Rebecca Wilks

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

Monday, September 18, 2023



Partners in "Yarnell Loves Pets"

I’ve recently gotten interested in a couple of conservation projects in Prescott, about 35 miles from home.  The photographic work is a departure for me, and a great opportunity to think a little differently.

I’m grateful for the inspiration to “use my powers for good” from Russell Graves, a speaker at the North American Nature Photography Association last spring.  After that conference I started looking for causes to support with both drone and “ground” images.

Highway 89 Through the Granite Dells, Prescott AZ

There’s talk about widening a scenic stretch of Highway 89 in Prescott.  The project would involve blasting these majestic rocks, and I believe that’s a really bad idea.  In addition to photographs, I’ve had a few ideas to contribute, including some perspective on Highway 89, which stretches from the Mexican to Canadian Border (with a few interruptions) providing access to seven National Parks and fourteen National Monuments.  For most of its nearly 2,000 miles, it is a two-lane road. National Geographic named it the #1 Drivers’ Drive in the world. It’s about beauty, not speed.

Willow Lake near Highway 89 in Prescott AZ

A drone perspective conveys what a treasure this area is and must continue to be.

View from atop Glassford Hill into Prescott Valley AZ

There’s also a movement to designate Granite Dells Regional Park and Preserve, including Glassford Hill, an open area adjacent to Prescott Valley.  One of the largest enemies of that plan is a proposed road called the Sundog Connector running through the (now) open space.  I put the drone up to document the area around Glassford Hill to show the natural beauty of the area, and some destruction that’s already happened around its periphery. More information is available on the Sundog DISConnect Facebook page.

Meals on Wheels client and her beloved dog

Petey's Playground's Kim Lytle with an adoptable kitten

The third project is right here at home.  The Yarnell Regional Community Center’s main mission is Meals on Wheels, serving homebound clients in our rural area.  We’ve been supporting clients and their pets with the help of a grant from Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities.  The program, deemed “Yarnell Loves Pets,” helps with anything from veterinary bills to pet food.  I’m honored to be a member of the group telling the story of this program, in hopes of raising awareness and, we hope, new funding to make it sustainable.

Some of these projects are too new to yet have a web presence, but I’ll edit this post to include URLs when they’re available.

 These departures have been invigorating. 

Sunset lights up falling rain, Mogollon Rim Country AZ

The other departure?  A camping birthday party on Arizona’s Mogollon Rim.  There wasn’t too much photography (wait, what?), but there was cake, and one unbelievable sunset.

Up next, the annual Fall Color pilgrimage to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Roadkill and Other Joys


Post-storm fog near Beartooth Pass Montana

This was a very different trip.

Warm Springs Creek's confluence with the Salmon River (roadkill)

 For one thing, there was a great deal of what I’ve heard Colleen Miniuk call “roadkill photography.”  Perhaps it’s not an original moniker, but I’ll give her credit for now. After a night’s rain, there was delightful fog over Beartooth Pass Montana and Wyoming.  We must have pulled over 10 times up and over the 11,000 ft summit. Besides that, there were scenes of ranching and farming life as well as details of the many watersheds we explored.

It’s a long way from Arizona to Montana. There were lessons learned on this 11 day, 3000-mile epic journey, not the least of which was that driving 6 hours each day is not ideal.  Next time, we’ll slow down by laying over in some camps for second nights and doing some shorter driving days.  Photographers among my readers will recognize this paragraph as an excuse for the relative paucity of images coming out of this undertaking.  No matter, we had fun.

Marco fishing the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

And there was fishing.

Campsite on a tributary of the Salmon River, Idaho

Finding a dispersed (outside a campground) camping site on the fly can be an adventure (read: pain in the butt), but we had expert advice from locals and photographer friends which led us to some of the best sites like this one, vaguely captioned to protect vulnerable terrain.

Sunrise on and reflection of Mount Bachelor, Idaho

The low point (perhaps some of you voyeurs want to know) was a camp spot without shade, which added insult to injury with hordes of insects not deterred by DEET.  The high temperature inside the van (my only refuge) was 97F.  I grumped.  This was sunrise the next day though, so perhaps it was worthwhile.

