Rebecca Wilks

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Monthly Favorites 2019

Kazakh Girl, Mongolia (She didn't make the cut but I couldn't resist including her)

Welcome to my eighth annual Monthly Favorites Blog.  I might as well call it my year-end exercise in gratitude.  Life is so very rich in experiences and people.  So, thanks.
San Clemente Pier, CA
Yeah.  Atmospherics.  Winter light at Southern California Beaches has a magical quality.  There’s no summer marine layer (which is not magic), but there’s more to it than that.  It’s crystalline.  Salted caramel.  I wasn’t planning this one, but certainly had a moment there under the San Clemente Pier.
Sycamore Falls, AZ
I’ve been to Sycamore Falls in Northern Arizona many times.  During each of those visits I thought about how I’d love to see the falls frozen.  Conditions seemed about right on the February Sunday when my husband and I visited Brad Dimmock and witnessed the rebirth of the Hetch Hetchy.  I convinced him to make a detour and there it was! We had two bits of magic in one day.  Blessed, indeed.
Dune Flowers near Parker AZ
We had a heck of a desert bloom this year.  I explored some new locations in the Mojave Desert and, thinking I’d photographed plenty of poppies in the Sonoran, I decided to branch out.  Primrose (the white flower) and verbena often grow together on sand dunes, and I found some great places out there.  In fact, this dune merited a one day round-trip to return and shoot in better light. These were near Parker AZ. The primrose flowers don’t always have those lovely reticulations, but they helped make this image a favorite.
Grand Canyon abstract
The Grand Canyon by raft.  Again. I had a hard time choosing THE favorite from this photographic wonderland.  I’ve decided to eschew the iconic shots and show something more intimate.  This one evokes the smell and feel of the air on a spring evening.  I love the warm-cool color contrast, streaks and splashes, and the hint of gravel in the riverbed.
Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast.  This trip was partly a workshop with Colleen Miniuk.  Again, tough to choose a favorite, but here’s the winner.  I remember running down the beach with my gear to get to this spot before the moon was too low.  I do love a setting full moon, and long-exposure floaty waves.
Watson Lake, Prescott AZ
A summer sunrise at Watson Lake.  This spectacular spot is less than an hour from home, but sometimes its fun to stay in their campground, paddle around in my kayak, and catch the sunrise (5:30 AM-ish) in a leisurely way.  I love the backlight on the early summer, bright green cottonwoods and (of course) the sunstar.

Birds.  Mostly, it’s my friends who entice me to photograph the flying critters.  I had two such golden opportunities in July. 
Burrowing Owl, Western Maricopa County
First, I rode around shooting burrowing owls with Greg McKelvey, from his truck.  Unfortunately, human development has encroached quite a bit since the last time we did this.  Despite the fence, I’m drawn to this guy’s expression, stance, and talons.  The background is not bad either – always a struggle with these whimsical birds.
Hummers, White Mountains AZ
Later, I spent a lovely weekend in the White Mountains with friends Lisa Langel and Kim Gray, learning to shoot hummers in the wild with a studio-like setup.  There are a lot of clinkers to sift through before getting to one like this, but the good ones do make me smile.  I think this expresses the remarkably aggressive nature of these diminutive birds.  We should be glad that they’re not three feet tall.
Marble Canyon AZ

This one was christened, by my friend Paul Gill, a “bowbanger.”  That’s a rainbow and lightning.  There wasn’t much to write home about this monsoon season, except this unforgettable moment in the forest above marble canyon.  This is why I camp.
Altai Eagle Festival, Western Mongolia
Mongolia.  Oh my goodness – this choice was particularly difficult.  In the end I decided that this little guy represents the future of the ancient Kazakh tradition of Eagle Hunting. He’s working with a falcon, and will graduate to a golden eagle (much larger) when he’s a bit bigger.
Central Colorado

