Rebecca Wilks

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

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.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Fourth 100 nights


The Raven (L) with a friend, Marble Canyon AZ

I’ll have to admit that though I’ve got a new vehicle, I’m still counting from the beginning, but I hope you'll indulge me. 

I started camping this way almost nine years ago now, when I had had enough of cold nights in the back of my SUV.  As my friend Chuck Turner (who travels in a Four Wheel Camper) once said, it’s the best piece of photographic equipment I’ve ever had.


Fog and drama, Blue Ridge Reservoir, AZ

I recently noted the 400th night in my journal, staging near Blue Ridge Reservoir in the Coconino National Forest here in Arizona for kayaking.  I launched from a deserted boat ramp last Monday morning at about 6:00AM and watched the fog animate morning light on a flat-calm lake.


The view from the campsite, Mogollon Rim Country

After three hours of paddling, I spent most of the rest of the day in a hammock at my campsite, gazing over at least 20 miles of forest.  I think I’d earned some laziness.

Of these last 100 nights, 68 of them passed outside campgrounds (mostly alone in the quiet), and 39 were in completely new locations.  Now that my husband has finished building our new home, my unaccompanied trips are less frequent.  Just 18 of the last 100 were solo. 

There were some standouts.


BLM land stumbled upon in southern Utah

I have fond memories of the campsites stumbled upon, like a spot near Bear’s Ears in Utah which we found when we’d been looking so long that I was wondering whether we’d be stealth camping in some parking lot.  Another notable was a camp found down a random Forest Road near Grand Junction Colorado during a fall color trip in 2020.


Tree Tunnel in fog, Northern California

Unforgettable stories popped up, too.  There’s the time a determined packrat rode up to Flagstaff with me and just wouldn’t get out of the vehicle.  He didn’t do well when I ended the trip with an event in Phoenix in August.  Then there was the fist big trip in the Sprinter, an epic 10-day adventure into northern California in December.  Though there are lots of memories, mostly I remember rain.  Relentless rain. The vehicle and its diesel heater did great.


Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, near Ajo AZ

We were the recipients of lovely hospitality in what I like to call driveway camping.  We imposed on generous friends in Northern California, Santa Fe, and Ajo, Arizona. Marco did such a great job with the solar and battery storage that we don’t need to run a power cord into the house any more.


San Juan River, New Mexico

Marco has become an avid fly fisherman, so we’re looking for locations which serve us both.  Favorites so far are East Clear Creek in the Coconino Forest and the San Juan River in Northern New Mexico.


East Clear Creek AZ

There were some photographic projects which lent themselves well to camping.  The ability to conveniently shoot sunset and the following day’s sunrise while sleeping in my own bed is such a gift. There was work on Arizona Highways’ State Park issue at Alamo Lake and Deadhorse Ranch, as well as a scenic drive in Mogollon Rim Country.


Saddle Mountain Trailhead, Kaibab National Forest AZ

Disappointments were few, though revisiting an old favorite called Fire Point at Grand Canyon’s North Rim after a wildfire was heartbreaking.  I’ve also been gravitating more toward spots tucked in the forest there and in the nearby Kaibab National Forest because of the crowding, trash, and human waste problems at the prominent viewpoints.  Overlanding seems to have reached its peak popularity now, so I have high hopes that the situation will improve.

There’s more to look forward to, with any kind of luck.

Thanks for riding along.