Rebecca Wilks

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

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

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