PHX Return. More Phoenix Bird Photography Help Needed. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

PHX Return. More Phoenix Bird Photography Help Needed.


Yesterday was a particularly great day all around. In the morning, we found two crane nests with eggs. Then, about 20 Sandhill Cranes flew in at about 7:30am. And a gorgeous Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage with ultramarine lores was on our perch in the morning and then again at sunset. All of that bodes well for the Master Classes. Click here for details.

In the afternoon the brilliant Patrick Sparkman tutored me on a miraculous new method of micro-adjusting the Nikon D-850 based on its Focus Peaking Feature. A short guide will be coming soon. I micro=adjusted my brand new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, two 200-500s, and then all of those with the TCE-14IIIs, and then the 600 with the TCE-20III. All in less than two hours with most of that time spend setting up the LensAlign kit and setting up the gear perfectly to assure True Parallel Alignment. The latter as detailed in the The LensAlign/FocusTune Micro-Adjusting Tutorial e-Guide. As I type and finish up this blog post in the car in the dark we are on the way to a morning shoot at Gatorland. Photos and GL info soon 🙂

The Streak

Today makes two hundred one days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took about two hours to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.

More Phoenix Bird Photography Help Needed

While the Gilbert Water Ranch is a great location and I am looking forward to re-visiting, I am hoping to add a bit of species variety on my next Phoenix visit. If you know a good location for photographing songbirds, especially desert songbirds, please do share by leaving a comment. If you have a backyard feeder (or feeders) in relatively spacious natural area, I would love to help you set it up for bird photography or to help you improve your set-up if you already have one. Contact via e-mail is fine.


Several folks on the Spoonbill IPTs used the Booking.Com link below and got great rates and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created by friend Bryan Holliday at the Gilbert Water Ranch in Phoenix, AZ. He used the hand held Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 320. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/8000 sec. at f/4 in Av Mode.

Image #1: Black-crowned Night-Heron pre-dawn silhouette
Image courtesy of and copyright 2018: Bryan Holliday

Bryan Holliday

Bryan is a fine young photographer friend who lives in AZ. We have shot together a bunch in San Diego and at Bosque. To get into position to make this image he fought his way through a nasty thorn tree to a small opening.

This image was created by Amy Novotny at the Gilbert Water Ranch in Phoenix, AZ. She used the tripod-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 380mm) and the Nikon D500. ISO 100: 1/1250sec. at f/5.6 in Manual (M) mode. AW: 7548.

Image #2: Black-crowned Night-Heron pre-dawn silhouette
Image courtesy of and copyright 2018: Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny

Amy, a budding nature photographer, is the physical therapist I went to visit in Phoenix in January. Bryan and Amy and I got out to photograph on weekend mornings here and there. I am doing so well with my balloon blowing Postural Restoration therapy that I am returning to Phoenix in about two weeks for nine more PRI sessions. Note: the 1.5X crop factor Nikon D500 is hugely popular with Dark Side bird photographers.

This image was created by yours truly at the Gilbert Water Ranch in Phoenix, AZ with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400: 1/250 sec. at f/10 in Manual mode. WB = K7500 in pre-dawn light.

Image #3: Black-crowned Night-Heron pre-dawn silhouette
Image copyright 2018: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Yours Truly

I was about 15 feet to the left of Bryan and Amy working the same bird against a different portion of the pre-dawn sky. As I often do, I added the 2X TC and went tight while the others went wide …

Post Processing Comments

I have said often since the dawn of digital at the turn of the century, “If you put the same photographer to work on the same computer with the same indoor lighting for seven days in a row and have them convert and process the same image every day for a week straight, they will come up with seven different versions.” When working with pre-dawn color, the above is true in spades.

Your Favorite?

Which of today’s three featured images is your favorite? Which is your least favorite? In each case, let us know why. I will share my thoughts on the three images in a future blog post.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my (stupendous) efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

If In Doubt …

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Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

13 comments to PHX Return. More Phoenix Bird Photography Help Needed.

  • Neil Hickman

    I like Bryan’s processing. If he used a vignette – it worked. If he didn’t – even better. The bird in the softer coloured area works an absolute treat.

  • Brendan

    I just got home today after two weeks of work in Phoenix. I spent every moment of free time I had birding.

    Great spots:
    Gilbert riparian preserve
    Desert Botanical Gardens – great for hummingbirds, woodpeckers, doves, etc. Also has had a reliable pyrrhuloxia for the last few weeks. Beautiful flowers/plants too.
    Rackensack Canyon – I had great eye-level looks at black-throated, black-chinned, Lincoln’s sparrows, phainopepla, 2 Crissal’s thrasher, etc.
    Base and Meridian WMA – good mix of water and riparian environment. Less people than Gilbert.
    Mt Ord and Rd 1688 – great looks at bridled titmice, acorn woodpeckers, others. I saw a pair of Lewis’s woodpeckers right near the peak.

    I’m certain there are many other great spots, but those were my favorites as a visitor…

  • David Arkin

    Excited about Patrick’s new method for Fine Tuning. Sounds great. Can’t wait to see your tutorial.

  • Doug


    I like your composition the most but I see a red halo around your bird that is not present in the other 2 images. What is the cause?

  • David Policansky

    Artie: my favorites are a tie between image 1 and 3. I like 1 for the composition and color and lace-like vegetation. I like 3 for the color and composition and the classic BAA clean background. In image 2 the bird’s head angle and pose and overall composition aren’t quite as pleasing and I prefer the color in the other two images.

  • The light in #1, the pose in #2, and the composition in #3 = killer shot. They are all pretty good as is. Please write D850 like this, not like this D-850.

    Thanks for all your hard work.

  • Elinor Osborn

    The sky color in #1 looks best to me. But the bird in #2 is my favorite bird. The few sharp feathers being preened are unique and beautiful. I like both #1 & 2 because of a little more habitat and also like the diagonal line of the branch. #3 is beautiful too but you made us compare.

  • Bob Allen

    Hi Artie. I prefer Bryan’s image… by a wide margin. Including more of the tree really improves the image.

  • Bob Allen

    Hi Artie. You must visit the Chiricahua Mtns in southeastern AZ. The American Museum of Natural History has is a research station there. It has nice grounds, cabins, mess hall, etc. It’s for researchers but you might be able to book time there. Makes for a great base station to check out the surrounding mountains and open desert.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Bob, The problem is that I need to be in Phoenix all nine weekdays 🙂

      with love, artie