Stephen Johnson Photography News

January 2019

Icy Yosemite Falls. 2011.  Yosemite in Winter Workshop  coming up February 2-4, 2019.   Print Purchase  .

Icy Yosemite Falls. 2011. Yosemite in Winter Workshop coming up February 2-4, 2019. Print Purchase.

Upcoming Workshop:

Welcome to the January 2019 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.

Like many of us, the holidays have turned me more towards gifts than business, but this year they also focused me on one of my true loves, photography from the space program. Some Christmas gifts came out of it, and progress on the next exhibit.
                                                       — Steve

This month's View From Here column puts voice to my recent work with space based photography and looks back at some past inspirations. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.

Earthrise over Moon. December 24, 1968. William Anders NASA. Hasselblad with ZEISS Sonnar 5.6/250mm lens. Kodak Ektachrome 70mm film (likely S0-168 ASA 160).

11x11 Pigment Inkjet Print $150 each

16x16 Pigment Inkjet Print $175 each

35x35 Pigment Inkjet Print $300 each

Earth rise over Moon Photograph 50th. Anniversary today. Here is my processed version from NASA's "raw" film scan. I'm going to be making some 40 inch prints in additions to these featured print sizes.

Image Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Here is a re-post from last year made by NASA Scientific Visualizations showing how the photograph was made by astronaut Bill Anders.

We're offering a 11x11 inch print of the photograph, matted to 20 inch wide board and ready to frame for $195, framed in silver for an additional $100, wood for $250. Larger prints will come rolled, un-matted. This print at this price is offered through January 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by February 15, 2019.


Life Form Exhibition on display at Stephen Johnson Photography.

2019 Workshop Schedule is forming 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

Fine Art Printing Workshop July 2018.

Fine Art Printing Workshop July 2018.


Meteor Trail.

Hanging in the sky at sunset was an amazing cloud that I was sure must have been a scheduled rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB only minutes before. I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to record it just as the sunlight faded. It turned out the rocket launch was scrubbed, but a meteor slamming into the atmosphere took its place. Seeing the whole event would have been spectacular. At least I saw some evidence of it in the smoke trail briefly lit by the quickly setting sun.

Magic Cirrus. 2018. Canon 5DSr.

Magic Cirrus. 2018. Canon 5DSr.

Silver Surf, Pacifica, CA. 2018.

Silver Surf, Pacifica, CA. 2018.

by Stephen Johnson

As always, I am constantly looking around, gathering images from what I see and following my curiosity in all sorts of other ways. This past month, the seeing has been local, mostly the sea and sky. But my imagination reached much higher.

Remote Imaging

I'm getting deep into building my space photos exhibit that has been under development for the past six months. The 50th. Anniversary of Apollo 8's Earthrise photograph also sent me down that same path, finding a good film scan, and making a great print has occupied a few days around the holidays and Christmas eve in particular.

Since before the dawn of the internet, I was gathering digital and film copies of images from the space program. NASA PR slides are still in my files from visits to NASA headquarters in Washington DC in 1984. In that case, I was looking for space-based images of California's Great Central Valley for the big project I was working on exploring my homeland.

Research for the Valley Project led down all sorts of interesting paths, just as the "At Mono Lake" Project had 10 years before. Some of the resources I discovered during the Mono Lake project were revisited and yielded great imagery. The U2 Spy plane 10 inch roll film mapping projects run by the USAF and USGS in the late 1960s produced some wonderful aerial images of Mono Lake and the great valley. Thanks again to my friend, Geologist Ken LaJoie, then of the USGS for the access he arranged.

I don't now remember how I stumbled into a great Crop Classification project at NASA Ames in Mountain View. I met Ed Sheffner of TGS Technology who was doing the project using Landsat multi-spectral camera data and comparing it with on-ground spectral data to derive a picture of which crops were being grown, and where. Their project was limited in reach, but expanded as we talked, and I promised if they could produce a picture of the whole valley, I would certainly use it in my upcoming book with the University of California Press. Ed managed to find the funding, and I was delighted to keep my promise to use the image as a full two-page spread in the book.

Thier project was described in "The California Cooperative Remote Sensing Project Report” in 1988.

Here is an excerpt from The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland

Great Central Valley Crop Classification Landsat 1985.

This image is the first crop-specific classification of the entire Central Valley completed utilizing Landsat digital data. It was assembled by staff from the Ecosystem Science and Technology Branch at Ames Research Center, a NASA facility in Mountain View, California. The area shown extends from south of Bakersfield to Red Bluff and includes approximately 95% of the Central Valley physiographic province....

