Rebecca Wilks

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

Monday, December 26, 2022

Monthly Favorites 2022

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah

Through the years, this little exercise has allowed me to immerse myself in the year's memories and to consider  opportunities for gratitude.  There are many.

Moonrise over Watson Lake.  Prescott,  Arizona


I love to chase the full moon, especially the moon set in the morning. There's a good deal of research and preparation involved in this game, but it doesn't always work out.  I was concerned about the clouds this morning at Watson Lake in Prescott Arizona, but they made the image more interesting.

Pre-launch, Alamo Lake Arizona


Arizona Highways Magazine put out a call for images of Arizona State Parks early in the year.  I had not spent much time at Alamo Lake State Park yet, and really enjoyed a handful of trips there to camp and shoot.  One morning I rigged up my folding kayak and launched before sunrise.  In February. Below freezing. The "real" shots were lovely, but I love the sense of anticipation in this one.  My feet were numb for at least an hour despite the neoprene socks.

Long Drink, Marana, Arizona


Another lovely trip to the Desert Photo Retreat in Marana Arizona.  There's a whole post on this trip, but here I submit a favorite; reflections, eye contact, behavior, color, and interest in a common critter.  I love doing this trip with my friend Kim, and we'll be back in 2023.

Trio, Along the San Juan River, New Mexico


So begins the photography trips which include fishing.  Honestly I didn't expect too much, as winter still had its hold on the San Juan River Valley in Northern New Mexico.  Besides, I was trying to keep the dog out of the fishermen's way.  This little layered tableau was a lovely bonus.

Classic Grand Canyon View

Dory in Lava Falls, Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon river trip #9. That'll teach me.  High winds, infectious diseases, and an old, creaky body that doesn't bear up well to comparisons with its status at 21 years old when I took the first of these trips.  Of course we managed to have a good time anyway.  It's tough to choose one from two weeks of immersion (sometimes literally) in the Colorado River. So, I submit a couple.  A classic river view in late light and one of our trip leader rowing the elegant dory through the infamous Lava Falls.

Angler in Mogollon Rim Country, Arizona


Fishing and photography.  We've been working together these days; I'm photographing custom flyrods ( and also shooting the angler in action.  I'm also discovering places I might not have otherwise found, most of which have running water (See July).  Here Marco is casting at East Clear Creek in Arizona.

Summer on the Upper Provo River, Utah


The upper Provo River, Utah.  There are also fish here.

Blue Ridge Reservoir, Arizona


A cold morning on Blue Ridge Reservoir.  Solitude, Osprey, fog.  That's a memory for sure.

Predawn Grand Canyon 


The best-laid plans. The Grand Canyon's South Rim is pretty crowded much of the time.  I generally only go when I have a good reason.  I'd hoped to catch some of the Plein Air painting during the Celebration of Art.  I'd even made plans to meet an artist I particularly admire.  No luck with any of that, but sunrise at Desert View was worth the price of admission.

Morning Moonset, Fish Lake, Utah


Another tough choice, given an epic, 2-week road trip through northern Arizona and Southern Utah.  This is the winner; taken in the Pando Grove of aspens near Fish Lake Utah.

Foggy Morning on Caddo Lake, Texas

Dramatic light at the end of the tree tunnel, Caddo Lake, Texas


This was my first adventure in the great Cypress Swamps called Caddo Lake Texas.  Yeah.

Electric Light, Mojave National Preserve, CA


There was a lot to choose from this month, including 7 days on the road at solstice.  There was subtle light, too, but I thought I'd go out this year with a bang.  

Cheers to y'all readers.  See you next year!

Sunday, December 25, 2022



Winter Solstice is traditionally a time to slow down, take stock of the year, and celebrate the return of (and to) the light.  All this quiet contemplation is no hardship for introverts like me.  We don’t do much for Christmas at our house, but these road trips have become a relaxed, joyful tradition.  We go to the desert (might as well be warm-ish) and revisit old favorite locations while discovering new spots.