This is my favorite of several spectacular opportunities during an October road trip in Colorado.  It was a gray day and all I could think at this spot was that a bit of sunshine would transform the scene.  I waited at least an hour and had a very short window of time to shoot.  The little crescent of leaves in the pond was just dumb luck.
Volcan Pacaya, Guatemala
Guatemala.  The second half of the inaugural Through Each Other’s Eyes Guatemala Exchange.  I fell in love with this dog on Pacaya Volcano, and she made such a great foreground.
Death Valley National Park, CA
Choosing favorites is always a challenge but made somewhat easier with the passage of a few months.  Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury for the December pick, but I think this one might stand the test of time. I convinced my husband (up for anything, really) to spend a second night at Lee Flat, In Death Valley National Park.  It was snowing and windy and got down to 17 degrees F overnight.  The warm light (if not warm air) at sunrise was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.  It looks like hope for the new year.

Incidentally, I gave a thought to posting favorites of the decade.  Some of my photographer friends have done just that.  I tried.  Really, those sorts of choices are a bit too much for me.  It's apples and Subarus.

All the best to my readers in the new year.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Last month, I had the pleasure of a day-long seminar with Michael DeYoung.  He’s primarily an adventure photographer, but has a background in weather, which was the topic of the day.  There were lots of great things about the seminar, but this post grew from an offhand comment. 

He suggested that we read anything we can get our hands on by Jay Maisel.  I picked up It’s Not About the F-stop, which is really a book of philosophy and advice for photographers. I highly recommend it.

What follows are my favorite quotes, each paired with a recent image I've made that came to mind when I read it.  A few of the quotes are from others who he has cited in the book but most are his.

There's some great inspiration in these words.

At first I thought I’d editorialize, but instead I’ve decided to let the images and quotes stand on their own. You might find a clue or two in the captions, though.

Ideal Beauty? Guatemala City
“The photograph is not the result of the clicking of the camera, but of all the years of your life up to the moment you take the picture.” ~ Jay Maisel

Dunes, Death Valley
“You really have to bring more to the party than your camera.” Jay Maisel

Vertebrae, Mojave Preserve California
 Photography is not about photography; it is about everything else.” ~ Sam Garcia

Chiller, Jerome Arizona
 “I tell my classes it’s not fair to shoot other people’s art. I feel that unless you’re adding some perception to the image that would inform and delight the artists themselves, you’re just stealing. I do make exceptions. They’re very simple. It’s OK to shoot art if it’s going to be destroyed.” ~ Jay Maisel

Hummer, White Mountains Arizona.  A learning experiance
 “Always learn more, you can never learn less.” Bucky Fuller

No quite what I wanted.  Guatemala City
 “All photographers know that you can never get everything you want. Damn. If you got it all, it would be too easy.” ~ Jay Maisel

At the Altai Eagle Festival, Mongolia
 “My best work is often almost unconscious and occurs ahead of my ability to understand it.” ~ Sam Abell

The Future, Altai Eagle Festival, Mongolia
“Try, and admittedly, it’s difficult, but try to show in your images the past or the future“ ~ Jay Maisel 

Unembellished.  Death Valley California
 “Above all, don’t try to be clever. It’s good enough that you found it. Just don’t f*%k it up.” ~ Jay Maisel

Despicable storm weather, Oregon Coast
 “Try not to hate things. Try not to have things that you don’t want to shoot. Try to be open. “ ~ Jay Maisel

Found near the restrooms, Shore Acres State Park Oregon
 “No matter what specific thing you’re searching for, no matter what you’re hoping for, don’t put on visual or emotional blinders. They will severely limit your work.” ~Jay Maisel

Hotel lobby, Rio Dulce Guatemala
“Trust your judgment. Shoot what moves you. The people who try to stop you really don’t have any idea what exactly you’re shooting. If they did, they’d be doing the shooting.“ ~Jay Maisel

Blurry exuberance, Antigua Guatemala.
 “Never lose sight of the essence, the content, of your image in order to make the form perfect. “ ~Jay Maisel

Roasting pig at the beginning of the day, Sumpango Guatemala
 "Never go back.  Shoot it now. When you come back, it will always be different." ~Jay Maisel

I’ve had fun with this exercise, and I hope you have too.  Thanks for playing along.