Birds of Arizona – Phainopepla ( Phainopepla nitens )

Yesterday was an interesting day for me as the weather prediction was not excellent, but still fair and relatively mild with a predicted high in the low 80’s and we were eager to take a hike. We decided to select a route off of the Granite Mountain Trailhead (The Bootlegger Trail) which is part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve.

Whenever I hike, I anticipate capturing a picture of a bird that is either better than one that I currently have of that bird or, as a bonus, a bird for which I do not have a picture.

I have seen many Phainopeplas, but I have never been able to take a good picture of one. I also know that this is the time of the year that they visit the Sonoran Desert. I spotted one just 100 yards from my backyard a few days ago, but it was not in a very nice setting so I passed.

Today I was able to take a “starter picture” of a Phainopepla that we spotted along the Bootlegger Trail. I am labeling this a starter because I am hoping to capture a photograph that is even better one of these days!

As I have stated on this blog before, I am an amateur photographer with very limited bird photography experience and just a bit more as a birder. The only camera I have with a long reach is my Canon PowerShot SX50HS and that is the equipment I used for the shot below.

Phainopepla captured at the McDowell Mountain Preserve
Phainopepla captured at the Granite Mountain Trailhead along the Bootlegger Trail which is part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Phainopeplas remind me of Cardinals or Waxwings because of their sleek profile and the tuft. Males are black while females are more grey. Interestingly enough, they have a red eye which is very striking and not always easy to capture in a photograph. I am placing a cropped image below to show more detail even though it may not be as sharp as I would like.

Phainopepla captured at the McDowell Mountain Preserve
A cropped version of the image above

Now I have one more picture for my collection!

Read more about Phainopeplas HERE


File Name: 000017_IMG_0806.CR2
Capture time: 9:28:51 AM
Capture date: November 15, 2017
Exposure: 1/500 sec @ f/7.1
Focal Length: 215mm
ISO: 80
Canon PowerShot SX50HS
Lens: 4.2-215mm
Edited in Lightroom

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017

My Photography Conundrum – Part 1

When I was younger, much younger, I was very interested in photography. There was a magic about being able to freeze a moment in time to capture an event that will never appear in that exact juxtaposition of all the elements again. At least it seemed like magic to me.

Life progressed and my camera saw little action as I was busy trying to advance my career (which was not related to photography). I continued to take snapshots, as opposed to serious photographs, the interest in photography continued to simmer in my heart.

A few years ago, now that life is a bit more subdued, I purchased a bridge camera. Heretofore I had been using Canon point-and-shoot, jpeg only cameras such as the Canon PowerShot A75 with a whopping, for that time, 3.2 megapixels.

Canon PowerShot  A75
Canon PowerShot A75 picture courtesy of Imaging Resources

Starbucks Coffee Shop Boston Taken with the Canon  A75
Picture of Starbucks Coffee Shop in Boston taken with the Canon A75 and cropped

That little camera went all over with me and took some fairly decent pictures; not great, but good enough!

I soon had to acquire a newer camera for a trip to Peru which I didn’t want to risk by taking my older A75 which was “acting up” at that time.

Canon PowerShot A590 IS
Canon PowerShot A590 courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Native girl with pet sloth-Amazon
Young Amazon native girl with pet sloth taken with the PS A590

A pet Capybara in the Amazon
A pet Capybara in the Amazon taken with the PS A590

Native guide handles a poisonous frog - AmazonS
Rather closeup picture of poisonous frog in the Amazon taken with PS A590 and cropped

Machu Pichu taken with the PowerShot A590

Machu Pichu taken with the PowerShot A590 – Sorry, I didn’t know about blown highlights!

These cameras served me well and I still bring the A590 with me whenever I want to capture something quickly and with ease. Of course now that I have a hand-me-down iPhone 5, I can also tuck that into my pocket for the same purpose.

