Ecuador 2014 Trip Report

I’ve been home from Ecuador for a few weeks now and thought it was time to reminisce about the wonderful month that my groups and I got to spend in the incredibly bird-rich nation of Ecuador. This was my fifth visit to Ecuador and despite the fact that I have now spent more than 12 months in the beautiful Andean nation the bird life continues to amaze me.

One exciting aspect of this year’s tours was that I was able to bring down my friend and very talented nature photographer Jess Findlay to help me lead the trips. Jess brings a fresh new perspective to bird photography and his images are extremely creative and are executed with technical perfection. I’m sure that you will all enjoy seeing Jess’ images in this newsletter and you can read more about him in his biography below.


A Carunculated Caracara in the spectacular Antisana reserve.

After meeting in Quito, each tour started in the northwest part of the country where we focused our efforts on the amazing diversity of hummingbirds. Our first stop was a high elevation cloud forest reserve where we found some beautiful hummingbirds to start the trip including the Great Sapphirewing and Sapphire-vented Puffleg.

By the time the trip was over most of the participants had photographed over 30 species of the tiny flying jewels known as hummingbirds (including Booted Rackettail’s, Buff-tailed Coronet’s and Violet-tailed Sylph’s as seen below).


A Buff-tailed Coronet in northwestern Ecuador. Multi-flash is an amazing technique!


A male Red-headed Barbet at a feeder setup.


Always a favourite – the male Booted Racket-tail.


Violet-tailed Sylph

From our base in the Tandayapa Valley we made a few day trips to visit nearby photography hot-spots. We even managed photos of some really cool species like the Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Toucan Barbet and Blue-winged Mountain tanager. Everyone also got fantastic shots of the gorgeous Masked Trogon.  But above all else we focused on photographing hummingbirds using my patented multi-flash techniques.


Strong-billed Woodcreeper.


A male Masked Trogon with his breakfast.


Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers are “gratifyingly numerous”.

One of our morning excursions was spent visiting the famous Mindo area where we spent some time photographing a few different species of hummingbirds that are present at this lower elevation. Among the new birds that we found and photographed were Green-crowned Brilliants, Green-crowned Woodnymphs and one of my favourite Ecuadorian Hummingbirds – the Velvet-purple Coronet. We also got some great looks at a few beautiful Tanagers and had an incredible encounter with a group of lekking Club-winged Manakins.


Club-winged Manakin


Velvet-purple Coronet

After three days in the northwest we moved on through the central valley to our stopover for the night. Our afternoon shoot produced some great images of Sparkling Violetears and some even managed to nail the Black-tailed Trainbearer. Bright and early the next morning we traveled up to the incredible Antisana reserve. At this amazing high elevation site we spotted Andean Condors soaring from their cliffs, Carunculated Caracaras loafing in the grasslands, Black-faced Ibis, and a variety of other birds. The scenery may have stolen the show however as the views and setting was spectacular.


Carunculated Caracara’s were easy targets at Antisana.


What a site to see a male Andean Condor soaring around his cliff.


We had spectacular views up at Antisana.

After a great morning up at Antisana we drove across and over the Papallacta Pass (where on one of the trips we had spectacular views of the Antisana Volcano) to eventually arrive at our third lodge of the trip. From Sword-billed Hummingbirds to Torrent Ducks and from Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes to Turquoise Jays it was hard to know where to point our lenses!


Spectacled Whitestart.


The Torrent Duck family.


Tourmaline Sunangel


Long-tailed Sylph


Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe

Our final stop on the regular portion of the tour was a little bit further down the eastern slope. Here we were in for a real treat – the Black-banded Owl (see below). We also got great photo opportunities for Montane Woodcreepers, Inca Jays and the cute little White-bellied Antpitta.


Gray-breasted Wood Wren


White-bellied Antpitta


A mysterious looking Black-banded Owl.


Montane Woodcreeper


Inca Jay

After 6 spectacular days on the East Slope we traveled further down the slope into the Ecuadorian lowlands and prepared to travel into the Amazon Rainforest. We then took a boat nearly 100km down river deep into the jungle. After a few hours we arrived at our wonderful jungle lodge where we would spend the next 4 days.

During our stay in the Amazon we had incredible opportunities to photograph 4 species of Kingfishers as well as crazy birds like Hoatzin’s, Donocobius, Macaws, Woodpeckers, Toucans and Aracaris, Owls and even Parrots that were coming to a local site to eat clay. It really was an amazing experience for us all.


What a weirdo! The Hoatzin.


Peek-a-Boo!


Tropical Screech Owl


We had incredible looks at the gorgeous Agami Heron.


American Pygmy Kingfisher


Many-banded Aracari


Cormorants at sunset


Squirrel Cuckoo


Pied Plover


Our two amazing Amazon guides. What a team!

Eventually all good things must come to an end and we had to return to Quito to catch our flights home. It truly was a fantastic trip. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some of the things that a few of the participants had to say below.

I will definitely be running this trip again in Jan/Feb of 2015. I will have dates available and will be taking deposits in the upcoming few weeks. If you are interested in reserving a space on the trip make sure to get in touch soon as I am certain that the 12 spaces available (2 tours) will sell out fast. Send me an email if you want to be put on the trips wish list.

