Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Friday, October 3, 2014


Colorado Aspen Forest, With Jerry Dodrill

I’m just back from the San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado, a spectacular place to photograph fall color.  Yes, it was a beautiful trip, but this isn’t a travel log; I want to talk about something that this journey got me thinking about.

I’ve been pondering the finer points of teaching, and what a complex task good instruction can be. I was paying attention during this trip to the teaching style of Jerry Dodrill, one of my mentors.  He has a way of giving students just the nudge we need at just the right time.  At one point, I was working on something, and (in about 2 milliseconds) he suggested a change.  Yes, I had thought about visual pathways in images before, but hadn’t pulled that thought out of the back of my mind on my own.  Next time I will.  Anyway, I went back and recomposed and ended up with the first image here, which is much better than the others.  
First Autumn Snow with Jerry Dodrill
In the field and during critiques, I heard Jerry working with folks and making judgments about how much information to share (and thereby avoid that overwhelmed, ‘drinking from the fire hose’ feeling).  Meeting students where they are can be complex.  So can correcting and encouraging at the same time.

Pete Ensenberger, too, has given me some of the best critiques of my career and manages to nit-pick in a good, non-threatening way.  Instead of “What were you thinking?” for example, he might say, Well, that was a good experiment.”

There is, indeed, no substitute for mentor relationships, and I have been blessed with these and more.
Katmai NP (Alaska) With Stan Cunningham
The mentors whom I’d call naturalists show me whole new vistas on the world which enhance every aspect of a shoot.  They remind me that the more I know about Geology and Biology (for example), the better my images and my experience will be.  Here I think of Gary Ladd, BruceTaubert, and Stan Cunningham.

Then there are the structured thinkers, who hold me to a higher standard of composition and technical acumen.  Just when I think it’s good enough, they nudge me toward better.  Thanks, here, are due to Justin Black and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry.  
Hunts Mesa With Kerrick James
The adventurous have a good deal to teach me about daring to get out there and take a few risks.  My first response is often to be cautious, and teachers like KerrickJames lead by example, a little closer to the figurative ledge and sometimes literally close to the edge.

There are more of course, but you get the point.

Oh, and from everyone I learn about passion.

My  wish for you is passion and excellent teachers, and that you enjoy the Autumn images on

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