 There’s a rhythm to these trips.  Morning walkabout and shoot, breakfast (I do love my breakfast burritos), pack, drive/explore/relocate, make camp, walking (or hiking) happy hour, read, download images, nap, evening walkabout and shoot, dinner, read or play cards. Simple, meditative, intimate.


Long view from Mid Hills Campground, Mojave National Preserve

This time of year serves in another way; there’s hardly anyone out there.  We don’t have to look too hard for solitude.  We expect to be alone when “boondocking” outside of campgrounds, but we actually also had a favorite campground entirely to ourselves. 


The Raven and Gypsy in Sawtooth Canyon, CA

We’re not really in a primitive camping situation; we love our phone booster, hand-held radios, and recently installed Sirius XM Radio (for drive time.)  Our oversized shoebox (the black Sprinter we call The Raven) is small but we have everything we need.

Further evidence against deprivation was our gas stop in Barstow.  My husband got ice cream and I picked up a Twix. And a bag of bugles.  Don’t judge; we do a lot of walking.  Barstow is an odd town.  I can’t drive through without thinking of Hunter S. Thompson’s line from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

Nothing too hard-core.  We’ve been trying out micro-dose psilocybin for creativity and focus.  That’s a story for another post.


Morning light on the Mojave Riverbed

Afton Canyon, at roughly the western edge of the Mojave Road, had long been on my list.  I loved tromping around the Mojave riverbed and carefully checking out a lovely old railroad bridge.  The light was something, too.


Electric sunset in the Joshua Tree Forest, Mojave National Preserve

In the Mojave preserve, we turned up an unknown road and ended up alone in the Joshua Tree Forest for a sunset which knocked our socks off.


Dunes in the California Desert

Marco can hardly ever be talked into a layover (two nights in the same place), but I managed at the dunes.  There’s something genuinely magical about dawn and dusk on sand dunes. 


Oh, and Gypsy hung with us.

 There’s more in the Winter 2022-23 Gallery on the website.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

'Tis The Season


"The Raven" watching the sunset

It’s getting cold here in the mountains; temps are often in the low 20s overnight with highs in the low 50s. I’ll happily deal with that if there’s fresh snow (soon I hope) but otherwise I love to camp and shoot in the desert where temps are 15-20 degrees warmer. Welcome to desert camping season.


Maricopa Mountains Sunrise

Last week we were on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land around the Maricopa Mountains.  The weather was so lovely that I wore short sleeves one day.  BLM is great for loose rules about dispersed camping and dogs.  Gypsy approves, and this trip she returned from her explorations nicely smelling of creosote.  I’ve certainly smelled worse on her.


Gypsy, ever vigilant

I’ve been teaching Gypsy a command that our last dog, Luna eventually mastered.  When I say “tripod,” she knows she’s meant to stay behind me so she’s out of the shot and doesn’t leave footprints in snow or sand.  I’m convinced that she understands, but sometimes she just knows better.  In this case she really did.  I’ll add this image to a growing collection of backlighted Gypsy pictures – the best way to shoot a black beast.



The Harquahala Mountains have become a nearby favorite in the last few seasons, but G and my husband had never been there.  This was also the dog’s first real experience with “jumping” cholla.  They don’t actually jump, of course, but they do a good impression of a wild leap toward anything that moves.  They are lovely with backlight. Just after arriving at our campsite, we followed her around, explaining the danger.  There wasn’t much effect.  Good judgement, they say, comes from experience and experience in turn from bad judgment.  She did eventually learn, the hard way.  We carried a comb and needle-nosed pliers in our pockets…


Evening Moonrise over the Harquahala Mountains

This shot was about as unplanned as they get.  The moon was one day past full when it rose that evening, and I went dashing down the hill in my crocs (I have dubbed them the ugly shoes) to grab this shot.  Speaking of cholla.


Verde Canyon Railroad crawling alongside the river

Though not technically desert, we did lose a bit of altitude and gain some temperature on a little outing the week before.  The confluence of Sycamore creek with the Verde River was showing just the last bit of autumn color (gotta get there earlier next year).  Marco fished, and I spent most of my time on landscapes, but also had fun with the Verde Canyon Railroad, nicely visible from the bluff above.