Detail of a hike near Red Lodge Montana

Our northernmost spot was driveway camping at the home of friends in Red Lodge, Montana, a relatively unspoiled mountain town (something like Crested Butte Colorado used to be).  We showered, did laundry, had leisurely meals and hikes and shopped the historic Main Street, where there may have been a thrift store, ice cream, AND a bakery.

Aerial, East Fork Bear River, Utah

As we worked our way home, and just before we re-entered familiar territory in Utah’s Uinta Mountains, we discovered the East Fork of Bear River.  We didn’t have time to linger, so we vowed to return. Unfinished business.

Storm over Marble Canyon, Arizona

To ground ourselves, we spent the last night in the very familiar North Kaibab Forest.  We chose a great place to watch storms pass which also has a phone signal (our first this trip, not counting Red Lodge) for a Zoom meeting.  We’d no sooner pulled into this familiar spot than the rainbows started.

 Thanks for your interest.  As always, more images are in the Summer 2023 Gallery on the website.

 Next up, the annual Autumn trip through Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.  I anticipate more drone flights above the aspens and less roadkill.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Hips and Knees


Near Guardsman Pass Utah

During our trip last month to the UK, our travelling companions, who are about our age, expressed gratitude in a memorable way for the ability to travel actively.  They want to do as much as they can while their hips and knees still function.  Hips and knees might be a metaphor to some extent, but you get the point.  We’re appreciative to have reached retirement and still having some gas in our tanks.


No family trip would be complete these days without fishing.  Marco spent our first full day on this road trip near Beaver, Utah angling on the Beaver River.  Steve Dawson guided him on private property, and they hardly noticed the heat dome. I retreated with Gypsy the Wonder Dog and the overworked van refrigerator to higher altitude. They were shocked to learn that my car thermometer read 105F when I returned to pick the dude up. 


Puffer Lake at dawn, Fish lake National Forest Utah

The nights before and after, we boondocked at a cool 10,000 ft along the upper reaches of the river. This is nearby Puffer Lake from the air. I’m interested in seeing the aspen stands here in the fall.


In what feels like a homecoming, we followed with a stay in a dog-friendly rental in Park City.  Between summer and ski trips, we figure we’ve been there at least forty times. We indulged in our favorite hikes, shopping, patio restaurants, and (Gypsy’s passion) the library lawn which is a de facto dog park. This shot is actually from last year, but you get the gist. Park City is remarkably dog-friendly, and she was invited into (and given treats in) the Kuhl store and Fishwest, the fishing shop on Main Street.


Uinta Mountain cascade Utah

We spent two days in the Uinta Mountains, managing to find photogenic fishing spots (the grail) with not a soul around (a huge plus). 


Lupines at sunrise, North Kaibab Forest Arizona

We had two more days, and there wasn’t much deliberation before we decided to spend them in the North Rim Forest, halfway home and at a high altitude. I’ve been busy with other things, so this was my first trip there this season.  I’d missed it.  We found a couple of isolated, quiet camp spots, and even had the pleasure of a little downpour one afternoon.  After the huge snowfall last winter, I expected an impressive showing of ferns and flowers, but both were much more sparse than last year.  I did find one sweet field of lupines, at least.


North Kaibab Forest Arizona

Drone flight is complicated near the Grand Canyon – the Special Flight Rules Area extends into the National Forest and some research is required to see where aircraft are allowed.  Our first camp qualified, and I was thrilled to be able to see Vermillion Cliffs and Navajo Mountain from 300 feet above us. This should be fun in the autumn as well.

 That is, if our hips and knees hold out.

 There’s more in the Summer 2023 Gallery on the website.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Out of the Frying Pan...

West Fork Black River, White Mountains Arizona

Temperatures in the low desert of Arizona this time of year are somewhere between the surface of Mars and a deep fryer. You might think I’d have enough sense to gain some altitude for summer photography projects, but you wouldn’t be entirely correct. 


Waddell, Arizona

Several areas around Phoenix sport floral agriculture, spectacular enough, I thought, to justify the inconvenience of the heat and the 3:00 AM wake up required to get there in good light.  I’d been thinking about the roses for years, and more so since I started flying the drone.  Around Waddell Arizona there are rose fields.  The farmers are not selling blooms, though, they’re selling desert-adapted rose bushes for landscaping.  Varieties are planted together in several rows and extravagant blocks of color reveal themselves at blooming time.  The bad news; these fields are located in Luke Air Force Base airspace.  I can ask permission to fly my drone there, but word has it that I’ll never hear back from Luke.  A friend who flies drones commercially and has a rather impressive history with the Air Force (I’ll omit further details in order for him to remain anonymous) suggested I just fly it; what’s the worst that could happen?  No, not so much my style.  My reasonable but not perfect solution was to press into service an 18-foot pole my husband had from his survey days.  We found it cleaning out the garage, but that’s another story. I fitted it with a tripod head and was off.