TO JOIN THE WISH LIST FOR ECUADOR 2015 CLICK HERE

“The great thing about going with Glenn is that the trip size is small and you are going with the master himself. I was pleased that Glenn was focused on his guests and not intent on getting his own photos. I was also amazed at how hard he worked to get us the right setups and the time he took placing the props for our pictures. Most of all, I appreciate the new photo techniques I learned from Glenn. When I sent my pictures back in emails, my friends could instantly see the impact that just a few hours with Glenn had on my photos. Glenn is a real people person and you will not retreat a trip with him. And, oh yes, the places we stayed were all first rate and the food was terrific.  As a couple who have spent the last 12 years doing several first rate international trips a year, I can tell you that Glenn ranks in the top five percent of tours we have taken.”
E.H. (Ecuador, 2014)

“Glenn Bartley is a great bird photographer, a really good birder, he knows Neotropical birds, he speaks Spanish, he’s strong, and in case that’s not enough, he’s a nice guy.  If you want to photograph birds in Latin America as Keith does (or if you just want to see Neotrops really well as I do), there is no better person to travel with than Glenn.”
S.K.
 (Ecuador, 2014)

“I want to thank you again for a wonderful trip, we learned so much and had so many opportunities to see different areas of Ecuador. It is a beautiful country and even in the walks where we did not see many birds we saw amazing scenery. I have a hard time describing to everyone how diverse and gorgeous Ecuador is, and we did not see but a small part of the country. Steve and I both learned a lot from you and Jess, now we just have to use those skills. Thank you again for your time and patience, and we look forward to joining you again.” 
E.L. (Ecuador, 2014)

“Glenn Bartley gets you to the best locations for bird photography and then helps you to get the best shots. This is what counts if you really want the experience. The Ecuador trip is highly recommended as one of the most comprehensive trips that one can expect.”
D.O. (Ecuador, 2014)


Group #1 in the Amazon


Group #2 at Antisana

***SPECIAL NOTE – I PUT MY CLIENTS NEEDS FIRST ON MY WORKSHOPS AND I SHOOT VERY LITTLE MYSELF. AS A RESULT MANY OF THE IMAGES ABOVE ARE FROM PREVIOUS TRIPS***

BRAZIL TRIP REPORT 2013

Bright and early on the morning of Halloween I boarded a flight from Victoria on its way to the south-eastern part of Brazil. My targets were the many beautiful birds that reside in the Atlantic rainforest.

Because most of the time I have spent in South America has been in the Andes this trip opened up a whole world of exciting new possibilities for bird photography. I was definitely excited to get down there and see what I could accomplish.


Red-breasted Toucan

Arriving in Sao Paulo early the next day I immediately picked up my rental car and drove south to Intervales State Park. What an incredible place to spend the first 5 days of the trip!

Arriving in the park right at dusk there was no time for day-time shooting. After dinner though, I decided to try my luck at a bit of owling. What an amazing surprise to find a stunning (and very cooperative) Stygian Owl on the very first night. Not a bad way to start the trip at all!


Stygian Owl

Over the next 4 days I wandered all over Intervales looking for some of the key birds that live there and trying to nail down a few good species. To my surprise there were actually a few tanagers hanging around the lodge that took very quickly to a rudimentary fruit feeder setup as well. I even managed to get some good shots of a Yellow-fronted Woodpecker at my setup.


Chestnut-backed Tanager


Yellow-fronted Woodpecker

 
Gray-throated Warbling Finch


Green-headed Tanager

After a great first few days of the trip I moved back north through Sao Paulo and on to the coastal town of Ubatuba. I split my time between two sites here. Both sites were excellent for hummingbirds and I tried to take full advantage with a mix of multi-flash and standard techniques. My favourite bird was definitely the tiny Festive Coquette that eventually perched for a few nice images.


Black Jacobin


White-throated Tanager


Swallow-tailed Hummingbird


Festive Coquette

Another surprise in the Ubatuba region was finding a few sites to set up some fruit feeders for tanagers. Neither location was ideal (to say the least). With a bit of finesse though both setups yielded some really nice images.


Plain Parakeet


Burnished-buff Tanager


Red-necked Tanager

From Ubatuba I continued further north to Itatiaia National Park. This involved a few days in the lower part of the park and then a full day at the top. Both sites were excellent and produced some great birds such as the Saffron Toucanet, Frilled Coquette, Plovercrest and Diademed Tanager. Night time missions turned up Tawny-browed and Rusty-barred Owls.


Saffron Toucanet


Frilled Coquette


Red-breasted Toucan


Rusty-barred Owl


Tawny-browed Owl


Plovercrest

Continuing on up the coast past Rio De Janeiro I visited another fantastic lodge that had some real gems hanging around in the garden and nearby trails. Highlights included the Black-cheeked Gnateater, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Spot-billed Toucanet and Giant Antshrike. Great birds and an exceptional few days of photography.


Giant Antshrike


Blue Manakin


Violaceous Euphonia


Spot-billed Toucanet


Black-cheeked Gnateater

My next stop was just a few kilometers down the road. Despite the close proximity the drop in elevation made for a very different ecosystem and set of shooting conditions. This area was hot and sunny. Definitely not ideal weather for bird photography. I tried to make the best of it though and did manage to pick off a few good birds around a local wetland. I also picked up Striped Owl on one of the nights. 3 days seemed like a long time though with this sunny weather and by the end of my stay I was definitely ready to move on.


