Rebecca Wilks

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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Five Island Day

 Lone Walker, Santa Barbara Harbor

Anyone who has much experience with the Santa Barbara area knows what this means. 

There was rain, then wind, and the next day from Gibralter Rock, high in the foothills, we could see 5 channel Islands.  From West to East, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz (where a piece of my heart resides, but that's a story for another day), Anacapa, and San Nicolas (much further offshore.)

I have no images of that.  Sorry.  It is a dandy metaphor for a rare and special time, though. 

We had the privilege of showing our friends around this place which has everything. Except affordable housing.  Or integration.  Or winter weather. But I digress. In all seriousness, Santa Barbara is gorgeous, and an inspiration.

There's a quality of light there after a storm which I can only describe as crystalline.  The clouds move out quickly and the rising sun lights up the mountains in a way that brings to mind Homer's rosy-fingered dawn.  Pinker than our orange sunrises in Arizona.  Gentler.

 First Light, Mission Santa Barbara

Dawn at the Mission made us both gasp (just the two of us.  I never ask civilians traveling with us to stand around shivering in the dark waiting for the sun to come up.  I'd run right out of friends).

Here's wishing you a five-island new year. 

More California Christmas photos are on the website

Monday, December 17, 2012


 Barn, Pine AZ

I'm not normal. 

Some folks who know me are laughing, I know.

Think about it, though.  Normal people, on the weekend of December 15, are baking cookies, writing Christmas cards, decorating or [cringe] shopping. Many of them are even enjoying themselves.

My hostess in Pine Friday night was in fact baking cookies.  I don't know her well enough yet to predict whether she thinks of herself as normal.  No disrespect is intended.  Some of my best friends are normal.

After spending the night in luxury in Pine AZ, my friend Greg and I slogged around in the winter wonderland there, and in nearby Strawberry and points north.  At one point I was cruising through snow above my knees.  Fabulous.  My new Sorel boots were pretty great, too.

All the way home I was thinking of Sedona in the snow.  I couldn't resist heading up on Sunday.

West Fork 
There was about a foot of snow in the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, just a handful of people, and very few footprints further up the canyon.  I have a weakness for fresh snow piled up on rocks in the running creek.  

Sunset and Clearing Storm, Sedona

After a snack and hot chocolate at the remarkable Indian Gardens, the sunset and clearing storm over Mount Wilson was breathtaking.

Who needs normal?  Just don't be looking for a holiday card from me this year.

More images from this winter are on the website.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Lone Hiker in the Grand Alcove, Fifty Mile Canyon

"The Colorado Plateau selects it's people.  If chosen, you know; this landscape speaks to your emotions and spirit; you belong."  -Stephen Trimble

These adventures always begin with the mundane; food, sleeping bags, spare camera batteries.  Once we pull out of the dock at Wahweep Marina, though, the thrill starts to build. It felt like coming home.

Lake Powell is a place of contrasts.  Creating nearly 2,000 miles of coastline, it has flooded some (according to the old-timers) spectacular, mostly dry landscape.  I avoided the lake for years, thinking only of what was lost when the lake began to fill in 1963.  Five years ago I boarded a houseboat there for the first time and had a chat with the Navajo captain.  He made the point that it would be impossible to see much of this terrain without the lake to travel on.  In the end I decided that everything is a trade-off, and that since this water-hoarding, electricity-producing tarn isn't going anywhere any time soon, I ought to enjoy it.  Besides, water creates reflections, color and drama.

The houseboat experience is interesting, to say the least.  As camping goes, it's pretty cushy, with a bedroom (though a bit small at 7 X 7 feet for two of us and our stuff), bathroom (two shared by eight travelers) and kitchen on a 50-foot craft.  Speaking of the kitchen; our Captain, guide and chef Danny Woods (This Side of That Guiding Services) took such good care of us that we needed only to concentrate on the landscape.  Spoiled indeed.

 The dazzling lightshow in Clear Creek (Cathedral in the Desert)

Last light on the ridge above Padre Bay.

It never hurts to look down, at the tumbled cobbles delivered from distant mountains.

