Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, June 14, 2024

The Greens of Summers

Aerial of sunrise over Marble Canyon, Arizona

I do make an effort, in general, to be a bit thoughtful in these posts but I’m not so much in that headspace today.

That being said, my first trip to the North Kaibab Forest this season and first solo there (not counting Gypsy the wonder dog) in three was delightful and rather photogenic.  So, rather than wax philosophical, I’ll show some pretty pictures, comment a bit, and leave it at that.


Young neon ferns and aspens, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

Early June is bright green, mostly, with just a smattering of early flowers. The aspens are day-glow and the ferns are just toddlers. Once the monsoon rains set in, I’ll be back for flowers and sky drama. 

Aerial of camp

It turns out that there was enough moisture, oddly, for a plague of mosquitos.  Thank goodness for the bug screens on the van door and for DEET.
Gypsy basks in sunrise, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

My traveling companion’s needs are few; basic life support and the chance to run.  In large circles.  Very fast. I think the crazy running dreams that I love so much happen when she’s reliving her day.  As she gets older, she requires less supervision and so makes a better photography companion.  My husband says she’s learning to do the same when he fishes. 

My Favorite Meadow, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

I have a favorite meadow (doesn’t everyone?).  Two of the four nights we camped nearby and made the hike in the mornings and afternoons. 

Lichen on an aspen trunk


Dew on the phlox flowers

In between,  I indulged in the meditation I call a macro walk.  I carry just the camera with my close focus lens.  No bag, no tripod.  I find the streamlined process is more creative and less structured.  Don’t let me fool you, though, these camping trips are not all work.  There are naps, and lots of reading.  I actually ran out of books. 

Layers, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

I checked out a new camping spot on the last night, and finding it lacking in inspiration, got packed in the dark the next morning and drove around safari style looking for vision on the dirt roads.  The plan worked out well, though adding a couple of hours to my driving time that day may not have been the best idea.

 Thanks for riding along.  As always, there’s more on the website, in the newly minted Summer 2024 Gallery.  I know it’s not officially summer, but in Arizona, even in the mountains, it’s summer.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

In the Footsteps

Eroded Chinle formation and clouds, Ghost Ranch New Mexico

“Living out here has just meant happiness. Sometimes I think I'm half-mad with love for this place.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

I’m just back from an immersive experience in Northern New Mexico. The trip was a photo workshop organized by Colleen Miniuk and called In the Footsteps of Georgia O’Keeffe.” Our group stayed at Ghost Ranch, one of the artist’s New Mexico homes, and experienced landscapes inextricably intertwined with her. We toured the terrain, her other home 15 minutes away in Abiquiu, and the eponymous museum in Santa Fe. We photographed while hiking, while face-to-face with tiny things on the ground, and while enjoying happy hour together at our mesa-top accommodations.

Colleen started each day with a quote. Miss O’Keeffe (who as far as I know was never known as Mrs. Stieglitz) expressed her staunch independence well in words. We admired her while wondering whether we could have been her friends.

For fun I’ll organize this post around some of her words, pairing them with photographs.

Composite tribute to O'Keeffe with skull, moon, and Cerro Pedernal

“The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even though it is vast and empty and untouchable-- and knows no kindness with all its beauty.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

This composite is a tribute to an originality that must have been shocking 80 years ago. The skull sits at the entry to her Abiquiu home and the mesa on the horizon is Cerro Pedernal. I’d not be exaggerating to say that she was obsessed with this diminutive landform.

Verbena Detail, Ghost Ranch New Mexico

“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

“I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for a moment.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

Well, in a lifetime of being quoted, I suppose you’d contradict yourself a few times. Flowers, often painted on huge canvases, are, of course, an O’Keeffe trademark. One of the large datura works recently sold for more than $44M. Had there been sacred Datura blooming last week, I would have photographed them, but this verbena will have to do.

Cottonwood detail, Box Canyon, New Mexico

“I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

Yes, Georgia, I’m an antisocial naturalist as well. I enjoyed playing with texture and contrast, rendering trees in grayscale.

Glen Canyon up-view, 2015

O'Keefe's Glen Canyon up-view

“I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at - not copy it.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

At the Santa Fe Museum, I saw this painting of an up-view in Glen Canyon, which was partly drowned in the 1960s by Lake Powell. I’d never seen it before but had a visceral reaction to it. Partly the piece felt emotional, and partly it took me back to the feelings of this moment in 2015, pointing my camera skyward in a side canyon called Cathedral in the Desert.

Intentional camera movement image at sunset, Ghost Ranch New Mexico

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

These words created a fair amount of discussion in our little group. I was once convinced that realism should be the goal of most nature photography, but experience and mentorship has shown me that there’s an essence of things that can only be shown by moving away from the literal. The quote freed many of us to experiment.

Michelle showing POV, Abiquiu New Mexico

O'Keeffe's Winter Road

This is Michelle, our terrific guide at O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu house. As an example, she’s showing a painting made from just this vantage point. The other image is the artist’s painting titled “Winter Road,” based on these shapes, but inarguably minimal.

Cactus fragment, Ghost Ranch New Mexico

“I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

Reflection, Box Canyon, Ghost Ranch New Mexico.  Color and shape

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

Early morning in Box Canyon, part of the Carson National Forest just outside Ghost Ranch, was a wonderland of reflections in pools and drops of the creek. This little experiment took my breath away. It still does.

Impossible cloud wave, Ghost Ranch New Mexico

“There is no use trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The week was magical, and was a safe place for experimentation and creativity, which does sometimes require believing in impossible things.

More images are on the website, in the Spring 2024 Gallery.

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing--and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” -Georgia O’Keeffe