Waddell, Arizona

So, I’m driving around 45 minutes before sunrise, squinting in the near-dark and cursing at the many road closures and detours.  I would say driving in circles, but the geometry was infinitely more complex. There was one field I liked.  Finally, I concluded that the only workable angle was from a freeway offramp, near an 18-wheeler apparently parked for the night.  Walking back and forth with my 18-foot pole, I perturbed the driver’s dog, who awakened his human with his crazed barking.  I’ll give the driver attitude points for his friendly wave.  Maybe he was blissful because he got to sleep to the scent of roses. Maybe he was laughing at my pole.


Sunflowers, Maricopa Arizona

From there, I drove to a sunflower field outside Maricopa.  I’d been seeing images of it on social media, so I jumped on the photographic bandwagon.  There I could put the aircraft up, thank goodness. I’ve mentioned before that I have a dayglo vest that proclaims me an FAA-certified Drone Pilot.  The point, more than pride and vanity, is to convince people that I belong there, and that they should leave me (the heck) alone when I’m flying.  That morning, because of the vest, I met a photographer from a local news station who let me know he’d be flying a drone, too.  We had a chance to look out for each other, a benefit of the dorky vest I’d not imagined.


Sunflower backlighted, Maricopa Arizona

I had some fun with “land” camera shooting, too.  Since sunflowers are heliotropic (tend to face the sun), that can be a little challenging.  Things photographed with light directly on them look flat and a bit boring.  I played with this by shooting from other angles and casting shade.

 Incidentally, for those of you who remember the Polaroid Land Camera, it was first manufactured in 1948, long before camera drones, and the name reflects the surname of the inventor, not the terrain it was meant to be used upon.


Black River Watershed, White Mountains Arizona

All this was an adventure, but I was ready for more comfortable temperatures.  There was a family trip to the White Mountains, interrupted by delightful trip to Urgent Care in Pinetop-Lakeside. My husband quickly recovered with medication, and we scooted back out camping.  This is my favorite of the aerial images from that trip.


Ferns & Iris in the forest, White Mountains Arizona

The wild Rocky Mountain Iris were blooming as well.  Summer at 7500 feet is much lovelier than in the desert, flowers notwithstanding.


Blue Ridge Reservoir aerial, Arizona

East Clear Creek aerial Arizona

We were able to visit some favorite (“fishy” as my husband says) Mogollon Rim Country spots as well.  These looked cool with a new, higher perspective.

Marco in a "fishy" place, White Mountains Arizona

There's much more on the Spring and Summer Galleries on the website.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

UK, Finally


Chalk Cliffs, Seaford Head, England

We’d been planning this trip since 2018, and it had suffered two COVID - related postponements.  We were ready.  Our dear English friends had volunteered to do most of the planning and we were so grateful. We told them that we were more interested in the countryside than cities and museums and (we might have regretted this request) that we wanted to see as much as we could. They planned everything and drove us around Scotland in a jaunty rented bright blue MG. That being said, the pace was impressive, and the days are long in Scotland in June. There was just one opportunity to nap in two weeks. 

Glasgow Cathedral

We spent about a half-day each in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London.  London in particular was surreal because we arrived by train from their home in Surrey and poof, there we were walking along the Thames.   

Highland Cow

It’s always good to have an idea of the iconic visuals when I’m traveling; the things which help tell the story of the place. If I don’t know what I’m looking for, I won’t see it. The most elusive project was finding Highland cattle (“coos” locally.) All through Skye and the Highlands, I obnoxiously reminded my 3 non-photographer companions (who were just trying to have a nice trip) to keep looking for the beasts.  For days on end.  Ultimately we found them, on our last half-day in Scotland, on the battlefield at Culloden of all places.  You’ve got to admit they’re compelling.


Scottish Lamb

Sheep, on the other hand, were almost literally everywhere.  They’re better looking than ours in the states, and the lambs are irresistible.


