Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

December 21, 2009

American Goldfinch

Filed under: Birds, composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, light, style — richditch @ 8:29 am
American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

We don’t see many American Goldfinches here in central AZ, or anywhere else in AZ for that matter. This solitary bird seen at the Gilbert Water Ranch on December 19, 2009, is perhaps my 10th for the state in 15.5 years of active birding here. Of those 10 sightings, this is my third at the Water Ranch, and my second there this year!

A friend and I had been working a remote corner of the Water Ranch, spending time with a flock of about 25 Lawrence’s Goldfinches that he’d discovered the previous day. I was glad to see the Lawrence’s (an erratic species that “spills over” into AZ from California in some years), but they stayed high in a tree and were difficult to photograph. About an hour after that we came upon this lone bird where we usually see the common Lesser Goldfinches working thistles and sunflowers along the edge of a dry pond. We were delighted to find the American Goldfinch and to have it close and low for some photos.

The main problem here was the light: most of the time we had to deal with strong backlight. It was bad enough that I mounted my SB-800 flash on my Nikon D200 to provide some needed fill. I avoid this as much as I can because I detest working with flash and prefer natural light whenever possible.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Those who know my work will immediately notice these shots aren’t my typical busy habitat style (many of you are probably saying thank-you for that!). There was just no way to include more thistles for texture and interest.

When I recently posted the image at the top on a photo critique site I received an unexpected comment among more expected ones:

I wish for a slightly better head angle.

There are photographers who believe who there are set formulas for the “perfect” shot. One of these “rules” is that the head of the bird should be perfectly parallel to the film/sensor plane for a field guide type image. I don’t buy into that philosophy for even a second; instead I believe that the photographer needs to consider all the factors in an active session with a wild bird behaving naturally and make real time decisions for the situation. In this case a head turn of even one degree towards the camera would have lost the important catchlight in the eye that gives the image life.

Don’t be so married to the “rules” that you miss the essence of the image!

Nikon D200, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 with TC20E (2x), Gitzo 1325 tripod, RRS BH-55 ball head, Sidekick, SB-800 flash at -1.7 ev.


1 Comment »

  1. Winter colors? They do like thistles (& dandelions).

    Comment by khan — December 21, 2009 @ 11:31 am

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