The Hummingbirds of
British Columbia
Photography Workshop

Calliope Hummingbird feeding
Join Barbara and John Gerlach for an incredibly productive hummingbird photography workshop at a secluded guest ranch amid the spectacular Canadian Rockies.  You will learn to photograph hummingbirds with multiple-flash setups and natural light.  It is a tremendous hummingbird experience.  In addition to the fabulous images you will make, you will love watching the hummingbird courtship displays that take place only a few yards away!

Cabin at Bull River Guest Ranch
When not photographing the hummingbirds, Bull River Guest Ranch offers many other photo opportunities and wonderful wildlife viewing.

Rufous Hummingbird

2016 Workshop Dates

May 15-21, 2016 May 22 - 28, 2016

2017 Workshop Dates

May 14-20, 2017 May 21-27, 2017

Limited to only 12 Participants


We had been looking for the perfect place to conduct hummingbird photography workshops since 2000 and finally found it in May of 2003. We checked out all of the known hummer hot spots in Arizona and New Mexico. While many of them were promising, we rejected all of them for one reason or another. Little did we expect to find the perfect spot in southeastern British Columbia. It all began innocently enough. While leading a Polar Bear photo tour, the conversation turned to the topic of hummingbirds. One of our clients - Cindy Koch - said she and her husband owned a guest ranch that attracted hundreds of hummingbirds in May and early June. They swarmed into her guest ranch to feed at their many hummingbird feeders while waiting for the snow to melt and the wildflowers to bloom in the spectacular mountains surrounding the secluded ranch.

Using the words, "hundreds of hummingbirds" caught my attention immediately. While I didn’t mean to doubt her, I quizzed Cindy to see if she really meant something more like 10 or perhaps 20 birds. Even that number would be promising. She reaffirmed that there must be hundreds. Of course it’s difficult to count that many little birds darting in and out. She said, "in the evening, the feeders are swarming with hummingbirds like bees at a hive." We had to see this spectacle, so Barbara and I visited the ranch in May of 2003. We did indeed find hundreds of hummingbirds using their feeders beginning at 5:30 am until one hour after sunset. In the late evening when all of the hummingbirds were filling up for the long cool night, they did swarm the feeders. Sometimes a dozen hummingbirds hovered about our photo setup simultaneously and we didn’t need to hide from them. One even perched on my shoulder between feeding sessions.

We taught our first two hummingbird workshops at the Bull River Guest Ranch during 2004 and every year after that. The photography opportunities are absolutely superb. Everyone shoots at least two thousand images and some shoot more than 10,000! The only complaint we hear is it is difficult to select the very best from so many wonderful images. One nice lady came all the way from Texas.  She hoped to get terrific photos of male Black-chinned, Calliope, and Rufous hummingbirds. She achieved her goal in her first 30 minutes of photography! These hummingbirds are friendly.  Many of these individual hummingbirds return to Bull River year after year.  They know our photo setups and know we are not a danger to them.  They readily approach us. Sometimes they perch on the shoulders or heads of the photographers between feeding sessions.

While the hummingbirds are most actively using the feeders early and late in the day, they are present at the feeders in good numbers throughout the day. We’ll have at least six high-speed flash stations and three natural light stations. Participants have 90 minutes on various stations every day for a total of six hours of intensive shooting per day. We make every station unique by using different flowers and backgrounds in the setup to provide a nice diversity of images.

What Kinds of Hummingbirds
will you photograph?

The mix of hummingbirds is especially attractive. The three species of hummingbirds living at the ranch include Calliope, Rufous, and Black-chinned. Male Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds are especially beautiful while the Black-chinned is quite handsome. About 50% of the hummingbirds are Calliope and 40% Rufous. Only about 10% are Black-chinned, but they learn our photo setups easily, so you’ll get wonderful photos of them, too. All of the hummingbirds are adorned with striking breeding plumage, so you’ll be photographing colored gems.

What You Will Learn?

This course has many objectives:
First, you will enjoy a lovely week at a secluded guest ranch that is surrounded by towering mountains. Naturally, hummingbirds are a big part of your wildlife experience. However, Mule Deer, Elk, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Bighorn Sheep and White-tail Deer are plentiful at the ranch and nearby, so you are certain to see some of them.
Second, we use high-speed multiple-flash setups for our hummingbird photography. We’ll explain the system in great detail to enable you to go out and purchase your own setup. The group size is limited to twelve photographers and we’ll have at least six mulitple-flash setups to use, plus the natural light stations. Participants rotate through the stations to get variety.
Third, it’s our goal to train you to become an exceptionally skilled hummingbird photographer. We’ll do everything we can in our week together to make sure you get fabulous images and learn a system that you can use on your own to make outstanding images of hummingbirds wherever you find them. All participants receive our undivided help with photographing them and our detailed written guide to hummingbird photography.

