Rebecca Wilks

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Because You’ve Been Wondering…

…what I’ve been up to.

I’m recently retired, and I know how time can fill up of its own accord. I’ve resolved to be vigilant.  Well, if I’m honest I’ll admit that I’ve accepted some new responsibilities so there you go, but,

Examining my priorities, I turned down several opportunities to do group travel in order to free up time for road trips.

You know, there’s a lot to see out there in Arizona.

Reflection at Slide Rock State Park
I tacked a sunrise shoot and hike onto a lunch date in Sedona in the middle of June.  Slide Rock State Park, an absolute zoo with swimmers and picnickers on summer weekends mid-day, is deserted and spectacular early in the day, the sun lighting the high cliffs above the creek.

Milk Ranch Point Sunrise

Later, a couple of days on the Mogollon rim gave me my solitude fix.  The trick here is avoiding weekends and holidays, of course, so I showed up on July 5.  I did a lot of exploratory hiking (one in 95-degree temps) and driving, sadly not finding anyplace I wanted to come back and photograph in better light.  That’s disappointing, of course, but (as I say frequently enough to annoy my friends) if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

San Clemente
I was at a Rotary Conference (those other commitments!) in Orange County CA and afterward spent some time with family in my home town of San Clemente.  The nice weather alone would have sufficed, but somehow I always manage to find a new perspective on this beach town I’ve been photographing since the 1970s.

More recently I made a rather large circle around Northern Arizona.  The Mogollon Rim was delightful, despite another exploratory drive that didn’t amount to anything, and a closed road.  Why closed, you ask?  Apparently a tractor-trailer driver thought he’d follow a forest road “shortcut” suggested by his GPS.  No one was hurt, but the trailer was over the edge.  FR95 is well-maintained, relatively speaking, but no place for interstate trucking. 

East Clear Creek
I ended up hiking around in the rain in East Clear Creek, a rather nice spot.

Cedar Mountain & Rainbow from Grand Canyon National Park
The next day (after, you guessed it, some more fruitless exploration) I met up with Jeff Maltzman, one of my favorite traveling companions, and headed to the Grand Canyon.  A Monsoon storm with rainbows and lightning rewarded us, and this time we explored and found some locations that could be really promising on another trip.

Though Jeff and I had planned to spend another night camping, he heard from his wife about one of those homeowner emergencies which make you want to walk away and join the circus.  Still, we hated to scrap our plan entirely, and so had lunch at the incomparable El Gato Azul, a Tapas place in Prescott.  Afterward we said our goodbyes, then we said them again when we met up so he could return the two-way radio I’d forgotten to ask for earlier.  It’s almost surreal to eat in a nice restaurant and shop (for a PFD to go with my new kayak which is on the way – stay tuned for that post!) in the middle of a road trip.

Lightning at Watson Lake, Prescott
I’d reserved a campsite at Watson Lake, a Prescott city park.  The lake is one of my favorite subjects, and I had high hopes for great light with the storm activity nearby. This campground, though, is not anything like a wilderness experience.  I felt as if I’d parked on the shoulder of Highway 89.  I had an offer to camp in the parking lot of a nearby business last year, and honestly, I think it might have been a bit quieter.

There wasn’t much sun, but I was pleased with some afternoon lightning and moody blue predawn light the next morning before heading home.

As a little bonus, I discovered an orb spider which had taken up residence on the camper in my driveway the morning after I returned.  He was fun to photograph but I’m afraid to ask what the neighbors think when I hunker down on the driveway with my macro gear.

Up next, a family trip.  I know you’re all looking forward to all those Luna-the-dog-goes-camping pics.

Meanwhile, there’s more on the website.

Thanks for riding along.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Abandoned Shoes

Yeah, I like shoes for the usual frivolous reasons, but there’s something more going on here.

I’ve got an ongoing series of photographs of abandoned shoes.  Each pair (or single shoe) has a story, and as often as not that story is opaque.  These bits of someone’s life, complete with wear unique to the former owner, fascinate me.

It all started on a trip to Balboa Park in San Diego to photograph the Organ Pavilion in morning light.  Someone had abandoned a pair of well-worn pink ballet pointe shoes.  Was she drunk-dancing and wearing out an old pair?  Did she forget them or leave them for dead? Did her sister steal and hide them out of jealousy?  Were they left there for luck?

Do you see what I mean?

After I shot the dance shoes, it started to come together as a series, and I never missed an opportunity to shoot them when I found them.  My arbitrary rules; they had to be found, and I could “pose” them to better reflect the environment, but could not change the context significantly.

One of my favorites was a pair of Tahoe-blue Vans left on the Lake Tahoe shore.  They seemed to be waiting for their owner to return from a swim or longing to be in the lake themselves.

Then there were the work boots propped one-on-another along an irrigation canal in Glendale.  They looked like they had many miles left on them.  The ground was rough – I couldn’t imagine someone walking away barefoot.  Maybe he had an argument with his buddy angling for catfish after work and forgot his work boots as he drove home in his flip flops.

This single shoe, nearly new, was abandoned on the Big Sur coast.  I wonder if she took her shoes off for a swim and left them too close to the water – perhaps the other got washed away.

For the rest, you’ll have to wait until I publish the book.  JK. 

Monday, July 3, 2017


Feather Reversal

It’s been, well, summer in the Arizona desert.  Escape from the heat is always part of the strategy (see last week’s North Rim post), but sometimes I need a photo project closer to home.

I’m retired from the practice of medicine for a month now, and have a little more time to rattle around with ideas and see what pops out.

Please don’t raise your expectations too much; these two projects are experiments, and certainly works in progress.

Stacked Business Cards; a "study"
I got new business cards (bear with me, this is a relevant thought) and the old ones, with images on one side, seemed like they should be good for something.  I started stacking them together like Tetris blocks and became intrigued.  Inspiration often does come from a chance observation.

Disney Concert Hall Reversal
Photoshop proved better at pursuing this inspiration than shuffling cards, as I could flip and otherwise manipulate the images.  Perhaps I was inspired by all the talk of abstracts at the Moab Photo symposium.  Regardless, the opportunity to create abstract images from literal, or move an already abstract image further out into the metaphoric weeds appealed. I call them "Reversals."

Caterpillar Equipment Yard Reversal
The second ongoing project grew from some paintings I saw in a gallery, perhaps a decade ago.  The idea must have been rattling around in my brain for some time, but it popped up again recently.  

Death Valley Colorblock
I’ve been calling it colorblocking, and of course I’ve moved pretty far afield from the original inspiration.

Acadia Raven Colorblock
These images are likely of no use at all.  The other danger here is in going public with examples of projects which are yet half- (quarter-?) baked.  Perhaps you’ll join me in laughing at them as I refine the process.  Perhaps you’re laughing now?  No matter.  I’m grateful that you took a look.