To me, it was an awesome use of technology and allowed us to see the Great Central Valley in a brand new way.

Near Space View at 60,000 feet: Sutter Buttes and the Great Central Valley. U2 Photograph of 10 inch roll film. 1968. from The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland.

Great Central Valley from the Northeast. Skylab. 1973. NASA. 100mm lens on Hasselblad with Kodak Aerochrome, ASA64 film. from  The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland

Great Central Valley from the Northeast. Skylab. 1973. NASA. 100mm lens on Hasselblad with Kodak Aerochrome, ASA64 film. from The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland

Those NASA PR slides I had originally gone through in 1984 were also the source of a great photograph of the Central Valley taken from Skylab in 1973.

Skylab was a reconfigured Third Stage of the Saturn V moon rocket, turned into our first space station. Launched in 1973, occupied for 171 days over 3 crews, it was troubled by some launch damage and delays in the Space Shuttle program. Skylab came down from a decaying orbit in 1979 after plans to rescue it did not work out. The Skylab B backup never flew and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

This Skylab view provided the overview of the massive nature of the Great Central Valley that I had been looking for in the preparation of the book. I would have added the image to the exhibition as well if I had access to the high resolution scan that is now available.

Landsat Spectral Characterization Crop Map. Great Central Valley. 1985. from The Graet Central Valley: California's Heartland.

With a New Eye Park Maps

Landsat satellite photographs from earth orbit and other space-based imagery have all contributed to our photographic understanding and mapping of our planet. Google Earth, GPS mapping, and many other applications combine space-based imagery with navigation and geopolitical data.

I used much of this information to construct the park maps in Photoshop for my prototype book With a New Eye, my large-format Digital National Parks project.

Digital National Paks  Project Book Cover. 2001.

Digital National Paks Project Book Cover. 2001.

Yosemite Park and Region. from  With a New Eye by Stephen Johnson .

Yosemite Park and Region. from With a New Eye by Stephen Johnson.

Alaska National Parks.

Alaska National Parks.

Lunar Orbiter Camera Assembly. Eastman House Museum. Photo by Stephen Johnson. 2012.

Lunar Orbiter Film/Darkroom Assembly. Eastman House Museum. Photo by Stephen Johnson. 2012

I am an intensely curious person. I like connections, and am always looking for how my various interests interrelate and support each other in terms of a world view and ability to make a difference.

I talk about those curiosities, with friends, colleagues, and on stage. The stage has created very unexpected and wonderful connections. From invitations to the Kennedy Space Center and to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, my awe and love of these views and the adventure involved is insatiable

Part of that curiosity led me the George Eastman House Museum of Photography when lecturing in nearby Niagara Falls in 2011. One of the exhibits that caught my attention was the Lunar Orbiter Camera in the Eastman House Collection. Designed to map the moon seeking safe landing sites for the Apollo moon landing missions, the camera was a hybrid spy satellite design modified for the lunar journey sent to orbit the moon. A camera/darkroom/photo lab and scanner all in one, developed in 1965, all flying to the moon in 1966, was certainly part of my fascination.

The camera system consisted of 610mm and 80mm lenses imaging the Moon onto Kodak 70mm Bimat Transfer Film (invented in WWII) which was developed onboard the spacecraft much like Polaroid photos, then analog scanned through a PMT (Photo-multiplier Tube, much like pre-press scanners) and transmitted back to Earth by FM radio signal. Kodak estimates the analog pixel count to be 8,360x9,880 for the wide angle lens images and 8,360x33,288 for the long lens images. I have long been fascinated by this system, and the spy satellites it was based on.

Experiencing those photographs back on Earth was also quite complicated. What we saw coming from the Moon were 35mm photographs of TV screens after format conversions and multiple generation copies relayed through different receiving stations around the world. They were amazing, and critical at the time, but suffered from highly compromised image quality.

I am constantly amazed (humbled) at what I don't know, even on subjects I am intrinsically interested in. I was unaware at the time, but a wonderful project was already well underway to recover the original high quality data that the five Lunar Orbiters sent back.

Lunar Orbiter Photographic System Overview

Lunar Orbiter Inner Workings Schematics

The Lunar Orbiter in Protective Flight Housing. George Eastman Museum collection. circa 1966.

The Lunar Orbiter in Protective Flight Housing. George Eastman Museum collection. circa 1966.

Lunar Orbiter Camera System. NASA Graphic enhanced by  Hamish Lindsay .

