Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

January 31, 2006 > In the eye of the beholder

In the eye of the beholder

by Pushpa Warrier

What may first captivate you about the work of freelance photographer Rick Smith is his unique perspective. Smith can transform a glass sky scraper - one you might pass by every day and hardly notice - an angular and beautiful work of art. He can peek beneath a pier - barnacles and all - and make it look inviting, a place to kick off your shoes, roll up your jeans, step into the water and explore.

From his shots of the Sunol hills and sunsets on San Francisco Bay to the delicate dewdrops discovered on the inside of a Calla Lily, Smith's work could be described as simply this: he captures the best in everything, from the mundane to the extraordinary.

"I see beauty in things...I love, patterns, people, faces..." Smith says.

Wildlife enthusiast, bird lover and photographer, Smith keenly observes life around him and then captures his unique point of view digitally using his Olympus E-300 D-SLR 8MP camera. Among his favorite subjects to shoot are wildlife, streetscapes and architecture.

He says he feels digital has the look and feel of film and loves the instant gratification factor. He uses natural light when he can and his darkroom is a computer with Adobe Photoshop CS.

"The creative part of picture taking intrigues me." Smith says. "The process of seeing something, getting a picture of how you'd like it to come out and then photographing it and having look like you imagined is an incredible experience. And when it looks even better than you imagined, that is the icing on the cake."

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Smith comes from a successful family of artists who have dabbled in everything from writing jingles for commercials to appearing on Broadway.

Smith's father, Herbert Smith, was an actor appearing on Broadway, and television commercials and shows "The Golden Girls" and "Candid Camera." He also taught drama in Beverly Hills.

Smith's mother, Sara Smith, was a concert pianist and his sister, Caryl Smith, is a master pianist and teacher. His younger brother, Jeff Smith, serves as a technician for the "The Bernie Mac Show" on Fox Broadcasting. Smith's older brother, Michael Smith wrote jingles for commercials that were featured in commercials for Greyhound and Pacific Bell. Today has his own recording studio in Jackson, California.

Richard says he has always loved photography, film making and cinematography. He attended film school at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California, and studied photography at the New York Institute of Photography.

During college, he directed television commercials, worked in prop departments for commercials and the motion picture industry and wrote and shot a public service announcement that ran on Public Broadcasting Service. His first love while he was in school, he says, was motion pictures and cinematography. At the time he only dabbled in photography.

Richard Smith has won awards for two of his works submitted for a worldwide contest held by Olympus. Smith's "The Almond Orchard" and "Spring" nabbed grand prize awards.

"Having to do something creative is to live life fully," Smiths said. "If I'm not creating, I feel I'm not growing."

Smith's interest in wildlife also runs deep. For two years he volunteered at a Tri-County Wildlife Care Center. There, he'd track what happened to the wildlife brought in such as birds, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, ravens and crows, to name a few. He noted how each animal was treated, whether it died or was set free. He remembers wildlife that had been tamed by residents in the area who would try to make the animal a pet - a crow that would scratch his head and land on his arm and a fox that would lie on his lap - something that is illegal.

Smith also served as volunteer at Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, a rescue center for all types of birds of prey including eagles, owls and hawks.

Smith has his own bird at home, an eight-year-old parrot named Mishka from Senegal, Africa. Mishka has been with Smith since he was a baby. Mishka communicates with Smith repeating phrases like "I love you" and asks "Are you sleepy?" or "Are you going to the shower?"

To view some of Smith's work, please visit and enter Rick Smith in the "Keyword" bar. Next, scroll down the list of photographers to "Rick Smith" and click on his name. A selection of links to his photos will appear on the left side of the screen. Smith's work can also be viewed in the Tri-City Voice.

Richard Smith can be reached at (805) 300-1098 or at

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