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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 Photographic Safari Best Practices

Going on a photographic safari in Africa has so many complexities with packing, equipment selection and picking out clothing. Here are some bullet points to help you prepare for your big safari.

Camera equipment

  • Two cameras are best. This insulates you from camera failure, and it also allows you to have two cameras with two different lenses at the ready. I use a 100-400mm on one camera and a 500mm f/4 on another. I use a third camera (currently a Rebel 400D XTi) that has been converted to infrared, and I use a 24-105mm that never leaves the camera.

  • Redundant data backups. I use an Apple Macbook with a 160GB hard drive, and also have an Epson P5000 storage device. In case my Macbook dies on me, I still have a way to download my images from my compact flash cards. I often see folks with a laptop and an external USB or Firewire hard drive, which is great, but if your laptop dies you have no way of offloading your images from your media cards. Food for thought.

  • Do not use camera bags that are rigid. For safari photography, you will be shooting from vehicles most of the time. If you have a Pelican case or rolling camera bag, you will have difficulty getting in and out of your bag. You want to have a bag that you can shoot out of. You will grab a camera, use it, and put it back inside and away from the dust. You do not want your bag bouncing around on the floor of your vehicle, as this is the quickest way towards equipment failure. A Pelican case or rolling bag does not easily sit in the seat beside you. The problem is that most camera bags on the market that can fit a ton of gear are either too large, too heavy or both. I am developing my own camera bag that will be coming to market in the near future (blatant plug!).

  • Clean your digital sensor as often as you have the time to do it. It is easier than cleaning up your images after the fact. I have heard that cleaning your sensor can be accomplished while enjoying a glass of red wine after sunset. wink wink.

  • Dress comfortably. Safaris are not fashion shows. Do your research before you leave, because temperatures vary wildly from dusk to mid day to dawn. For example, Tanzania might have a 90 degree afternoon with mid 50's at night. Or Botswana might have a freezing morning and a mild afternoon. Dress in layers.

  • Most lodges and camps can do laundry for you. Take advantage of it and pack your bags with as few items as possible. On a 10 day safari, I usually bring enough clothing to last 4 days. So I will do laundry once, maybe twice on a safari. It sure is nice to have a small duffle bag with me.

  • Don't wear white clothing.

Photographic Technique

  • Learn your autofocus system on your cameras before you leave for Africa. You will benefit from this experience. Understand when to use AI Servo (Canon) or Continuous Focusing (Nikon) and when to use a single shot autofocus mode. Learn all of the beeps your camera makes during this process.

  • Determine what the slowest shutter speed you can use for your longest lens and still have a sharp photograph. Replicate the shooting situation at home first. For example, use a beanbag in your vehicle and go out shooting. The rule of thumb is 1/focal length. So if you are shooting with a 500mm lens, it would be 1/500sec. I often shoot at 1/160sec with my 500mm, but this requires practice and proper long lens technique.

  • Learn how to expose in tricky situations. I have found that most metering situations for African wildlife is fairly simple: most subjects are either middle tone or within a stop of middle tone.

  • Don't stay up late the nights before early game drives. Your photographs will suffer. Get good rest, as most safari days will take it out of you.

  • Have fun!!

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Reader Comments (6)

IP: spam@echeng.comURL: http://echeng.comre: Redundant data backups

I just travel with a bunch of folks who also have computers. In the worst case, I hook up my drive to their computer and back up. :) But for traveling alone, I'd definitely bring a redundant backup.
September 5, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterecheng
IP: andybiggs@gmail.comURL: http://www.andybiggs.comGood point. I should also mention that I do bring an additional USB/Firewire drive, and take it with me at all times.
September 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Biggs
IP: lberg2@mninter.netURL: http://On the Feburary safari this year, I remember you mentioning maybe going sans laptop in favor of two P5000s in the future. That got me to thinking if I really needed my laptop. I think for plane trips, the weight and space savings is too hard to resist and so picked up a P5000 to compliment my P2000. That'll be my (airplane) travel set for now on. But, without a laptop you do give up any data recovery software you might need (which I did have to use for someone else).That got me to thinking some more, so I looked up a contact at Epson and suggested some data recovery software on the next generation Px000 product could be a really good idea, and might be the last "hurdle" many photographers need to clear before giving up their laptops in favor of a couple of P5000 units.
September 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLBergman
IP: andybiggs@gmail.comURL: http://www.andybiggs.comTrue, Lyle. I am going to Tanzania in 2 weeks without a laptop, and will have my P2000 and P5000 units with me. If I had a simple trip to a location inside the US, and weight wasn't an issue, a laptop is a given. However, I am finding that I just don't have the time to edit any of my images while in Africa, so I am starting to give more and more thought to leaving the Macbook Pro at home.
September 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Biggs
IP: lberg2@mninter.netURL: http://That's kind of what I found out - there really was only time to transfer the images. Any spare time there was I wanted to spend "absorbing" the place rather than parked in front of the laptop screen. Of course, others have different opinions. :)

BTW, the P5000 seems a little step ahead of the P2000 as far as just copying the data off a card. Just insert a card and select "backup card". Couldn't be easier.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLBergman
IP: andybiggs@gmail.comURL: http://www.andybiggs.comyeah, I am rarely sitting in front of my laptop computer these days while out on safari. That is just me, because I am on safari quite often. For a first time safari-goer, I do recommend finding some time to check your images to see how your photography is progressing, and how technology can help get you to the next step. This could be a P5000, laptop or whatever.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Biggs

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