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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.





Canon EOS 1DMkIII Focusing Issues

I am still here in Arusha, Tanzania, and have been taking a look at many of my safari images from the past few weeks from my new 1DMkIII, and I have a few thoughts that come to mind. I do understand that there are some potential autofocus issues with this new camera, based on numerous emails that I have received while away. I have spent no more than a few minutes looking at various photography forums, as well as Rob Galbraith's recent article on the 1DMkIII autofocus woes.

I have not encountered many issues with my own 1DMkIII, but I may not be putting myself in a situation where the autofocus isn't working. I have had issues with walking lions and grass that impedes my view of the animal. On my older 1 series cameras I wouldn't have an issue with small things getting in the way, but now the 1DMkIII has super fast focusing, and no matter what settings I try I still have issues with the camera not locking on my subject at all. Back and forth, back and forth the autofocus goes.

I am typically shooting slow moving large mammals, which are not coming towards the camera. Now that I know what other people are complaining about, I will spend some time on the next safari trying to figure out how my specific camera behaves.

Tanzania Safari Report

I just returned from an amazing safari, and have a few days to sort through images and check emails. I will be heading out for another safari on Monday, and I cannot wait to get back out in the bush. The wildebeest migration is all centered in the center of the Serengeti, west of the Simba kopjes to Moru kopjes, and spreaded as far north as Ikoma in the north and the plains towards Kirawira to the west. From what I can tell from safari drives and airplane flights, the migration seems to be headed backwards into the park. There have been two factors that might contribute to the migration heading backwards: 1) controlled burning in Serengeti National Park began as early as June 1, and 2) recent rains have stalled the migration.

There is a ton of short, green grass in the center of the Serengeti at the moment, which makes me think that the migration won't be moving onward anytime soon. I saw many signs of predator activity, including a cheetah chase of a baby warthog.

The evenings here are quite cool, dipping down into the mid 50's in the Serengeti and perhaps the upper 40's on the rim of Ngorongoro. Daytime highs are reaching the mid 80's, except if it is overcast in Ngorongoro, which might only reach in the mid 60's.

We had lunch on the top of a kopje at Moru a few days ago, overlooking a large chunk of the wildebeest migration. Absolutely stunning to watch hundreds of thousands of animals in one large panoramic setting.

I will report my second safari findings, as well as some of my favorite images from these two safaris when I return home in a few weeks.

My Canon 1DMkIII configuration settings

(this blog entry has been updated as of July 17, 2007 with new autofocus settings. You can download my camera's configuration here.)

For those that are interested, here are my Canon EOS 1DMkIII configuration settings, with some short notes on why I have configured my camera this way. I am only highlighting those functions or settings that I have changed.
Shooting Menu 1 (Red)
White balance: Automatic. I don't waste time working with specific white balance settings, as I know I will change them later. This is a creative control for me, as I am not working in a studio or with artificial light (only for slight fill flash).

Color Space. Adobe RGB. This only affects JPG files, and RAW files are not affected. This is a CYA setting for me, just in case my camera gets switched to JPG files.

Picture Style. Standard. Since I shoot only RAW, this function doesn't deliver any benefit for me, unless I wanted to have my embedded JPG image reflect these settings. I am using Lightroom for processing, and Lightroom creates its own preview, based on default setting from inside the application.

Shooting Menu 2 (Red)
JPEG Quality: 10 for all sizes. I never shoot JPG, but on the off chance that my camera gets set accidentally to JPG, I will at least shoot with the highest quality JPG files possible.

Image Size: RAW

Review Time: 4 seconds. The default of 2 seconds often isn't enough. If I have reviewed an image and it has been less than 4 seconds, I can always lightly press the shutter button to resume shooting.

Beep: On and Off, depending on the situation. I find that when I am at home and taking indoor family shots in low light, I like having the beep on to tell me if my autofocus is working properly. In bright light outdoors I am autofocusing all of the time, and the beep starts getting annoying after a full day of shooting.

Shooting w/o Card: Off. I like to know when I have lost my brain and don't have a media card inside the camera.

Playback Menu 2 (Blue)
Highlight Alert: Enable. This is one of the biggest benefits of shooting digitally, as I can monitor my exposures to see what data I am blowing out. I do subscribe to the 'expose to the right' metering, which is to accept that overexposing as much as possible, but before clipping anything, allows for more discreet levels of information in my files for all tonalities.

AF point display: Enable

Histogram: Brightness *or* RGB. I use Brightness most of the time, unless there is a dominant color in my scene. For example, in Namibia with the red sand dunes, it is easy to blow out the red channel, but have the overall histogram be slightly underexposed. I like to pay attention to individual colors if there is an abundance of either red, green or blue in a particular scene.

Setup 1 (Yellow)
Auto Power Off: 4 minutes

Record Func+media/folder sel: Standard

File numbering: Continuous

File name setting: default. I rename upon importing onto my Macbook computer, so filenames are of little consequence out of the camera.

Auto rotate: On camera and computer

Format: yes, every time I begin shooting anew.

Setup 2 (Yellow)
LCD Brightness: Highest level of 7. Much easier to view in outdoor bright sunshine situations.

Date/Time: whatever the local time is where I am shooting.

