My Teaching Style

March 3, 2022

I'm often asked if I teach classes, workshops, or 1-on-1 lessons by photographers. Some are experienced in one area of photography but would like to learn more about landscape photography, while others are brand new photographers but aspire to create images similar to my own work. The answer, of course, is yes, I do teach, in all of the ways listed. I love teaching. I enjoy watching the lightbulb go off when a new photographer "gets it", and I enjoy watching the celebration a photographer does after successfully trying a new technique. I have found that different people learn differently. Some work very independently and simply want someone nearby that they can ask questions. Others prefer a much more directed approach, given step-by-step instructions, or having someone monitor their process to make suggestions. There is no wrong way to be a student. The key is to let the instructor know what you need.

 red and pink just before dawn at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine.
Sailor Take Warning

Marshall Point lighthouse awakens to a brilliant, fiery sunrise, as the sky glows with a radiant blend of red and orange hues. The lighthouse stands tall and proud, its white tower standing out against the vibrant sky. The colonial revival keeper's house, located in the background, adds a touch of history to the scene. Its classic architectural design, complete with a red roof and white walls, is a reminder of the maritime heritage of Port Clyde. The combination of the brilliant sky, the sturdy lighthouse, and the charming keeper's house creates a serene and picturesque image that transports the viewer to a peaceful coastal setting.

I try hard to find out how each student I work with likes to be taught. In 1-on-1 situations, it's pretty simple. In a group workshop, it can be a bit more difficult to know for sure, but I will generally state up front that I try not be overbearing. I know some instructors who stand over a student's shoulder, watching everything, making suggestions. In the end, the students tend to churn out work that looks exactly like the instructor's. To some extent, that can be expected- heck, there's a reason we choose to learn from the people we do! But at the same time, I try to give my students the tools to find their own way of seeing and photographing things. To me, it's more satisfying to see someone discover their style while working with me, even if it's completely different than mine, than to see a student learn to mimic my style.

The sun rises over the rocky coastline of Ogunquit, Maine along a path known as Marginal Way.
December Sunrise in Ogunquit

The rising sun burns through a marine layer of fog on Marginal Way in the coastal town of Ogunquit, Maine. As the sky above glows with yellows and oranges, a long exposure artistically captures the movement of water around the rocky shoreline as if painted by an artist's hand, showcasing the wondrous natural beauty of the coast of Maine.

I find it very easy to communicate the technical stuff. How do you know which shutter speed to choose? What should my ISO be? etc. Then I take that information and try to relate it to a creative approach, so that one not only knows how to set an exposure, but how to set the exposure to achieve the visual effect he or she wants. I take a similar approach with composition. Generally, I'll let the student work a few angles and ask what they're seeing. I try to aid them in seeing possibilities, rather than telling them "compose this way".

Sand dunes and Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Evening on Cannon Beach

Sea birds gather at sunset on Cannon Beach Oregon as Haystack Rock stands tall in the distance. Elevate your space with a fine art print of Evening on Cannon Beach, from Rick Berk's Coastal collection.

"He knows how to teach and share his knowledge and passion for photography. At the same time he knows how to step back and let a student do her thing. I have learned to be open to ideas and experiment, make my own mistakes too. But at the end of the day I have always had some shots I can be very proud of." - Deb S.

Waves crash against the rock formations on Bandon Beach at sunset on a summer evening in Oregon.
Bandon Fury

Limited Edition

The Pacific Ocean ferociously pounds the sea stacks at Coquille Point on Bandon Beach, Oregon at sunset on a late summer day. The setting sun has painted the sky a rich yellow-orange, while a fine mist hangs in the air over the beach, adding a peaceful contrast to this scene showcasing the raw power of Mother Nature.

Fine Art Limited Edition of 100 by Rick Berk from his Coastal Collection of photographs.

"Several times Rick has been able to identify I was struggling with a concept and switched his methods to suit my needs and way of learning. Above all, I believe it’s most important to Rick that his students learn the material and enjoy the process. His positive attitude and encouragement have been vital to my success as a photographer. His communication skills are impressive; he has been able to explain many complicated and technical subjects to me in a way that made me not only able to retain the information, but also able apply it when necessary." - Kristen Wilkinson

An old one-room schoolhouse sits under the night sky, photographed to show star trails.
Night School

A series of long exposures combines to show the movement of stars in the sky over the Maple Ridge Schoolhouse in Harrison, Maine. This image is the result of stacking 225 individual exposures, each one 30 seconds in length to record the movement of the stars in the sky. When combined, the image shows the path these stars take. When the North Star is in the image, the other stars will appear to circle in, showing the concentric circles you see in this image.

If you're in Maine or traveling here, and looking for some guidance in photography, feel free to contact me. I'm happy to set up a private or group lesson. And check out my upcoming workshops at BlueHour Photo Ventures!

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