Rebecca Wilks

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Scale and Perspective; Lake Powell

Kayaker, Rock Creek Arch, Lake Powell

Lake Powell is indescribable.  With words, sure, but sometimes also in photographs.  The shapes, the scale, the light can be very difficult to convey.

Man in the Landscape (Gary Ladd), Last Chance Canyon, Lake Powell
One of the lessons I’ve learned on the lake from my mentor Gary Ladd is to put people (often him) in the image.  The placement not only provides scale, but also a focal point since our brains are wired to find and focus on the human form.

Perspective; Great Alcove, 50-Mile Canyon, Lake Powell.  There's a human there for scale.
Another technique which can be helpful is varying perspective. A wider angle, for example, can give a whole new take on things.  I played with 8mm fisheye views during this last trip, and I love the way it shakes things up.

Cathedral in the Desert at several water levels (2012, 2014, 2015)
Time is another tool for gaining perspective.  After my 2014 Lake Powell trip, I wrote about the way the look of a place can change at different water levels.  Since I shot Cathedral in the Desert on each of three trips, it provides a fine example. From Left to right, the water levels are (in elevation above sea level; data provided by the U.S. Departmentof the Interior) 3620, 3575, and 3590 feet.

"Fat Man's Squeeze," Lake Powell
Finally, there’s the photographer’s trick of forced perspective.  With it we get close to the scene’s foreground to create the illusion for the viewer of being in the photograph.

Glen Canyon Natural History Association sponsors houseboat-based photo workshops in spring and fall (when the lake is uncrowded) for a remarkable price.  I’ve often wondered why this trip is not wildly popular and overcrowded, but perhaps part of the problem is that it does defy description.  You might want to go and see for yourself.

More images from the recent trip are in the Page and Powell Gallery on

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why We Go

Marco, Florentina, Alejandra, and me

Florentina graduated from high school a couple of months ago.  When we met her, she was twelve and painfully quiet, yet she had a steadfast determination.  She was our randomly assigned scholarship student through Cooperative for Education, which meant that we paid for her direct and indirect school expenses. The youngest of five, her education would have been out of reach, but Flor is just the kind of dedicated student that this program seeks.  

Statistics tell us that only 20% of Guatemalan kids make it through high school, but these numbers are skewed by the wealthy.  I'm certain that in the western highlands, home to indigenous families, the percentage is less than half that.  We're very proud of her.  She's looking for a job, using her bookkeeping skills from high school ("Diversificado"). We're mobilizing the few connections we have in Guatemala to help her.  Her dream is to attend University and study engineering, but she feels the need to get a good job first.  Her peers often work weekdays and do their collegiate study on weekends.  We told her we'd help her any way we can.

With Florentina when she was about 14
Flor was a little worried that, after seven visits, we might not see her again, despite having become Facebook friends.  After all, she had graduated from the scholarship program.  I suspect, though, that we'll be back. We just met our new student, Alejandra, who will begin Middle School ("Basico") next year.  She's thirteen and quiet like Flor was at her age.

One of my favorite moments from this nine-day trip (I'm on the plane home writing this) was at lunch with both girls and Jennifer Sands, a COED staffer who was enjoying lunch with us and helping us with translation.  My husband asked Flor whether she had advice for Alejandra.  We expected a few sentences, and we were delighted to see Flor step gracefully into mentor mode.  She spoke for twenty minutes about everything from study habits to the importance of following program rules like not having a boyfriend.  She'll be going to school in Flor's town, and I hope their relationship can continue in some form.

To read more about COED's work, which includes textbook, computer and primary school reading programs as well as scholarship support, please visit COED's website.  Who knows; you might want to help break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala through education too.

Perhaps you'll enjoy a couple more highlights of this trip.

Just after dawn, I love to watch the fishermen in their small wooden boats net fishing in the mist of Lake Atitlan.

The Tacaxoy family, who I met on one of my first trips, now has two kids with college under their belts with good jobs and fluency in three languages.  The younger two are still in school.  These kids were the inspiration for the COED scholarship program.  Along with their parents, they welcomed a group of us into their home and patiently answered our questions.  I was touched by the parents' well-justified pride.

Leaving a hotel in Antigua, we were delightfully delayed by a procession marking the second Sunday of Lent.  I've never been there for the elaborate displays of Semana Santa (Holy or Easter week) so I was thrilled to see a bit of the pageantry.  Elaborate sawdust carpets (alfombras) are created in the middle of the cobblestone street, only to be walked on by the human bearers of religious floats.  Purple robes, incense, and marching bands round out the experience.

Thanks for the read.  Please feel free to check out the Guatemala Gallery on the SkylineImages website.