Custom Function 1:Exposure (Orange)
I-3:Set ISO speed range: L to H. I often need ISO 50 in the middle of the day to help me with slow speed panning of wildlife, and I need the combination of ISO 50 and a slow lens that can stop down to f/45 to allow me to have a shutter speed slower than, say, 1/15 of a second.

I-10: Select usable metering modes: Enable only matrix metering and spot metering. I use matrix metering most of the time, but will use spot metering when tricky lighting situations dictate creative exposures. For example, backlit subjects.

Custom Function 2:Image/Flash exposure/Display (Orange)
II-1: Long exposure noise reduction: 1: Auto. Noise reduction for exposures greater than 1 second. This setting won't always be used, but the camera will use noise reduction if it needs to.

II-2: High ISO speed noise reduction: 1: On or Off, depending on the situation. Usually turned off. Please remember that if you have this setting enabled, your buffer will be reduced from a maximum of 22 images to that of 14. This setting should be called ‘High ISO Color Noise Reduction”.

II-5: Shutter curtain sync: 1: 2nd-curtain sync

Custom Function 3:Autofocus/Drive (Orange)
III-2: AI Servo tracking sensitivity: medium fast.

III-4: AI Servo AF tracking method: 0: Main focus point priority.

III-8: 2. Enable (surrounding Assist p).

III-15: Mirror lockup: 0 or 1. For landscape photography I often use MLU, especially when shooting less than 1/60 of a second. I also have this function appear on my personal menu.

III-16: Continuous shooting speed: Enable. I have moved my slower frames per second setting moved up from 3 fps to 5 fps. Now I have single shot, 6 fps, 10 fps and the countdown timer. 3fps is not useful for me, but 6 fps is a nice balance between absurdly fast and single shot.

III-17: Limit continuous shot count: 0. Now why would I want to do this??

Custom Function 4:Operation/Others (Orange)
IV-2: AF-ON/AE lock button switch: 1: Enable. I do not like the location of the new AF-ON button on the rear of the camera, so I have switched the * button and the AF-ON button. This allows me to have a simlar feel to that of other 1-series cameras, like my EOS 1DsMkII.

Canon 1DMkIII arrived

I received my Canon 1DMkIII on Friday, and I have been running the camera through its paces before I leave for Tanzania this week. I normally only use camera equipment that I know through and through on my excursions, but I feel confident enough in this camera to take it to Africa with me.

Here are a few of my thoughts on this camera so far. It is incredibly fast, I love the new battery life, I love the new battery information indicator, I love the images at ISO 3200, I love the lighter weight, and I love the large buffer. There are some things I am scratching my head over, such as the default location of the new rear autofocus button. I feel that extended use of this button will cause sever thumb strains (not an issue, as you can reassign the AF button some place else).

I am planning on posting all of my configurations for all to see, with short explanations of each selection other than the default settings.

PhotoShelter Profile

PhotoShelter has just posted a profile on me and my photography business. You can read some of the other profiles that PhotoShelter has written about, as well.

PhotoShelter Profile - Andy Biggs: From Software to the Serengeti


Of online retailers and brick and mortar camera stores

In order to keep my photography business going, I need to purchase a decent amount of gear. And I expect my gear to fail from time to time, which also increases the frequency of my purchases. So what is better for me, a discount online retailer or somebody that I can call by name on the phone? For my larger purchases, I rely on Hunt's Photo. Gary Farber has been taking care of my needs for a while now, and he always comes through when I need something in a hurry or when I am away from home.

Have you ever tried to make a purchase online from a box-pusher, and have the delivery made to you at a motel in the middle of Utah? That will never happen, because of how those types of relationships work. Yes, the prices are often less expensive, but in the end does it really pay? For me the answer is no, but for your own needs the answer might be different.

If you need good service, try giving Gary at Hunt's a call. (800) 221-1830 x2332. Or email him at A great guy, and always happy to help out. I know this sounds like a commercial, but it is true.

/End commercial

Please do not feed the wildlife

I hesitate posting this entry in my blog, but I feel compelled to say something that I am passionate about. If you are going to visit Ngorongoro Crater, or any similar environment in Africa where there are birds of prey that have become habituated to humans, please read further. Ngoitokitok springs in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania is only one of a few locations inside this collapsed caldera that we as human visitors are allowed to get out and stretch our legs and eat a well deserved picnic. Since the location is popular, we are bound to have wildlife that have become habituated to our presence.

One of the most common examples is that of the black kite, which swoop down from the sky to steal food away from humans. Ok. It is what it is, but I cringe when I see people deliberately feeding this bird of prey. The main reason I get so upset is that I once saw a young girl with a piece of chicken in her hand, and a black kite quickly swooped down to grab it from her hands. It was a close call, but she did have some scrapes on her hand from the bird's large talons. I can only assume that over time something much worse could happen to somebody, as these carnivores could easily take off a finger.

I don't want to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I feel like I needed to post my feelings on the matter. As the old adage says, "please don't feed the wildlife". The adage is there for a reason. Please respect it.



Photo of the Day


Canon 1DMkII, 100-400mm, 1/200 @ f/8.0, ISO 160
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania