Rebecca Wilks

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

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Estrofest

Selfie with Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach Oregon

Just a tongue-in-cheek moniker for the Oregon trip.

Colleen Miniuk has been heading up photographic “Womens’ Retreats” for about a decade now, first with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops (now Arizona HighwaysPhotoscapes) and more recently on her own as “Sheography.”  Photoscapes also continues these trips.

Colleen’s version has quite a following.  At least one of my fellow travelers has been doing these trips since the beginning.  Many feel strongly that there’s a substantial difference when there are no men involved and particularly that women learn more and feel more comfortable.

I joined the group mostly because I wanted to explore a part of Oregon that is not familiar to me.  I’ll admit to being curious about the all-female vibe, but wouldn’t have signed up just for that.  For whatever reason, I’m not that kind of girl. I’ve never felt hesitant to speak up or pursue my creative vision based on the gender of my colleagues.  Yes, I’ve been stunned by some low-level bullying on photo trips, but that came as much from women as men.

The resplendent Portland Japanese Gardens

I had the great pleasure of some extra time with friends that I see far too little of.  Three of us had an extra day before and after the trip and managed to squeeze in a visit to Powell’s Books and two Portland food truck meals.  The highlight of Portland for me was the Japanese Garden.  What a thrill to see this place that had been high on my list.

Cape Disappointment

We also explored a bit at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington.  Honestly, I would have wanted to visit based on its name alone, but it (with two lighthouses!) came highly recommended by some locals.  I was scouting around with just my phone in my pocket but jogged back to the car for my "real" camera when I saw the bright yellow mustard grass near one lighthouse. 

Tide pool detail, Cannon Beach

On the coast it was cloudy and gray.  Feel free to tell me that should not have been a surprise.  The subdued light did create opportunities for dramatic black & white images, and the color in tide pools was that much more impressive against the desaturated surroundings.
The Three Graces, Oregon

I appreciated the chance for spontaneous side-trips.  At one point part of the group returned to the hotel after dinner and the rest of us stopped north of Garibaldi to climb over the railroad tracks and photograph the three graces.  They weren’t on the schedule, but we’d seen them earlier and decided to check the area out.  The roosting birds, dead trees, and flat light created quite a moody scene.

The bottom line? I’m glad that my gender qualified me to do this trip and meet some lovely women.

More images are in the (brand new) Summer 2018 Gallery on the website.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


The "Questionable" Route

Does that look like a question mark to you?  It does rather to me though if it wasn't for the largish ditch in Northern Arizona (the Grand Canyon), which requires a wide track to its east or west when driving, the shape might be more proper.

Twelve delightful days on the road, filled with learning, and questions.

Stallions fighting in the West Desert, Utah

First, a flight to Salt Lake City, where our friend Barb was kind enough to introduce us to the mustangs of the West Desert.  Time flew as we spent an entire day there with our long lenses.  Barb knows this herd well enough (for example) to predict when they’d move to the watering hole, so we could meet them there.  Barb, Gwen, and I agreed that the scuffles between stallions were the highlight of the day.

The question; why are some of these animals branded?  Well, some are branded by BLM, and others seem to have originated from ranches.  Dumped perhaps?

Then the three of us drove to Moab for the 15th annual and final Moab Photo Symposium. I’ve written about this remarkable event before.  It’s four days of learning, camaraderie, and pizza.  Bruce Hucko, the driving force behind this event, has decided to go out on a high note.  Never fear, though, Sarah Dolliver and the Sedona Camera Club are offering the first Sedona Photo Symposium.  The August 2019 event is patterned after Moab.  Registration is open now.

A small drama in Grandstaff Canyon near Moab Utah
A longstanding thread at the MPS is finding one’s own voice.  So much of landscape photography is repeating well-known landscapes.  We talk quite a bit there each year about creativity, and these conversations inspire me.

Sunrise in Arches National Park
We met with Kim In Moab and the four of us photographed and Moab-ed together.  We had the great joy of a 4-bedroom Condo (good idea, Gwen!) which was cheaper than the Super-8 we’d tried in previous years and so much nicer.  We had our computers set up on the dining room table while sharing meals and chat.  I was so pleased that we all made submissions for Photo-jam, a sort of 5-minutes-each free for all slideshow in the evenings.  Mine was on Death Valley and flowed from my new Black and White Death Valley book.

One question from MPS; If I create a collection of my best, emotionally charged, original images, will I learn more about wht moves me and find the next trajectory?  That’s my next project, about which I’m energized.

Guy Tal also talked about questions, especially those which can’t be answered but are nonetheless worth asking.  I suspect these thoughts will eventually make it to his blog, and I’ll link it when they do.  Trying to paraphrase Guy would be an injustice.

Sunset near Page Arizona
Gwen and I parted ways with the others and headed to Page, Arizona.  We’d arranged slot canyon trip with Kerrick James (KJ Photo Safaris.) We also met our friend Jeff from Tucson and my husband there and began traveling as a group of five. Antelope Canyon, the most famous of the slots around Page, has become overrun recently but there are alternatives.  We had the great joy of a couple of these, as well as a hike down Cathedral Wash to the Colorado River, a quiet overlook with rock teepees, and breakfast at Cliff Dweller’s Lodge.

Canyon drama, near Page Arizona
I wonder whether all of Page’s slot canyons will soon be overrun with people.  Just to be safe, I’d suggest visiting them soon.  That ship has sailed for Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Detail, Red Canyon near Kanab Utah
In Kanab, we visited Peek-a-Boo (apparently the real name is Red Canyon, to distinguish it from the chasm of the same name near Escalante) and Huntress Canyon.  We were well-guided and assisted with rope descents and a vehicle shuttle by Forever Adventure Tours (Brent and Tyler).  The Forever Empire (including houseboat rentals at Lake Powell and National Park concessions like Grand Canyon’s North Rim) is owned by Rex Maughan.  We’re familiar with Mr. Maughan’s operation because he owns huge chunks of land in southern Yavapai County, including those in Peeples Valley, just north of us. Maughan Ranches encompass more than 500,000 acres in Arizona.

Upper Kanarra Falls, Utah
On our last day, we hiked Kanarra Canyon, between St. George and Cedar City.  I’d been there in 2013 and was anxious to return to this cool oasis with a perennial stream.  It, too, has gotten much more crowded and the city has imposed a fee of $8 per person. Sadly, there was some vandalism on the canyon walls.  We got there early enough to beat most of the crowds and it was one of the trip’s highlights, despite cold feet and plenty of company.

I always head home from adventures like this with mixed feelings and with more questions than answers.  That, I think, is the essence of curiosity.

More images from the trip are in the Utah Gallery on the website.