A couple of years ago, I became interested in bird watching. I am not a fanatic, but I do like birds and I enjoy trying to identify them. It was a short hop, skip and a jump to an interest in photographing birds. I did some research and found out that there are approximately 950 different birds in the United States and at some point in the year over half of them spend time in my newly adopted state of Arizona (although not exactly in my neighborhood!).

I began to wonder how many of those birds I could photograph and record. I wasn’t thinking of beautiful bird photographs like those of Scott Bourne and other nature photographers. I was simply thinking about pictures of record.

So…I did what most people would probably do and I signed up for a guided bird hike and I brought my Canon PowerShot with 4x zoom with me. Screech…..

Those birds are so far away! All I can see is an outline of a bird. How am I to identify that bird from such a photograph?. Of course I do exaggerate a bit. There were some birds only a short distance away that could be identified with the naked eye and/or a quick snap, but it was becoming obvious that I would need a “better” camera, i.e. with more of a zoom.

Compounding my dilemma was that I wanted to try shooting in the RAW mode which is/was recommended by most accomplished photographers I follow and it was the advice offered repeatedly. “If one wanted to take their photography to the next level, they needed to learn to shoot in RAW and to post process!” Well, my current photographic skills weren’t at any level near that goal at that time, but my ambition was to get there.

I did what I usually do nowadays and I began reading the reviews on the Internet and after many, many hours of reading and pondering, I decided to purchase a Canon PowerShot SXHS 50 with a tremendous zoom lens. It met my main two criteria, i.e. a lot of reach and it could shoot RAW.

PowerShot SXHS 50

Canon PowerShot SXHS 50 image courtesy of Imaging Resources

PowerShot SXHS 50 with zoom extended
Canon PowerShot SXHS 50 with lens extended image courtesy of

White-winged dove taken with the Canon SXHS 50

A White-winged dove atop a saguaro – One of the first bird pictures taken with the Canon PowerShot SXHS 50

There were some serious drawbacks though and I understood that going in. The camera did not do well at high ISOs as a matter of fact, most accomplished shooters using this camera advised to stay at 200 ISO or lower so that was going to be one limitation. I did set the auto ISO not to exceed 400 to give myself some leeway.

This camera did not disappoint me. It could take some really nice photos and I was able to get up close and personal to a lot of birds and other animals which I really liked. It did provide some challenges along the way. There was some chromatic aberration and noise in tricky situations. Of course I took them into an editing program and modified them to reduce these issues as much as possible and I could live with that.

For more than a year, I was pretty happy with my choice and then…and then

Read additional posts in My Photography Conundrum series:

My Photography Conundrum – Part 2

My Photography Conundrum – Part 3

My Photography Conundrum – Part 4 originally published this post

See previous Photography posts HERE

Scott Bourne – Gifts from A Life in Photography

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” – William James

Let me preface this post by pointing out what a great time it is to be interested in photography or to be a photographer whether it is from a hobbyist or professional perspective. It is so easy to take for granted the wealth of information available to us today because of the Internet.

There aren’t many artists, professionals in any field or accomplished practitioners of a given skill who would willingly and freely give away their hard-earned knowledge. Many of us, when we learn a special trick or secret, would like to hold it as though it would give us an edge. Scott Bourne is not one of those people.

picture of Scott Bourne
Picture Courtesy of a screen shot from YouTube Video, The Grid #49 – Guest: Scott Bourne

For those who don’t know Scott, I would like to make the introduction. He can be found almost on a daily basis sharing his knowledge and skills. This is information he has worked years to codify and embrace and he offers it to anyone with the inclination to read or listen.

Recently, for example, he posted an article describing the use of the relatively new Adobe Portfolio option. Naturally he tried it first and then wrote about his experiences and not only that, he posted his portfolio (not completed at the time I am writing this; just experimental) for all to see. This isn’t just theory, this is real!

