Stephen Johnson Photography News

May 2019

Wildflowers and Clouds over south Carrizo Plain. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Wildflowers and Clouds over south Carrizo Plain. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Upcoming Workshop:

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

Now that the 50 Years of Space Photography show is up with Life Form, context and connections to other work becomes ever more clear. It sometimes takes awhile to understand your own work.

— Steve

This month's View From Here column explores being “on the road.” We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.

Check out the new workshops we’ve added, including Lighthouses of the Bay Area,, our RAW to Printing Digital Bootcamp, the orchid garden Flora and Form and Your Vision, Your Craft  portfolio building class at Maine Media Workshops in June.

Wildflowers. 2019

Canon EOS 5DSr.

9.5x14 Pigment Inkjet Print $195 each

A beautiful spot along the Carissa Highway to the Carrizo Plain spread with Common Goldfields, Lupines, Purple Owl’s-Clover, Tidy-Tips and flower lovers.

We're offering a 9.5x14 inch print of the photograph for $195, matted to 16x20 inch board and ready to frame, framed in silver for an additional $100, wood for $250. This print at this price is offered through May 31. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by June 15, 2019.


New Lightouse Workshop: Only a few spots left in our new workshop Lighthouses of the San Francisco Bay Area. Coastline towers with beautiful landscape and ocean settings that they have become monuments to.

2019 Workshop Schedule continues to form with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.   

Other Worldly opened Sunday March 17 joining the new Space Exhibit with the Life Form Exhibition on display at Stephen Johnson Photography.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse. 2011. Canon EOS 1Ds III.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse. 2011. Canon EOS 1Ds III.

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

Black and White Printing Workshop February 2019. Canon EOS 1Dx.

Black and White Printing Workshop February 2019. Canon EOS 1Dx.


Rain Clouds and Rays at Dusk. Carrizo Plain National Monument. 2019.

Arriving late in the day left me little time to take in my surroundings. I kept driving south to explore, toward the darkness on the horizon. I drove into rain, took a gravel road into the fields of grasses and distant bands of color. I found myself completely alone, quite content and finally feeling my heart start to slow into the rhythm of the real world. That had happened earlier in the day as well, alongside another lonely road with great cumulus clouds above the flower covered hills. The rain stopped, light rays broke through and here is my attempt to hold that moment.

Hillside Eye Candy. Wildflowers. East Carrizo. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Hillside Eye Candy. Wildflowers. East Carrizo. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

by Stephen Johnson

Road Visions

This spring’s wildflower superbloom kept urging me out to the road for weeks. As is often the case, other tasks and workshops were keeping me close to the studio. When I was able to break free, it was concerned I might be too late. My intuitive destination was the Carrizo Plain National Monument, southeast of Paso Robles near Kern County. When I hit the road, I didn’t know for sure where I would end up. The plain has always had a mystique about it, and tales of the wildflower carpets abound.

I did make it down, and not too late, but toward the end of the color wonder. What I was able to see was still amazing, and challenging.

The photographic challenges of recording something so remarkable are real. Wonder, it seems, is often a challenge to record. I don’t think I would have it any other way. Hitting the road takes me right to those challenges.

Grass Waves on Flowered Hillside near Carrizo Plain. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Sometimes these challenges evolve recording a broader experience than the still frame. As it happens, my first stop to photographs on this trip was as much about the wind making waves of grass across the purple flowers I stopped for. Sometimes a still frame is just not enough. The wind on these grasses was a beautiful dance of life, wind and sun. I was so pleased to have the leisure to record some video.

Road on Hills. Carrizo Plain. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Road on Hills. Carrizo Plain. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Being on the road is a complex set of seductions and challenges for me. Unless the trip is being financed by a workshop, a commission or an assignment, I am on my own dime. All trips are some kind of adventure, all adventures build vision, and like most people’s adventures, all cost money. But I was also needing exactly this kind of space and time, so it was the right moment.

