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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.




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The Leica M8

So I have been shooting with a borrowed Leica M8 for the past few days, and I have a few thoughts on the camera. The thought of a digital rangefinder has always seemd attractive to me, as the whole system tends to be smaller and more compact than a comparable SLR system. If I were to purchase a rangefinder system, the Leica M8 would certainly be at the top of my list.



I have been using the Leica M8 with the 28mm f/2.0 Summichron lens, and all I have to say is WOW. Fantastic lens, and there is something unique about these images that is hard to explain. That is, when I get the focusing correct. I need to first say that I do not have any experience with rangefinder cameras, and some of my thoughts on the M8 can be attributed to rangefinders as a whole. I took on the M8 has sort of a 'day-in-the-life' project of my family (no pictures of me, as is usually the case), so please excuse my lack of having horns, spots, tusks or stripes in my photos.

The M8 is a gorgeous piece of equipment. The quality of craftmanship is second to none. When you hold the M8 in your hands, you know that the best materials were use in its construction, and people paid attention to its being built at all stages. I have been using the optional Handgrip for the M8, which is a must-have accessory if you are going to own the M8. Without the grip the M8 tended to slip out of my hands, and didn't feel as stable. With the Handgrip in place, I felt that I could hold on a little tighter, as well as shoot with slower shutter speeds.

The majority of my photography either happens from a tripod or Land Rover in Africa, but I also shoot tons of photographs of daily life here at home. Inside the house. Ambient light. High ISO shots. 1 year old child scurrying about. 2 greyhounds. You get the picture. Absolute chaos. If you were to call me during the day, I am sure you would hear all of the chaos in the background.


This is an important point, because I might not be the perfect candidate for M8 ownership. When I think of shooting my family, I think of an f/2.0 or f/2.8 lens on a full frame Canon camera at ISO 1000 to 1600. While my experience with the Canon 5D, 1DMkII and 1DsMkII has been stellar in the higher ISO department, I wish I could say the same for the M8. The ISO range of the M8 starts at 160, and increases in 1 stop increments to 1250. So you have 160, 320, 640 and 1250. ISO 320 on the M8 is a sweet spot, becase anything over that I haven't been happy with, and anything lower might cause me to have to open up my lens, often showing my poor focusing techniques.

ISO 640 can certainly be used, but 1250 doesn't evoke that Leica quality that we often associate to the brand. So I decided to start using the Leica SF 24D flash unit. I learned that once you start using this flash, the camera system starts to get bulky. The flash sits nice and high above the camera, which is a great thing, but it also feels unbalanced to me. The M8 just feels best without a flash. The SF 24D worked great for me, but the metering system needs some getting used to for best results (just like any camera/flash system).

Leica has a wonderful battery charger, as you plug the unit directly into the wall. There are no cords to have to deal with, and Leica has created a charger with interchangable power tips, making it very easy to travel to foreign countries with different eletrical plugs. Well done. I only wish they could have figured out a way to accommodate 2 batteries instead of 1.

I have to admit that I have had issues with focusing on this camera, and I think that would go away with practice. Leica makes it very easy to figure out your depth of field at a given aperture, as they have this clearly marked on all of their lenses. I often like to shoot near wide open on any lens, and this is very difficult on a rangefinder camera with a subject that is close. David Alan Harvey, you are the man, as you have obviously figured out rangefinder focusing.

At the end of the day, I will not be purchasing the M8, mostly due to what I want out of a camera. If I was a hard core travel photographer in urban areas, I would likely purchase the M8. Instead, I am a wildlife and landscape photographer, and I have different tools to suit my own style and needs. I don't look forward to sending the M8 back, but I probably have another few days to get it out of my system for a while. If my needs change, I will go back and take a hard look at the M8 again.

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