Eilean Donan Castle

Stone structures are iconic and ubiquitous too.  Ruins, bridges, huge cairns, castles, and plenty of homes and businesses which still operate.  Just about everything is older there than in the states.


Fairy Pools

We were thrilled to see so many waterfalls and pools. Despite the lack of rain while we were there (zero), we were surrounded by water and engulfed in green.

A very early sunrise, Skye

Did I mention that the days were long? Really long?  If you count civil twilight at each end, there were 20 or more hours of light.  This poses an issue when trying to catch early light in the morning.  At around 4:00 AM. Sometimes after a rather (ahem) social evening.


Loch Lomond Sunrise through the window

Sometimes I stumbled out to shoot sunrise, and sometimes I set up the tripod in our bedroom, shot out the window, replaced the blackout curtains, and crawled back in bed. Sometimes I missed it.


Mosaic, Loch Lomond

I have to remind myself, on trips with really expansive views, to keep an eye to the details.  They, too, are there if I look for them. 

From the pub, Ben Nevis Trailhead

The views out the windows of our accommodations, from pubs, and from castles-turned-museums were so impressive that I couldn’t resist documenting them, too.

 A few words about the food.  First, Scotland boasts some spectacular and fresh seafood.  One of our traveling companions is a vegetarian, and I thought she missed quite a lot (though I’m sure she was unconcerned.) I set out to have what I thought to be the local dishes.  Yes, I had haggis and black pudding, and I thought they were rather good. Likewise, the pub versions of shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, coronation chicken, and (oh my heart) cheese and chutney toastie; a variation on grilled cheese.

 I had a hard time choosing images this time.  As you can imagine, there’s A LOT more on the website. Thanks for coming along.

Sunday, May 14, 2023



Owl Parent

Photography has led me to so many cool opportunities.  As I ponder this, I‘m grateful for a lot of help.  I’m particularly grateful for my “spies.”

My friends know what excites me in the natural world, and they’re so good at telling me about things that I should check out.


Most recently, a friend let me know about a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls in her tree.  Since then, I’ve had several adventures on her rather slippery roof (the best vantage point) and discovered two owlets in the nest while watching one of the parents chase off marauding ravens.  These are not art quality images, but they are a window into the natural world. 

Barn Owl

My veterinarian friend lets me know when she’s doing something interesting, like helping to fledge this orphaned barn owlet. I love the chance to photograph these things.

Enough owls, maybe?

Summer Poppies, Kirkland AZ

A pair of friends, as curious as I am, have turned me on to flowers I might not have noticed on my own.  The most memorable were these “summer poppies” which sometimes pop up during monsoon season.  They look like the Mexican Gold Poppies we see in spring when I drive by at 65 MPH but they’re not related: they’re actually a member of the Creosote family.

Ajo Lily, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

One friend is a Park Service Ranger who’s pointed me toward a huge variety of places since we met ten or so years ago, both at the Grand Canyon and at her current gig at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Most recently it was Ajo Lilies in a corner of the monument.

Solitude at Mojave Trails National Monument

Speaking of Rangers, I called the BLM Needles (CA) office for information about Mojave Trails National Monument a few years ago and had the good luck to connect with another generous ranger.  She walked through google earth with me to help me get to this and other nearby places. 

Handoff; Hashknife Pony Express

Another friend is connected with the Hashknife Pony Express.  I was thrilled that he invited me to help shoot publicity images for them.  One of these riders has since died, and the other, his good friend, has used this image several times in his memory.  RIP Wade. I’ve recently learned that the image was used on a plaque for a new sculpture in Holbrook Arizona. 

Volcan Fuego, Esquintla Guatemala

My husband and I have become acquainted with the director of the Spanish language school we frequent in Guatemala.  Knowing I was a photographer, he arranged for his brother-in-law to guide us to this vantage point of Volcan Fuego.  I was getting impatient waiting for an eruption, but he encouraged me to keep waiting.  This happened.  I only had time for one 25 second shot 

Walnut Grove Bridge over Hassayampa River

Our local waterways are lined with cottonwood trees.  I was anticipating shooting these trees upstream from the 1930s bridge in bright spring green.  The spot is a long enough drive that I appreciated the intelligence I got from a friend who is building a house out that way.

These are just a few examples of helpful spies – I’m grateful to you all. If you see something, please say something.  😊