Social Networks and RSS Feeds
Instagram Instagram
About Andy

 

I am an avid adventurer, conservationist, teacher, and outdoor photographer whose photography celebrates the African landscape and its rich wildlife, people, and culture. My photographic safaris allow my travelers to not only enhance their understanding of photography, lighting, and wildlife, but to develop a life-long admiration for Africa ‘s beauty and culture.

Banana Republic recently used my photographs as the cornerstone of their Urban Safari campaign, and my images were seen in all 750 stores around the globe, as well as in their billboards, catalogs and annual report. I was also the winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the ‘Wild Places’ category in 2008 and a highly commended in the ‘Creative Visions of Nature’ category in 2007.

I launched Gura Gear in 2008, in an attempt to deliver lightweight camera bags to the market. I was looking for a lightweight camera bag to hold all of my photographic gear, and there was nothing desirable on the market that suited my needs. After spending 2 years with many prototypes, the Gura Gear Kiboko bag was born. More products are now available on the Gura Gear web site.

 

 

 

Search
Sunday
Sep282014

Trip Report Park 3: Amboseli National Park

 

Elephant Procession and Mount Kilimanjaro

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 75-150mm

 

At the conclusion of our wildebeest migration safari in the Masai Mara region, I spent the next 4 nights in the Amboseli National Park region, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Amboseli region is well known for its elephant population, and near the end of the dry season it is particularly interesting for photographers who are looking for something other than photographs of predators. Amboseli does have a vibrant population of lions and cheetahs, however the areas best photographic opportunities are the elephant herds that migrate between the surrounding hills, forests and swamps.

 

Giraffes, Acacia Trees and Clouds

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 75-150mm lens

 

My 4 nights in the area were a great opportunity for me to obtain more photographs of these elephants as well as giraffes, my two favorite subjects to observe in nature. My last trip to Amboseli was more than 10 years ago, and I am not quite sure why it took me so long to return. I will be offering trips to Amboseli in the future, possibly in combination with the Masai Mara, as an extension to the Masai Mara or perhaps even as a separate trip on its own. The key to working in the Amboseli area is having access to conservancy land that is owned by the local Maasai, similar to how I run my trips in the Masai Mara. The ability to position a game drive vehicle exactly where one needs it is immensely important to me any my customers, and this is the approach we took on this visit and will continue this on future trips of mine.

I am not sure how long it had been since I had captured as many frames that I was happy with in such a short period of time, other than on the primate portion of this trip as explained in Part 1 of this trip report. In 4 days I felt that I was coming back to camp each half day with images I was itching to download and check out on my laptop computer. It’s that feeling that feels so good.

 

Giraffes and Sunset

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 240mm lens

 

Elephant Herd Fill-Up

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 240mm lens

 

The Eye

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 75-150mm lens

 

Fill-Up

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 75-150mm lens

 

Stare-Down

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 75-150mm lens

 

Three Elephant Babies

Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, 75-150mm lens

 

 

Sunday
Sep282014

Trip Report Part 2: Luxury Great Migration in the Masai Mara

 

Sunset Over The Masai Mara

Phase One DF+, IQ250, 240mm lens

 

After the conclusion of our Great Apes Photo Safari, some of the travelers joined me and my co-leader Grant Atkinson in Kenya’s Masai Mara for my Luxury Wildebeest Migration Photo Safari, which I run each year. There are very few locations in Africa that rise to the level of quality wildlife sightings that the Masai Mara offers, and its rolling and wide open plains is filled with such a quantity and quality of wildlife that it is beyond imagination. I run this migration trip every year, usually in the month of August or September, to coincide with the arrival of the wildebeest and related species in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

Background on the Wildebeest Migration

There are roughly 2 million wildebeest (the white bearded wildebeest, specifically) in the greater Serengeti / Masai Mara ecosystem, and these mammals are always in search of fertile grasses to feed on. This ecosystem is split between Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara (it should be spelled Maasai Mara, but that is a topic for another time). This migration occurs twelve months out of the year, and they typically move in a clockwise direction between these two parks. There are other animals who migrate with the wildebeest: zebras, grant’s gazelle, topi and dung beetles.

There is no start or finish to this migration, but rather it can be described as ongoing and never ending. This migration typically arrives in Kenya’s Masai Mara in late late July and they depart sometime in October.

