Rebecca Wilks

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

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Don’t Bust Your Brain

Ocean wave composite; experiment and play

Four months ago (can it really have been that long?) I wrote about my experience at Out of Chicago Live, a virtual photography conference full of inspiration to experiment and play as well as pearls of wisdom. 


Chris Smith and his innovative crew have done it again with Out of Chicago In Depth.  This time the idea was to present 4-hour sessions, each with two instructors.  Four hours.  I loved it, even though I don’t concentrate for that kind of time like I did through all those lectures in Med school.  The idea is that ten days later we will have completed assignments for the six sessions, and we have follow-up zoom sessions to learn from each other’s work.  I’m preparing for those sessions now.


Better yet, all the sessions have been recorded and will be available for a year.  That’s something like 64 hours of further inspiration to look forward to.


So here come some round one Out of Chicago In Depth gems for your reading pleasure.


Architecture assignment

Sometimes at these conferences I like to sample a discipline that I don’t know much about. This time it was architectural photography. John Kosmopoulos presented the topic in sometimes lyrical and philosophical terms; “Architecture is Euclidean jazz,” he said, and “Architecture is the music and photography is the lyrics.” For the assignment, he encouraged us to try different techniques to provide our version of lyrics.  Here’s a multiple exposure image from the Disney Center in Los Angeles that I submitted for review.


Emotion, San Clemente beach

One of the charms of zoom conferences, the chat comments are as enlightening as the formal presentations.  One memorable line from a fellow participant is “emotion trumps reason in photography.”   We sometimes pursue technical perfection and ultra-realism, but viewers often respond better to the dreamy or the abstract.


Abstract Reflection (intimate landscape), San Clemente CA

A related thought came from Brenda Tharp about breaking the rules as a means toward more creative compositions.  Abstract images, in particular, don’t require a center of interest, the rule of thirds, or a sense of depth. Part of that assignment was abstract reflections and small scenes, known as “intimate landscapes.”

Beach Glass Pattern, part of a home tabletop photography project

She talked, too, about pattern and repetition.  Philosophically, she says that repeated patterns need not be identical.  Objects in the pattern can be related in a more abstract way and be ‘representative of each other.”


Trees on the edge

Jack Curran and Brooks Jensen presented a session on photography projects.  This one is going to spur a spree of re-grouping and re-processing over a decade of my images.  I’m intimidated but also excited about the prospect.  For the assignment, I’ve begun working on a set of images I’ve been gathering as a project for years.  I call it supervivientes, ├írboles en el borde (survivors, trees on the edge).  Photography, they said, should be in service of something else.  Some of the challenges of assembling projects are finding images which contribute uniquely to the message and finding a sequence which tells the intended story.  Yeah, getting feedback next week from these two is scary, but stepping out of my comfort zone is good.


Hand-plane shavings, part of a home tabletop photography project

Curran said that these groups of images will begin to declare themselves if we follow our passion and spend time where we want to be.  I smiled a little when I heard this, thinking of the tabletop projects I’ve been doing.  Maybe home has become one of the places I most want to be.


Daniel Kordon shared some advanced photoshop stuff (I need to watch that one again), and finally said that most of the time we can do much easier things to get the image we want.  We don’t have to work that hard. “Don’t bust your brain,” he said.


Words to live by.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Tragic Demise of Camping Etiquette

Mogollon Rim Arizona

I’m still irritated.  It’s been a week, and I thought I’d wait until the anger had passed to write about this, but I may not live that long.


Here’s the thing.  Camping etiquette is eroding.  So many people are bored and feeling like the only way they can have a reasonably safe change of venue is to camp.  I’ll admit I feel the same way, though (as my readers will know) I’ve been “dispersed” camping (away from campgrounds) for many years.  The closure of many developed campgrounds has put more pressure on the forests as well.

Mogollon Rim Arizona

Last Wednesday I made camp at a favorite site in the Coconino National Forest.  I was all situated and in my hammock by 11:00 AM.  At about 3:30 PM a guy showed up at my site with his 25 foot trailer.  I figured he would see me and leave, but then I saw him awkwardly maneuvering (he actually backed into a tree trunk) to set himself up. 


For the sake of non-camping readers, an irrefutable rule of dispersed campsite selection is first-come, first-served. If someone is already there, you move on.  I’ve never had an issue like this before, because we all know this rule.  So much so, in fact, that people will go park their RV on Wednesday to keep anyone else from using the spot, though they themselves won’t return until Friday night.  That’s also an egregious violation.


Back to my guy.  He came over to talk to me eventually, explaining that he’d been camping at this site for 30 years and that “all the other sites were taken.”  I’m very cautious about my vulnerability when I’m alone and generally try not to stir people up, but I did look him in the eye and tell him that this one was taken too.  No luck.  I’d scouted my evening and morning shooting locations by then, so I decided after much deliberation to stay.  Incidentally, I learned later that there were lots of empty spots nearby.

Lichen and Sandstone Detail

So that’s one.  The other, more widespread issue that’s eating me is the disregard of the seven leave no trace principles.  There’s more trash, loud music, and graffiti, but the most widespread and distressing issue is poop.  There’s poop and toilet paper all over the forest.  Piles of human poop do not enhance the wilderness experience.


Tree Silhouette, Mogollon Rim Arizona

I’ll leave you with some pretty pictures of that favorite place and a decidedly ugly mental image.   I'm sorry.  Please tell all your friends.


Want more pretty pictures? There’s an unusually eclectic mix of images (unusual even for me) in the Mogollon Rim Country Gallery on the website.