Rebecca Wilks

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

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