely examined, these seemingly familiar, fellow creatures of this planet, become profoundly compellingly, strange, almost alien and and irresistible to explore with care, deep focus, sensitively and without embellishment.

I will go into much more technical detail as the show approaches. Right now, my focus is transforming the idea, now made into prints, into a finished exhibition on the wall. The prints for much of the show have existed for some time. As I considered assembling the exhibition and seeking venues, I needed to live with the work for awhile. In some obvious ways, it is a subject matter departure for me. It is also a clear aesthetic connection to decades of seeing and inspiration.

The prints have been made on Canon large-format pigment printers, both the IPF8400 and P4000. From the beginning of this work, I have used the Hahnemühle Museum Etching paper I helped create.

Matting and framing the exhibition is the big job of the moment. Raising the funds for this is underway now. Exhibit construction was given a real boost with Canon hosting and funding a display of the work at the PhotoPlus show in New York at the end of October 2017. November's Newsletter covered the showing and the process. The resulting six finished prints gave a jump start to exhibit construction. 15 additional prints are ready to frame, with many more candidates waiting to be printed.

Life Form in production. 2017 Canon 1DxII

Life Form in production. 2017
Canon 1DxII

My friend Darin Steinberg Cutting the short side of a 40 inch matt. 2017 Canon 1DxII.

My friend Darin Steinberg Cutting the short side of a 40 inch matt. 2017
Canon 1DxII.

Spillway. Bonneville Dam. OR. 2017

Spillway. Bonneville Dam. OR. 2017

Of course, framing is expensive. Canon funded the exact construction that I aspired the whole show to be, and committed me to a presentation style that was almost all that I could hope for. Large 40 inch pigment prints, hand-built maple frames, 8-ply cotton overmatts, UV acrylic, all drive the cost up dramatically. Optium non-reflective acrylic would have been the crowning touch, but is simply too expensive, doubling the price of every frame. I do keep it as an option for my collectors.

This stage of development needs assistance. I am about to launch my first Kickstarter Project to raise funds for this exhibit construction which I am hopeful will fund the remaining costs.

A promotional poster has been in place for quite some time and will be customized for the Viewpoint venue. It will also be for sale at the exhibition and my studio/website.

Putting an exhibition together consumes all available energy and resources. It is also very time-consuming to do well. More than 5 hours will go into every frame and matt. As is always true in the arts, the time creating the artwork is never fully able to be tracked or priced. As artists, we do this because we are compelled to, driven by a desire to create, and share our heartfelt reaction to being alive and taking in the world.

Emotionally, it is very easy in the arts for our aesthetics to get way ahead of our financial capabilities. It is not good business, as it can often create a real shortfall, but these concerns come from different parts of the brain. In order to sustain our work we need to find a balance of art and money. For most of us, it is an ongoing challenge.

I knew my decision to pursue fine-art photography full time was clearly going to be a challenge, balancing earning a living, raising a family and feeling secure enough to keep at it. Even with forty years of navigating this path, creating and surviving, it continues to be a challenge. Of course, it has also been extremely important to me to make a difference as I go. That takes energy and time, but has alway returned far more to my life that I could ever have hoped for.

Smoky Dusk. Carter Lake, OR. 2017. Canon EOS 5DS R.

Smoky Dusk. Carter Lake, OR. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.

Life Form Folio. 2017.

Life Form Folio. 2017.

I want to turn some attention to the stories of these plants, their unique origins, life cycles and adaptations. Those stories will create a depth and breadth I hope a book can feature. Currently there is a print-on-demand 35 page Life Form Folio of the work that serves as an interim catalog of the exhibition. My aspirations for the work is the traveling exhibition I am building now and an exhibit-format book.

I am looking for a researcher/writer to collaborate on the book.

The New Year

For me, the new year always brings an assessment of what the past year was and what the next can bring. It seems a common line of thought. 

This Newsletter is a good venue to look back and take stock of the photographs from 2017. The look back can seem a little schizophrenic as the variety of subjects are broad. But any single take on the world would be too narrow for me. Photographically, a specific body of work needs a point of view or approach, but as I wander,  I've never felt my eyes and attention should be constrained by anything but curiously. And curiosity can be broadened by simply trying new things.

Hillside. Pacifica, CA. 2017. Canon 5DSr.

Hillside. Pacifica, CA. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

Pinnacles. Crater Lake, OR. 2017. Canon 5DSr.

