American Goldfinches

This article shares a selection of handheld photographs of American Goldfinches that were captured in my backyard earlier this summer. Although American Goldfinches visit periodically, we don’t typically see them with any regularity until August. By the fall most of the birds have migrated out of the area.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/2500, f/6.3, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H,. cropped to 4380 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.3 metres

I recently built a small DYI bird photo perch adjacent to the pond in my backyard. American Goldfinches can be a bit skittish so it took a while for a few individual birds to feel comfortable using it.  This DYI bird photo perch has enabled me to capture some images with fairly clean, unobstructed backgrounds as you can see in the next three photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.7 EV, ISO-3200,. Pro Capture H, cropped to 3880 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4186 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.7 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4356 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.6 metres

My wife has planted a number of coneflowers in the backyard, with many of them proximate to the pond and our back deck. After the blossoms have dried out to some degree, the American Goldfinches visit frequently as they like to feed on the seeds.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/2500, f/6.3, -0.7 EV, ISO-800, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3990 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres

As you examine the EXIF data you’ll discover that all of the images in this article were captured using Pro Capture H. As mentioned earlier, American Goldfinches tend to be skittish birds and they don’t stay perched very long.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4422 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres

I use Pro Capture H most of the time when I am photographing this species as I never know when I may be able to capture some leaping or flying behaviour. These birds are extremely quick and I enjoy photographing them launching into flight whenever possible. The next five photographs captured a bird leaping to another branch.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4412 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4226 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4560 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4368 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4178 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.7 metres

My standard settings for Pro Capture H are my Pre Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter both set to 15. I always use a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second and single point auto-focus. I love the fast frame rate available with Pro Capture H as it allows me to capture a good selection of body and/or wing positions. The five consecutive photographs above were captured in a total of 1/12th of a second.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/2500, f/6.3, -0.7 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3335 pixels on the width, subject distance 18 metres

Typically I concentrate my photographic efforts on American Goldfinches that are in close proximity to me, although I am not averse to photographing birds taking flight a distance away from me. For example, the finch in the above image was about 18 metres away (~59 feet). Showing more of the bird’s environment can be of benefit in terms of providing context.

The final four photographs in this article show an American Goldfinch taking flight from a coneflower.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4148 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.1 metres

Whenever I photograph American Goldfinches in action I use a shutter speed between 1/2500 to 1/5000. The more available light I have, the higher the shutter speed I use.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4606 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.1 metres

Using faster shutter speeds helps to reduce wing blur. At times this means that a higher ISO value is required.  When needed I don’t hesitate to shoot as high as ISO-6400. Applying two rounds of noise reduction during my process in post (i.e. DxO PhotoLab DeepPRIME, Topaz DeNoise AI) handles the noise to an acceptable level for my needs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4932 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.1 metres

I always look forward to having American Goldfinches in my backyard… even if they only visit for a relatively short period of time each year.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. This is the 1,073rd article published on this website since its original inception.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4141 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.1 metres

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2 thoughts on “American Goldfinches”

  1. Great captures, I am amazed at your results with the 100-400 lens. I would think you would need so much light at those shutter speeds. I might have to look into that DXO prime.

    1. Hi Steve,

      The M.Zuiko 100-400 mm is a really terrific lens, and is quite versatile given its relatively short minimum focusing distance. It does need decent light… but it just is what it is.

      I’ve been using DxO for many years as my RAW processor. I apply DeepPRIME to all of my images, regardless of the ISO at which they are captured. I’ve found that using a maximum value of 15 works for me with DeepPRIME. I apply this at the front end of my process. After exporting a DNG file into PhotoShop I do some modest corrections as well as in the Nik Collection. At the very end of my process I use Topaz DeNoise AI. This dual noise reduction approach works much better than only using DxO or Topaz for one pass at noise reduction. A good example of this is the first image in the article which was captured at ISO-6400 and somewhat underexposed (which is something that I don’t like to do).

      Tom

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