 

At Attention

Phase One DF+, IQ250, 240mm lens

 

When I run these migration trips in Kenya I prefer to stay in areas where I have fewer vehicles, an ability to drive offroad and accommodations that exceed all expectations. Life is too short to watch wildlife with hordes of vehicles, and the Masai Mara is a challenging place to avoid vehicles when out on game drives. My solution is to base myself on conservancy land, just outside of the Masai Mara Game Reserve boundary, where the lion density is higher and sightings are much less crowded. Yes, my migration safaris are more expensive than my competition, however my guests get better returns in so many ways: better wildlife sightings, more private wildlife sightings, offroad driving for specific photography angles, a better sense of being in the outdoors, the best guides in the industry, the best accommodations in the industry, open vehicles that have been setup for photography and a no-compromise approach to the entire experience. I have been running photographic safaris in Africa since 2002 and I have learned to always take the ‘no compromise’ approach whenever possible. I have no desire to subject myself and my customers to the lack of guiding professionalism that exists in many areas of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, and the conservancy land delivers everything I wish for and more.

 

Lioness and Cubs from the Eseketa pride

 

Our group of 13 assembled at The Emakoko, which is a small and intimate safari lodge, located on the edge of Nairobi National Park. My guests arrived on their international flights , were taken to The Emakoko and began their safari in style. Since the camp is located on the edge of the park, we could take safari game drives in the park if we didn’t want to spend time unwinding at camp. This is an excellent option for those who arrived a day or two early, as it put them in the safari mood as soon as they arrived.

 

 

We flew to the greater Masai Mara area on privately chartered aircraft, which allowed us more weight allowance per person as well as a flexible schedule. Upon arrival on Olare Motorogi conservancy land, we met our guides, camp staff and camp managers and we loaded our camera gear, luggage and ourselves into our game drive vehicles and set out to find some great wildlife sightings.

Over the next week we had so many great sightings, and what stood out were all of the lion cubs. Tons of lion cubs. We also had superb sightings of other big cats, grazers, browsers and birds of prey, however the lion cubs certainly stood out in my mind. Since I was driving for much of the time, I didn’t raise my camera too often due to being on the opposite side of the vehicle as the photographers who were in my vehicle, however the sightings were just as rich in my mind as those who were captured them on their cameras.

When it comes to camera gear, I used the following:

  • Phase One DF+ camera
  • Phase One IQ250 50mp digital back
  • Phase One 75-150mm
  • Phase One 240mm
  • Canon 5DMk3 (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon 70D (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon 1.4x III  (rented from borrowlenses.com)

When it comes to the gear that our guests used, by far the most popular lens was the new Canon 200-400mm f/4 L IS. Out of 13 people I think we had 6 or 7 of them on the trip. That’s a huge percentage. In past years we have had a steady balance between Canon and Nikon users, however on this trip we had only 2 Nikon users and the rest were with Canon. I haven’t seen those kinds of numbers since before Nikon had the D3 / D700 bodies, which would be around 2005 or 2006. I wonder if the tide is turning towards Canon for wildlife shooters? I just don’t know.

I tended to use the Phase One setup most often, however there were some situations when I needed more focal length or faster autofocus and I used the Canon gear. I was pleasantly surprised with just how usable the Phase One gear was, as the new IQ250 works so well with ISO values up to 1600, 3200 or even 6400 in a pinch. I have been using an IQ280 80mp digital back, which I have limited to a maximum ISO of 400, but prefer to keep it to 100 or 200 if at all possible. The new IQ250 is 50mp and is based on a CMOS chip design, which is new for Phase One, and the product is much better for the style of wildlife photography that I create. I was pleasantly surprised and may be making the switch over to the IQ250 for all trips going forward.

We have already planned out our 2015 wildebeest migration safari and I will be publishing the trip very soon. If you are interested please contact me as soon as possible, as 50% of the spaces have already been pre-booked. The itinerary is exactly the same as this year.

 

 

Phase One DF+ camera, IQ250 digital back, Schneider 240mm lens and 2x teleconverter on a Gura Gear bean bag

 

Our vehicle setup, with shooting platforms

 

Yours truly

 

Sub adult lions

Phase One DF+, IQ250, 240mm lens. ISO 6400!!

 

 

Tuesday
Sep232014

Trip Report Part 1: Great Apes Photo Safari

 

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

 

I am recently back home from a pair of back-to-back safaris in east Africa, and this trip report is part 1 of 3 in the series. Part 1 will cover my primates trip, Part 2 will cover the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Part 3 will cover a post safari extension to the greater Amboseli N.P. region of Kenya. So here goes!

