Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

Alamos, Sonora Mexico

View from La Mirador, viewpoint above Alamos
One of the places Dr Elizabeth Petit goes to provide health care to Guarijío natives in Sonora and Chihuahua Mexico requires two days ride on horseback.  We didn’t do that ride, but our little group feels a bit battered after driving just two hours (and maybe 45 minutes of it on an eroded dirt road) out of the lovely city of Alamos, Sonora.  Burapaco and Mesa Colorada, our destinations, are the most easily reached of the places “Dr. Betsy” and her team are committed to serve. 

Church Clock Tower, Alamos.
Dr Betsy is rather well-known in Alamos, where her base camp is located.  Barbara Kiernan, a member of the Catalina (Tucson) Rotary Club met her during her extensive travels in Mexico and is writing and fundraising for a Rotary Foundation Grant to provide supplies for the Clinic’s work in these remote villages. Barbara, too, is a determined sort, and the two of them make an impressive combination.  These grants provide matching funds and have strict criteria for approval.

Dr. Elizabeth Petit
I was there last weekend in my capacity as Grants Chair for one of the two Rotary Districts in Arizona and, if I’m honest, because this trip sounded like a rare adventure.

Guity and his Paella
Rotary Global Grants require that clubs in at least two countries collaborate.  The “Host Club” for this project is the Rotary Club of Navojoa, about an hour’s drive from Alamos.  We were hosted by this 22-member club for a Paella lunch (Guity, shown here with his creation wins contests with his secret recipe) and to hear about their work in the community.  While many service clubs volunteer and donate money to good causes, these guys (for they are all men, common in Mexican Service Clubs) run a first-rate day care and are building a Boys and Girls club, one of only 6 in Sonora so far.

Women warming the tamales, Burapaco
We gringos followed Dr Betsy in her Toyota FJ into Burapaco.  She drove a little faster than we, but each time we’d catch up with her talking with a couple of cowboys on horseback or a mother with her daughters.  She invited them to join us for tamales she’d brought, and by the time we arrived, there were 80 or more people there to enjoy the 40 tamales.  Not to be deterred, we cut each in half and the Americans deferred eating to the locals.   
Meeting under a tree, Burapaco

Dr Betsy draws a map
Elizabeth took advantage of the captive audience (gathered in the shade of a tree) to explain her plans for the rural health system, complete with a map drawn in the dirt with a stick and with an emphasis on community ownership of the project.  

Curandera Cornelia, Mesa Colorada
Among the audience is Cornelia, the local Curandera (traditional healer) who is an integral part of the health plan for this village.

There’s more to say about this trip, like good cheap street tacos and sunset on the beach in San Carlos, but you’ve heard the important part.  Please let me know if you’d like to get involved.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Consolation Prize

Winter storm coming through Powell Point, Grand Canyon
 When the skiing is not good in Utah, my husband and I have some of the best adventures as self-imposed consolation prizes.  Once when we were there already we spent a day on Antelope Island.  Another trip we canceled altogether and hit the road for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

After last week’s cancellation we camped at Grand Canyon’s South Rim in anticipation of a small snowstorm Tuesday night.  South Rim can be prohibitively busy in the warmer months, but much quieter this time of year.  I especially enjoy the opportunity to drive my own vehicle on Hermit Road, which is accessible only by bus March-November.

El Tovar Hotel Fireplace
As much time as I spend here, I forget that my husband has only experienced the South Rim twice.  So, when the light was not great, we took the opportunity to do some non-photographic stuff like ranger programs, museums, and what we called the “Fireplace Tour;” Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Desert View, and Hermit’s Rest.  Great places to warm up, and three of the four Mary Colter designs.  I think his favorite was the Kolb Studio Tour, an opportunity to see not only the photography studio and art exhibit, but also the residence of the Kolb Brothers (and ultimately Emery and family), who took photographs and showed a movie about their Grand Canyon adventures for 61 years.   Emery died in his 90s in 1976.

We also enjoyed a visit with photographer friends from California and Georgia, who were in to do a workshop with Adam Schallau.  I admired his work, and it was a pleasure to meet this gracious guy.

All three sunsets this trip were grey.  That’s the nature of this kind of photography; you never know what you will or won’t see.

Sunrise light, undisclosed viewpoint, Grand Canyon
One sunrise was spectacular, though; worth the hike in the dark to a place where no one else was.

And then it snowed.  I was so excited that I woke at 4:30, opened the door, and tested the snow depth on the camper’s back bumper; only about 1 ½ inches, but I knew we’d have a show once the light came up.  People tend to hope for sunshine at the Canyon, but really there’s nothing like these rare storm conditions to show it off.  Snow changes everything for the better.  It is, as my Ranger friend says, like winning the lottery.

