Rebecca Wilks

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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

I suck

Watson Lake Arizona abstract.  Inspiration for an uninspiring sunset.

OK, not really, but sometimes it feels that way. 

I had this conversation with one of the guides on our Grand Canyon raft trip last May.  I was walking around camp looking for inspiration one evening and she was kind enough to ask how I was.  It may have been the look on my face which concerned her; maybe she thought I was at risk to go postal.  This sort of meltdown prevention is a little-appreciated part of these guides’ complex jobs. I prefer to think she was just being social.  Anyway, nothing was working and I had that feeling.  I told her that the problem was that I suck.  Sometimes.


A hail-mary shot at Organ Pipe Cactus NM Arizona

I went on to say that this funk is part of the creative process, at least for me.  We had a good chat.

In one of those moments of synchronicity, this quote popped up somewhere in social media land as soon as I was reunited with my phone.

"Sure, you’re supposed to enjoy the gift of creation. But if it doesn’t, on occasion, make you howl with self-deprecation, if you don’t sometimes wonder whether everything you’ve done up until now is pure crap, or whether you even have any talent, then something’s wrong. You’re supposed to feel these things. They keep you on the edge of your passions, inspiration, and drive." ~Paul Dorrell

Watson Lake sunrise when the lake was not looking interesting

I remember during Medical School and residency, learning about sleep deprivation.  It makes me paranoid and grumpy. At first it was a little frightening, out of control.  Then I noticed that, though uncomfortable, the process is predictable and self-limited.

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”  ~Mark Knopfler

Grand Canyon sunset reflection detail

Oddly, some of the images that I’m unhappy with I eventually decide to be worth sharing.  I wasn’t sure how to illustrate this post (it is a photo blog, after all) but eventually settled on images that maybe didn’t suck so much after all.  You didn't think I'd post the stinkers, did you? This one is from that night at Nankoweep, in the Grand Canyon.

 Hang in there, creatives.  This too shall pass.

Monday, June 27, 2022



Quiet two-track, Kaibab Plateau Arizona

The North Rim Forest.  Ahh.  The first trip of the year always feels like a homecoming.

Sunrise at Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon Arizona

This was a family trip, and we hit Desert View Campground on the South Rim first.  It’s not a bad place to camp, though crowded and it has been photographed by many and Gypsy would really rather run around in the forest off-leash.  We left a day early and no one was disappointed.

The plan was to explore some new spots.  The list is long, but we checked some of them out.

Brow Monument

There’s a survey marker from the second John Wesley Powell expedition of 1871-2.  There was a short hike culminating in lovely views from what’s called the Brow Monument, apparently named for the landform which gives views of Bryce and Zion to the north. 

Soft light on the ponderosas, Kaibab Plateau Arizona

We figured that, as long as we were WAY out in the forest, we might as well find a boondock spot nearby and we tucked into a lovely mature ponderosa grove (we were below optimal altitude for aspens). 

Flowers along the forest roads, Kaibab Plateau Arizona

I’d been looking at a pair of roads on Google Earth, and (as Marco likes to say) there was good news and bad news.  Both roads were lovely and remote, but both were blocked with multiple downed trees in various sizes.  We camped as far out as we could get and explored on foot. 
Fire Point, Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

When I began this obsession with the North Kaibab Forest, it was all about the viewpoints.  There are many.  I’ve gradually become more interested in subtle photography in the forest than the long views.  There’s more opportunity for original photography, and there’s no one around.  On the last night of our trip, with rain in the forecast, we decided to duck into the park and get a permit to camp at Fire Point, which has been one of my favorites.  

Spooky dead ponderosas in the burn scar, Fire Point

The Viewpoint on Western Grand Canyon just reopened after a wildfire a few years ago.  I was curious.  Though the long views are still beautiful, the conifers are charred dead soldiers.  There’s some graphic potential in that, but really the feeing there was spooky. 

Resplendent ferns and aspens, Kaibab Plateau Arizona

There were also lush carpets of ferns in some aspen groves along the long drive home on Forest Road 223.

Like any really good trip, Gypsy and the humans found solitude and the exploration list is longer now than it was before.  There’s another visit on the calendar.

 More images are in the Summer 2022 Gallery on the website.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Challenge


East Clear Creek AZ Detail

I’ve gotta get a little creative sometimes with image making, an imperative which is never more true than with family travel with my husband the fly fisherman and my dog the over-cranked hurricane.

When we don’t land in the easiest-to-photograph pockets of landscape, I need to adjust.  One famous creative technique for artists is to impose limitations on ourselves.  A photographer might shoot all day with one lens, for example.  The challenge is healthy if sometimes a bit frustrating.

I’m just back from a trip to the X-Diamond Ranch near Eager Arizona.  That’s a town, not an adjective.  Some of you will remember that I’ve visited the Ranch several times, for a cowboy photography workshop, for hummingbird photography with some accomplished friends, and with my husband on a fishing trip (for him) once before.  X-Diamond is a lovely outpost.  It’s also a working cattle ranch, so the idyllic views are interrupted by man-made structures like fences and power lines.  The place is not strictly scenic.

Little Colorado River, Eager AZ

This image required (in my mind anyway) removal of power poles and wires in Photoshop.

Moon setting over the hay barn, X-Diamond Ranch AZ

Sometimes I just gave in and included some signs, and even the hay barn.

Pot Sherds, Little Bear Ruin, Eager AZ

There’s also an archaeology site on the ranch, called the Little Bear Ruin.  My favorite shots there were details like this pot sherd shot. 

Thistle Mandala, X-Diamond Ranch AZ

Details are great because they can be found about anywhere and light around them can be modified.

Casting in dramatic light, East Clear Creek AZ

Last week Marco and I made a trip to Mogollon Rim Country, east of here and in the forest.  We hung out near East Clear Creek.  There were some lovely scenes, but perhaps my favorite shot that day was Marco casting in the sun against the gorgeous, unlighted rocks.  I’m working on shooting fly-fishing and planning to contact some relevant magazines when I’m happy with it’s the portfolio.  I shot a lot of these, until I got the right light, shutter speed (that line moves fast) and a cast that he was happy with.

Speaking of the creative stimulus of a new challenge, I went to a polo match.  There’s something to be said for living in horse country.  Spoiler alert: I’m excited to check out team roping next season in Wickenburg.  Anyway, this was an outing arranged by a local photo club and took place at Van Dickson Ranch in Skull Valley.  What a lovely setting; this seemed to me a terrific opportunity.  Perhaps I was the only one; no one else showed up.

Polo, Skull Valley AZ

The challenge here was fast action and harsh light.  I suppose starting a match in gorgeous sunrise light would be unpopular with the players.  I brought out my giant wildlife lens and used a monopod for maneuverability.  The fast shutter speed shots were disappointing because light was harsh and backgrounds were busy and distracting.  I do like the panning shots like this one which shows motion and blurs the distracting background. The ponies with bright yellow leg wraps had particular impact.

Model Creek, Peeples Valley AZ (private property)

We’ve also made a few close-to-home camping trips to a friend’s property on Model Creek, here in the Weaver Mountains.  This is a tough place to shoot, too, but their labyrinth and pool area in the creek make nice subjects.

It’s been fun, but I must admit to looking forward to the first North Rim trip of the season; camping deep in the forest and making lovely traditional landscape images.

I’m looking forward to sharing those images soon.

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