Our Great Apes Photo Safari took place between two eastern African countries, Uganda and Rwanda. We trekked for two primate species, chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Chimpanzees can be found in many different countries, and on our itinerary we chose Kibale National Park, Uganda as our location. Kibale National Park is a premier location for observing and photographing wild chimpanzees, as we are allowed to obtain ‘habituation’ permits. These permits allow us to trek with chimpanzees and observe them from sun-up until sundown. I cannot stress the importance of this setup, as a normal permit scenario allows for only 1 hour of contact. All-day permits are incredible important for photographers, as there are so many behaviors these beautiful and dramatic primates go through throughout the day.

Our trip began in Entebbe, Uganda, where my small group of 7 people gathered after making the journey over to Africa. We met for dinner and drinks, enjoyed a few smiles and talked about our upcoming trip. We flew up to Kibale the next day, and over the next three days we trekked through the forest to find and keep up with our subjects.

 

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

 

Trekking with chimpanzees requires a significant amount of walking at the same pace as the troop, which is quite demanding

 

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

 

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

 

Gear used for primates:

The primary photographic gear amongst our group was a full frame dSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8. Some had other lenses, however the 70-200mm f/2.8 was, by far, the most used during our three days with the chimpanzees. Since the light wasn’t abundant under the forest canopy, I was often shooting at f/2.8 and at ISO values ranging from 800 to 6400. My most common ISO value was either 1600 or 3200. Since I prefer shallow depth of field I rarely stopped adown past f/2.8. I did bring along my Phase One camera equipment with me, however due to the fast moving nature of the chimps I needed to use a system that was better suited for the environment (I did use the Phase One system with the mountain gorillas).

 

Restful Sleep

 

The Thinker

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda

 

After our three days of chimpanzee trekking we flew down to the border of Rwanda, crossed the border and continued on to our lodge in the Virunga Mountains. This move from Uganda to Rwanda also brought us higher in elevation. We then spent the next three days treeking at higher altitudes for the mountain gorillas, which almost always brings people to tears when they see them for the first time. Our first trek took us to see the Umubano family group, and this hike was (thankfully) one of the easier ones I have had over the past few years. On the second day we saw the most famous of the families, the Sabyinyo group, with its elder statesman Guhonda as its silverback head of family. Guhonda is now and old man by mountain gorilla standards, and this was my third time to see him. He is so gentle, yet powerful.

 

Guhonda the Silverback

 

 

 

 

For the mountain gorilla treks I primarily used my Phase One camera gear, as gorillas move much slower and it was easier for me to compose, focus and shoot than when we were with the chimpanzees. Our treks were often very very muddy, which required stamina and good balance, however the effort was always worth it in the end. If you are considering a primates trip, please be prepared for aerobic exercise at altitudes up to 10,000 feet and for 6 to 8 hours. Each day. These trips aren’t for everyone, however I have never had a customer not see what they were there to see, even if they didn’t partake in all of the available treks. These days do wipe people out, with myself included.


 

 

 

 

I have a primates trip scheduled for 2015, and the trip is already sold out before I even had the chance to do a trip write-up to market it. Due to the high demand for these trips, my co-leaders Randy Hanna and James Weis will also have trips planned in 2015 and beyond.

 

 

Wednesday
Aug272014

The Luminous Endowment for Photographers

 

 

Good friend and photographer Michael Reichmann has announced the Luminous Endowment for Photographers. “The mission of The Luminous Endowment For Photographers is to provide financial grants to photographers world-wide to foster current and anticipated projects. Grants allow photographers to pursue specific photographic goals, such as mounting an exhibition of their work, publishing a monograph or book, or photographing a special subject or location as part of either commencing or completing a body of work. Note though that grants are not available for the purchase of photographic equipment.”

Michael has graciously extended an invitation for me to be one of the jurors for this very worthwhile cause, and some amazing grant proposals have been coming in already. You can read more about the grants by heading over to the Luminous Endowment Grants page.

If you are looking to play a part and would like to know how, Michael has released his 20 Year Retrospective, a 400-page large format book of his own work.


 

Michael Reichmann’s 20 Year Retrosepctive

 

Published August 1, 2014, this large format, cloth bound, hard-cover book has 400 pages, containing 380 images. It was designed by Arturo Chapa, one of the world’s top book designers. This book is available in two editions; a signed and numbered limited-edition (500 copies only), contained in a clam-shell style slip-case, and also in an open series hard-covered edition without slip-case. To obtain a copy of his book, a donation to the Luminous Endowment for Photographers is the only way to secure your own copy.