Chestnut-capped Blackbird


Brazilian Teal


Striped Owl

In order to get in to some new ecosystems I had to make a serious drive the next day to a site some 700km away. I had only a day and a half at this site and only one main target here which was the Hyacinth Visorbearer. On my first morning up in the appropriate habitat I found a cooperative Blue Finch and was doing a setup for him when a Visorbearer landed right where my lens was pointed and started calling. What luck!


Blue Finch


Hyacinth Visorbearer

After a successful mission to this site I moved on to what would be the final site of the trip – Canastra National Park. This area is famous as the best site to see the critically endangered Brazilian Merganser (of which perhaps only 100-200 individuals exist). I didn’t have super high hopes of seeing or photographing this bird though. Instead I just wanted to focus on some of the different birds that live up on this grassland plateau.

Immediately upon reaching the closest town to Canastra I knew I was in trouble. I was informed that the road to the upper part of the park was in TERRIBLE condition. To make matters worse it was pouring rain and the forecast looked dreadful. I basically spent the next two days surfing the net from my hotel room.

Finally on my last day at this site the rain stopped and I was able to hire a massive 4×4 vehicle to take me up to the park. It was a beautiful place to spend a day and I managed to get some images of a few of the cool species that live up there like the Cock-tailed Tyrant and Sharp-tailed Tyrant. I even found and photographed a pair of Brazilian Megansers!! I was definitely happy to end the trip taking images and NOT surfing the internet!


Red-legged Seriema


Stripe-breasted Starthroat


Cock-tailed Tyrant


Sharp-tailed Tyrant


Brazilian Merganser

The month came and went in a flash. I really enjoyed travelling around Brazil and found the country and people very beautiful. I’m already looking forward to my next visit and will almost certainly be setting up a photo workshop for this destination in the years to come.

To see a small gallery of the Brazil images that I have processed so far – CLICK HERE

To watch my video blog from the month – CLICK HERE

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Peru Photo Trip Report

At the end of August I headed down to Peru to lead two photo workshops into Manu National Park. Manu is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet and is home to more than 1000 species of birds. There are some truly spectacular species in this park and we saw and photographed many of them. In between the two wildlife tours I led a cultural extension through the Sacred Valley of the Incas which culminated with a very memorable visit to the incredible site of Machu Picchu.

Red and Green Macaw at the clay lick in Manu.

Our trip started in the former Inca capital of Cuzco. The city makes for an ideal base to set out into the jungle and towards the sacred valley. There is so much to see and do around Cuzco that it is well worth spending a day or two roaming around and learning about the history and culture.

Once our group was assembled we travelled off in the direction of the Manu. A few hours later we arrived at the entrance to the park – eager and ready to start finding some birds.


Group #1 heading in to the park.

I designed this tour to take full advantage of the elevation gradient that the Manu road offers. The road works its way from around 3400 metres above sea level all the way down to 500m above sea level. As a result it offers access to numerous different habitat types and therefore a huge variety of different species.


The mystical cloud forests of Peru.

Our first stop on the tour was in the high elevation cloud forests. We only spent one night at this elevation (approximately 3000m) so had to work quickly to try to make the most of our time up there and some of the very special cloud forest species. Diversity at this elevation is much lower than it is in sites further down. Nevertheless, there are some absolutely stunning species to be found in the cloud forests of Manu. Among my favourite include the Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Grass Green Tanager and Golden-collared Tanager. These high elevation tanagers are such stunning birds and are well worth a solid effort to try to photograph them.


Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager


Grass Green Tanager


Hooded Mountain Tanager

Before long it was time to continue on down the road to our next site at a considerably lower elevation (1500m). It was here where we would experience what I am certain was the highlight of the trip for many of the participants – The Andean Cock of the Rock. On both tours we had fantastic success with this species having between 10-15 male birds flamboyantly displaying at their lek site. These incredible birds (the national bird of Peru) group together to display for females in the hopes of finding a mate. It is an absolutely amazing spectacle and is not to be missed for any bird lover. We had lots of time to work and everyone came away with some fantastic images!


Andean Cock-of-the-Rock


Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

After photographing the Cock of the Rock’s we continued on to our next lodge for some celebratory drinks and a good nights sleep. We would spend two nights at this elevation to hunt for a variety of great birds including motmots, hummingbirds, and a huge variety of tanagers. We were fortunate enough to have a few fruiting shrubs on the grounds and these provided some great opportunities for a great selection of fruit eating birds.


Orange-eared Tanager


Spotted Tanager


Blue-naped Chlorophonia


Blue-necked Tanager


Wire-crested Thorntail


Highland Motmot

Soon enough it was time to roll on down the hill again. We made our way to the end of the Manu road and crossed the river to our next lodge. At this fantastic site we really had our hands full! Between the hummingbirds at the flowering bushes, fruit eating birds at the fruit feeders, skulking birds on the trails, Hoatzins by the river and even a few attempts at nocturnal birds, it was hard to know how to prioritize what birds to chase. It was definitely a site well worth three days. One of my favourite encounters was with a fairly cooperative Gray-necked Wood-Rail that I was able to get up on to a set up perch by luring it in with some cooked rice. This was a real treat for me as this species is normally quite shy and hard to photograph.


