Rebecca Wilks

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Monthly Favorites 2021

I’m back.  If you’re not fatigued with all the end-of-year lists, I hope you enjoy this, an annual look at the hard-chosen “favorite” image from each month of this year. With gratitude…


It was a cold, stormy camping trip at Lake Pleasant Regional (County) Park in Peoria.  I was with some friends and moving a little slowly because of the damp weather. On my way home I decided to hike up the Yavapai Trail in the dark to catch sunrise.  Oddly, my friends declined to join me. Its feast or famine after a storm; sometimes the sky is completely socked in.  These colors felt like a banquet.  Bob Brandon, a local painter, liked this enough to create his interpretation of the scene.  That was fun, too.

You can’t win if you don’t play.


From a shoot at Organ Pipe National Monument, for a “Drive of the Month” feature in Arizona Highways Magazine.  This is one of the images published, and my favorite from the shoot.  I made multiple circles around the Ajo Mountain Loop, shooting at different times of day.  Having a specific goal is inspiring.

Rise to the challenge.


There are these dunes in the Mojave Desert that I don’t want to spread the word about.  I started going 3 seasons ago (“seasons” because I’m not that person who loves desert camping in the summer), and I’ve hardly ever seen another human or footprints thereof. I can “feel” sunrise looking at this image and can’t wait to go back.  I respectfully request your indulgence of my secrecy.

Tag responsibly.


This is my first effort at camera trapping, with the assistance of Ron Niebrugge at his Desert Photo Retreat in Marana Arizona.  This is a hooded skunk who was kind enough to take a drink at just the right moment.  The experience was really fun, especially shared with my good friend Kim.  And I slept one night in a hammock.  We’re going back this spring.

Try something new.


I didn’t get out much in May but did play around quite a bit with tabletop photography indoors.  My dad stole the cough syrup bottle from a Prescott area mine in the 1960s.  Its not the best image I ever made, but its fun and a bit sentimental.

They don’t all have to be works of art.


There were some great sunrise and sunset shots at the Grand Canyon this year.  I had a hard time choosing.  This is from a solo trip to the south rim.  I camped at Desert View Campground.  There was smoke everywhere, which can be disturbing and unhealthful but can also make for nice images as the light bounces off particulates in the air.  These layers of ridges are a classic view from the eastern rim, and I love the crepuscular rays. They remind me of the Arizona flag.

There’s good in (almost) everything.


My husband and I seem to have created a new tradition, spending some time in the Summer in Park City Utah. There’s hiking, fishing, and my favorite thrift store.  Days are long up there in July, so dragging myself out in the evening for twilight photography is an effort.  I was after a wider shot of sunset over Park City, which I also got, but this telephoto-compressed twilight image of the town captivates me, power lines and all.

Just do it.


What a nice, rainy monsoon we had this year; enough for a sort of second spring.  These Arizona poppies (not closely related to the ones we’re used to seeing in the desert in March) came up just a few miles from home.  I had a great photo tip from some local friends, timed just right for this field’s peak bloom.

Accept help, from whatever source.


Overnight temperatures in the meadows of the North Rim (Kaibab) Forest can get pretty low in the autumn.  Some mysterious combination of conditions created the delicate ice crystals on this dandelion head, which stopped me in my tracks.

Look Down.

I’ve made a rule for myself for these “best of” posts that I can fudge once with an extra image.  Here’s my fudge.  Backlight on Gypsy the Wonder Dog in the Kaibab Forest.  This one warms my heart.

Who makes the rules, anyway?


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This was my first trip, part of a large all-woman workshop group. Sunset, glow, backlight.  This park is so busy that you’re hardly ever alone, and the trick is to convey a feeling (like solitude or peace) even when you don’t feel it.

It doesn’t have to be literal.


Yup, still in the Smokies.  After the workshop, I spent a few more days with a friend for a quieter experience. We were headed toward what we thought would be photogenic and pulled over for this, which turned out to be much better.  I did have to wait for the traffic to clear to make the shot, though.

The best-laid plans...


This image comes from the new Raven van’s first long road trip, through California.  It was made in Sonoma County, where I was guided by the masterful Jerry Dodrill.  I love the clouds, color, reflection, and light on the foreground rocks.  That’s all expected.  The surprise is that I like the lens flare (the scattering of hexagons), which I’m more often struggling to avoid.