Sycamore Creek

We landscape photographers welcome gifts of all kinds, and this morning the blessing was cold air, which brough fog over Sycamore Creek.  This one was worth getting the boots wet for.


Desert Camping season is just getting started – check out the Winter 2022-23 Gallery on the website for more images from this trip and for what’s next.

Saturday, November 12, 2022



I suppose bravery is relative. The three of us had pulled on waders, kayaked a little more than a mile in the predawn dark (one day there was dense fog, though apparently we say “mist” in east Texas) and sloshed around in the lake (it sure looked like a swamp to these Arizona eyes) waiting for the light to come up and shooting. It was a small stretch outside my comfort zone, but one woman we ran across looked at us wide-eyed and said, “wow, you’re brave!”

She got me thinking. It was a nice compliment, but we were really just having fun.  Maybe we’re brave, or maybe I and these two treasured members of my tribe are just a little odd in our perception of fun.  I’d like to go on record saying that I can think of many people clearly more courageous than I.


This all started last autumn, when the three of us were part of a group in the Smoky Mountains. We started that trip sharing a few examples of what we’d been photographing lately.  Gwen showed us her gorgeous images of Caddo Lake and Amy and I were hooked.  A year later, there we were.


Compared to Arizona this place feels like another planet. Who knew; there’s a fall color season in Cypress forests.


It’s a big lake, but some spots seem to be getting very popular with workshop groups.  We were grateful to have had some help from the locals finding quiet spots.


That mist (yes, fog) was spectacular on a couple of cold mornings. This was what we were waiting for.


One evening we hired Captain John to scoot us out to a more distant location in a motorboat.  I’ll admit that that was a nice break from being under our own power and suiting up in the waders.


We can’t always be brave.


Thanks for paddling along with us. More images are on the website, in the Autumn 2022 Gallery.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Overripe Bananas

Sunrise in the Pando Grove of aspens near Fish Lake Utah

That smell brings me right back to every other aspen grove I’ve weaved through in Autumn.  It’s something like overripe bananas.  Funny how an unpleasant odor can be linked with a favorite context.  I don’t like the smell, but I love the memories triggered.

These change of season and fishing road trips are getting to be a tradition.

Temporary suspension, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

We started in the North Kaibab Forest.  This is a place for shooting intimate scenes rather than the grand landscapes found in Colorado.  It feels like home.  We ran around with some friends, trying a few new spots and checking out some areas which were compelling in summer but off the charts in yellow.

S-curve in the fog, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

Weather can be such a gift in landscape photography, and the highlight of this leg of the trip was a hailstorm and fog.  I might have been more excited about the hail than the rest of the family.

Ferns in Autumn, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

Some readers may remember the aspen groves (there were two) with carpets of ferns that I visited repeatedly through the summer.  Checking out the fall transformation in these spots was lovely, too.

The long view from Cedar Breaks Utah

We had two completely unscheduled days to follow.  One of the great things about autumn is that interesting images can be made more or less all day, as the sun backlights leaves.  Other times of year mid-day sun can be too harsh for my taste.  There were interesting roadside stops like Duck Pond and Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Campsite View, Dixie National Forest Utah

The first night we stumbld on a campsite with a spectacular view in the Dixie National Forest near the Brian Head ski resort. I still can’t quite believe our luck!

Sevier River Utah from above

Then we headed to the East Fork of the Sevier River, mostly for fishing.  The dog and I hiked around, and we did find one interesting photographic composition there.

Circle Cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Utah

After a week on the road, a few days in a rental house (showers and laundry) were so welcome.  Lyman Utah was a terrific base camp for Fish Lake, Capitol Reef, Boulder Mountain, and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument.  We had two more friends join us there for photos, good food and stupid TV.

On Sevenmile Creek Utah

While I was shooting, he fished Sevenmile Creek, the Fremont River, and the Sevier.  One fishing day Gypsy and I joined Marco.  After tiring the dog out and a few fishing pics, I confess that G and I settled down in the van for a little reading and a nap.  I can’t work all the time.

