Photographing the Says Phoebe



In April of 2009 a friend of mine pointed out a nesting pair of Says Phoebe birds at his house in SW Utah. At the time I was living there for the season and shooting in the area. Bird photography is a recreational past time for me. I love how hard it is and I looked at this as a fun opportunity for backyard photography. There are few things more enjoyable in photography then seeing a picture in your mind and doing whatever it takes to make it happen. The shot I wanted proved to be a patience and problem solving game, and one I was having fun with. This gallery is dedicated to 4 days of tenacity with 2 birds. Enjoy!

Day 1 A standard approach on the first day, long lens from a distance. I liked the photos but wasn't in love, but my interest was peaked.

On The Hunt


The Greatest Influence

A friend of mine and brilliant photographer, Dave Black, once said "Light is the greatest influence to a subject" I couldn't put it better or agree more.

Just Add Light

Day 2

After looking at my photos the first evening I wasn't blown away. But I had walked away with something key. The 2 birds had a discernible and basic pattern when returning to their nest. They would always land on the highest point they could find closest to the nest, scout, and fly in safely to their eagerly awaiting chics. I decided to surround the highest point in the area, a dead branch, with concealed high powered off-camera strobes. The result was one step closer.

An adult scouting before heading to the nest with a fresh honey bee meal. The off camera lighting was freezing the action in select scenarios.

The new look was nice, but the shutter speed limitation with these strobes wasn't enough. Nothing left to do this day but persevere!

Day 3

New angles, Different Technologies


Step 1: A more intimate angle


Step 2: Using a remote camera mounted under the predictable perch and adding 4 Nikon SB800 speed lights to keep up with the action

The 2nd greatest influence


The dead tree branch wasn't as pleasing of a background as I'd hoped, so I clipped down some mesquite branches, bundled them up, taped them to a light stand and created the new highest perch

Final Step

As hoped, the birds flocked to the new high perch immediately

It was a great feeling to get the photo I had initially envisioned, but more then anything the process and patience it took was the most fun. It was also a great way to spend 4 days.



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  • timguffin

    Such a great use of the Stellar platform Keith. I always learn a lot from your really nailed this one! Fun to read and see the progression as the photos evolved from ok ---> good ---> great

  • mombo

    Amazing..... A great Steller

  • michel_caron

    All about seeing what others didn't see (and some creativity:-). Bravo!

  • brajohn1

    What a great steller. really enjoyed this

  • acleverly

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing your process- it really gives new appreciation for all the work that goes into getting these beautiful photos!

  • silverlakegirl

    ️I loved every word and bird image 🐥

  • wayne_dc


  • jenjoi

    Loved seeing your process! Gorgeous!

  • attilaadam_

    Amazing feat

  • linden

    So amazing!

  • bluedog

    Lovely !

  • kbasta

    Wow! Great story & images. Love the technical challenges / successes.

  • Doug_Hansen

    Thanx for sharing these beautiful pictures!!!! Obviously Patients is a virtue :-)

  • My2girls

    Absolutely the most incredible shots captured! Beautiful work 💕

  • wilderphoto

    So beautifully told! Interesting story and I love the tenacity and resulting imagery.

  • verdderfan

    Your photographs are genius , amazing story ! sequence of events !!

  • casmenviarod



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