Rebecca Wilks

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

Monday, October 24, 2016


Sapsucker Woods
Standing in that deep limestone gorge in Central New York, it occurred to me that this place is about as different from the desert southwest as it gets.  Despite what the locals are calling a severe drought (not quite as severe as Southern California), my shoes got well-coated in mud each day and the grasses are all thick and green.  It's all relative.

Contrasts are great for stirring up my creativity, as is the sense of awe when around each corner are mind-boggling colors and elegant waterfalls.

The finger lakes region of New York is peppered with "Glens," narrow valleys which generally contain watercourses.  Some of this year's locations were old friends and others were delightful new discoveries. 

As the old joke goes, they're all gorgeous.

These chasms are so narrow that they make me feel as if I’m shooting underground.

I have family in Ithaca New York, and they are enthusiastic, generous, and patient with all the standing around inherent in photography (at least we're going to lovely places), just not so much into leaving the house in the predawn dark.  I make those trips on my own and try to minimize the creaking I create on the stairs on the way out. 

Treman State Park
First on my list was Enfield Glen, part of Treman State Park.  My last autumn trip was in 2013 and the gorge was closed because it had washed out.  Treman has some of the best examples of the depression era stonework found in these parts.  I love the classic view of the stone bridge but never more than when the dark rocks are wet and covered with yellow leaves. Delightfully, I spent a couple of hours there and didn't see a soul.

Buttermilk Creek
Buttermilk Creek has been a perpetual favorite, and I was delighted that my brother and sister in law showed me yet another part of the drainage, made accessible because the dam-formed lake was much lower than usual.  This is a quiet area with striking reflections in the late afternoon.

Fillmore Glen
We took a day trip to Fillmore Glen (complete with the tiny cabin the president was born in), arranging to meet a photographer friend who fled Arizona for Syracuse a few years ago.  We had a lovely time gawking at and photographing the Glen.

Watkins Glen
My friend came back to Ithaca with us and the next morning we made an early trip to Watkins Glen State Park, perhaps one of the loveliest places I've seen.  I'd shot the obvious images before, so I also enjoyed carving out small details with a longer lens and playing with the really wide one.

For the sake of balance, I did want to shoot above ground as well.  On my mental shot list were a couple of ideas that I thought would tell some of the story of this region characterized by a string of villages connected by farmland.  I was delighted to find fields of hay bales on a backdrop of multi-colored hills near Newfield and a church steeple surrounded by resplendent hardwoods in the small town of Bath. There's something to be said for peppering my mind with ideas so I’ll be more likely to recognize an opportunity when I see one.

I’m back in the desert now and the high temperature today will be around 90.

More memories of the Finger Lakes are in the Northeast US Gallery on the Website.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Sunrise on the Mogollon Rim
I got thinking about this while cleaning up someone else’s leavings in my camp yesterday.  

I have come to love “dispersed camping.”  As long as I follow the rules of the particular Forest or BLM Unit, I can camp outside an established campground.  Generally this means solitude, quiet, and a sense of wilderness. Sometimes there are even spectacular views.

Now and again, though, the sites are a mess with scattered trash.  This last camp was in the Coconino National Forest along the Mogollon Rim.  This area, in my experience, is particularly trashy.  I’d correlate that with what I call a “high redneck quotient.”  For the sake of this argument, I’ll call a redneck someone who doesn’t care enough about the area to pick up their own waste; someone who considers the wilderness their personal garbage heap.

I have some thoughts about this.

Maples in the forest
I wouldn’t consider visiting these areas on a weekend or (heaven forbid) a summer holiday.  In addition to the garbage, they’re rife with loud ATVs going way too fast on one-lane dirt roads, RVs running generators, and target practice.

"Lurch," my camping rig on the Mogollon Rim
That being said, camping in cute trailers, tricked-out vans, and rigs like mine is enjoying a huge resurgence.  Some all this the “Home is where you park it” movement. True, this creates greater crowds, but by and large these folks are respectful and quiet.

I fear that there’s some correlation between the rednecks and a growing trend toward defacing natural areas.  

There’s been a flood of stories about (for example) “artwork” painted on rocks in National Parks, Sharpie graffiti in our own West Fork (Sedona), driving on the fragile playa in Death Valley, and the destruction of fragile rock formations.  I confronted a teenager carving his name in a slot canyon while his mom was RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.

Yellow maple fisheye
Somehow we’re less respectful of our natural areas and of each other.  We seem not to understand the long-term consequences of our destruction.  Yes, we can pick up trash and recycling as we move through the forest, but what can we do about a hoodoo toppled over at Goblin Valley?

I can’t offer a coherent theory about this selfish behavior, but I’m quite interested in your thoughts.

Meanwhile, I carry extra trash bags and stay home weekends.

I hope the images create some counterpoint  to the unattractive aspects of this post.