Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography
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Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

4.4 5
by Stephen Johnson

"We are in the Stone Age of digital photography. We've figured out how to make some tools, but it is just now beginning to dawn on us what we might do with them. I've often been frustrated at the concentration on the technical aspect of digital photography with so little discussion of the aesthetics and heart behind the image making. This book is essentially a


"We are in the Stone Age of digital photography. We've figured out how to make some tools, but it is just now beginning to dawn on us what we might do with them. I've often been frustrated at the concentration on the technical aspect of digital photography with so little discussion of the aesthetics and heart behind the image making. This book is essentially a distillation of what I've been teaching over the last 25 years."

Master photographer Stephen Johnson has been taking beautiful landscape photography for decades, and teaching others the practical art of image making since 1977. While he started out with traditional film camera techniques, Johnson is widely recognized among his peers as a pioneer of digital photography. Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography chronicles his ride on the bleeding edge of this medium's evolution, and provides a practical in-depth introduction to digital photography that offers the latest techniques for beginning and experienced photographers alike.

What sets this guide apart from other books on the topic is its approach and execution: This isn't a Photoshop book, although Photoshop has its place within the book; it's a book that a master teacher and photographer creates after a lifetime of showing others how to understand and make great photography. With 5 color photographs throughout, including black/gray duotones, and 715 illustrations reproduced with a 200 line screen, Johnson's book covers everything from:

  • The basics of digital photography
  • Film camera techniques vs. digital
  • Practical approaches of the filmless photographer
  • Techniques of the digital darkroom
  • A photographer's digital journey
  • Photography, art and the future
  • This is a holistic work (and method for teaching) that embraces the state of photographic tools and techniques, blended with suggestions and experiences on why I make photographs, Johnson says. At its best, photography rides that crest where technology and art intersect. But the deepest engagement that photography can bring remains its ability to capture and hold a moment before the lens. In this age of digital manipulation, that fundamental fact must be remembered.

    Editorial Reviews

    The Barnes & Noble Review
    This is a passionate, deeply personal guide to digital photography by a true legend in the field. If you've been fortunate enough to participate in one of Stephen Johnson's seminars or to view his breathtaking national parks landscapes, you know his book has the potential to be truly extraordinary. And so it is.

    Johnson teaches sophisticated technique without ever losing track of art. You will learn powerfully important things about digital sensors and high dynamic range photography; about multi-exposure panoramas and scanning; about tone, layers, and Photoshop curves; about Camera RAW Workflow and honest restoration.

    He roots digital photography deeply in its historical context without ever losing sight of the present -- or the future. He also captures the deep importance of digital photography -- and its ethical implications -- without ever becoming pretentious. And the images? No words suffice. Bill Camarda, from the November 2006 Read Only

    Product Details

    O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
    Publication date:
    Product dimensions:
    8.50(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.80(d)

    Meet the Author

    Stephen Johnson is a photographer, designer and teacher. His photographs have appeared in numerous publications including American Photo, Audubon, Life Magazine, Landscape Magazine, Pacific Discovery, Sierra Magazine, U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times, to name a few. Internationally recognized as a digital photography "pioneer," Johnson's photographs are part of the permanent collections of many institutions including the Oakland Museum, the Getty, the City of New York, Apple Computer, and the National Park Service. Also known as a masterful educator, he has been running a workshop program 25 years, and has helped to build a wondrous portable digital lab, the "Magical Digital Bus". Among his many awards and recognition for his groundbreaking work was his induction into the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2003, grants from the NEA, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, California Arts Council, Adobe, Apple and many others.

