Trip Report – Hummingbirds of Ecuador Photography Workshop – June 2013

In Trip Report by Matt Shetzer

What a great week of photographing hummingbirds in Ecuador.  I want to take a moment and share our activities for the week and share a couple of images.

As our guests Ted, Cheryl and Tom arrived in Quito prior to the hummingbird photography workshop, a little fun exploring was had by all. Many explored the historic district of Quito which has one of the largest, best preserved historic areas in the world. In 1978 UNESCO declared the first World Cultural Heritage Sites as Quito, Ecuador and Krakow Poland.

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Lazy Hummingbird. Photo credit: Ted Maddeaux

Listed below are some of the attractions visited while everyone was touring Quito prior to the workshop.

  • Plaza San Francisco and the Church and Convent of St. Francis
  • Casa Gangotena
  • Carondelet Palace
  • Basilica del Voto Nacional
  • The Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Gold leaf interior of the Church of the Society of Jesus
  • Church of San Francisco
  • Church of El Sagrario
  • Church of Santo Domingo
  • Hop on Hop off bus to easily get ar ound the city.

While Ted and Cheryl attended a festival at the very ornate Basilica in the busy city, Tom ventured outside the city and attended a local textile market and photographed locals wearing colorful traditional clothes.

Saturday

Now that Ted, Cheryl and Tom had all arrived in Quito and finished exploring the town, we started the workshop with a fantastic typical Ecuadorian meal and a little wine as got acquainted with each other and enjoyed the stories that were told by all. After dinner we returned to the hotel for a good nights rest before the hummingbird photography starts tomorrow.

Sunday

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Tom photographing in the multi-flash setup

We left the hotel early in the morning as we departed Quito and headed North passing the Equator as we left the southern hemisphere and entered the northern hemisphere. Our journey left the bustling town of Quito and the clear skies treated us to beautiful views of Cotopaxi Mountain, topping out at 5,897m or 19,347ft. Our journey would continue on the winding roads of the rugged cloud forest until we arrived at our first bird lodge. After the two hour scenic drive, we were greeted at our first lodge by our host Pablo and quickly setup to photograph the twelve species of hummingbirds commonly found here. Within a couple of hours we watched the following species eat from the feeders and our flowers allowing us to take great images of these beautiful birds.

  • Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis)
  • Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii)
  • Purple-bibbed Whitetip (Urosticte benjamini)
  • Fawn-brested Brilliant) (Heliodoxa rubinoides)
  • Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae)
  • Green Violetear (Colibri thalassinus)
  • Brown Inca (Coeligena wilsoni)
  • Purple-throated Woodstar (Callipholox mitchellii)
  • Western Emerald (Chorostilbon melanorhynchus)
  • Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl)
  • Andean Emerald (Amazilia franciae)
  • Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens)
  • Tawny-bellied hermit (Phaethornis syrmatophorus)
  • Sparkling Violetear (Colibri coruscans)
  • White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora)
  • Green-crowned Brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula)
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Ted working his Mamiya with a 300mm in the Mindo Loma Cloud Forest

After a long day of photography we enjoyed cold cerveza and a delicious home cooked Ecuadorian meal. In the evening we discussed many photography tips to improve our images and had show and tell of our favorites captures as we identified all the species we photographed. Time for a quiet nights sleep as we enjoy the sounds of the forest.

Monday
A full day of photographing the hummingbirds started right after breakfast from the lodges deck as we took breaks to enjoy the tasty Ecuadorian coffee. Tom set up his Nikon D4 and Ted his Mamiya and Nikon D4 with the 8 speed-light hummingbird setup as we captured thousands of images completely freezing the hummingbirds wings. This technique produces images with incredible detail including feather detail on the wings that beat 60 times per second.  A full day of shooting, followed by another great dinner prepared by the staff at the lodge. After dinner we reviewed the days images and discussed different Photoshop and post processing techniques to work up our images for display and competition.

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Cheryl and Tom waiting for the Tanagers to land on their perch for a photo opportunity.

Tuesday

Today we headed further into the forest and spent the day at a new bird lodge. Boris, Patricio and their family were extremely kind and welcomed us with fruity drinks as we set up ready to photograph the hummingbirds.

Right away we achieved our goals of capturing breathtaking images of the Velvet-purple Coronet (Boissonneaua jardini) and the Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis) as well as many other hummingbird species and many species of Tanagers from this spectacular location.

 
 
 
 
 
We were fortunate to see and photograph the following hummingbirds deep in the Mindo Loma Cloud Forest.

