Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, February 6, 2015


What I see is not necessarily what you get.

Many of us landscape photographer types are trying to convey not just what we saw but what we felt out there in that special place; what it was really like.

The problem with that quest is that perception is individual.  When I look at my image, I not only see but feel, hear, and smell the scene.  You can only look, and to make matters more complex your perception is likely unrelated to your aunt Millie’s.

I got thinking about this can of worms in the shower today in relation to this first example made last October on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.   As I get distance from the event, I think that, if it were not my work; if I hadn’t been there, I’d think this was a warm peaceful sunset enjoyed over a nice bottle of Italian wine or chocolate milk.  The fact is that it was gusting 50-60 and I actually got knocked over by the wind once.  My eyes were watering so much that I was squinting.  I feared that I wouldn’t get anything in focus and had no idea whether I did because I couldn’t see the LCD screen on my camera.  All I wanted to do was go hide in the car.  I’m glad I didn’t; I like this image. I doubt that it transports you to that literal place though.

Here are two examples to make a slightly different point.  Only the camera can see these scenes, as is often the case with longer exposures.  They are real, in the sense that there’s no Photoshop magic involved (well, not much), but my friends and I never saw this except in our imaginations.  The first portrays four seconds in time and was one of many, many exposures I made that morning at Pfeiffer Beach, trying to capture this appealing pattern of lines.

Similarly, the head and tail lights of these cars would not have looked this way if you were there and sober.  The shutter was open so long, 30 seconds, that the vehicles attached to those lights are invisible.  What kind of portrayal of reality is that?  Still, I rather like it and the way the orange on the horizon (by then invisible to the human eye as well) plays off the light trails.  The camera made the invisible visible and also did the reverse.

Finally, there are the views which are only ephemerally fantastic. I wish, for these scenes on Lake Powell and on the Colorado River below Hoover Dam, that I also had what would be deadly dull images to share after the light had passed.  Every good outdoor image is about timing and light but some like these show that a generally mundane subject can be transformed by light and sometimes just for a moment.

In the end I suppose I’m glad that you experience something different that I and Aunt Millie do.  I’m glad that your experience is your own and I’d love to hear about it.