Fourth, in addition to learning how to effectively use all of the mechanical parts of hummingbird photography like flashes and camera equipment, this course examines the art of hummingbird photography. Learning to work with flowers, sugar water, and backgrounds are keys to making highly artistic hummingbird images.

Viewing Your Hummingbird Photos

We use our digital projector to view your digital images of the hummingbirds. All of our participants now shoot digital. We find digital shooters easily shoot more images than film photographers because they have nothing to lose in terms of money. Any bad images are easily deleted. Everyone soon realizes the more images they shoot, the greater the chance of catching a really terrific pose. By the way, one of our past participants won first place in the bird division of the National Wildlife Photo Contest with an image taken at the workshop.

Who Should Attend the Workshop?

This workshop is suitable for beginners through professionals who shoot digital cameras. We provide all of the specialized electronic flash equipment, backgrounds, and other materials. Participants must provide their own cameras, lenses, and tripod.

What Photo Gear Do You Need to Bring?
While the flash gear is somewhat specialized and cost about $1000 for each setup, the gear participants need to bring is quite minimal. All you need is your camera body (a second camera body is always good to have in case you have a malfunction) that accepts a PC cord to plug a flash into it. Most cameras have a PC terminal, but do double-check. Some digital cameras don’t have a standard PC terminal in the body.  You may need to purchase a device that fits into the flash hot shoe, so a PC cord can be plugged into it. The Nikon D70 and some of the Canon Rebels don't have the standard PC terminal and some other cameras (such as Sony) may not have this as well.  Please double-check for this.  The single biggest problem we have is clients who bring cameras that don't have a PC terminal, but think they do because they mistake another socket for the PC terminal!  Sony can be a huge problem.  One client with Sony had no PC terminal in the camera and the camera was designed to accept only Sony PC to hot shoe adapters which were out of stock and expensive!  Even if your camera does have a PC terminal, often it is in an inconvenient place and you must lift up some rubber seals to get to it.  We find using a hot shoe to PC adapter, which slides into the camera's hot shoe, is the best way to go and the method we prefer.

These hummingbirds are friendly! We do all of our flash photography without a blind from a distance of only six feet or less. John’s favorite lens combination for photographing the hummingbirds was his Canon 300/4 lens with a Canon 25mm extension tube to make it focus closer.  Since 2014, John now uses his Canon 200-400mm lens with a 25mm extension tube.  Barbara uses her Nikon 200-400 zoom. The ideal lens for this type of hummingbird photography has a 300mm focal length and can focus close enough to fill the viewfinder with a 3x4 inch object. You may need a 25mm extension tube to do this.  However, many cameras with a 1.5x or 1.6x crop factor focus close enough without the extension tube.  That said, an ongoing problem has been participants who bring lenses that cannot focus close enough and/or the focal length is just too short!  Please do bring an extension tube in the 25mm to 40mm range.  Kenko makes sets of extension tubes for many camera systems that preserve autofocus.

Be sure to bring plenty of storage space. If you edit your images on a computer, then you can delete many of the inferior images shot during the day to make room for more images. Since you can’t see hummingbirds wings when hovering, many photos are inferior because the wings are poorly positioned. On the other hand, flash makes sharp images easy to come by and eliminates metering errors. Since you are shooting on a 90 minutes on, 90 minutes off schedule, most digital shooters download their cards to a computer and/or an external hard drive during their off period.  We buy 1TB or 1.5TB external hard drives from Costco and these work fine for us.

Bring a tripod. It doesn’t need to be heavy, since flash gives you sharp photos even if you shoot hand-held. However, you’ll want a tripod to hold your camera and lens in position while awaiting the arrival of a hummingbird at your flower.

What’s the typical Day Like?

Our day begins early at 7:30 am. Hummingbirds are active by 6:00 am, but we don’t photograph them at that time because we are devising new flower setups and letting the hummers "learn" our new setups. Of course, you won’t have far to go since the hummingbird flash setups are on the front porch and next to the cabins. We’ll help you get your photos during the morning hours when the hummingbirds are actively feeding.  We want you to bring from home no more than 20 images to show. Bring a CD or jump drive with some digital photos for viewing on our projector. The last four hours of the day tend to be the best times to photograph hummingbirds, so you are busy photographing then. John and Barbara are available to help out in any way they can.
By the way, this may be the only photo workshop you will ever attend where bad weather is good weather.  If it is cold and/or wet outdoors, the hummingbirds pour into the flash photo setups.  All of our flash stations are under a tent to keep the equipment and you completely dry and warmer.  The hummingbirds are happy to join you under the tent, too!  On a cold and wet day, we have shot as many as 700 shots per hour--now that will wear a camera out!