There is a mystique to being on the road. It is freeing. It is mysterious because you don’t know exactly what will happen. Discovery, however small, is seductive. The road is adventure. The road is newness. The road is in my soul.

A few lines from my 1981 song “Down the Road”

I gotta go down the road, where I 'm goin' I don't really know…
The city lights break the night, they fill the desert with streets and empty cries
Under stars I 'm at home in space, spinnin' round in some corner of the night
There's something real, there's something clear, where planets tumble back and forth through the sky
Like a free-form dance with the moves all mixed, we have no idea where we 're going to be next
The radio cracks and I zoom right in, but I'm movin' too fast and it goes dead again

Flowers and Powerlines.  Carrizo Plain National Monument . 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

Flowers and Powerlines. Carrizo Plain National Monument. 2019. Canon EOS 5DSr.

The road is freedom like few other experiences. I know it is a built path, directing me to a point, I know the points are places others have been. That is all true.

Sometimes that does seem limiting. I’ve found ways of blending the destination and the experience. I rarely make it over the high Sierra without parking and just walking into the wilderness. I treasure that, particularly when it can stretch to hours. That can almost become a mini back-packing trip, with no equipment to carry. Wandering the desert is often the same. I just have to be more careful there. I’ve often said that I like my backpacking trips to be long enough to forget what day it is. I haven’t allowed for that in years. Any trip long enough to indulge the wandering is potentially a great trip. Exploration is way too limited if it is always surrounded by destination.

It may be peculiarly American, this sense of the open road. It is part of how we measure our freedom, even if that is a little strange. It is also emotionally resonate. I sense it. I feel it. I hunger for it.

Found recently, buried in a “Notes” folder at the back of a filing cabinet.

But the road can also be lonely. I just recently came across a little handwritten note from a motel next to the Kennedy Space Center. It doesn’t mention the excitement of the day at the Space Center, it talks about missing my kids. The road can be value clarifying.

Sometimes there is great clarity when moving across the landscape. Detached from daily routine, into a different rhythm, perhaps more in tune with the coming and going of the sun and moon, the shape of life and the future can be seen in different ways.

Part of all of this wandering is the unexpected ordinary. I remember a trip to Death Valley when my daughter was about 8. We stopped alongside the road heading back from Ubehebe Crater and just walked into the desert. The vari-colored stones, coral-like succulents, red to brown, to almost black soil. It was a remarkable 15 or 20 minutes that I remember clearly to this day.

It is also true, that nowadays, it is not possible for me to do a road trip without thinking about the gas and air pollution I will consume and create. It is hard to escape understanding where we are at with all of this carbon being poured into our precious air. I don’t even want to escape that awareness. I want to be cognizant of the real impact of all my actions. Trips with only seeming financial consequence were never a full measure impact, and now I cannot go without taking the air fouling into account. Quite properly, this issue came up on our 2009 Antarctica Voyage as well. Transitioning to an electric vehicle would help. There seem to be trade-offs everywhere we turn.

I remain a dreamer heading down a remote path, trying to understand what I see.

Marsh Pitman in his Monterey Library. 2019.

Marsh Pitman in his Monterey Library. 2019.

On the way back home I stopped to see one of my oldest friends, Marsh Pitman. Now living in Monterey, A professor of Ecology at Merced College, Marsh became a friend 50 years ago. I was entering high school with my 13 year old aspirations to make a difference against the war in Vietnam, and Marsh’s involvement in local Democratic politics led our paths to cross. Eventually we became county co-chairs of the McGovern Campaign in 1971, Marsh about 45, me 15, and have been friends ever since.

On my last visit back in December, Marsh showed me his basement library that he is sorting through. I was quite taken with the sight of him among his books, shelved and boxed. I said I would like to come back and photograph him down there and he agreed that would be fine.

There was no way my few photographs could sum up my feelings for this wonderful man and friend, but it was a first take on it, and I hope I’ll get to make more on a future visit. I always enjoy his company and warmth.