Another thing I have to appreciate is that Scott is a no-nonsense guy. You wouldn’t have to read too many posts or listen to more than one podcast to find that out! And that’s a good thing! When he says that he has tried almost every new camera, he means it. He can speak to the pros and cons of many cameras available currently and he does. I don’t have the resources, time or skill to assess these things, but you can get a head start in such matters by listening to Scott on his photofocus podcasts or by reading his posts at

Enough by way of introduction. Let me share some of Scott Bourne’s work and explain why I admire and follow him. (By the way…I am not a relative of Scott’s. I have no vested interest in writing this post except to recommend his work as a resource for those who want to become better photographers in general, and especially those interested in bird photography.)

It is not easy to pick out the work I like best because there is so much goodness out there.

Let me just share a few pictures.

Wolf with pup
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

This is a beautiful, tender picture capturing the relationship of the adult with a pup. The viewer can sense the emotional connection and the wariness of the ever-vigilant adult.

Perhaps Scott is best known for his bird photographs and this picture of a barn owl is amazing. Not only is this a beautiful picture of the animal, but the composition is perfect. (arrows are from the screen capture and are not part of the original photo)

Barn owl in window
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

I enjoy bird photography and one of the most difficult pictures to capture is an excellent photograph of a bird in flight. There is even an abbreviation for it..BIF. Realize that one must capture the bird while it is flying by making sure to track it correctly with perhaps a zoom lens and making sure that the lighting and composition are as good as possible. Go into your back yard and try this even if it is not with a zoom lens. It is difficult. That’s what makes some of these pictures truly outstanding!

Egret in flight
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

The picture above is one of my favorites. It shows the motion of the bird and yet the face of the bird remains sharp. The viewer can sense the motion. I just find this captivating. NOTE – This was a screen shot and was slightly cropped on the right and left sides.

Tufted puffin
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

Who doesn’t like puffins? Doesn’t this Tufted Puffin look majestic? The details and colors are truly stunning!

Scott has made many trips to specifically photograph eagles. And he has a bevy of pictures of these regal birds so I will just include the two following as examples.

All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

Juvenile Eagle
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

This (above) is a juvenile eagle which has not grown into his adult coloring.

Not only does Scott Bourne have “the eye” to capture the essence of the bird such as plumage, movement and coloration. He also demonstrates his flare for the drama and beauty to be found in nature such as this shot at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Cranes at sunset at the Bosque
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

And it is not just birds. Scott enjoys all wildlife such as this Coastal Brown Bear; Grizzly.

Standing coastal brown bear
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

Thank you Scott Bourne for being so generous and giving so much to the photographic community. I know you have inspired many others and will continue to do so!


Some bird photography resources created by Scott.

A Simple Primer on Photographing Birds in Flight

How To Photograph Birds | 20 Tips & Some Resources

About Bird Photography – Finding The Birds

Photographing Birds – What NOT To Do

More “general” resources from Scott:

10 Things Beginning Photographers Should Know

Details Matter – Going The Last Mile For A Better Photograph

On the Light Stalking website, Scott has several e-Books that are available free of charge. I have read some of them and I an assure you, just studying the photographs will be inspirational and educational.

Essays on Inspiration, Vision and Creativity in Photography, by Scott Bourne

A Photographer’s E-Guide to Making Sharp Photographs, by Scott Bourne

Nine Motivational Essays on Photography, by Scott Bourne

You can see more of Scott’s work at his 500px siteClick Here

Tin Man Lee – Vision and Talent of a Wildlife Photographer

Readers of JBRish know that I enjoy photography and especially bird photography. Today, however, I want to share with you the work of Tin Man Lee. NOTE – The images used in this post are all taken by Tin Man Lee or are captured via screen shot from his website with his permission. All rights are reserved.

Tin Man Lee is a very modest person. If you read his about page, you will sense his humble tone. Wildlife photography has touched his soul.

Let’s take a look at Tin Man Lee as he is accepting his award for the Grand Prize at the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards – 2013.

Tin Man Lee Accepts his Award

If you prefer, you can watch a brief video (below) about the exhibition and the award.


