Hummingbirds of British Columbia Workshop
With John Gerlach, Dixie Calderone, and Scott Bechtel
May 16 - 22, 2021
May 23 - 29, 2021
May 29 - June 4, 2021
Bull River Guest Ranch, British Columbia
Limited to 12 Participants
To view images from past participants, go to
To view a PDF of the Hummingbird brochure
I had been looking for a superb place to conduct hummingbird photography workshops since 1998, and finally found the perfect place in May of 2003. Little did I expect to find the perfect spot at the Bull River Guest Ranch in southeastern British Columbia. While leading a polar bear photo tour, the conversation turned to hummingbirds. One of my clients (Cindy) said, "my husband and I own a guest ranch that attracts hundreds of hummingbirds in May." When I visited Cindy in May, I found hummingbirds at her guest ranch swarming the many hummingbird feeders provided.
After all these years, I still don't know how many there are. But I can tell you in 2019 I and my first workshop group watched the fifteen large feeders on the main house deck a little after sunset and every feeder swarmed with hummingbirds like bees at a hive.
The hummingbirds at Bull River are used to people being close to the feeders. Indeed, John set the record for getting nine hummingbirds to perch on his hand at the same time. He will show you how to do that.
I taught my first two hummingbird workshops at the Bull River Guest Ranch during 2004 and every year since then. The photography opportunities are absolutely superb. Everyone gets the opportunity to shoot at least 20,000 images. This amount of shooting is made possible by our multiple flash system that lets you shoot up to nine shots per second and the frequent visits hummingbirds make to your station. By the way, "Machine-gun Melanie" with her Olympus mirrorless camera shot more than 65,000 images in a single week!!!! The only complaint we hear is it is difficult to select the very best from so many wonderful images.
These hummingbirds are friendly and we do not need to hide from them. Many of these hummingbirds return to Bull River every year. They know our photo setups and readily approach us.
Peak hummingbird activity begins about 9 a.m when the sun begins to warm the cool air, and runs till noon. Hummingbird photography slows down then, but activity picks up by 3 p.m. and constantly improves until 1/2 hour after sunset. We use six multi-flash stations, each with four flashes. The short flash durations we use easily freeze the wings of hummingbirds. I also have three other spare flash stations and used the six most productive stations at the moment. We also have a few natural light stations that you are free to use any time. Participants have 90 minutes on various stations each day. Each station is unique by using different flowers, backgrounds, and how they approach the feeder. This provides a nice diversity of images.
Hummingbird Species at the Ranch?
North America's smallest bird, the dainty calliope hummingbird makes up 50% of the hummingbirds. Rufous hummingbirds represent 40% of the hummers, and 10% are elegant black-chinned hummingbirds. All the hummingbirds know how to work our photo stations. In both weeks, you will shoot thousands of images of all three species and both sexes. All the hummingbirds are wearing striking breeding plumage, so you’ll be photographing colored gems.
What You Will Learn?
This course has many objectives:
1. You will enjoy a lovely week at a secluded guest ranch that is surrounded by towering snow-covered mountains. The view at the ranch is amazing. It is way better than you expect.
2. John teaches you how to set up a multi-flash station for hummingbird photography. There is a lot of strategy to this, and John shows you numerous modifications he and "master prop maker Scott Bechtel' have developed over the past twenty years of intensive hummingbird photography.
3. John knows camera gear super well. He teaches you how to achieve superb flash exposures, obtain critically sharp focus, fire the camera to best advantage with the flashes, and how to shoot super-high quality hummingbird images with multiple flash, all natural light, and combinations of both flash and natural light. John is a flash expert, and wrote the book - Outdoor Flash Photography.
4. Not only will you make thousands of hummingbird images, but you will come to know this special family of birds. Hummingbirds are with you all the time. Watch how they feed, battle with each other, and marvel at their intricate courtship flights.
5. Learn how to create your own multi-flash setup and photograph hummingbirds wherever you find them. Hint: Hummingbirds frequent North, South, and Central American only. More than 330 species exist.
6. All participants receive intensive help from John, Dixie, and Scott whenever they need it. Bring your photography questions and we will answer them all.
