Photographing House Finches Eating Spring Flowers and Noticing Lens Flare

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Photographing House Finches

House Finches are primarily herbivores consuming nutritious foods wherever and whenever they can. It was rather easy to find and photograph House Finches in San Diego engaged in some serious pruning;  tearing the base off of flowers and consuming the soft buds, blossoms and nectar from blooming bushes.

Female House Finch
House Finch – Female – Eating A Flower.
Lens flare and Some Reflective Glare potmark the background.
ISO1000; f/6.3; 1/800 Second

Lens Flare Everywhere

Take a good look at the photos of the House Finches above and below. In the first image, the background foliage is potmarked with small polygon shaped, bright white ghost images and some glare. At first I thought that those white spots were a consequence of how the light played in the shadows on the leafy background. Looking closer, it is easy to see that these bright white points of light are indeed lens flare combined with leaf glare.

The second photo below is a less cluttered image because an olive colored wall takes up the majority of the background, but you can still see tiny lens flare orbs in the leafy foliage of the plant.

Photo of Male House Finch
House Finch, Male, Eating Flower Buds.
Lens Flare in barely evident in the
in the Leafy Foliage below the Finch.
ISO1000; f/6.3; 1/800 Second

Sun Flare Sneaking Into the Lens

Lens flare is no more than stray light (usually unintentional and undesirable) sneaking in and bouncing around the inside of a camera lens and leaving on your images an assortment of light specters shaped like the diaphragm of the lens. Lens Flare is almost always a consequence of backlighting coming from within or outside the frame.

These photos were taken with my 300mm L 2.8 IS II lens pointed at the birds, but also toward the sunlight. Despite the multi-coated technology on the lens, the use of an attached lens hood, and my hand blocking extraneous light from coming into the viewfinder cup, the sun’s position and the light’s angle must have been just right to enter the lens (and ultimately reach the sensor) and blast the images with little orbs.

You can see in the second photo that as I repositioned myself and altered the angle of the lens, the intensity of the lens flare became much more subdued. The backlighting at this angle also helped create a soft glow around the bird’s head. 

AutoFocus Challenge

Chaotic backlighting can trick the auto focus system, causing the lens to act erratically and incorrectly lock focus. For both of these photos, the backlighting causing the lens flare did not impact auto focus- in part because spot autofocus was set and the camera was able to securely and correctly lock down focus on the bird’s body.

Not Necessarily Operator Error

Flare and glare happen all the time and often goes unnoticed. In this particular shoot, lens flare was widespread within all of my images.

In bird photography, I find lens flare and glare to be unattractive and distracting- an operator error which can be remedied. But it’s a personal preference. Some photographers find it desirable and creatively insert lens flare into their images….either in the field or afterwards in post-processing.

See this post for photos of Eastern Bluebirds subsisting on plant materials during the Michigan winter.

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