Nature’s Best Photography Smithsonian Exhibit 2014 from Tin Man Lee on Vimeo.

The award winning picture is difficult to see in the above resources so here is that picture.

Powerful bear catching a salmon

Can’t you feel the power? And look at those claws!

I had to smile when Lee explained in one of his blog posts that he was frozen in the moment as the bear was powerful and although he was relatively sure the animal was going for the salmon, he couldn’t be certain!

As you will also notice, Lee exhibits a penchant for bears

Beautfull, golden lit picture of an intense bear

This bear is “thinking.” I can feel the bear’s intensity. The lighting is incredible!

Mother bear stands as lookout for cubs

Momma bear with two cubs. She is making sure the “coast” is clear.

Bear family bond

I don’t think a picture of any living creatures, including humans, can portray the family bond better than this one.

As you will see, Tin Man Lee is not a “one trick pony” (of course no pun intended here) as he demonstrates with his photos of birds.

An Alert Great Horned Owl

This picture not only captures the focus and concentration of this Great Horned owl, but also the ambiance of the forest. Harry Potter would be at home in these woodlands.

In an article about his firsts, Lee shows this picture as he explains how using long lenses was difficult for him as it is challenging to make sure the subject is in the frame and in focus. This shot is made all the more amazing by the subject matter and the demands of the equipment used.

Osprey carrying a fish for dinner

Osprey with fish

I have never met a person who did not smile when they saw a picture of an Atlantic Puffin. They are more than cute, they are endearing. Here is one in flight. Tin Man Lee was fascinated by Puffins even as a child.

Atlantic Puffin in flight

I could go on and on about Lee’s work. These pictures are amazing. Let me leave you with just these last two images which were taken from his website as screen shots.

Remarkably lit owl

Could the lighting be more perfect to create a mood?

A young fox carrying leaves

Endangered San Joaquin kit fox pup with a leaf. Central California.

One of the reasons, perhaps, that the work of Tin Man Lee is so engaging can be found on his website when he writes:

“TO BE HAPPY, ONLY DO IT FOR YOURSELF. I take pictures for my own self-satisfaction—to create images for my own enjoyment and viewing, so that I can remember special experiences with my “wild brothers and sisters.” I only go looking for the specific species I dream of photographing, and I only take photos of them the way I want—not to please anyone else but me. Nothing else really matters. It’s a way of finding myself.”

While he may be happy with his work, we are thrilled to experience these natural wonders along with him.

One of the best posts on the blog (IMHO) is Last Moments of a Bison Calf. I could feel the anguish described and for those who are sensitive, prepare to have a heartfelt experience.

Quotes from Tin Man Lee that struck a chord with me:

Speaking of his wildlife idol, Michio Hoshino, Tin Man Lee explains:”…you can feel the deep love he had with the animals he photographed.” Lee has learned well as we can feel his love and respect for the animals portrayed in his work.

“Wildlife photography is about capturing the natural behavior of wild animals in an artistic way that you prefer, and be able to tell a story and touch as many people as you can.”

“That’s when we need to learn our craft so that every time we see something, our vision and our technique come together to express what we feel in a way that touches others too. We need to learn the ‘language’ in photography to communicate.”

One of Lee’s secrets to becoming a better wildlife photographer – “B.I.F. – BIRDS IN FLIGHT Photography. It’s the mother of all action wildlife photography.” Lee continues to explain that before any meaningful wildlife photography can be practiced, the photographer must first learn the technology so that it becomes second nature.

A Final Note:

If you found these images as captivating as I have, the good news is there is much, much more on Lee’s website. I urge you to click here or on the blog tab at the top of his website. If you encounter a post in Chinese and that is not your language, scroll down and you will see many posts in English and I guarantee you will find at least one of them very inspirational. I intend to read nearly all of them.

Thanks to Tin Man Lee for giving permission to JBRish to publish his work and to share it with others via our website.