I bought my hard back copy today and cannot wait for it to arrive. Consider paying it forward and purchase your copy today, as there are many photographic projects that need funding.

Tuesday
Aug262014

Back to Africa

I am shoving off for yet another adventure in Africa, and this time I will be guiding two back-to-back safaris between three different countries. My first safari will be my Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees: The Ultimate Great Apes Photo Safari. We will begin with trekking with chimpanzees in Uganda, and then ending with trekking with mountain gorillas in Rwanda. At the conclusion I will then head over to Kenya to guide my Luxury Great Migration Photo Safari, in hopes of capturing some beautiful sights out on the open plains of the greater Maasai Mara. And if that weren’t enough I will be finishing my trip in Amboseli National Park, where I haven’t visited in many years.

As far as gear goes for this 3+ week long trip, I am bringing a combination of medium format and 35mm gear. As you may know, I sold off all of my Nikon camera eqiupment earlier this year as I moved to Phase One medium format. This trip has some challenges that medium format may not be able to handle, so I am bringing a backup Canon system with me for either longer focal lengths or for ultra high ISO’s. Here is what will be in my Gura Gear Bataflae camera bag:

 

  • Phase One DF+ camera body
  • Phase One IQ250 50 megapixel digital back
  • Phase One IQ280 80 megapixel digital back
  • Phase One 75-150mm
  • Phase One Schneider 240mm
  • Phase One 2x teleconverter
  • Canon 5DMk3 + portrait grip (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon 70D (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon 1.4x III (rented from borrowlenses.com)

 

Phase One has graciously loaned me the new IQ250 50 megapixel digital back for the trip, and I can choose between the 50 and 80mp backs, depending on the situational need. The new IQ250 allows me to shoot at higher ISO’s, say up to 1600 or perhaps 3200, has a higher frame rate and is a slightly smaller chip in size (and thus a more narrow field of view is captured), and the IQ280 has a larger file size yet at the cost of only being able to use lower ISO values, like 50, 100 and perhaps 200 or 400. It’s the best of both worlds and I am going to feel spoiled.

The Canon gear is all being rented from borrowlenses.com. This allows me to flip flop between Canon and Nikon systems on different trips, a wonderful bit of flexibility that I need in this day and age. Why would I want to have different systems on different trips? It’s easy: I want and need to communicate to my travelers that I understand the systems that they use and that I can understand how to setup and use their cameras and lenses.

Friday
Aug222014

Article in Outdoor Photographer Magazine

 

Opening page of the article in the September 2014 issue of Outdoor Photographer

 

 

In the September 2014 issue of Outdoor Photographer Magazine you can find an article that describes my approach to photography and creativity, which you may find different, unique or unusual. I describe my approach the ‘Adjective Driven Approach’. What this means is that I created a list of adjectives that I want my images to portray and I shoot to fulfill this list of adjectives. ‘Remote’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Majestic’ and ‘Hopeful’ are some examples. I decided on these words many years ago and have found them to be helpful in keeping me on task as camera equipment changes and evolve. What I typically see from other photographers is an approach that is more literal, meaning that specific subjects or activities were on their own lists (specific animals, subjects or action like lions, giraffes, automobile races, portraits of people) and I was frustrated with this approach for my own purposes. As a result I came up with my own approach and have a much more focused way of (hopefully) creating images that stir the soul.

You can either pick up the issue on the newsstand or purchase your copy on your iPad via iTunes with the Outdoor Photographer app. Here is a link to the online version, sans high impact images: The Purposeful Photographer.

Monday
Aug182014

Antarctica and South Georgia Island - Space Available

 

 

In the past few weeks we have had a few spaces become available on our incredible Antarctica and South Georgia Island expedition in November. We have the following spaces available at this time:

  • Triple Share Cabin – 2x female berths (upper bunk, single bunk)
  • Twin Public Cabin – 1x female berth + 1x male berth
  • Twin Private Cabin – 1 Full Cabin Available

We are confident that these spaces will not be available for long, as the ship was previously sold out and now we have these few spaces open. You can find all of the details for this expedition here:

Antarctica and South Georgia Polar Photographic Expedition

November 3-22, 2014

Wednesday
Jul302014

Google+ Hangout This Friday

 

 

Please join me and host Jeff Lazell this Friday, August 1 for a Google+ Hangout. We will discuss many things about photography, from wildlife photography to travel to conservation. Heck, we will probably cover my recent switch over to digital medium format as well.

 

Google+ Hangout with Andy Biggs

Friday, August 1 at 2pm