Robert L. Wilks July 6, 1938- June 5, 2019

Here is the obituary for my father, Robert Lewis Wilks.

On Wednesday, June 5, 2019 Robert L. Wilks, husband and father of four children passed away at the age of 80.

Robert (known to many as Bob) was born to Louie Wilks and Lucile (Heiner) Wilks on July 6, 1938 in Tekoa, Washington.  He graduated from Tekoa High School in 1958.  He joined the U.S. Air Force soon after graduating high school.  In August 1963 he married Mary Louise (Farrington).  Together they raised four children, three sons; Douglas, Donald, Ronald and one daughter, Deborah.

Robert was sent to Thailand during the Vietnam War, spending much of his time fixing many of the jet fighter aircraft that were used in the war.  He did take many photographs of some temples and other unique buildings in Thailand when he had the opportunity.  He recorded his voice onto several reel to reel tapes and sent those tapes and letters home to his wife and young children.  He included at times in his letters home a hand drawn game of Battleship he played with his oldest son, Douglas. When the war ended he remained in the Air Force during the height of the Cold War moving several times to bases in the United States until his retirement in 1980, when he moved to Plains, Montana. He enjoyed fishing, listening to country music, watching some sports on television, target practice with rifles, and playing pool. He was an active member of the Plains VFW Post #3596 in Plains, Montana.

Bob was preceded in death by his father Louie, and his mother Lucile, and an infant daughter, Theresa.  He is survived by his wife Mary Louise (Farrington), his four children; Douglas (Plains, MT), Ronald (Polson, MT), Donald (Columbus, GA), and Deborah (Yuma, AZ), his three sisters; Wanda Burrell (Spokane, WA), Shirley Nichols (Spokane, WA), and Darlene Gardner (Oakesdale, WA). Many extended families live in Washington and many other states.

A military funeral service will be held on Thursday June 20, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. at the Plains Cemetery in Plains, Montana.  Flowers, cards, and donations may be sent to either 7774 MT Highway 200, Plains, MT or PO Box 1787, Plains, MT 59859.

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No Flash or Tripod Allowed

What do you do when you are at a location where you are not allowed to use flash or tripod?  In May of 2018 I was at the 50 Years of Star Trek exhibit in the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.  I was informed that flash would damage the items on display in the exhibit.  I also knew from doing my own research online that use of a tripod in museums is often not allowed and would be a trip hazard for people.

Fortunately for me I had my camera bag which contained my two lenses; an 18-55mm kit lens, and the very remarkable 70-200mm F4L IS Canon.  Walking around the exhibit taking photographs was a challenge in many ways; some original props were behind glass cases, others were suspended from the ceiling, and a few things were very close to one another and picking up the different lighting from a nearby display.

I had to stand off at an angle from the glass cased items in the exhibit and cropped the composition as close as possible.

This costume was worn by William Shatner in the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror.”

Above is the result of standing to one side.  The camera and lens details; Canon Rebel XS, 18-55mm, 1/4 shutter, F4, ISO 400.  It was necessary to use a higher ISO since flash was not allowed.

The really cool and amazing part of the exhibit was the large shooting model used for the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I had watched on You Tube many times the auction where the USS Enterprise 1701-D was auctioned off for an astounding $500, 000.  I wondered who had purchased it and what would happen to this piece of Star Trek history.  While at this exhibit I had learned it was bought by Paul Allen.  It was on display during this exhibit and here it is in this next photo.

The shooting model from Star Trek: The Next Generation.


I used my Canon 18-55mm lens braced on a solid metal railing to create this stunning photo of the USS Enterprise 1701-D.  The camera and lens details; 28mm, F8, ISO 1600, 1/25 shutter speed.

What an incredible experience for this Star Trek fan and photographer.  This was a once in a lifetime event that I was so very fortunate to see and photograph.  I will never forget the fun of seeing the many props on display from a franchise I have loved since I was 10 years old.

What museum would you like to see and if allowed, photograph?  Are you ready and able to use all of your camera and lens settings to compensate for no flash or tripod?  Are you confident in your skills to create fabulous tack sharp photographs of museum displays?


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The time since last blog entry

October 2017 was my last entry on this blog, until now.  I have been working with a private employer and dealing with some health issues with myself and a parent.  I have also been driving around on the ice and snow in the Montana winter, since my current job is not close to where I presently live.  I will be adding more content to this blog in the next few days and weeks, both writing and photographs.