Viewing Your Hummingbird Photos
We use a high-quality TV to view your digital hummingbird images. Since it does not cost anything to shoot digital images, everyone shoots thousands of images. The more images you shoot, the better the chance of catching a tremendous pose.
Who Should Attend the Workshop?
This workshop is suitable for beginners through professionals. All specialized electronic flash equipment, backgrounds, and other materials are provided. Participants must bring their own cameras, lenses, and tripod.
What Photo Gear Do You Need to Bring?
Bring your favorite camera with a flash hot shoe on top of the camera. A second camera body is always good to have in case of a malfunction!
All photography is done without a blind from a distance of only six feet or less. In the past, John’s favorite lens combination for photographing hummingbirds was his Canon 300/4 lens with a Canon 25mm extension tube to make it focus closer. Now he uses his Canon 200-400mm f/4 with a 25mm extension tube. The Canon 100-400mm with a 25mm tube also works well. Dixie uses her Nikon 200-400mm lens with a short extension tube. Lots of lenses work for hummingbirds. If you own the Nikon or Canon 200-400 lens, that is one of the best hummingbird lenses ever made, so bring it. Any zoom lens that reaches 300mm works well as long as it focuses close enough to fill the viewfinder with a 3x4 inch subject. Nearly everyone can benefit by using a 25mm extension tube to focus closer.
And speaking of lenses, since autofocus is enormously helpful for hummingbirds, make sure you AF micro-adjust the camera and lens being used for the hummingbirds. John teaches how to do that at the workshop, as it is really critical to achieve sharp focus with autofocus. His article on how this is done is posted in the Blog on this web site.
Bring plenty of storage space. A 1TB external hard drive works well. Remember, you may have 25,000 images or more, so you need a place to download theses images. The memory cards in your camera should be large. You will likely enjoy a busy 90 minutes shooting session where you shoot 2,500 images. Be sure you have enough memory cards to keep you at the station, and not running to your room for more memory.
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. A gimbal style head is superb for this as it holds the camera and lens securely while allowing you to adjust the shooting angle instantly to track the hummingbird. John and Dixie uses Wimberley gimbal heads.
What’s the typical Day Like?
Our day begins at 9:00 am right after the 8:00 am breakfast. Hummingbirds are active by 7:30, but we let them learn our new flower arrangements before we photograph them at 9 am. That way you get lots of photo opportunities. Flash station sessions begin at 9 am, 10:30 am, 3 pm, 4:30 pm, 6 pm, and 7:30 pm.
Bring from home no more than 20 JPEG images to share with the group on a jump drive. We will view these on a TV. Everywhere I have been, the last four hours of the day have been the most productive for hummingbirds. Therefore, while we eat breakfast (8 am) and lunch (12:30 pm) as a group, dinners are in shifts so the flash stations are used during prime time.
The Bull River guest ranch hires a chef to feed our hungry group of photographers. These meals are first-rate. Prepared meals are available beginning Monday morning through Saturday morning and all meals are included in the workshop price. Our participants eat their dinner during their 90 minute off period. Please let us know by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any food allergies so we can inform the chef.
Non-photographer Spouse or friend
Non-photographer spouses or friends are encouraged to attend the workshop. The comfortable cabins and 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. Many non-photographer spouses join us and all have a wonderful time. Non-photographer spouses are invited to all activities during the week. They just do not photograph hummingbirds at our stations as they are reserved for participants.
Bull River Guest Ranch in the Canadian Rockies
Greg & Gina Koch
P.O. Box 133 Station Main
Cranbrook, BC Canada
How to Get to the Bull River Guest Ranch?
From Cranbrook, British Columbia
Fly to the Cranbrook airport. Then rent a car and drive about 30 miles to the ranch.
From Kalispell, Montana
Fly to the Kalispell airport
, rent a car, and drive to the guest ranch. It’s about 130 miles to the guest ranch. Don't forget your passport!
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
This workshop is limited to only 12 participants. We are keeping the size of the group small to allow everyone plenty of time at each hummingbird station to make thousands of outstanding images. We’ll also have more time to give you the kind of one-on-one instruction you deserve!
Important Reservation Information
Please phone or email your reservation to John Gerlach
John Gerlach at (208) 320 - 0951
Dixie Calderone at (812) 350 - 0799
Our hummingbird field workshops fill to capacity rather quickly. 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.