Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Obvious Child

I’ve almost always got music in my head when I’m out hiking and photographing.  You know, an earworm. Sometimes the title or lyrics make a connection to something on which my subconscious mind is chewing.

There are iconic locations which draw photographers in droves.  They populate calendar, postcards, and the checklists of superficial tourists.  Some say images of these locations are trite.  Perhaps so, but they are often irresistible.  Part of my trip last week was a workshop with Michael Gordon and Guy Tal.  Neither of these impressive artists have what I would call a conventional style, and that’s a good thing.

Ubehebe Crater Area, Death Valley National Park
We talked quite a bit on day one about finding our individual ways of seeing, about shooting something different than the postcard shot.  But, the dynamic duo did say that sometimes you need to get this most apparent shot out of the way first as a sort of clearing of the mind. I find that’s the way it works for me, as it calms the voice that tells me I’m missing something.  And, the naked truth is that the postcard images sell better, so I might as well shoot them too.

I found lyrics from the 1990 Paul Simon song in my head most of the next day.

I've been waking up at sunrise
I've been following the light across my room
I watch the night receive the room of my day
Some people say the sky is just the sky
But I say
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

My images do sometimes feel like children, after all.  For example, we photographers sometimes refer to editing our work as killing “my darlings,” a nugget which may or may not have been coined by William Faulkner. 

Detail, Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park
The goal is something more personal, and more emotionally charged.  Mindfulness helps, enabling a sort of fresh way of seeing.  I’m essentially self-taught in Death Valley.  Sometimes that leads to an artistic rut for me, and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from the perspectives of Guy and Michael, as well as the other workshop participants.

Pastel Sunrise, Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park
For example, at dawn on Mesquite Dunes, I resolved not to make the same images I’ve been making of dunes.  I confined myself to a long focal length (telephoto lens) and pared out smaller scenes in the sandscape.

First kiss of light, Zabriskie Badlands, Death Valley National Park
Likewise, at Zabriskie Point.

Room Canyon, Death Valley National Park
I also find it helpful to explore new (for me) and less traveled (by everyone) locations in this giant park for inspiration.  This trip I explored Marble and Room Canyons.

Marble Canyon, Death Valley National Park
You’ll find the obvious and obscure children in the Winter2017-18 Gallery on the website. As Guy say, I can’t make you like them.  I hope you do, though.

The last of the January 2018 eclipse, Kofa National Wildlife Preserve
Appropos nothing, here's an image from a stop on the way home.


  1. Hi Rebecca: the intimate collection you've presented here is great and I cannot thank you enough for being a part of the great group that you were.

    1. Thanks, Michael. I had a marvelous time and am so grateful for the help out of my "rut." I'm hoping to see you again soon, perhaps Thursday. <3

  2. The photos are like our children in that they should be uniquely ours even though they may look a bit like others. I like what you did here focusing in on details. All great shots.

    1. Thanks so much Gaelyn. I'm beginning to understand why its good I don't have kids. :)