Hanging out at home. Cloud Banks over Pacific. Pacifica, CA. 2019.

Hanging out at home. Cloud Banks over Pacific. Pacifica, CA. 2019.

Meanwhile, back at home, the sea is always present. I have long since folded my seaside home into understanding of reality. I treasure that. Even from my house, the distant low level roar of the the surf can be a constant. When the breeze blows just right, and the surf is rough, it is clearly a roar.

How many photographs can one make of the sea and sky? It is almost like asking how many photographs can one make of those we love. It is an endless impulse to hold the moment of beauty (and affection) that we feel privileged to witness. Not many will make it to print, but some do, and they do seem to have formed quite a set. They might need to be big. They might not. Gathering the prints I have made together to explore would be fun to see.

That is partially the subject of my workshop at Maine Media Workshops this June, Your Vision, Your Craft. Consider joining me to work on creating and refining bodies of work.

Another Visit to Golden Gate Park

Most any visit to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is a varied experience with all of the possibilities there. My last real time there was for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival last fall. The trips often include the California Academy of Sciences, as did last week’s short 11 mile ride up to the park. This time we stopped by Stowe Lake as well.

Tyranosuarus Rex. California Academy of Sciences. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019. Canon 1Dx.

Tyranosuarus Rex. California Academy of Sciences. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019. Canon 1Dx.

Geese and Goslings. Stowe Lake. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019,. Canon 1Dx

Geese and Goslings. Stowe Lake. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019,. Canon 1Dx

Moon Jellys California Academy of Sciences. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019. Canon 1Dx II.

Moon Jellys California Academy of Sciences. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019. Canon 1Dx II.

Pigeons. Stowe Lake. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019,. Canon 1Dx

Pigeons. Stowe Lake. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. 2019,. Canon 1Dx

Please consider joining us on one of our upcoming workshops. Enrollment is the key to continuing to offer these classes and keep the studio running. We hope to hear from you.

We would enjoy hearing from you. Email us any essay comments you may have.

On Commerce: A Few Questions from all of you.

What is affordable to purchase or enroll in right now?

Featured Print

Stephen Johnson Edition Print

At Stephen Johnson Photography

Gallery Talks: 50 Years of Space Photography

I did two talks at my studio on 50 Years of Space Photography on April 28, 2019 and on April 30 for the Bay Area Photo Exploration Society. They were enjoyable to give and others can be scheduled if groups want to be in touch..

My next scheduled space talk is for the Marin Photo Club on May 13.

This new space exhibition is shown in conjunction with my current show or original photographs “Life Form.” The joint exhibition is called "Other Worldly.

The upcoming Lighthouses of the Bay Area,, our RAW to Printing Digital Bootcamp workshops are open for enrollment now. Enroll while there is time and space!.

A few of the attendees at the April 30 Space talk at my Gallery. photo by Fiona McDonnell.

Other Worldly  Announcement pdf.

Other Worldly Announcement pdf.

I’ve always been drawn to historical photographs and maps. I’ve been collecting 19th century books, engravings and now making scans of photos and maps. Printed on just the right paper and sheen, the reproductions are often vey special in their own right. So I’ve decided to make some of these prints available as I print them and discover more.

The first few are from the San Francisco Bay Area, local to my home in Pacifica, We’ll make them both available as 8x10 ($35-$45) and 11x14 ($75-$85) with larger sizes available for quote. The Gallery of current offerings where you can place orders can be found here.

Current Exhibition

Life Form opened in the Main Gallery at Stephen Johnson Photography on July 21, 2018. The show has been extended through August 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 August 2019.

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)

I have been printing out nice copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights on rich cotton paper. You are welcome to a copy if you come by the gallery.

Additionally, I rescued a few Besleler Enlargers, a 23c and 4x5, hoping to find good homes for them. Make an offer.

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

A collection of photographs in and around Pacifica California. Include a trail map.

  • 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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