"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." -Loren Eiseley

Welcome Home.

More Lake Powell Images are here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bag Lady

I need to tell the truth about my camera bag problem.  I have a lot of them.  Like most addicts, I've been restless and unsatisfied.

Sometimes I need one for a specific purpose, like the water-resistant bag I got for the Grand Canyon raft trip.  It's frustrating, though, because I can't easily access the lower part of the bag and I won't get much more use out of it.  Then there's the big bag that will transport even my big telephoto lens on airplane trips.  It's perfectly sized for overhead bins in little prop planes.  In South Africa and Alaska the flight attendants really thought I'd need to gate check it. Thank goodness, no. It's big for hiking around once I get there, though, and has less structure and padding than I'd like.  I bough another bag specifically for carrying less gear on tougher hikes, but it's oddly designed and doesn't really hold much.

Until recently I had something like seven bags and was not really excited about any of them.

After recommendations from lots of friends, I've purchased a Think Tank Streetwalker Pro.  I thought this would be my minimalist hiking bag, and it does function in that way, but it holds a pro body and four lenses, with space to spare for all that other stuff, including compass, headlamp, cards & batteries, rocket blower, rain covers for camera and bag AND has a no-nonsense tripod holder and stretchy water bottle pockets on both sides.  It manages somehow to be little on the outside and big on the inside and (be still my beating heart) serves more than one purpose well.

I got so excited that I started a dialog with the company and I've become one or their affiliates.  That means that, if you're inspired to buy one of their products, you can use my code and get a free gift, and I get a little something too.  Think Tank is an innovative company and they've created a win-win for us.

If you're interested, you can use the Think Tank Link to enter the website as a Friend of Skyline Images.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park

I wanted that beer. 

I'm not a big drinker, but I'd been hiking into the hills around my campsite at California's  Joshua Tree National Park to photograph an arch rock at sunset and on the way back I was thinking about beer.  Before I left I took the cooler out of the car and put it in the shade with a wet towel over it.  I was aiming for evaporative cooling, river-trip style.

I forgot to consider that, in a dry environment, wildlife wants refreshment, too.  I came around that last corner and saw that the cooler was adorned with hundreds of bees.  I used an extended tripod leg to lift and move the towel, but most of the bees remained.

Not an irrevocable tragedy, I know.  It got fully dark, the bees went away, I ate and drank in the moonlight.

Cholla Garden Sunrise, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree, otherwise, was fabulous.  I spent a fair amount of time rock climbing there in the 80s and so was excited to come back with my camera and to have some shoulder season solitude in a magical place.  I got all that and giant granite boulders, otherworldly vegetation and sweet light.

Joshua Tree and Granite Slab

I got what I needed, just like the bees did.

More JT images are in the Desert Gallery on the website (the last nine).

PS - I didn't plan two posts "the Bird" and "Bees."  Really.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Bird

Let me get this out of the way first; the seagull image is real.  Its almost too good to be true, I know, that the bird is centered in the window in the rock, especially when you consider that I was shooting with the 2-second timer on my camera.  Don't get me wrong; this is exactly what I was visualizing.  It just happened before I had a chance to really work on it.

My long weekend on the Sonoma County coast was full of magical moments.  The terrain is particularly varied, with rugged coastal scenes, sweeping ridge views, vineyards, and dark green forests. 

I have to give some of the credit, too, to the guys who put this trip together.  Jerry Dodrill lives locally, is a tremendously talented photographer, and is the kind of guy who is followed around by a cloud of serendipity.  Justin Black, also an accomplished photographer and teacher, organizes these trips (he put together the Grand Canyon Raft trip, too) so well that he makes it look easy.  We know better, though.

Of course the adventure included sleep deprivation, cold feet from standing in the ocean (Bowling Ball Beach, above), attack of the killer blackberry bushes, and dodging poison oak (wait, maybe its NOT poison oak...)

This is my idea of a fabulous trip; Even if you don't count the seagull.