Rufous-crested Coquette


Masked Crimson Tanager (at a setup)


Buff-throated Saltator (at a setup)


Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbird


Red-capped Cardinal (at a setup)


Common Potoo


Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl


Hoatzin


Gray-necked Wood-Rail (at a setup – I hid rice in the log)

We had one final stop of the main tour and to get there we would have to travel down river. It is always an interesting experience taking to the river and seeing how people of Amazonia truly live. Eventually we arrived at our final lodge in time for a short hike and paddle in one of the pristine oxbow lakes. Over the next three days we would visit several more of these oxbow lakes and photograph birds from catamaran style boats. After trekking around in the jungle at the previous site it is quite luxurious and relaxing to shoot from the boats!


Photography from the Catamaran…life is good!


Turtle and Butterfly


Wattled Jacana


Muscovy Duck


Sunbittern


Squirrel Monkey


Purus Jacamar


Giant River Otter


Black-collared Hawk


Horned Screamer


Group #2 in the jungle. What a massive tree!!

The highlight of our stay in the deep jungle was our visit to a clay lick where hundreds and hundreds of parrots, parakeets and macaws come down each day to eat the mineral rich clay. These birds must visit such sites on a daily basis to help neutralize the toxins in the fruits and seeds that they digest. It is such a fantastic way to spend a morning in the observation blind and watch as the different species come down to visit the clay. Usually the smaller species visit first and then depart as the macaws start to descend. Seeing 100 or more wild Red and Green Macaws all at once is a pretty amazing sight to behold (and a very fun photographic challenge). On the first visit I set my sights on trying to photograph the smaller species and was very happy to nail a Blue-headed Parrot in flight. On my second tour I decided to try something a little different and attempt to get a nice pan-blur of the Macaws. That is one of the best things about photography. Even at the same site you can always try something a bit different and see the world through a slightly different lens.


Red and Green Macaw – standard approach


Red and Green Macaw – Pan/Blur approach – slow shutter speed


Blue-headed Parrot

Eventually our time in the jungle came to an end and we made the long journey back to Cuzco. We all had lots of great memories and fantastic images to show for our efforts!

After a rest day in Cuzco we started the cultural extension portion of the trip. This was a total change of pace and, in my opinion, an incredibly rewarding way to round out a photo vacation to this part of the world. Being in Cuzco and not visiting some of the cultural treasures of the region is like going to New York City and not visiting Times Square. It would be like going to Egypt and not visiting the pyramids. The cultural sites around Cuzco are an absolutely fascinating part of our collective human civilization.

For the Cultural extension we began in Cuzco itself and paid a visit to the nearby Sacsayhuaman ruins. This was a great way to start our immersion into the land and culture of the Incas. That afternoon we visited two other sites in Cuzco to get an even further appreciation of the history of this ancient city.


Inca ladies in traditional dress


Sacsayhuaman ruins


Interesting details in Cuzco


I present to you the Sacsayhuaman ruins…


Incredible stonework!

The next day we ventured off into the Sacred Valley and towards the city of Ollantaytambo. En route we made a stop at an animal rescue center and had a pretty spectacular and close up experience with an Andean Condor. Definitely a “WOW” moment!! We also stopped at a local pottery studio to learn about some of the techniques that they use and pick up some beautiful and unique souveneirs. In the afternoon we paid a visit to the stunning ruins at Ollantaytambo and learned all about their unique history.


Painting the pottery


Making the pottery

The next morning I took the group up to another set of ruins that are about an hour above Ollantaytambo. The scenery up there is stunning and it is really nice to get away from everything for a morning. The other key reason to visit this site was to try to get a look and a photo of the endemic White-tufted Sunbeam Hummingbird – a real stunner!


View from the countryside


White-tufted Sunbeam

In the afternoon we boarded our train and made our way to the town of Aguas Calientes in preparation of our visit to the breathtaking site of Machu Picchu. The next morning we boarded our bus up to the entrance gates of this great wonder of the world.

I would say that Machu Picchu is one of those places where no matter how many pictures you have seen of the site you can never be prepared for just how unbelievable the place truly is. Words, images or videos simply cannot do the site justice. Only by visiting this sacred site first hand and standing on the same ground as Inca royalty once did can you begin to appreciate its magnificence. Even then you are left with a sense of awe and wonder.

Arriving early at the site we had lots of time to take pictures and explore. Our private guide then took us all on a tour and explained the hidden meaning behind many of the features of the site. Once we had all had enough we took our bus back down to Aguas Calientes for one final night before traveling back to Cuzco.


Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu


Yoga at Machu Picchu…How does my tree pose look?


Machu Picchu Llama

I am very excited to have added this Peru photo workshop to my line up. The combination of fantastic birds, breathtaking scenery and fascinating cultural treasures makes it quite a tour!

I will certainly be leading this trip again in 2014. At this point I am planning to only lead one tour in 2014 and it is certain to sell out quickly. So if you are interested be sure to send me an email. I will be announcing the dates for this trip and taking deposits very soon.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE WISH LIST

Very Cool Photography Graphic

It is amazing how much info they packed into this graphic. If you are new to photography this is an amazing resource!

A great resource for newbies!

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“Created by: PhotographyDegree.com

Ecuador Trip Report 2013

I have just returned from a wonderful month leading two photo workshops in the incredibly bird-rich nation of Ecuador. This was my fourth visit to Ecuador and despite the fact that I have now spent more than 9 months in the beautiful Andean nation the bird life continues to amaze me. I keep expecting that at some point I will stop seeing new and exciting birds and yet each year is a new adventure and brings new photo opportunities. 2013 was no exception!
The following is a combined summary of the two tours that I led this year…

After meeting in Quito, each tour started in the northwest part of the country where we focused our efforts on the amazing diversity of hummingbirds. Our first stop was a high elevation cloud forest reserve where we found some beautiful hummingbirds to start the trip including the Great Sapphirewing and Sapphire-vented Puffleg. The reserve was even feeding Tawny and Rufous Antpittas.