Pinnacles. Crater Lake, OR. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

I love that every trail becomes an adventure in photographic exploration. It can be tedious for my family and friends, but it is precious seeing to me. The world seems always alive with possibilities.

As photographers, we often talk about the light being the subject. It is deeply rewarding when the quality of light is dramatically evident, particularly when it is something other than the golden hour near sunset.

Lighting over Pacifica. 2017. Canon EOS 5DS R.

Lighting over Pacifica. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.

Trump Protest. Inauguration Day.. 2017. Canon EOS 5DS R.

Trump Protest. Inauguration Day.. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.

Going through the 2017 Newsletters gave me a bit of look at the year. I am often struck, and pleased, at how much it has been my privilege to see and experience in a year.

January 2017 Newsletter 
February 2017 Newsletter 
March 2017 Newsletter 
April 2017 Newsletter 
June 2017 Newsletter 
July 2017 Newsletter 
August 2017 Newsletter 
September 2017 Newsletter 
October 2017 Newsletter
November 2017 Newsletter 
December 2017 Newsletter

When ongoing tasks take too long, or the tedium of what you must do in order to do what you want to do becomes too much. It is important to take stock of all that you have accomplished. It is often more than it seems. That is particularly true if you've had a chance to savor those experiences. Photography helps me slow down and savor. 

A year of work can seem like too much or too little, depending on how and when you recall it. The same work can be seen in both ways. Complexity and tedium has a way of fading and taking a back seat to the accomplishment. I know I need to take encouragement form the amount of work, but even more importantly from the joy of the experiences.

In many ways, 2017 was a struggle for optimism and faith. The political climate was one of real challenge for me and most of my friends. It seemed much of what I have worked for over decades was under attack. Environmental policies that strive to preserve the very land, sea and air that is the heart of my work feel under siege.

Lassen Meadow. 2017. Canon EOS 5DS R

Lassen Meadow. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R

Humpback Whale and Sea Lions. Monterey Bay, CA. 2017 Canon 1dx II.

Humpback Whale and Sea Lions. Monterey Bay, CA. 2017
Canon 1dx II.

Perhaps it is part of life and the give and take of political trends, but it feels like battles long ago won are having to be re-fought. In a profession that demands faith, this has been very difficult. But my refuge remained the natural world, I am so grateful for the moon and sun lining up for an awesome cosmic experience, for the stars and planets of crystalline nights, for the fresh green scent of mountain streams, for the owls calling in the night, the whales of early summer, and the rolling surf of the mighty Pacific.

Dolphin in Sunset Reflection. Pacifica, CA. 2017 Canon 5Dsr

Dolphin in Sunset Reflection. Pacifica, CA. 2017
Canon 5Dsr

I know as I look toward to this next year, my aspirations cannot be allowed to overwhelm my appreciation and gratitude.

Total Solar Eclipse from Oregon. 2017. Canon EOS 5DS R.

Total Solar Eclipse from Oregon. 2017.
Canon EOS 5DS R.

Obsidian. OR. 2017. Canon 5DSr.

Obsidian. OR. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

Broken Glass on Flag with Wine. 2017. Canon 5DSr.

Broken Glass on Flag with Wine. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

It was difficult to find ways of photographically reacting to frightening political news. One small attempt was the broken glass photograph. Most others came from photographing protest demonstrations.

Beauty and disturbance live together in our lives, but in my art is difficult to reconcile. I remember some comments on our Central Valley work from the early 1980's with people saying we made an ugly place beautiful. We simply found the beauty in our homeland, and reacted to evidence of disturbance by trying to see it with strength and grace.

Don't forget to Check out our next workshops

Next Studio Workshop


Next Field Workshop

Hills. Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2013. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.

Hills. Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2013.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.


At Stephen Johnson Photography

Steve at the "Make Software" Exhibit. Computer History Museum. 2017. Canon 5DSr.

Steve at the "Make Software" Exhibit. Computer History Museum. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

This past year has held some remarkable experiences and some good stuff here at Stephen Johnson Photography. The opening of the "Make Software" exhibition at the Computer History Museum featuring my "Fitzgerald Reserve" print from 1994 was a nice highlight.

Steve at the "Life Form" Display. PhotoPlus. New York City. NY. 2017. Canon 5DSr.

Steve at the "Life Form" Display. PhotoPlus. New York City. NY. 2017.
Canon 5DSr.

Showing six of the "Life Form" prints at PhotoPlus in New York City. was another.

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 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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