More images are in the trip gallery.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


 Sunrise, Watson Lake, Prescott

People often ask me "how many pictures did you take?"  Sometimes the question gets me thinking about how my workflow has evolved.  As time goes by, I take fewer.  Mostly.

Photographing wildlife is the exception.  It's all about high-volume bursts of activity, and a low ratio of keepers.

 Horse Ranch, Southern Yavapai County

In the past few weeks, in a attempt to escape the steamy purgatory we call Phoenix in August,  I've been on the road.  A little here, a little there.  Prescott, the Sierra Anchas, the Mogollon Rim, Flagstaff and near our second home in Southern Yavapai County.  It's been raining all over Arizona and at altitude, rain is pleasant.  Magical, even. Terrain is green.  Flowers are blooming.

You might think this would lead to scores of images but, in fact, I might have just one gem a day (sometimes none, in truth).

 Gathering Storm, Forest Road 418, North of Flagstaff

So, there are few, widely "sprinkled" images of my love affair with the high-country monsoon this year.  A monument to many things, one of which is knowing when NOT to shoot.

My favorite images of  summer wanderings are at

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Friends in High Places

August in the Phoenix metro area is uninspiring, or worse.  110s this week and humid.  Mosquitoes.  Perpetual air conditioning.

I have a very kind friend who issued an open invitation (last November, no less) to come up and photograph with him near his home in Pine, AZ (5500 ft elevation).  I accepted.  Sunday night I camped in 50 degree temps, and Monday we had a delightful day.

We shot sunrise at Woods Canyon lake, explored Tonto Falls and Tonto natural bridge, and he generously let me play with his infrared camera.  No great works of art there during my first attempt, but I had a good time doing it.

It was still hot when I got home, but my attitude was better.

Hey, Bear

That's  the suggested phrase, to be intoned in an authoritative voice, when a bear seems to be coming too close.  I have to say that once I saw the claws, teeth, and running speed of the Coastal Brown Bear (which is a well-fed and therefore larger Grizzly), my personal space with regard to the bears got a whole lot larger.

Fortunately, they're occupied with fishing for salmon; putting on weight for the coming winter.  They're not too interested in us.

We were, however, fascinated with them.  Four of us flew (I'm in love with float planes) each day to sometimes isolated places in Katmai National Park to photograph the majestic animals.  We were accompanied by an Alaskan Guide as well as our leader, pro photographer and bear expert Stan Cunningham.  The pilots didn't count, since they left us on the lake's beach and took off.

I'm guessing we saw 100 or so individual bears over four days.  In addition to being decidedly beautiful, they have easily distinguished personalities and complex social hierarchies. That is, they're interesting to watch.

There were some other fabulous opportunities as well, including images of eagles and osprey in flight, and an elk cow dropping a calf at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

Alaska has gotten under my skin.

Hey, Bear.

More images are on the website.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mental Health Day

I had a much-needed adventure yesterday.  Much needed.  Really.

I hadn't done any serious shooting in weeks and, my husband claims, I was getting cranky.  This is the closest thing I have to PMS, and it's not pretty.

I don't see patients on Mondays, but more often than not I spend them doing computer work, phone calls, and meetings.  Yesterday was a clean slate.

Road trip.

I had an early start and hiked the Kachina Trail in Flagstaff.  Never mind that the altitude (the trail head is at 9500 feet) hit me pretty hard; there was dew and a morning temp of 55 and there were wildflowers.  After lunch I heard a tornado warning (I couldn't make this stuff up) on the radio and decided to head down 89A to Sedona.

The clouds just got better and better, and I shot the redrocks with clouds from one of my favorite overlooks.

It was a terrific day and the crankiness is all gone...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Black & White

There are lots of reasons I've been revisiting some old favorites lately. 

Friends have suggested it, great old images have come into my mind, and I've been fiddling around with black & white conversions.  I don't think I'm quite obsessed, but that might just be denial speaking.

A number of these are images I've loved for years that never seem to have reached their potential.  They are eclectic to be sure; portrait, macro, wildlife, and landscape.

I'm thrilled to breathe new life into them.  If you enjoy these, there are more on the website.