 
Great Sapphirewing


Sapphire-vented Puffleg

Rufous Antpitta

 

This tour focuses a lot of effort on photographing hummingbirds. We were well rewarded this year (as always) and by the time the trip was over most of the participants had photographed over 30 species of the tiny flying jewels (including Booted Rackettail’s, Buff-tailed Coronet’s and Violet-tailed Sylph’s as seen below).

Booted Rackettail


Buff-tailed Coronet

 


Violet-tailed Sylph

 

From our base in the Tandayapa Valley we made a few day trips to visit nearby photography hot-spots for a variety of tanagers, manakins and other goodies. Everyone also got fantastic shots of the gorgeous Masked Trogon.  But above all else we focused on photographing hummingbirds using my patented multi-flash techniques (including the beautiful Andean Emerald and Purple-bibbed White-Tip seen below).
Crimson-rumped Toucanet

Masked Trogon


Andean Emerald

 


Purple-bibbed White-Tip

 

After a brief stopover in the inter-Andean valley for the night our next stop took us up to the Antisana reserve and in to a totally different environment. Highlight birds up in this unique reserve included Carunculated Caracara and Black-faced Ibis.

Carunculated Caracara


Black-faced Ibis

After our visit to the highlands we traveled up and over the Papallacta Pass and eventually we arrived at our third lodge of the trip. From Sword-billed Hummingbirds to Torrent Ducks and from Mountain Tanagers to Turquoise Jays it was hard to know where to point our lenses. I have to say though that, for me anyways, the highlight was seeing and photographing the spectacular Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan (a bird I had never seen before).

Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan

Hooded Mountain-Tanager

Sword-billed Hummingbird


Torrent Duck


Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe


Turquoise Jays

Other highlight birds during our time on the East slope Pearled Treerunners, Blue-backed Conebills and loads of other birds in the mixed species flocks that were traveling around the area. We also had a lot more time to focus on multi-flash hummingbird photography and nailed a few more great species like the Tourmaline Sunangel.

Blue-backed Conebill


Long-tailed Sylph

 

Tourmaline Sunangel

Our final stop on the regular portion of the tour was a little bit further down the eastern slope. Here we were in for a real treat of photographing the Black-banded Owl (see below). One night there was also a Rufous-banded Owl that made a brief but excellent appearance. We also got great photo opportunities for Inca Jays, Golden-headed Quetzals and the cute little White-bellied Antpitta.

Black-banded Owl


Rufous-banded Owl

 

Inca Jay


White-bellied Antpitta

After 5 spectacular days on the East Slope we traveled further east into the Ecuadorian lowlands and prepared to travel into the Amazon Rainforest. We had an enjoyable boat ride that took us nearly 100km down river deep into the jungle. After a few hours we arrived at our wonderful jungle lodge where we would spend the next 4 days.

During our stay in the Amazon we had incredible opportunities to photograph 4 species of Kingfishers as well as crazy birds like Hoatzin’s, Donocobius, Macaws, Woodpeckers, Toucans and Aracaris, and even Parrots that were coming to a local site to eat clay. It really was an amazing experience for us all.

 


Masked Crimson Tanager


Scale-breasted Woodpecker


Green and Rufous Kingfisher


Many-banded Aracari


Crimson-crested Woodpecker

 


Mealy Amazon Parrot

Eventually all good things must come to an end and we had to return to Quito to catch our flights home. It truly was a fantastic trip. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some of the things that a few of the participants had to say:
TESTIMONIALS – ECUADOR 2013
Another excellent workshop, in Ecuador this time. Great lodges and food, but above all excellent photo opportunities, and the usual first class advice from Glenn. There was no excuse for not returning with a collection of great photos, as well as increased knowledge, and some marvelous experiences. Once again, many thanks, Glenn, and hopefully not the last time I will join you. (Steve C, 2013)
  
As a repeat workshop participant, I would like to say that Glenn Bartley delivers again and again.  Glenn’s photography skills, birding knowledge, attention to detail, and familiarity with Ecuador have all come together, creating an extraordinary workshop with unbeatable photographic opportunities. Glenn’s carefully selected locations provided excellent opportunities with a vast array of species.  Without your knowledge and help, I wouldn’t have been able to come home with so many fantastic images.  Thanks Glenn! (James F, 2013)

The Ecuador Workshop exceeded my expectations.  Glenn had every aspect of the trip very well organized, but he also had sufficient flexibility incorporated in the plan so that the members of the group could have the best possible opportunity to learn, encounter interesting subjects and capture good photographs.  I gained valuable experience that resulted in some very satisfying images.  I not only learned from Glenn, but also got many good ideas and suggestions from other participants. I have already committed to attend another tropical birding workshop with Glenn (Costa Rica), and I expect to continue improving my photographs with his guidance.  I would love to return to Ecuador with Glenn at some time in the future. Highly recommended! (Scott H, 2013)

 

The Ecuador workshop was excellent and I could highly recommend it to photographers of all levels of expertise.  Glenn is a very capable and patient leader and teacher who is committed to making sure that all the participants get the best results possible from the photographic opportunities presented during the trip. (Ray W, 2013)

I will definitely be running this trip again in Jan/Feb of 2014. I will have dates available and will be taking deposits in the upcoming few weeks. If you are interested in reserving a space on the trip make sure to get in touch soon as I am certain that the 12 spaces available (2 tours) will sell out fast. Send me an email if you want to be put on the trips wish list.
TO JOIN THE WISH LIST FOR ECUADOR 2014 - CLICK HERE

The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography

I am very happy to announce that my latest E-book – The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography is now available!

