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San Clemente Journal

Digital Imaging as an Art Form

Feb 02, 2007 10:20PM ● By Don Kindred
by Bill Thomas

Jeff Lewis’ lifelong passion for photography began when he received his first camera at eight-years-old. Soon, he turned the family bathroom into a darkroom. As he grew up in an Orange County housing tract surrounded by orange groves and eucalyptus trees, capturing pictures of reality was his continuing hobby. 

“I had several different careers before this one as a professional photographer,” Lewis admitted. Following his parents, the first one was in real estate sales. Soon he obtained his broker’s license and entered the resale business with the first private company in Mission Viejo. “My next career was as a pilot,” he attested. “I had always wanted to fly.

Jeff Lewis.To enter the commercial aviation business, Lewis returned to school, undergoing specialized training in various aspects of aviation including navigational instruments and flight instruction techniques. As he came closer to his goal, charter flying and corporate plane piloting, the requirements for an airline pilot’s license, became more intense and complicated, forcing Lewis to move into his third career - the sales and marketing of manufacturing and aerospace components, which, over the years took him throughout the world. In large part, it enabled him to combine and enrich the knowledge he had gained in both real estate sales and in aviation.

However, in all the positions Lewis held, photography continued to be an applied skill in the development of catalogs, the creation of aerospace equipment (marketing packages with professional photographers), and essential visual record keeping. His industrial work always managed to combine itself with still and motion picture filmmaking. 

Two other significant continuing and creative experiences have also guided Lewis’ professional life. As a youth, he observed the actual structural building of the Disneyland complex in Anaheim from atop a eucalyptus tree. He used large nails as a ladder. 

“I was enamored with everything about Disneyland,” he reminisced. “Walt Disney was actually very instrumental in the development of my personality. Watching Disneyland grow made me a lifetime follower of Disney-like things. He influenced my life. I followed his creative activities closely, his television shows, his development of theme parks, his motion pictures. Many of my school reports were related to Walt Disney or Disneyland. Later on, my business reports reflected on the Disney business model.” 

Lewis’ second major commitment was returning to school to begin college at 28. “The first day of classes at National University, education became my newest passion. I couldn’t get enough of it,” he recalled. “I finished my bachelor’s degree in business, specializing in industrial relations and human development, attending at night and on weekends, in three and one-half years. I loved every minute of it.” Lewis was valedictorian of his class.

When digital photography began to threaten the unprotected world of 35-millimeter film cameras, Jeff Lewis, with his considerable background in technology, also made the plunge. “Digital photography gave me the opportunity to combine my love of photography with all my life experiences,” Lewis remarked. 

Jeff’s pier photo installation at Disney Resorts.It was a juxtaposition of his background. Rather than the reproduction of a real life image, he saw an opportunity to play with the texture, the influences of meteorology, and capture his love of the ever-changing skies and earth he had observed for so many hours from an aircraft cockpit. 

“I look for the potential of further development rather than just the image I see,” Lewis said. “The range of control one has with digital photography is endless.” 

Jeff made a complete transition from film to digital, mastering a Canon 1Ds Mark II, 16.7 megapixel camera with L series lenses. He uses Epson large format high-end inkjet printers to produce his giclee reproductions. Geclees are the results of high quality scans of original photographs printed with specially formulated inks that insure stunning results of tone, depth and color. 

A beautiful image over North Beach.Two years ago Lewis opened his San Clemente gallery, Optical Delusions. His work has already attracted several local “beach row” collectors who consider his work as “investments in art.” He has exhibited at Irvine’s Pro Photo Connection and has pictures hanging on the walls of Walt Disney resort hotels, a fitting tribute to his early Disney attachment. His works also appear in Buena Vista, Colorado, where he records his affection for the high elevation mountains and the river that runs past his 1929 vacation cabin. Prices of his giclees productions range from $160 to $6,000, depending on the subject and how much Lewis has “doctored” each image in his individualized fashion. His photographic subjects range from a solitary, gnarled ancient tree trunk still surviving in the Colorado Rockies to panoramic views of San Clemente’s surroundings that look better than the real thing. The reflections of waves, of color patterns across the sand, the cloud formations, the framework of pylons under the pier, the dark silhouettes of beachgoers against a darkening sky, the power of a rough flowing ocean, and his favorite, “The Lord’s Pier” – are the images that Lewis not only captures but enhances with his digital technology techniques. 

“I digitally hand paint my works,” he confesses. Proceeding with “meticulous printing techniques,” every single print becomes a “one-of-a-kind” original, even to the extent of combining several shots of the same subject in one reproduction. His promotional brochure states: “Every finished work comes from a place within me that I cannot fully identify or explain. I am honored and humbled each time one of my finished works leaves my galleries. I thank my creator every day for giving me the tools to express my vision to others.” b
Contact Optical Delusions at 369-9525 or visit