Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

The List

I keep location lists.  They live in my photography idea notebook with blog post notes and random thoughts.  Mostly I’ve gone digital, but this last analog exercise is still valuable.  I’ll admit to enjoying the crinkle of the paper and the smell of the ink.  There are intangibles too, which help me to get my thoughts together.

None of my series of lists is as robust nor has had as many incarnations as the Death Valley files.  Each time I make camp on the last night there, I make notes about what I missed, and I supplement these as I do research in the interim, pouring over maps and guidebooks.  Death Valley is remarkably large (just slightly smaller than Connecticut) and has about 1,000 miles of road, only about 300 of them paved.

My rig can handle quite a bit, but some roads require higher clearance and a shorter wheelbase.  I’ve long thought about renting a jeep (easy to do in the park) for some of these remote locations.

As an aside, last January a prominent Mojave Desert guide and writer posted on social media that his jeep and computer needed repair.  We struck a deal that I would send a deposit for guiding the next season, a sort of advance.  I thought I’d help the guy out.  Our arranged dates were December 9-10 and, to shorten the story, he didn’t show and has not responded to me since mid-November.  I’m working on getting the money back, and on a plan to get to those places on my own or perhaps with a particular kind Jeep-driving friend.

Panamint Playa, Lake Hill Road
Many years ago I scouted Lake Hill Road, and an overnight there to shoot the textures in the playa has long been on the list. I was on my way there in February of 2014 when my rig died.  Though we’re still not sure what the problem is, I have learned to carry 7.5A low profile automotive fuses to replace #15 under the dash.  I mention this because I thought the problem was solved; the last blow was in October of 2014. Sadly we had another this trip. 

I finally got there this month and loved shooting the mud cracks.  This location has rolled over to the next list; I have unfinished business.

There are other places, like some of the more remote dune fields, that I can’t get enough of.  Dunes without footprints are a great joy, and we found a new dune field this trip.

Darwin Falls
Keane Wonder Mine
For other places, once is enough.  Some, like Harmony Borax Works or the Keane Wonder Mine (recently reopened) are fascinating historically but not spectacular photographically.  Others, Like Darwin Falls, are a pleasant diversion, but tough to depict in an original way.  These places don’t make the next list.  I’ve put the Goldwell Open Air Museum down as a one-timer for next time.  I’ve long been curious about the ghostly Last Supper sculpture, especially.

Slot Canyon, unnamed on my map.
As much as I prepare, there are always explorations that result from looking at maps and saying, “I wonder…”  or hiking to a high vantage point and seeing something I hope is worth hiking to.  This canyon is one of those.

The lesson here, I suppose, is the advantage of having a depth of knowledge about a place. I figure I've spent a collective 6-8 weeks here, and I'm nowhere near done.

I’ll be back in January.  There are plenty of ideas on my list.

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


  1. I'm in on the jeep rental. DEVA is like GRCA in how much diversity there is to see. Excellent slot shot. I have so much more to learn about sand.

    1. Thanks, G. Sand is awesome. We should explore DV together some time.