This is a joint project between Costa Rican wildlife photographer Greg Basco and I. We have been working hard over the past year to come up with a resource that provides a tonne of useful information to anyone heading to the tropics for photography.

Why did we decide to write a book specific to nature photography in the world’s tropical regions? Isn’t nature photography the same anywhere in the world? The answer is a resounding no. Every area of the world offers a fresh challenge to the nature photographer, from weather to logistics to subjects. Tropical nature photography, however, is characterized by an amazingly high degree of difficulty. Simply producing a sharp, well-exposed, well-composed picture is an achievement.

Successful tropical nature photography is all about having a diverse photographic toolkit to ensure that you’re ready to deal with the technical challenges of each shot, freeing your mind to work on the artistic side of your photography. We’ll be taking you through the equipment you’ll need, and we’ll also teach you how to use that equipment in a variety of ways. And we’ll give you tips on finding your subjects and “seeing” images in the field so that you can produce a beautiful and colorful tropical portfolio.

Tropical nature photography is indeed a challenge but after reading this e-book, you’ll be ready to tackle it head on. What’s more, the techniques you learn here will open up whole new worlds for your photography back home and on future travels. We believe strongly that if you can capture great images in the tropics, you’ll be well-equipped to capture great images anywhere in the world!

Specific Chapters Include:

  • Using Natural light
  • Using Flash
  • Telephoto Wildlife
  • Knowing Your Subjects
  • Outside the Box
  • Tropical Habitats
  • Equipment
  • Post Processing

The E-book is available for download from our website at a cost of just $40.

For more information or to purchase the book visit – www.theguidetotropicalnaturephotography.com

Bolivia Trip Report

FORWARD

Bolivia is an extremely diverse country when it comes to birds. In fact, some say that if it wasn’t land-locked it would have more species than any other country. Endemism is not especially high but there are some stunners to search for such as the Red-fronted Macaw and Black-hooded Sunbeam. The country lacks a field guide and, perhaps because of this, has been under-birded compared to the other Andean nations. This can lead to some frustration when trying to get information about sites and species. The other side of the coin is that it makes it a very exciting place to visit as a photographer because there have been so few good images of the birds that live there. The goal of this trip was to find and photograph as many of the endemics and near-endemics as possible.

I will include some images with this post. To see more visit - www.glennbartley.com

DAY BY DAY SUMMARY

The trip began with an international flight in to the city ofSanta Cruz. Coming in from sea level it made a lot of sense to begin here in the lowlands rather than flying in toLa Pazwhere the air is notoriously thin.

My first destination was right in the city at the local botanical gardens. There were a surprising number of good birds to be found here and I visited the site several times while I organized the rental car and prepared to head in to the field. The highlights included: Red-billed Scythebill, Pale-crested Woodpecker and Bolivian Slaty Antshrike.

 A second site that was worth a quick visit was Lomas de Arena. At this site I had Guira Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Southern Lapwing and White-eared Puffbird.

The first “real” birding site was a few hours away along the old road to Cochabamba. Rather than waste a morning driving there I decided to visit the Santa Cruz airport and see if I could come up with anything. It turned out to be an action packed morning with Greater Rhea’s, White-bellied Nothura, Red-winged Tinamou and Wedge-tailed Grass Finch all giving great photo opps.

After an unexpectedly successful morning I hit the road for the Refugio Los Volcanes. About a 2-3 hour drive from Santa Cruz this lodge is positioned in a setting that is unlike anywhere I had ever been. Set in a clearing down in a valley the small lodge is surrounded by towering red cliffs on all sides. It truly is a spectacular destination! This site proved to be the best of the trip for nocturnal birds and on the first night there I managed to photograph Band-bellied and Rufescent Screech Owl. Fruit placed out near the kitchen provided exceptional opportunities to photograph Purplish and Plush-crested Jays and the edges of the clearing were good for a few of the other common birds including Rufous-bellied Thrush and Blue-fronted Amazon Parrot. After two nights at this wonderful lodge it was once again time to move on.

The town of Samaipata was conveniently located along the old road to make a stop for the night. Based on a recommendation I stayed at a Dutch run hotel called “La Vispera”. The grounds around the hotel were good for Black-capped Warbling Finch, White-tipped Plantcutter, Red-crested Finach and Lineated Woodpecker.

A few hours further down the road I found myself at the Red-fronted Macaw Lodge. This excellent site has been set up to protect the breeding cliff of the endemic and endangered species for which the lodge is named.  During the time of my visit the Macaws were constantly around the cliffs as were the endemic Cliff Parakeets. The third endemic to be seen here is the drab Bolivian Blackbird.

