Showcase 2021 Winner: Lea Lee-Inoue

Photo of ground squirrel family. "You're All Grounded!", Apache Junction, Arizona, 2021 Showcase, First Runner-Up, Mammals © Lea Lee-Inoue
“You’re All Grounded!” Apache Junction, Arizona, 2021 Showcase, First Runner-Up, Mammals © Lea Lee-Inoue

Artist’s statement

As a photographer, there is a feeling you get in your gut, when you know you’ve got something special. I felt it with this shot.

This image was taken on Mother’s Day, an emerging round-tailed ground squirrel mom and her babies.  She exemplifies a great mom, ever watchful to their needs and alerting them of dangers. I have seen her run around nursing them, and at other times warning them of a snake, “whistling” loudly and furiously stomping her hind legs. It’s pretty incredible seeing her face a snake. She’s a tough lady. Yet she often has a smile on her face. Really!

How I got the shot

This particular morning, Mother’s Day, I got out early to sit in my bird-blind, hoping to photograph an elusive jackrabbit or gilded flicker. Mom and her cute babies popped up shortly after. I lowered my position to get a better perspective.

What I used

I use Sony gear. I began with Sony when mirrorless first came along, wanting rugged, lighter gear due to a neck herniation. Currently, I use the A9 ii, an amazingly fast focusing camera. Since I shoot all things, I love the flexibility. I have a simple complement of their lenses, although I’m not yet an owner of the 600mm f4 prime lens. For this shot I used my Sony A9 ii and the 100-400mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter.

About me

Arizona is my home base. I live at the base of the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix. The wildlife here is surprisingly abundant and not yet completely disturbed by urban life. I like to observe and photograph the local area when I’m not traveling.

Early on, my life was marked with some major challenges. At eighteen I became a Buddhist as a way of dealing with debilitating depression and anxiety. Although this is in the past, I still feel it defined most of my earlier life. I am glad to say I understand my mind now and can see the world positively. I hope my story can encourage one person to continue living and contribute back.

My photographic journey

I have had the good fortune to travel and enjoy photographing life, people, culture, and wildlife, all over the world. For many years I worked in the film industry as a set “stylist,” designing and composing images for commercial TV directors and photographers. This is where I got my training in composition. Although I wanted to work shooting, I noticed many of the photographers I worked with were unhappy. I decided to keep photography as a personal art and not sacrifice my creativity.  Now I have a fair collection of work that I’m beginning to share.

NANPA and me

I’m new to NANPA this year. I found out about NANPA from a well-known photographer friend of mine. I love the conservation element—the positive causes. I believe that  if we put the planet first and focus on saving animals, we’d solve many of our world’s problems.

Learn more

Website: LeaLeePhoto.com
Instagram: @lealeephoto

See more of Lea’s images

  • Adult prairie dog surrounded by young ones emerging from ground, image by Lea Lee-Inoue
    "You're All Grounded!" Apache Junction, Arizona, 2021 Showcase Runner-up, Mammals © Lea Lee-Inoue