Restaurants are tricky when you’ve traveling with a dog, but I’ve got to put a good word in for Capitol Burger, a food truck in Torrey.  Yummy, and very dog friendly.

Backlighted Oak Grove, Manti-La Sal National Forest Utah

I’d long wanted to explore the Manti-La Sal National Forest adjacent to Bears Ears National Monument.  Here, again, we found an entirely unexpected but extraordinary place to camp at high altitude among golden oak trees. 

After three years experiencing fall color in Colorado, we appreciated exploring southern Utah.  It’s certainly less crowded and the landscape is more diverse.  On the other hand, we had to be more mindful of the hunters doing target practice and speeding along in their quads, and it seemed as if there were cattle just about everywhere, including in the roads and in our images. No matter, I’m making a list for next time. There’s so much more to explore, and overripe bananas.

There’s more in the Autumn 2022 Gallery on the website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Things You Hear


Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) Image at Moran Point, Grand Canyon

Folks from all over the world come to the Grand Canyon.  I’ve met (and eavesdropped on) some fascinating people.  Listening is such a fabulous window onto the rest of the world.

 A few days ago, I camped a couple of nights at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.  The plan was to meet an artist IRL that I’d been following on social media.  That didn’t work out, but a trip to the Canyon never disappoints. 

Fog from Grandview Point, Grand Canyon

On the day I arrived, a storm was breaking up, and there was delightful fog moving through the canyon like a time-lapsed amoeba.  These weather events seem to photographers to be a rare gift, but we always hear folks complaining about not seeing the canyon.  On one of these days a few years ago, I was warned by the ranger at the entrance kiosk that there were no refunds if I couldn’t see the canyon.  It’s a good thing I have a pass. 

Desert View Watchtower on a colorless evening, Grand Canyon

That night, waiting for sunset light that never quite arrived (good conditions for black & white) I saw parents with thick Jersey accents consoling their 5-year-old during his tantrum. He wanted to climb Desert View Watchtower, which has been closed for a couple of years.  Dad didn’t help much when he promised he’d take the boy to Las Vegas when he was 21.
Soft Morning and tree root, Desert View area, Grand Canyon

The next morning, I overheard some intense mansplaining about photography that I had to hear to believe.  This guy’s poor victim “learned” an awful lot about the craft that she’s going to have to unlearn.  As the saying goes, “often mistaken, never in doubt.”  Guy Tal (a fascinating philosopher about art) says that the answer a question about photography is often, “It depends.”  This nuanced sensibility appeals to me a bit more than run-of-the-mill mansplaining, thank you. 

Sunset at the secondary spot near Desert View, Grand Canyon

There’s a cool spot a short walk from Desert View Campground that I normally only share with the ravens.  I love ravens.  One afternoon there were a couple of guys there, and after one of them had a telephone conversation with his mom on speaker, he told his friend that what we were looking at was not actually the Grand Canyon.  Much as I wanted to ask, I refrained from determining what he thought it was.

There are some memorable moments from other trips, too.  One quiet winter day, a man with an Eastern European accent asked where the good view was.  Now, we were standing in front of the El Tovar Hotel.  Those of you who have been there know this is a pretty nice vista.  It turns out he was looking for the sky walk at Grand Canyon West, a four hour drive from there.  Sigh.

One of those sunsets, near El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon
I remember a day that sunset was absolutely spectacular, and I was working fast to capture what was sure to be ephemeral light.  A 20-year-old ask me to take her picture.  I told her “Sure, as soon as this light has finished,” she stomped off in a huff, looking for someone else to help.  Perhaps a selfie stick?

I love talking with Europeans.  I’ve had several conversations, especially with Germans and Brits, that tend to run along the lines of gun ownership and polygamy.  These are the baffling things my beloved Southwest is famous for, apparently.  I do try to put all that into perspective.

I speak English (some might disagree) and enough Spanish to get along.  I can’t imagine what I’d hear if I had command of a few more languages.

More from this last trip are in the Autumn 2022 Gallery on the website.  Thanks for riding along.