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Putting Personality into Portraits

Leah Lindsay takes a moment at work to share her personality.

How do you get someone to share their personality in a portrait naturally and not have them pose?  I listen to the person and observe them over several minutes before I create a portrait that shows them and their personality.  This requires having the camera and lens with all of the settings correct and ready to go at any moments notice.  The above portrait of Leah Lindsay was taken while she was at work in the radio station.  We had planned on me seeing her at work, as I had to do some training for my job.  I would be in Kalispell on a day that she was in the studio and on the air.

We spent many minutes talking informally before and after this photo was taken. We caught up on what was happening in our personal and professional lives.  I also helped her tally the score on a call in competition she was holding at the time, where listeners chose between two classic rock bands as their favorite.  This was a very fun and relaxed photo shoot, which is what I prefer to do most often.

The Kohm family poses on the deck the day after Christmas in 2016.

I’d much rather have the individual or family in their own setting where they can be comfortable and acting much more natural.  The photo above was taken the day after Christmas in 2016 at the Kohm family home near Plains, Montana.  The snow was lightly falling and everyone was in very good spirits, even though it was a little cold.  I spoke with everyone several minutes before this photo was taken.  In the minutes before the photo I asked what kind of photos they wanted and where.  I  then encouraged them to all close their eyes and only open them after a count of three.  I waited one second more after the count of three, then captured this photo.  This trick works every time and is one that I learned from a professional photographer by reading his book, The Digital Photography Book.  A huge thank you to Scott Kelby, the author and photographer who has been an immense help with his easy to understand directions, tips, and suggestions on digital photography.

How often do you talk with and listen to the people you are photographing for a portrait?  Do you always have your camera and lens settings ready to capture the photo at a moments notice? Are the people you photograph for a portrait feeling relaxed, comfortable, and acting in a natural manner in front of your camera?

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Photographing Live Theater

Photographing live theater is a challenge and also very rewarding.  The obvious first step is getting the permission to photograph the play (don’t pass this step up, you must have permission).  Once you have the permission to shoot the play you will need to know some vital basic information; where the play is being held, what time is the play starting, where you can do the photography from in the audience, a list of the cast, the name of the play, and if flash photography is permitted or not (most often it is not).  Armed with this information you will need to decide the best equipment to use when capturing the actors during the performance.  I used a Canon Rebel XS and a 70-200 mm F4 IS L lens for all of the photographs you see in this blog entry (the settings are under each photo).

The play I photographed was Macbeth, performed by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks (link to their page: They tour  each summer in 61 communities, putting on two different plays for many people who may not be able to afford to see a live theater performance in a large city. The actors are very well trained and skilled in many ways; putting up the set, working with a variety of props, and dealing with the often unpredictable, weather conditions. They create a performance that is extremely professional and unforgettable.

Macbeth has just come from murdering the king, and others. Their blood is still on his hands as he speaks to Lady Macbeth.  (Canon Rebel XS, Canon 700-200 mm F4 L IS : ISO 200, white balance was cloudy, no flash, 173 mm F8, 1/60 shutter). 

In the scene above I focused on the eyes of the actor who played Macbeth and waited until he was looking at the audience.  At this moment in the play Macbeth is speaking to Lady Macbeth about the murders he has just done and the blood on his hands. When photographing a play be certain you have the actors isolated and are choosing the best moment that is crucial to the play.  You will need to be very attentive to the play and have your camera ready at all times, as action can occur rapidly.

Macbeth’s men and women fight to keep Macbeth safe. (Canon Rebel XS, Canon 700-200 mm F4 L IS: ISO 2oo, white balance was cloudy, no flash,  114 mm,  F8, 1/45 shutter) 

For this scene I did a light pan of the action in order to not entirely freeze the battle scene and keep at least one actor’s face in focus.  The IS on the lens was activated during the entire time of the play.  Notice the shadows in the foreground background, since this play started just after 6 p.m. (Mountain Time) and did not finish until 8:15 p.m.  Late afternoon and early evening clouds and sun can be a blessing and a curse to live theater and photography.

If you can be sure to select the best location to photograph the play and take your best lens.  Make sure you are using IS or firmly handling your camera, as a tripod or monopod may not be allowed or wanted (it could be an issue for the actors or those in the audience). Once you are seated in the audience, do not move from your seat.Think about how to photograph the play that will not interfere with those on stage or around you.