The habitat around the lodge is dry scrub and it is loaded with birds. Commonly seen species included Blue and Yellow Tanager, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Mitred Parakeet, Greater Wagtail Tyrant, Ringed Warbling Finch, Creamy-bellied Thrush, White-fronted Woodpecker, Golden-billed Saltator, Masked Gnatcatcher and Glittering-bellied Emerald. I spent three days here working on getting great images of the Macaws as well as the supporting cast of characters.

The next move took me further down the old road towards the town of Comarapa. This would be my base for visiting the higher elevation cloud forests of Siberia where I would search for the Rufous-faced Antpitta and Black-hooded Sunbeam. Lower elevations were good for the Bolivian Earthcreeper, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, Olive-crowned Crescentchest and Great Pampa Finch. Although I missed the Sunbeam here we did find a great site for a territorial Red-tailed Comet. What a spectacular hummingbird!!

I spent several days in this area battling the sunny conditions and elusive birds before continuing on to Cochabamba. Along the way roadside stops turned up Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer, Brown-capped Redstart and Creamy-breasted Canastero.

For a bit of a rest morning I visited the Laguna Alalay which is right in town. Here I photographed Collared Plovers and spotted Rosy-billed Pochards, Red Shovellers and White-backed Stilts among other common waterbirds.

At one point while walking around the perimeter of the lake a brilliant red, white and blue bird emerged from the reeds. This was a highly unexpected colour palette to encounter here and it definitely took a few moments for the brain to comprehend that the bird I was seeing was actually a Cattle Egret that some local fool had painted with the colours of the resident soccer team. I seriously wish I could have found him and sprayed him with paint!

I was fortunate enough to have a local researcher to take me out to her study site the next morning to look for the Cochabamba Mountain Finch (another endemic). That morning I was lucky to find and get decent images of this species as well as Rock Earthcreeper. I was unlucky to back the car in to a rock. Crap!

That afternoon I visited the nearby San Miguel Polylepis forest and had an awesome encounter with Red-crested Cotingas as well as Puna Canastero, White-winged Diuca Finch and Slender-billed Miner.

 Missing the Sunbeam was not sitting well. Not one bit! Reluctantly I made the decision to drive back the 200km and 5 hours or so to the “site” for the Sunbeam and try my luck again. But once again luck was not on my side. In addition to the THREE flat tires that I got on the way, a huge protest had pushed traffic from the new road to the old one and there were so many cars and so much dust that any birds that may have been there had wisely moved on. Consolation prizes along the way included a cooperative Rufous Antpitta and Light-crowned Spinetails. But at the end of two more days I had to face the fact that it was strike two on the sunbeam.

The original plan was to spend the next 2-3 days along the Chapare road looking for all  the goodies there. Unfortunately the protest was raging on. Angry locals had blocked the road, flipped over police cars and set them on fire and the smell of tear gas was heavy in the air. It wasn’t that difficult of a decision to move on and skip this area even though it meant missing a few good birds.

I drove towards and past the town o fOruro and to the Lago Uru-Uru. Here I had a messy day of shooting all three Flamingo species as well as Andean Avocet and a few migrant shorebirds. Its always fun to get down and crawl in the mud. Well…as long as you get the shot. Otherwise it is just loco!

Onwards I traveled in the direction  of La Paz for the final phase of the trip. The first site to be visited was just a half hour or so from the city. Here up in the puna habitat I was able to coax out Streak-throated Canastero, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch before descending to the Cotopata Trail. The rain was looming so there wasn’t much time to search for birds. In the first 200 metres of the trail I was able to find some cooperative Three-striped Hemispinguses and a Rufous-backed Chat Tyrant and heard the persistent calling of a Diademed Tapaculo. Alas, the skies opened up and I retired to the town of Coroico for the night.

The following day there was a National census taking place and I was informed that I would not be able to drive anywhere. Great! Thankfully Coroico is set in an area where you can hit the trails and wander in to some decent habitat. Not too far out of town I was able to nail Black-faced Tanagers and Variable Antshrikes. This was a great relief after assuming that the day would be a total loss. Back at the hotel I had a good look at a stunning male Swallow Tanager and some Speckled Chachalacas to finish the day.

Sometimes on photo trips you hit patches of bad luck. It felt like I was just grinding it out for the past week or so. It’s not that I wasn’t getting good images. I was just having to work really hard for them and also deal with all of the protests, censuses, flat tires, smashed bumpers, etc, etc. Perseverance always pays off though and I always try to think that if you can just hang in there you will be rewarded.

On November 22 I had one of those epic days of photography that is sure to live long in the memory. Starting out before dawn in Coroico I headed up the main road to the infamous “road of death”. As the sun began to shine the first images of the day materialized as a pair of very tame Mountain Caracaras cooperatively posed for me on a gorgeous perch. A great way to start the day! From then on the pace of the day picked up to an almost dizzying pace. A roadside flock held Scarlet-bellied and Hooded Mountain Tanagers. Not one, or two, but FOUR Hooded Mountain Toucans emerged from the cloud forests to pose for my camera. Mountain Wrens, Band-tailed Fruiteaters and Black Thistletails were all giving amazing photo opportunities. It wasn’t even lunch yet!!! Next up was a charismatic White-collared Jay who cooperated nicely and I finished the day with Superciliaried Hemispingus and, better yet, Orange-browed Hemispingus. What an insane day!!!