Clearing winter storm, Grandview Point, Grand Canyon
We spent the morning driving and walking the rim, and it was over an hour before we saw another soul, a man riding a bicycle on Hermit Road.  He must have been going to work – there’s no way he’d be doing that for fun!

The ebb and flow of cloud and fog was beautiful for hours, and I stayed much longer than I had planned.  Weather like this trumps all but the most important appointments back in the city.

More images from this trip are in the Winter 2017-18 Gallery on the website.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Monthly Favorites 2017

A Very Good Year

Welcome to the sixth annual year-end monthly favorites blog.  Editing our own work is a great exercise for photographers, and like most exercise, is a bit painful.  

 In the process, I find gratitude.


It rained in Death Valley, more than a little, last winter.  Weather Underground shows 2 1/3 inches over the three months, and I think my friends and I got most of that during a January trip.  It was chilly (Chuck’s Whiskey helped) and we spent a fair amount of time waiting for the gloom to clear.  On my last morning, we braved the assault of the wind to find reflections in standing water on the Badwater Salt Flats, a rare and lovely sight.


Guatemala.  Our enthusiastic guide told us to wait a little while longer.  It was late, and we were tired of sitting still.  Then Vulcan Fuego erupted for us.  Once.  This is a 25 second exposure and I’m rather glad I got it right, as the show was over that quickly. There are tons of images of schoolkids (the real reason we go) which I love, but I thought you might enjoy a different kind of image and a different emotion.


Lucky me.  I won this trip in a charity raffle; I’ve always wanted to see Charleston and Savannah. This one has a certain elegance, and I stumbled on this spot, despite all the meticulous planning I did for the adventure.  I find it foreboding, yet it beckons me in.


Quiet time on my own, shooting the jagged mountains and cactus bloom in Kofa National Wildlife Preserve. This one is admittedly a novelty.  It makes me smile, though.  This, the first time I played with the glass sphere, was the day I learned that focused sunlight is hot.  Very hot. Ouch.


My first trip to the area which had just been designated Bears Ears National Monument.  I’d tacked on a few days after the Moab Photo Symposium with a friend.  We did a superficial tour of the area, which included Muley Point, the vantage Point for this image.  There’s so much more to see.  That’s the San Juan River in the foreground and Monument Valley further away.  Then we drove back to our hotel and I nearly hit a black cow in the dark.  One of many hazards of outdoor photography.

Incidentally, we were at House on Fire, a famous Anasazi ruin in the area, on the same day the Secretary of the Interior was scheduled to visit.  Apparently the need to preserve these precious places did not impress him, as the Monument has been recently decreased in size by 85%.  Stay tuned, though, these changes are likely to be held up in court for some time.


A selfie.  Does that make me a narcissist? 

Cape Final is a fairly easy trail on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.  Once each season I pull a backcountry permit and spend the night out there.  The Park Service only issues a permit for one party per night and I am the party.  What a lovely spot to be alone.  This was the first time I used my camera’s smartphone remote control app.  I had a lot of fun with it, and appreciated not having to run back and forth in under 10 seconds. 


Home sweet Home.

San Clemente, where I grew up, has what’s called Ocean Festival each July.  It’s fun but loud and busy.  I appreciated a little stroll when it was all over, Monday at dawn.  This one triggers all my senses; cold sand, the salt smell, and the marine layer retreating from the green ocean. 


Crazy Jug Point, Kaibab Forest, bounced light, dawn.  My shoulders are relaxing just looking at it.


White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  This was part of a trip with friends, old and new.  I felt rather decadent being driven and cooked for by Dreamland Tours.  Usually I do all that myself.  WP is delightfully weird, and I’m sure I’ll never tire of the place.


This is fun; essentially the same stretch of forest road in August and September.  I love autumn and the magic of changing seasons in general.  I appreciate the way the August image includes a puddle with reflections.  It was a delightfully wet monsoon week for me.


Dog Point, Kaibab National Forest.  Sunrise backlight, Marble Canyon, Navajo Mountain.


Alstrom Point, High above Lake Powell.  This was what passed for Thanksgiving for my husband, dog, and me this year. The light had been mostly underwhelming until our last morning.  This, though, made me smile.


There were some mishaps on this trip to Death Valley, but it remains a joy to be in one of my favorite places.  This image is made up of manually-blended shots because it was not possible to keep all four dunes in focus at 175mm focal length.  The subtle morning light captivated me, and still does.

Thanks for coming along for the ride this year.  Stay tuned for the new adventures.