Velvet purple coronet
White-throated quail dove
Ecuador 2014 birds and more
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Join me for a photography workshop in Ecuador
With over 1,600 species in an area smaller than the state of Arizona, Ecuador's diversity of birds is among the highest in the world. The country's location on the equator means that migrating birds will visit from both the northern and southern hemispheres, and its range of elevations, from sea level to over 20,000 feet, provides a great variety of habitats.
In this workshop we will visit seven locations in Northwestern Ecuador, giving us a sampling of different habitats and the opportunity to photograph a wide range of avian diversity. Our target species will include toucans, woodcreepers, and antpittas in the rainforest (elevation 3,000 ft); tanagers, barbets, and oropendolas in the cloud forests (5,500 to 10,500 ft); and lapwings, caracaras, and ibis in the paramo (13,000 ft). We'll take a pre-dawn hike to photograph the mating display of the Andean cock-of-the-rock. We'll look for Andean condors on Mt. Antisana. And we'll see an amazing variety of hummingbirds at almost every location. We will also visit the historic city of Quito and the Otavalo Indian market, which will give us an introduction to Ecuadorian culture and provide a variety of photo opportunities.
Our photography will include a variety of techniques, using both existing and artificial light. In many locations we need to rely only on natural light, using high ISO as needed. In other situations, we'll use on-camera fill-flash to soften shadows and balance the natural backlighting. We'll also use multi-flash lighting setups at feeders to capture stunning photos of hummingbirds in flight. Instruction and advice will be provided depending on your level of experience.
Highlights of the trip include:
Itinerary (subject to change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances):
September 3: After clearing customs and picking up our bags at Quito International Airport, we will be met by a private car to take us to the historic Eco-Lodge San Jorge, a beautiful 19th Century Spanish hacienda. Located in the Pichincha foothills at about 9,500' elevation, the lodge has comfortable rooms, each with a private bath and hot shower. (For those of us who live at sea level, it's hard to think of 9,500' as the "foothills" but just wait until you see the mountains.)
September 4: We'll start getting to know each other over a hearty breakfast, and then get right into some serious photography. We might be a little tired on our first day at high elevation, so we'll stay close to the lodge and concentrate on shooting hummingbirds with our multi-flash lighting setups. Common species here include the shining sunbeam, black-tailed trainbearer, Tyrian metal-tail, and white-bellied woodstar.
September 5: Today we visit Yanacocha Reserve, at about 10,500' in the high Andean cloud forest. An easy trail with beautiful views leads us about a mile to the first group of hummingbird feeders, which attract forest species such as the buff-winged starfrontlet, great sapphire-wing, and the bizarre-looking sword-billed hummingbird. Those who are interested can continue hiking (the trail becomes more difficult after the first feeding area) for even better views of the mountains. Other birds that we might find along the trail include mountain tanagers, antpittas, and flowerpiercers. Photography at Yanacocha will use existing light and fill-flash.
September 6: After an early breakfast at the Quito lodge, we leave for the spectacular Tandayapa Valley (elevation 5,577'). We'll check into our rooms, then take a guided hike to get to know the local flora and fauna. The trails here are moderately strenuous. After lunch we will photograph birds at the feeders that surround the open-air restaurant. In the evening, we'll take a guided walk in the cloud forest, listening for the calls of nocturnal wildlife and photographing the frogs and insects that we find there. If we're lucky we might get to see an olinguito, a "new" species of mammal whose discovery was announced by biologists in 2013.
September 7: Because of the abundance of bird species at Tandayapa, we will have all day to photograph hummingbirds, tanagers, euphonias, barbets, toucanets, and many other birds that are attracted to the feeders. We will use multi-flash for the hummingbirds, and existing light with fill-flash for the tanagers. Those who might need a break from standing in one place all day can continue to explore the trails, photograph panoramic views, and look for birds in a more natural setting.
September 8: This morning is our chance to try one more time for that perfect shot of a booted racket-tail, sparkling violet-ear, red-headed barbet, or whichever species has become your favorite. After lunch we leave for San Jorge de Milpe, located in the rainforest at about 3,000' elevation. We'll have some time before dinner to explore Milpe's trails and shoot at canopy level from the three-story observation tower, where we have a chance to see parrots, toucans, and other forest birds. After dark we have a guided walk through the forest, listening to and hopefully photographing the nocturnal animals of the rainforest habitat.
September 9: A guided walk early this morning will give us a chance to photograph woodcreepers, puffbirds, doves, quail, and flycatchers, among other species. Photography at Milpe can be challenging. Rainforest species tend to be shy and sensitive to bright light, so instead of flash we'll rely on existing light and a high ISO to get the proper exposure. After lunch, depending on the conditions, we might spend more time on the trails, shoot from the observation tower, or set up the multi-flash equipment to shoot hummingbirds.
September 10: Today we are up before dawn to visit Refugio Paz de las Aves. Our guide will lead us to a lek to see the early morning mating display of the Andean cock-of-the-rock. If you've never seen these birds (or even if you have) you're in for a real treat. Other birds we're likely to see include antpittas, mountain tanagers, guans, toucanets, barbets, and hummingbirds. Photography of most species will use existing light and high ISO, with fill-flash permitted in some areas. The trails here are not long, but they can be steep and slippery, and we might need to cross a creek or two so you'll need good hiking shoes and might want to wear waterproof overshoes as well. After lunch we return to the lodge at Quito, which will be our home base for the rest of the trip. If we arrive early enough, we can do some more multi-flash hummingbird photography before dinner.
September 11: Today we take a break from the birds to photograph the old colonial city of Quito. Our guide will introduce us to the history, archaeology, art, and architecture of this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Planned stops include the Plaza de la Independencia, Plaza San Francisco, Plaza Santo Domingo, La Merced, La Compania, and El Panecillo. Lunch will be at a restaurant in Quito.
September 12: No visit to the Andes would be complete without at least trying to photograph an Andean condor, the largest flying bird in the world. Antisana Ecological Reserve is a windswept, treeless plain the paramo with the 18,714' Antisana volcano towering above it (we will be at about 13,000'). We have a pretty good chance of seeing a condor, but even if we don't there are other new species to find here, including the carunculated caracara, Andean lapwing, and black-faced ibis.
September 13: Today's schedule includes the Otavalo Indian Market, a huge open-air marketplace where we can photograph vendors offering a colorful variety of textiles, jewelry, ceramics, and other hand-made items, as well as pick up a few souvenirs and support the local economy. We will also visit San Pablo Lake to photograph aquatic birds including the common gallinule, Andean coot, and Andean ruddy duck.
September 14: After breakfast it's time to say good-bye and leave for the airport.
Cost is $3,495 per person based on double occupancy. If you'd like a private room, the additional charge is $395. Your cost includes:
A deposit of $600 is due by May 1, 2014
Payment in full is due by June 15, 2014
You can pay the deposit with a credit card, using the "Buy now" button above. Checks are preferred for the balance; if you want to use a credit card there will be an additional service fee.
To register, please complete the registration form.
For additional information, read the FAQs or contact Dan Suzio Photography.
Overview Itinerary Cost FAQs
Plain brown woodcreeper
Rufous-fronted wood quail
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Setting up the shot
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Dan Suzio Photography
P.O. Box 5803
Berkeley, CA 94705
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