After a day like that I simply had to return to this site again and see if the luck would continue. Of course you can never recreate a day like that and the action was indeed much slower. I was able to pick up Sickle-winged Guan, Plushcap, Barred Fruiteater and the other subspecies of Light-crowned Spinetail. Still not a bad day! In the late afternoon I stopped in at a lower elevation site and from the dense undergrowth pulled out a cute little Ochre-faced Tody-Tyrant before calling it a day.

The next morning I decided to try to finish up with the “Road of Death”. As a side note – this road earned its name because more drivers have lost their lives per km of road than any other. The dirt road is carved in to the mountain slopes and the consequences of slipping off the edge are indeed severe. Luckily the Bolivians realized this and worked hard to create a paved, and much safer, bypass around the old road. This is such a great gift for bird watching because now you can explore the Carraterra de la Muerte with virtually no traffic. It is a stunning area and is loaded with good birds. Hopefully the habitat will remain preserved here for generations to come.

My final morning produced very few new birds. The Cotopata trail was looking promising for the Diademed Tapaculo. However, as Tapaculos like to do, these birds stayed hidden and impossible to photograph.

On the way back to La Paz the weather was abnormally calm. The decision was made to stop at a highland site and hike up away from the main road to where I hoped to find some good birds. I was hoping for an Olivaceous Thornbill but there were none to be found. I did nail great shots of Puna Tapaculo (the only easy member of this Genus) and Scribble-tailed Canastero. Hiking at this altitude (4000m +) is always hard work but I had enough energy for one last stop at “La Cumbre” where I found some Andean Geese, Diuca Finches and a few more waterbirds before heading back to La Paz for the night.

My next mission was to travel to Lago Titicaca and try for the critically endangered Flightless Grebe. This was a poorly planned endeavour that miraculously worked out. After finding a hotel on the lake in the dark I somehow managed to find a canoe in the morning to paddle out in to the lake. Before long I had plenty of Grebes to look at.

 

The final site for the trip was near the town of Sorota where I had heard that the Black-hooded Sunbeams were reliable. This was my third and final chance for this species and the anticipation was intense. Driving down towards the town I spotted an area that was loaded with flowers and looked promising to search for hummingbirds. Sure enough I hopped out of the car, walked 10 metres and there he was – a stunning male Black-hooded Sunbeam perched at the perfect angle to show off its incredible blue back. Blasting away at 8 frames a second the moment came and went and as I looked at my LCD screen what I saw was one of the most amazing hummingbirds on earth and what I felt was euphoric relief. It was an incredible way to end the trip.

To see more images visit me online - www.glennbartley.com

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Off to Bolivia!

Greetings everyone!

 

I just thought I’d post a quick update as I am off toBoliviaon Wednesday. I am going for a 1 month photo shoot and will be focusing on the area betweenSanta CruzandLa Paz.Boliviais a big country so 1 month will not be a huge amount of time. Hopefully I can nail down a few of the endemics and some of the really stunning birds like the Red-tailed Comet, Black-hooded Sunbeam and Hooded Mountain Tanager.

 

Stay tuned as I’ll be posting some photos as soon as I get back at the beginning of December.

 

Until then, all the best!

Glenn

Beryl-spangled Tanager (Tangara nigroviridis)

Photoshop Technique – Digital Eye Repair

Building on my last post about the benefits of using a flash bracket I thought that I would post about some of the techniques that I use to “clean up” the eyes of the birds that I photograph using Adobe Photoshop.

Before moving forward it is important to recognize that, in most cases, the birds eye is where our attention is focused in the photograph. It is what is compelling and draws us in. So it is very important that the eye looks as natural as is possible. Let’s take a quick look at an image where two quick edits in Photoshop can really improve the eye of the bird.

Problem #1 – Strange catch lights from the flash

We often encounter problems from unnatural looking flash catch-lights in the birds eye. This can happen even when using a flash bracket. It may be that there is a natural catch light from the sky or sun and then a second catch light from the flash. Depending on the image this could look very strange. Luckily this is usually a very easy fix (especially if you used a flash bracket).

In Photoshop – Simply zoom in on the eye and clone out the undesired catch light. You could use the clone brush or the patch tool to achieve this. Note that sometimes you simply want to re-position the catch light and in this case you could use the patch tool but on the “destination” instead of the “source” setting. You would then select the area of the catch light, left click and hold, and drag the catch-light to a more desirable position. You could then switch back to “source” and remove the original catch light.

Problem #2 – Noise and “murky” looking eyes

One of the edits that I often make to my bird images is to remove the noise from the birds eyes. If you think about it when you look at an animals eye it looks clear and shiny. But because birds eyes are often black or dark brown they often accumulate some digital noise (due to the fact that they can easily become underexposed).

An easy fix for this is to simply select the birds eye using one of the various selection tools (perhaps the elliptical marquee tool). Next you will want to feather the selection by a few pixels. Then simply use the noise reduction filter on a moderate setting (Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise). This should really help to make the birds eye look more natural.

A second step that you may wish to perform here is to actually darken up the birds pupil. Pupils should look very dark and not have any noticeable noise. Because of this you may wish to select just the pupil, feather the selection, and then darken the pupil through a levels adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Levels).

Lets take a look at an example of a before and after…

Before - The image that suffers from all of the classic problems mentioned above. It has some funky catch-lights and also noise in the eye. The pupil could definitely be made a bit darker too.

 

After - With a bit of quick work with the patch tool, some noise reduction and darkening up the pupil we have a much more natural looking eye that draws us in to the photo.