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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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Of packing and weight limits

I am working on my packing list tonight for my upcoming back to back Namibia and Botswana safaris, and I have a few reflections on the matter.

First off, I have a difficult time believing that most travelers can work with the standard 33 pound weight limit that most bush planes limit us to. I never use 33 pounds as a limit for my own safaris, as we always charter our own aircraft to raise that number to a minimum of 66 pounds or even higher. 33 pounds is difficult if you take 3 changes of clothes, a pair of binoculars, personal items and a small amount of camera gear like an SLR and a lens or two. Suddenly 33 pounds isn't much at all.

66 pounds isn't much better when you consider that a typical safari photographer likely has a long lens (400mm, 500mm or 600mm), 2 cameras, a few more lenses, a flash, a monopod or tripod and a laptop computer. That is pretty much 30 to 40 pounds right there, excluding the second bag that holds the laptop. You get up to 66 pounds very quickly.

I am going through my packing list over and over again, and I have a hard time getting under 66 pounds without making serious compromises. I can accomplish it if I move down from my Gitzo 3540 tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead down to a Gitzo 1258 with a BH-40 ballhead. That alone saves at least 5 pounds. Last time I was in Namibia in 2006 I wish I had a more substantial tripod, as placing a small-ish tripod in the sand in moderate winds yielded some fuzzy images.

When I am in Tanzania the weight restrictions can be controlled a little more, as we often use two Cessna Caravans to shuttle us around. Distribute 12 to 15 people between those two aircraft and suddenly you have *plenty* of weight allowance. In Namibia next week we will have a Cessna Caravan for the 12 of us and a Cessna C206 for some of our luggage. This really does help, but it still only yields around 66 pounds per person. Total.

Next July in Botswana we are going to have an absurd amount of weight allowance at 180 pounds per person. I do not recommend using all of that allowance, but the numbers are what they are and it is much better than 66lbs.

I despise carrying tons of gear around, but I always end up doing it. I moved to an Apple Macbook Air this past spring in an attempt to shed some weight. I also bought enough CF cards so that I don't have to download if I don't want to. I usually do, but only when I have the time. The backup serves only as that: a backup to my CF cards. The CF cards never get overwritten during a trip.

I read an article on Luminous Landscape a while back that illustrates how one person packs for their safari. OMG? Are you freaking kidding me? He brings along more unnecessary gear with him to a point that I was laughing out loud. Desktop hard drives? Three of them? They require additional power, and cannot be powered over USB.

Sometimes I honestly think about going out with just a pair of small-ish SLR bodies, like 40D bodies, and a 100-400mm and a 24-105mm. Will I be successful? It depends on what your definition of successful is. I am willing to be that after readjusting my expectations and potential shot list, I could come with images that I would be happy with. After all, my vision is changing these days and I am eagerly seeking out more animal-in-the-landscape type shots, which don't require much focal length to pull off. I could even pack my bags under 33 pounds.

So what I am I actually going to take to Namibia and Botswana? Remember that this is a combination landscape and wildlife trip for me. Here goes:

  • Canon 1DsMkIII x 2
  • 16-35mm f/2.8 II L
  • 24-105mm f/4 L IS
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS
  • 500mm f/4 L IS
  • 1.4x and 2x teleconverters
  • Gura Gear camera bag
That's pretty much it. 4 lenses and 2 cameras. I would love to bring my 6x24cm panorama film camera, but it is overkill on this trip. Perhaps next May when I will only be shooting landscapes in Namibia for 3 weeks. No wildlife at all. I am working on a prototpye lens stabilization system right now, and will be testing it out on this safari. Perhaps in a year I will have something worth bringing to market, but it will take some time for me to iron out all of the details to get it right.

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Reader Comments (6)

Hi Andy,

How many CF cards you will use in the trip and of what size?

Many thanks

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRafa

I have around 128GB worth of CF cards, all Sandisk Extreme III and Extreme IV 8GB and 16GB.

August 26, 2008 | Registered CommenterAndy Biggs

It's worth pointing out that Nathan Myhrvold (the guy the wrote the Luminous Landscapes article) is literally a billionaire (former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft) so he can afford to put as much gear as he wants in his personal Gulf Stream... ;-)

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEric Bowen

True, but African bush planes still have limits when you are in-country. I still cannot believe he brought along desktop hard drives. Makes little sense, as there is little benefit. When you spend too much time in front of your laptop computer on safari, it is actually taking time away from enjoying the experience. I love kicking back with a beer at the end of the day and not having to worry about downloading my images. Very relaxing.

August 26, 2008 | Registered CommenterAndy Biggs

So is the 33 pound limit on regular safaris a hard and fast rule? I'm going to Tanzania in January and will be taking a bush flight. 33 pounds is nothing since I want to bring 2 cameras and 3 lenses, one of which is the 7 lbs Nikon 200-400mm.

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Wade

Unfortunately, yes. All of these weight limits are in place for safety reasons. Typically the only way around the weight limit is to have fewer people on the aircraft. And the only way to do this is to have a charter or purchase extra seats.

33 pounds is pretty much a non-starter for photographers, unfortunately.

August 26, 2008 | Registered CommenterAndy Biggs

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