The camera battery was fully charged and I used a large memory card  (16GB, as I shoot most often in RAW file format) that had been recently formatted and had very few images on it.  I ended up taking over 300 images of this play and ended up editing 260 of those, then choosing only 59 for a video (here is the link to the video I made from the still images I took of this play: )

Some key things to remember when photographing a play; permission must be given to you (some plays may have equity actors who are paid, or the performance may not be recorded by any means), know where and when the play is being done (indoors or outdoors), use the best lens and settings for any lighting situation, don’t use any flash photography (it can be a distraction for the actors and audience, rather set your ISO to 400 or higher), pay close attention to the play (know what is happening and get the big scenes), don’t interfere with the audience (I was seated three rows from the stage and did not leave my seat or stand to get a “better photo.”)  Finally, do enjoy the challenge of photographing live theater.

Questions:  Do you think live theater is more challenging than sports?  How is live theater like or not like portrait photography? Would you rather shoot a rehearsal or a performance with an audience? How would you. or could you use the images of the play? Do you think photographing live theater poses different challenges than other events?


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Photographing Hummingbirds


The photograph here was taken using a Canon Rebel XS, 70-200 IS L F4 lens; ISO 200, F4, 1/90, and cloudy as the white balance.  I was holding the camera still and sitting inside the house.  The hummingbird feeder is hanging from a metal hook that is on an L metal just outside the living room window.  It was taken in the evening, at 5:47 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Time).

One of the keys to getting photographs like the two in this blog entry is being ready with your equipment; have the settings on your camera and lens set in advance, a fully charged battery, and plenty of room on your memory card (preferably a fast memory card).  Another thing to be aware of is the time that hummingbirds are most actively feeding, which is in the morning after sunrise and in the evening just before sunset.

I had been watching the feeder for several days and the hummingbirds were becoming more feisty.  From observing their behaviors in the evening at the feeder, I knew exactly the photographs I wanted to capture.  The trick was being patient and waiting for the hummingbirds to be there at the right time and right place. The next challenge was being fast enough with my camera to get the two photographs you see here.

I could have set up the tripod, camera, and lens with a cable release and had everything focused on one area. Though, to be honest that is not as challenging as trying to hand hold the camera and test my reflexes and timing.  In some ways capturing hummingbirds is similar to photographing fireworks and lightning.  You know about where the action will take place and you know what will happen; it is the movement of the action that is unpredictable and exciting.


This image of the hummingbird with the open beak behind the one at the feeder took a good deal of planning, skill, being patient, and some luck.  The evening the photographs here were taken these two hummingbirds had been flying around the feeder several times, chasing each other on one side or the other.  At times they would rapidly fly down below the window and then out of my eyesight.  Many other times they would fly up the side of the feeder and then higher and off to a large tree that is roughly 30-40 feet from where the feeder is located outside the living room window.  I spent anywhere from 30-40 minutes of time waiting, watching, and photographing the birds until I finally captured the two photographs in this blog entry.  It was well worth it, as the images here show.

Where is your hummingbird feeder placed?  Have you thought of moving the feeder next to a window?  How often do you photograph hummingbirds?  Do you know the proper ratio of sugar to water to create your own hummingbird nectar for the feeder?

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Small Bird Photography

Small bird photography can be a challenge, as they are very fast when they are in flight and feeding.  I learned how to photograph small birds from the inside of my home to increase the number of quality photographs.

I moved the bird feeder close to the living room window and sat in a comfortable chair inside the house with my Canon DSLR and Canon 70-200mm F4L IS lens.  I have tried using the aperature priority settings on the camera and learned those are adequate once in a while.  After many photos turned out to be slightly out off focus or completely blurred, I switched to the sports setting and used the burst feature.  The lens was set to auto focus and image stabilizer was turned on. I handheld the camera as I was taking the photograph.

Here is the result of the changes I made in the camera settings:

A Dark Eyed Junco has some bird seed on the beak and underneath as it sits in front of a bird feeder near Plains, Montana.

A Dark Eyed Junco has some bird seed on the beak and underneath as it sits in front of a bird feeder near Plains, Montana.

The photo was cropped close to show the bird and the bird feeder in the background.

How often have you seen birds at the feeder and wanted to get close photographs of them?Would you like to see the birds from the comfort of your living room chair?   Have you considered moving your bird feeder closer to a window?

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