Embrace the imperfections.

 Thanks for riding along as we look forward to 2022 together.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Six Counties...


Marco and Gypsy at San Simeon

…13 days and 2500 Miles in the Raven Van.

Our longest camping trip yet, in California, was a whirlwind of weather, great light, friends, food, and beer & wine.  Now I’m wondering when we can hit the road again.

 San Bernadino County

Haboob from a distance, Death Valley

We thought that 5-6 hours of driving each day was a civilized maximum, so Mojave Desert camps were great first and last night stops.  We started in the southern part of Death Valley National Park at a lesser-known sand dune field.  The evening light was forgettable, but the wind kicked up overnight and I decided not to walk the mile or so onto the dunes pre-dawn and get my eardrums and camera gear sand blasted.  Rather, I climbed the alluvial fan in the other direction and was treated to sunrise backlighting the haboob.

Rainbow Basin Sunrise

On the night before heading home, we choose Owl Canyon/Rainbow Basin, north of Barstow.  I’d never been there.  Sunrise was lovely and this trip was enough to whet my appetite to shoot there again, though the BLM campground is neglected, especially the pit toilets.  Enough said.

Gypsy’s favorite thing: Sand

 San Luis Obispo County

In trip planning, we’d thought to drive up through Nevada and down the coast.  In practice, that plan would have put us in snow and required some difficult driving.  Instead, we took the western route both ways, and landed in SLO County for one night in each direction. 

Impossible reflections, Pismo Beach

After a stop at Mosby Winery, a favorite for 20 years which, sadly, is closing for good soon, Pismo Beach was the camp on the way up.  The dunes are striking.  Gypsy loved running on the beach, too.  The pink light and reflections at sunrise were not quite believable.

Moonset, San Simeon

On the way home we stayed at San Simeon.  This place was nice and dry (which we sorely needed by then) and comfortable, but not so dog friendly.  We would, of course, never let her run off-leash on the trails.  In the morning I braved the coating of frost on the boardwalk (really) and caught the full moon set.

Gypsy’s favorite thing: Sand

 Lake County

Sycamores in the campground, Clear Lake

I’d never heard of Clear Lake but choose it from the map during trip planning.  There were just two other families at the camp, and the fog off the lake was striking. 

Gypsy’s favorite thing: Squirrels

 Humboldt County

Backlighted mushroom bombshell, Humboldt County

After three nights of waypoint camping, it was nice to settle down for a few in Arcata. Our friends had rented a house for a month and graciously invited us to stay a while.  Showers and laundry are always a great gift during road trips, as are cooking in a kitchen and a grocery restock.  They took me to two locations to shoot; a forest full of mushrooms (I had fun with my LED panel light in the very dark glade) and stormy Trinidad Beach. 

Drury Chaney Grove Trail

Marco and Gypsy and I also had a chance to hike a couple of redwood forests.  We especially liked walking the Drury Chaney Grove on the way back south.

Gypsy’s favorite thing: Running atop the wet, downed trees.

 Sonoma County

Sunrise near Bodega Bay

Jerry Dodrill (check out his fabulous work) has been a friend and mentor since we met at his photo workshop with Justin Black on the Sonoma Coast in 2011.  He’s got a delightful way of looking at things and is so much fun to be around.  This time we camped behind his house for four nights and combined running around this beautiful area with beer, wine, and great food.  There seems to have been a different bakery stop every day as well.

Sonoma County ephemeral waterfall

A couple of highlights were some gorgeous sunrises and an ephemeral coastal waterfall. I was almost glad for the rain because it gave us the opportunity to shoot this beauty.  Almost.

Gypsy’s favorite thing: Jerry’s cat.  Well, maybe not.  Actually, beach sand.

Marin County

Cypress tunnel, Marin County

Though we didn’t stay in Marin County (we are likely not posh enough), we did sightsee and shoot.  It was great to scout Point Reyes for the first time.  I’m already plotting my return. Then there was the cypress tree tunnel (how I love them!) in the fog.  Fog creates a lovely sense of mystery as well as depth (critical in 2D art) and is so rare where I live that it’s a bit of a thrill to experience.

Gypsy’s favorite thing:  National parks are not so dog-friendly, so she hung out at the beach with Marco.  So, Sand.

More images from this trip are in the Northern California Gallery on the website.