Ecuador Cloud Forest Trip Report 2023 - Tom Bol Photo Workshops

We traveled to the highlands of the Mindo Cloud Forest near Quito, Ecuador to photograph some of the most colorful and exotic birds in the Americas. The cool temperatures at high elevation made for perfect, relaxing conditions for our photo sessions.

Sword-billed Hummingbird
Pat and Lani enjoying the Andes at over 11,000 ft
Rufous Mot Mot

The hummingbirds in the area are spectacular. We used three different methods to capture hummingbird images. For the first method we used very high shutter speeds, from 1/2000-1/12000 sec in natural light to freeze the wings and get sharp images. This method highlights feather details from wing tip to toe on these dazzling birds.

Buff-tail Coronet conversation at high shutter speeds.
Melissa and Elaine showing how it's done with long lenses, tripods and gimbals.
Sparkling Violet Ear in flight

For a more creative technique we used slow shutter speeds in natural light to highlight the incredibly fast wing speed of the birds. We used shutter speeds from 1/20 to 1/250 seconds. This technique worked very well in lower light conditions and highlights the graceful movement of the birds.

Lesser Violet Ear looking like a tiny dancer
Elaine going after the White-necked Jacobins
Booted Racket-tail in slow motion

For our final method, we used multi-flash set-ups to freeze the bird in mid-air, relying on the speed of the flash rather than shutterspeed. This method allows us to do things like capture the subtle movements of the racket-tails as the bird flies towards local flowers.

Multi-flash set-ups at one of our lodges
Multiple birds at a time come into the stations frequently

The perching birds in Ecuador are just as compelling as the hummingbirds. We spent several sessions focused on tanagers, flower piercers and other exotics like Euphonias and exotic jays.

Scarlet-Bellied Mountain Tanager
Tom and Keith figuring out the gear
Blue-winged Mountain Tanager
Black Flower Piercer

A real highlight of the workshop is photographing larger birds like parrots, toucans and mountain toucanets and mot mots. Most of the reserves use local bananas to lure birds and other creatures into their strategically placed limbs. This means we can focus on photography rather than hiking out to find birds.

Rose-Faced Parrot
Choco Toucan - an Ecuadoran endemic
Suzy and Tom using the newest Big Glass from Nikon
Chesnut-rumped Mountain Toucanet
A local squirrel raiding the banana stash

Finally, flowers are abundant in this part of Ecuador. This makes it the perfect place to photograph flowers and work on macro images. Native crocosmia, vibrant heliconias and delicate orchids attract hummingbirds to the reserves and are just steps away from our bird photography areas.

Local trumpet flowers, the perfect size for the Sword-Bill Hummingbird
Golden Tanager on a local plant
Bananas come in all shapes and colors in Ecuador
Sunny disposition after a full day of bird photography
A big thanks to our guide Alex Luna
And to our adventurous photographers!

Want to join us in Ecuador in 2025? We are considering adding a session from January 11-18. Send us a note if you are interested, click here