The Bull River guest ranch has their own chef to feed our hungry group of photographers. These meals are first-rate, so you won’t lose any weight during this workshop. Prepared meals are available beginning Monday morning through Saturday morning and these are included in the workshop price.  Please let us know by email ( if you have any food allergies and we will inform the chef.
Workshop Fee

The price of the workshop is $2025 which includes intensive instruction from John & Barbara Gerlach, use of all the equipment, six nights lodging (double occupancy) in a beautiful cabin or in a charming room in the Bunk House, and all meals from Monday through Saturday morning. If you prefer to have a room all to yourself, then the total cost is $2485 which includes the ($460) single supplement. If you are sharing a room with another participant, then the workshop fee is $2025. If you do not have your own room-mate to share the room, then we can try to provide a room-mate. However, if we cannot get a room-mate, then you must pay the ($460) single supplement. Transportation to and from the guest ranch and other personal costs are not included. Each cabin has a full kitchen for cooking. The Bunk House, which is a beautiful log building with four individual units with private bathroom in each room, has small refrigerators and no stoves. The view from the deck of the Bunk House is amazing. Participants can purchase snacks in Cranbrook on the way to the guest ranch.

 Workshop Fee

Single (1 person/1 cabin) $2485
(includes $460 private room supplement)
Double (2 people/1 cabin) $2025 per person
if each are participating

Double (2 people/1 cabin) $2875 total for a participant with non-photographer spouse or friend (This includes the meals for both people)

For those wishing to have a room-mate, we will do our best to help you, but if no one else is available, we will have to charge you with the single supplement.

Non-photographer Spouse or friend

Non-photographer spouses or friends are encouraged to attend the workshop. The cabins are very comfortable and the porches are great for enjoying the view and hummingbirds. The Bull River Guest Ranch is a terrific place for wildlife viewing, reading, relaxing, or enjoying the beautiful ranch. We’ve had many non-photographer spouses join us and they all have a wonderful time. Non-photographer spouses are invited to all of the activities during the week. They just do not photograph hummingbirds which is reserved for participants only.

Workshop Package Includes

Six nights of lodging at the Bull River Guest Ranch

Sixteen meals beginning with breakfast on Monday morning and ending with breakfast on Saturday morning.

Intensive photographic instruction from John & Barbara Gerlach

Use of all flash equipment

Gerlach’s Detailed Guide, "The Art of Photographing Hummingbirds".

Workshop Location
Bull River Guest Ranch in the Canadian Rockies
Greg & Gina Koch
P.O. Box 133 Station Main
Cranbrook, BC Canada
Tel 250-429-3760
How to Get to the Bull River Guest Ranch?

From Cranbrook, British Columbia

Fly into the Cranbrook airport. Then rent a car and drive about 45 miles to the ranch.

From Kalispell, Montana

You could fly into the airport in Kalispell, then rent a car, and drive to the guest ranch. It’s about 130 miles to the guest ranch.

 Pre-departure Information

Once we receive your reservation form and deposit, we’ll send you information that covers everything you need to know in great detail such as what to bring in the way of clothing and camera equipment and detailed directions to the Bull River Guest Ranch.

How to Enroll in this Photo Workshop?

A deposit of $600 per person is required to hold your space. There is a $200 Cancellation fee. All remaining unpaid balances are due in full April 1, 2016. The $600 deposit becomes non-refundable 90 days before the start of the workshop unless we are able to refill your spot and cabin on such short notice. Even though we usually have a waiting list, refilling your spot with only 90 days to go is not likely. Most people make other plans when told a course is filled and it is difficult to get cheap air fares at the last minute. The guest ranch has a no refund policy 90 days out, so we need to pay for the cabin we have reserved for you even if it sits empty. That is the reason for the $600 non-refundable deposit with less than 90 days to go.

Enroll Now!!

This workshop is limited to only 12 participants. We are keeping the size of the group small, so everyone has plenty of time at each hummingbird station to make numerous outstanding images. We’ll also have more time to give each participant the kind of one-on-one instruction you deserve!

Important Reservation Information

Please phone in your reservation first by calling
Barbara Gerlach at (208) 244 - 1887.
Our hummingbird field workshops fill to capacity rapidly. Phoning in your reservation enables us to let you know if space is available in the session you prefer and helps us book the accommodations you want.