Rebecca Wilks

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Showing up

Desert Marigold and Lupine, Beeline Highway Arizona

My theory is that nobody knows a precise definition for a superbloom.  Wikipedia calls it “an unusually high proportion of wildflowers … which germinate and blossom at roughly the same time. The phenomenon is associated with an unusually wet rainy season.”  Vague.

Maybe this is a superbloom year, but even without the label, things are extraordinary out there.  I’ve been putting on a lot of miles enjoying and photographing the flowers, even though I should be studying for my FAA Commercial Drone Pilot exam (more on that in another post.)

Early Spring, Lake Pleasant Arizona

There were some brittlebush blooming at Lake Pleasant Regional Park early in March, but that was about it.  Sometimes showing up doesn’t yield what I’m hoping for.

Poppies and ocotillo skeleton, near Lake Pleasant Arizona

Across the road, next to a shooting range (that was an exercise in steadying my nerves), there was a lovely early field of Mexican Gold Poppies.

Globe mallow from above, Salome Road Arizona

Another day I completely struck out scouting in the Saddle Mountain and Eagletail area, but stumbled on some dense brittlebush on the way home.  The icing on the cake was that this display was in unrestricted airspace, so I put the drone up.

I’d been hearing such good things about the flowers in a long-time favorite place, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, that I spent a few nights in the campground and my camera and I drove and hiked in all kinds of weather.


Ajo Lily, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I was thrilled to see the showy Ajo Lily and counted 24 different varieties of flowering plants.


Scorpionweed against a stormy background, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

There were also carpets of scorpionweed, lupine, and poppy.  I was surprised that a spot where I’ve seen a profuse owl’s clover bloom was bare. I showed up but they did not.  These things are just not predictable.


Globe Mallow and sahuaro skeleton, Sonoran Desert National Monument Arizona

On the way home I camped a night in blessed solitude in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, where Globe Mallow was taking over the world.  These flowers can look a little scraggly in isolation, but I enjoy them in profusion.


Poppy carpets in Southwestern Arizona

A favorite spot near home was sporting huge fields of poppies this year as well, and I made a couple of trips out there to shoot traditionally and with the drone.


The last stop (so far, at least) was along the Bush Highway east of Phoenix.  I was able to meet up with a friend and see what all the hype was about.  Good news and bad; the flowers carpets near the highway were spectacular, but there were easily 100 cars parked on that short stretch. 


Lupine, owl's clover, and poppies, sorta near Bush Highway, Arizona

We drove in, stopped to photograph a cluster of Chuparosa bushes near Sahuaro Lake, and drove right back out.  We ended up shooting in some unlikely places including this one, a wide spot in the median of the Beeline Highway.


Poppies, sahuaro, and sky from the tall tripod (drone)

There was also time for drone shots in a valley behind her house.

 It’s been fun showing up all over the Arizona Desert, well worth the miles. 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Woman with a Rooster and Other Marvels


Girl in a compelling spot, Santa Catarina Palopó

Like many things which are destined to change our lives, this one crept up on me. Some Rotary friends mentioned (OK, repeatedly) that they were involved with a great literacy project in Guatemala.  “You should come and check it out,” they said.

That was about 15 years ago, and I’ve lost count of the number of trips I’ve made now.  Maybe 10?  It didn’t take long to get my husband hooked, too.  The nonprofit we work with (Cooperative for Education) is top-drawer, the project effective and important.  Guatemala is gorgeous, its people lovely, kind, and hospitable.  What’s not to like, right?


Youngster lost in thought, Zaragoza Guatemala

After so many visits, the last specifically for photography, I’m shooting more sparsely.  I have lots of the classic shots in the catalog, so I’m relaxing into smaller photogenic moments and sometimes just leaving the camera in the bag and enjoying.  The other thing is that folks are mostly wearing masks in the schools we visit and masked portraits are not so compelling to me, though they do tell a story of our world in 2023.

Woman with a Rooster, Santa Catarina Palopó

My favorite work from this trip is the street portraits.  This was my first visit to Santa Catarina Palopó, on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlán.  We had about an hour to explore.  I was so excited about meeting this woman who, in addition to wearing traditional clothing (traje), standing in front of a nice background in soft light, and being friendly and willing to pose, was HOLDING A ROOSTER.  This passes for a thrill in my world.  But seriously, this kind of scene is typical of rural Guatemala, and says something about the culture.

Besties, San Pedro Yepocapa School, Guatemala

Portraits during the official school visits are a bit like street photography.  Photographing the students is such fun; it’s something of a party atmosphere when we visit and it doesn’t hurt that brightly painted walls are the norm.  Typically the whole town shows up, but during this trip I wasn’t seeing elders.  That’s a shame because their faces are so interesting to me.  No one seemed to know why; perhaps it had to do with the pandemic.

During our last few days we hung around to catch up with some friends and be tourists in Antigua, the previous territorial capitol.  Antigua is a special place, with a view of three volcanos (one active!), cobblestone streets, and fascinating details.  I’ve created photography projects for myself around these during the last few visits, and presented them in poster style.  During past trips projects have included doors & windows, door knockers, and “look down” which highlighted interesting things underfoot.

This year I put together what I call a sampler, letters and numbers from all over the city. 

Sunrise over Volcanos Atitlán and Tolimán, Lake Atitlán Guatemala

There are always a few landscapes, too.  Who can resist?

I’m beginning to think there’s a book brewing…

More from the trip are in the Guatemala Gallery on the website.