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    Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Having studied Stephen Johnson's new book on Digital Photography for a while now I can say that it perfectly fits that gap in the market for a book that homogenizes the current digital workflow into a meaningful experience for the photographic artist at both amateur and professional level. Of course it draws heavily on Steve's own practice and experience a a digital pioneer, but this is what makes it such a compelling and passionate read. I think he uses the history and technological development of photography as a framework to place the recent and current state of digital imaging in context.The book is beautifully illustrated in the main with his own large format digital work and excellent graphics. While it is not another book on photoshop, it does address key software elements that have a real relavance for photographers. As a teacher for many years I can say that it is a very welcome addition as a recommended text for students of photography and digital imaging and an informative read for professionals. I think that a previous reviewer, Samuel Kochansky misses the point about the book, it is a unique expression of experience, Stephen Johnson's unique experience. His accusitation of 'prohibitively expensive equipment' is beside the point, he was one of the first to see the potential of digital over analogue. I am sure traditional film based photography will be with some of us for some time to come but the control over the image in terms of exposure range and colour fidelity offered by a digital workflow leaves film a long way behind. If you love photography and want to learn something of the potential of going digital, buy this book.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Disappointment is reading this largely self-advertising tome is what I would say to those looking for a book that is supposedly designed for inspiring the reader. I expect a book to present new and challenging ideas that we artists call a muse but instead I was presented here with the rehash of how Johnson acquired prohibitively expensive equipment from manufacturers to create those images with which we are already familiar. This book presents nothing new and should only be required reading in a history of photography or media course at the lower university level. While Stephen Johnson is most assuredly an accomplished artist in his field, he should look to writing a book that can homogenize the current digital workflows into a meaning experience for the artist at both the amateur and professional level. I expected a unique expression of experience and instead was presented with old news and boring facts. As an artist/educator practicing this craft we call the photographic arts, I can attest that digital technologies are tools as were pieces of cardboard on a wire used in the darkroom, but film is not dead just because Johnson says it is. This book is not worth the admission price--I expected more.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This is a truly fascinating book. Rather than just another How-To book on digital photography, the author takes the reader on a journey through a history of ¿digital imaging¿, shows how the same principles of ¿classic¿ photography apply to digital photography today, and examines what the future may hold. According to the author, we are still in the stone age of digital photography¿we are only now becoming aware of some of the tools that are available. He speculates, ¿just imagine what the future holds¿. Digital photography actually has its ancestors in the cathode ray tube, the television, and even radar. Rudimentary sorts of digital cameras were used in the Voyager space programs. In any case, the digital camera you use today owes a great deal to these early ancestors. Understanding this history is important, so that the workings of modern digital cameras is understood. While digital photography does not use a darkroom per se, as in classic photography, a computer running Photoshop can act as a digital darkroom. In this section, the author discusses some of the common techniques used in a ¿digital darkroom¿. Interestingly enough, many of these techniques have a direct counterpart in classic photography. It is fascinating to see so many similarities. Finally, there is a very interesting discussion on photo doctoring, ethics, and what the future may hold in this regard for digital photography. In this section, the author shows a doctored photo of President Clinton shaking hands with an alien (courtesy of the Weekly World News), and even more insidious, a doctored photo of John Kerry and Jane Fonda together at an anti-war rally (the photo of John Kerry was taken in 1971 the photo of Jane Fonda in 1972). Through these examples, it becomes clear what a huge moral responsibility photographers shoulder. This was a great book¿not only to read about some of the history of photography, but to also see a master at work on his own photographs. This is one of the most insightful, interesting, and educational books I have read on digital photography, or even photography in general.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This is a book for anyone who is a photographer, either professional or amateur. It is also the photography book for the 21st century. Now that film is pretty much dead, both for the camera and darkroom, this book is essential for understanding the new digital technology. Stephen Johnson was there at the creation, and this book takes you through all of the necessary steps for understanding and working in the digital format. The book is extremely well written. The language is clear, the illustrations are beautiful. I have taken several workshops with Stephen, and as others have said, he is superb teacher. In fact he is responsible for getting me started on the path of digital photography, and teaching me how to scan and print some my old black and white negatives from Appalachia. This has resulted in several exhibits, including a major one a University of Kentucky next year. In the last few years, I have bought several books on digital photography, but this the one I will keep close to my computer. A final note: I used to teach photography at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, if I were still teaching (now emeritus), this would be my textbook of choice. It is simply superb.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Reviewing Steve¿s new book on digital photography is like standing with your camera at the rim of the Grand Canyon¿where do you start? His book is a comprehensive and artful blend of the technical history behind the electronic communication technology that led to digital image capture essential information on digital imaging technology and its benefits without ¿tech speak¿ a compendium of helpful hints for beginning to advanced photographers a practical guide to the commonly used Photoshop features and their application the essentials of color space and color management an introduction to image restoration grounded advice on composition and creating strong images his quintessential philosophy on image manipulation the challenges that face photographers in the digital age and a finish that leaves the reader with a small piece of his passion for the photographic arts. This book is destined to be a reference book for anyone serious about digital photography. It creates a step-by-step pathway for anyone to follow leading from ¿seeing¿ the image, capturing the image, and on through the entire technical process of realizing the final print. It is written in simple, easy terms and steps. Steve is thought-provoking on some controversial topics, yet gentle in how he presents his style and philosophy behind his vision. Anyone, whether beginner or advanced, in photography can learn something valuable in this work. Those new to digital photography will find this book extremely helpful. This book is particularly poignant for me since being one of his students in three of his workshops during the past two years. His passion is genuine both in the field and throughout this book. Steve is instrumental in helping me ¿see¿ better and this book further reinforces the precepts of a gentle teacher. Stephen Johnson is the father of digital photography. Thanks, Steve. I highly recommend this book.