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The images in these galleries are photo-based art. By photo-based "ART" I mean that my intention is to create art pieces that are pleasing to view. Various means of producing this art, such as photography, cameras, film, tripods, computers, software, artificial lighting, models, setting design, darkroom or software manipulations, etc., are all just tools used to achieve an end. The great majority of what you see will be straight photography (i.e. what was actually in front of my camera) because that is the easiest and quickest way to create quality imagery but where I see the opportunity to change or enhance, and thereby improve, an image, or even combine multiple images to achieve an effect, I will not hesitate to do so. I am not a newspaper reporter or news photographer. I am producing art, not photographic documentation of events. I feel no obligation to be sure that my photos "show it like it was." For you news and photo-documentation folks, I would have no problem throwing a chair into the air...hurricane or no hurricane.

As for my tools...just as a painter does not list for the viewer the chosen brand of paint or the #00 brush used for a certain stroke, nor the weave of the canvas on which the paint is applied, I do not describe my tools either, not for the viewer of my work (for a student, of course, tools, technique...everything). I have successfully used cameras ranging from an old $16 Kodak Instamatic to low and medium priced digital cameras to an expensive RB-67 with its battery of lenses and medium-format film, and even an occasional view camera.

I have recently acquired a Canon 5D with a full-frame 35mm cmos chip and two stabilized lenses giving me a range of 24mm to 300mm of focal length. This new equipment solves a few problems that I have had in the past (especially, noise in low-light shots) but, honestly, due to the reasons outlined below, I don't expect more than 5% or maybe 10% overall improvement in my images, compared to the work that I have done with less expensive digital cameras.

WHY A BETTER CAMERA DOESN'T HELP MUCH: Whether you produce a basic photograph or an enhanced or manipulated image, 90% to 95% of the quality of a good photo or photo-based art, has nothing to do with the equipment used. The greatest influence on the quality of an image comes from choice of subjects, composition and camera angles, understanding and use of lighting and color, and enhancement and manipulation of the image before and/or after the shutter is released. All of these fall under what is often referred to as "creativity." F-stops, shutter speeds, tripods, etc. are technical requirements for technical quality of an image but they do not make it a great image or great art. Equipment, tools, etc. can never take the place of creativity. A fifteen thousand dollar camera in the hands of someone who cannot use it creatively will not "take good pictures."

Cliff Smith Galleries
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