Lunar Orbiter Camera System. NASA Graphic enhanced by Hamish Lindsay.

Earthrise over Moon. Lunar Orbiter. 1966. Top: Original view of image from 1966, Bottom: Recovered Data from Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) 2008-2014.

Earthrise over Moon. Lunar Orbiter. 1966. Top: Original view of image from 1966, Bottom: Recovered Data from Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) 2008-2014.

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) was designed to read the original transmitted data anew, and transform that information into that highest resolution images possible. This would stand in dramatic contrast to the images we all saw in 1966. The story of how this happened is one of dedication, foresight, extreme tenacity and great skill. NASA still had the original data tapes. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Archivist Nancy Evans took possession of the tapes from long-term NASA storage in Maryland. She began gathering machines that could read the tapes and thus began a great story of preserving 2 inch computer tape from the 1960s, finding compatible recorders, and storing them for twenty years, People got curious, and motivated. Machines were rebuilt, a lab created in an old McDonalds at NASA Ames and new champions rose to the occasion. Such is the story told on Moonviews.

The Moonviews site tells this story in some detail, although it states that the site has not been regularly updated since 2014.

Returning from the 2017 Eclipse, I happened to run into one of the people involved in this project that has come to matter to me very much:

Amid the rubble of Mt. Lassen's 1918 eruption, I watch a beautiful sunset and the new moon only days after the 2017 eclipse. I turn to remark to a fellow on the ridge how beautiful it is. He agrees and asked about me seeing the eclipse. We exchange stories. He's a project manager at NASA Ames having just finished restoring the original Lunar Orbiter images from the 1960s. The conversation is friendly and full of enthusiasm for the eclipse, space exploration and photography. It is a good end to the day.

After that encounter in Lassen, I then needed to find out all I could about this restoration project. Coupled with my recent interest in the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) now gathering images constantly from lunar orbit, my lunar curiosity clearly peaked.

I poured over vast amounts of information on the web describing this great image recovery project. The restored photographs that are online make clear how important it was to accomplish this work.

The people credited with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) are Dennis Wingo, Mackenzie C. Harper, Susan C. Washburn, Shawn Pleski, Joseph Minafra and Gregory Schmidt. We appreciate the work you did for photo history, the space program, the tribute to all of the original engineering and for a shining example of what dedication, skill and faith can accomplish.

My love of photography has blended well with the 12 year old “trekie” that still lives in me. As I write the New Horizons spacecraft has just passed Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt, a billion miles beyond its 2015 rendezvous with Pluto. To see these photograph is mind-blowing, and so deeply mind stretching that it is challenging to take in.

Don’t miss our new show, Other Worldy opening February 22, 2019.

At Stephen Johnson Photography

Steve with two new prints for the space exhibit. 2019.

Steve with two new prints for the space exhibit. 2019.

I've been working on more prints for my upcoming space photos exhibit. Twenty-one 40 inch prints are already complete, 10 more are printed and not yet mounted.

We are looking to open the new space exhibition in late February to be seen in conjunction with my current show “Life Form.”

The joint exhibition is called "Other Worldy.

The upcoming Yosemite in Winter, Image Editing and Fine Art Printing workshops are open from enrollment now. Enroll while there is time and space!

Current Exhibition

Life Form opened in the Main Gallery at Stephen Johnson Photography on July 21. The show has been extended through June 2019. We have had many visitors come by the gallery since the opening. Many have then joined workshops and certainly helped build community. Please come see the show. Pass the word.

Seeking Good Venues for Life Form

We are seeking good venues to show this work. The Life Form Series is now available for museum and gallery exhibition after December 2018.

Don't forget to Check out our next workshops

Next Studio Workshop


Next Field Workshop


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 new Life Form Gallery and its new Life Form Portfolio, 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

Print Mentor Program

Many of my mentoring students have wanted help with their printing, often to make sure they can produce a specific print. Consequently, I am starting a Print Mentoring Program that sets up a 2 hour time slot and the production of a finished print, all with the tutorial video of how we did it together. Prints can be up to 16x20 and on either Hahnemühle Museum Etching or Photo Rag Pearl paper. Fee is $500. Email for more information and to set up times. 

Free and For Sale

Free Stuff (a few items still left)

Last summer we 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.

We've had a few takers, but more are left. Take Advantage.

Epson Canvas Rolls 17 inch


1 Epson 2400 printer left


Equipment for Sale

Canon 1.4x Tele-extender for sale. $175


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

  • $40

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

  • $50

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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