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Tom taking a little time to photograph the Tanagers

  • Velvet-purple Coronet (Boissonneaua jardini)
  • Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis)
  • Fawn-brested Brilliant) (Heliodoxa rubinoides)
  • Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae)
  • Brown Inca (Coeligena wilsoni)
  • Purple-throated Woodstar (Callipholox mitchellii)
  • Western Emerald (Chorostilbon melanorhynchus)
  • Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl)
  • Andean Emerald (Amazilia franciae)
  • Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens)
  • Sparkling Violetear (Colibri coruscans)
  • White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora)
  • Green-crowned Brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula)

Later in the day the sky clouded up, and heavy rains began.  Since we were photographing under cover we still got a full day of great images. We said farewell to our new friends and headed back to the lodge for dinner, a cerveza or two and an evening of reviewing images and photography tips discussions. As the evening went on, the storm caused the power to go out and we enjoyed the sounds of the rain on the roof by candlelight.

Wednesday

Today we packed up our gear and headed out of the Northeast traveling to the Southwest. We enjoyed a side trip to the Equator or Middle of the World ( Mitad del Mundo ) to play tourists for a bit and take some pictures of ourselves standing with one foot in each hemisphere.

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Ted and Cheryl at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World)

We then continued across Quito and enjoyed a traditional Ecuadorian meal at a popular local restaurant. Once relaxed and with full stomachs, we continued our journey and left the city behind and began climbing up Papallacta Pass topping out at 13,000 feet high in the clouds. We then began the windy decent in the lush green farm land as we passed Papallacta Lake. From here we stopped for a couple of photos of the stunning lake with mountains in the background. After enjoying the view, Cheryl and I walked the old dirt road and found some colorful flowers for the hummingbird photos the next couple of days including the Trumpeter Angels which are the Sword-bill hummingbirds favorite. As we completed the drive, and entered the beautiful lodge, our host Esteban greeted us with some tasty welcome drinks and showed us to our rooms. Once settled we set up our cameras and flowers filled with nectar and started photographing the hummingbirds.

 

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Tom walking on the Equator. What hemisphere is he in?

Within two minutes Tom captured a beautiful image of the Sword-bill feeding on the nectar of the Trumpeter Angel flower. What great luck that was!  Once the sun set and we wrapped up shooting for the day, the staff cooked us another fantastic meal and we reviewed our images for the day. Before bed we were all given hot water bottles for the beds, and all got a great nights sleep.
  

Thursday

Today was a full day dedicated to photography! We spent the whole day photographing the unique species at the lodge. We were very fortunately to capture images of all the species except for one. The Sword-billed hummingbird was very active and all were able to capture great images of this amazing bird. As the day went on, some of us shot video of the hummingbirds to show all the different species and activity at the hummingbird feeders.
  
Here are the species we saw and photographed while at our third lodge

  • Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)
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    Caution : Photographers hard at work !

  • Chestnut-Brested Coronet (Boissonneaua matthewsii)
  • Green Violetear (Colibri thalassinus)
  • Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys)
  • Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum)
  • Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis)
  • Fawn-brested Brilliant (Heliodoxa rubinoides)
  • Golden-brested Puffleg (Eriocnemis mosquera)
  • Mountain Velvetbrest (Lafresnaya lafresnayi)
  • Shining Sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis)
  • While-bellied Woodstar (Chaetocercus mulsant)
  • Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata)
  • Buff-winged Starfrontlet (Coeligena lutetiae)
  • Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens)
  • Tourmaline Sunangel (Heliangelus exortis)
  • Glowing Puff Leg (Eriocnemisvestita)
  • Gorgeted Woodstart (Chaetocercus heliodor)

Friday

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Cheryl organizing the hummingbirds. Boy did they like her red jacket.

Our last day at our third lodge, we awoke to the rain dancing on the roof. Not a problem as we setup in the shelter of the gazebo and had a great day of capturing images.

There were so many birds out today that as one guest was shooting from the

flash setup, the other was capturing beautiful images of the birds sitting on branches resting and cleaning themselves in the rain. One of my favorite images that Tom captured was the Violet-tailed Sylph and Sword-billed hummingbird in one shot sitting on the same branch. Today was the day the most images were taken by each guest, and the biggest diversity of images. As the day went on, we started packing up our gear in the evening said our farewells to the fantastic staff, and headed back to our hotel in Quito.

 

As we approached Quito, the roads became busy, and the locals were out everywhere dressed in the Ecuadorians soccer (football) clubs colors. Tonight is a world cup qualifier between Ecuador and Peru. Everyone will be watching the game tonight on the edge of their seats.  It was great to see all the locals out and excited about the game.

 

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Matt filling up a flower with nectar with a hummingbird patiently waiting. Photo credit : Tom Fraser

Saturday
Our final day together, we enjoyed breakfast and talked about the trip. Ted and Cheryl are going to explore another day in Quito, as myself and Tom will be heading home today.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a week with such fantastic guests, beautiful scenery, great photography and comfortable bird lodges !!!  I am already looking forward to next years Hummingbird Photography Workshop !

Thank you Tom, Cheryl and Ted !!!!

 

If you are interested in an upcoming photography workshop, please check out our schedule found here.

 

Trip Report – Hummingbirds of Ecuador Photography Workshop – June 2013 was last modified: December 24th, 2017 by Matt Shetzer