American Goldfinch

Late August through to mid September is one of the best times in Southern Ontario to photograph the American goldfinch. Our backyard has quite a few plantings of Echinacea, commonly called coneflowers. As a photographer I look forward to these flowers wilting and drying up. Why? American goldfinch like to eat the seeds from these flower heads… thus creating some good opportunities to photograph these skittish, quick birds.

All of the photographs in this article were captured using the Olympus Pro Capture H mode. I find that this technology is fantastic when trying to photograph small, fast flying birds.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/13, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H mode

American goldfinch can be very difficult to approach, so opportunities to create photographs of them can be fleeting. When I spot an American goldfinch on the head of an Echinacea flower I position a single auto-focus point on the bird as quickly as possible.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H mode

It takes about 1/4 of a second for my E-M1X to record 15 full resolution photographs in temporary memory when using Pro Capture H mode. All I need to do is place my auto-focus point on the bird, then half depress and hold, my shutter release. Even if the bird quickly takes flight after that time, I know I should be able to get a few usable images from my Pro Capture H run. To illustrate this, the next four photographs are images created from the same Pro Capture H opportunity.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode

When feeding on the seeds of our Echinacea plants, American goldfinch can get aggressive with each other as they compete for food. The next five photographs show a female American goldfinch displacing a male from a flower head. All are from the same Pro Capture H image run. I love the fact that one, fleeting photographic opportunity can create multiple images for me. All of the action captured in the photographs below took less than 1/4 of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H mode

Using the Olympus Pro Capture H mode enables a photographer to capture small, detailed movements. For example, the next three images show an American goldfinch stepping from one flower head to another.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode

When I use Pro Capture H mode, I typically shoot at 60 frames per second, with 15 Pre-shutter Frames and my Frame Count Limiter also set to 15. These settings usually give me the opportunity to create 4-6 usable images of a small bird in flight. The next five photographs are consecutive images from the same Pro Capture H image run.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode

I was sitting quietly next to the pond in our backyard when an American goldfinch landed on a flower head about 5 metres away. I held focus on the bird until it took flight and was able to capture the next five consecutive images.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -0.7 step,1/2500, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -0.7 step,1/2500, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -0.7 step,1/2500, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -0.7 step,1/2500, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H mode
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -0.7 step,1/2500, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H mode

We live in a time when many photographers seem to be fixated on sensor size above all else… and full frame cameras. It is easy to forget that more dynamic range, increased colour depth, or more megapixels, are completely irrelevant if your camera doesn’t allow you to get your shot.

The Olympus Pro Capture H mode provides photographers with powerful technology that makes creating photographs like these American goldfinch images, very practical and accessible. It’s hard to put a price on that.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -1 step, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Images were cropped to taste, then resized for web use.

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