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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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Sunday
Mar182007

PhotoShelter

I signed up for PhotoShelter's archiving and e-commerce enabling services a few months ago, but it took me a while to get all of my ducks in a row with regards to getting organized with my image library. I am now semi-organized, in that I have my 300+ most popular images keyworded and tagged with relevant information. And now they are online at PhotoShelter. Yippee!

So what does PhotoShelter do for me? Other than archiving my digital images, I am also able to use their technology to help market and license my images for stock photography. This is a huge plus, because I manage my own stock library, and getting images to my customers is challenging when I am in Africa for 3 weeks. PhotoShelter also allows me to sell prints of my images, which I can either fulfill myself (print, sign and ship), or I can choose to have them print and ship without my involvement. I am currently setup to print all of my own print sales, but I might choose to sell unsigned prints in small sizes in the future.

I will be integrating PhotoShelter into my own web site soon, so the look and feel will be seamless from a viewing standpoint. My PhotoShelter archive will replace the Galleries section on my web site.

Moving to PhotoShelter has been a huge relief for me. Working for myself means that I have many tasks on my plate, and many things just cannot get done by myself, and I need to outsource those things that I either do not have time to do or that I am not well suited to do. I think both of these situations apply to the technology aspect of my web galleries, print sales and image licensing.

Here is a link to my PhotoShelter archive.

The Andy Biggs PhotoShelter Archive

If you are interested in print sales or image licensing, please test out the process and let me know what you think. Hopefully I am making it easier for everyone, including myself.
Saturday
Mar172007

From the Archives

sunset-11.jpg

Tahiti, November 1999

Taken with Olympus C2000Z

Friday
Mar162007

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.

 

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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.

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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.
 
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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.
Wednesday
Mar142007

Camera bags, and more camera bags

I think I have done it. I mean actually done it. I think I have actually managed to collect as many camera bags as my wife has pairs of shoes. I am dead serious. Even though I have sold off a few bags over the past year, I have still managed to fill an entire closet worth of nothing but camera bags. Shoulder bags. Bacpacks. Fanny packs. You name it. This is insane. I am at step number 1, and I only have 11 more to go. My name is Andy Biggs, and I am a recovering.....
 
Oops. Wrong speech.
 
The problem with the camera bag industry is that nobody makes a bag that will suit my needs. I like to think that I have needs that are common to all photographers who travel with our camera equipment.

I want a camera backpack that is sensitive to weight, built extremely well, and is FAA airline legal. That's it. Pretty simple. We are currently bombarded with changing airline regulations that tell us we cannot lock our checked luggage. Ok. So that means we carry on our camera gear personally onto the plane. But many international airlines are limiting our carryon allowances to 1, maybe 2 bags, and are often limited to 15 to 22 pounds for our main carryon bag.

Let me set a scenario here. I am an African wildlife photographer. This means I use a large lens, like a 500mm f/4 lens, and it weighs 8.5 pounds. The typical camera backpack that can hold this lens, in addition to a few cameras and some more lenses, weighs around 9 to 10 pounds. Simple math tells me that I am already over the British Airways allowance of 6 kilos (14 pounds), and am almost to the limit for KLM's restriction of 10 kilos (22 pounds). The only bag that is airline legal in size, and can accommodate my equipment is a total and utter piece of junk. This product will be unnamed in this blog, as I don't want this blog to be personal in nature.
 
I take many people to Africa each year on safari, so I see plenty of camera bags come into my Land Rovers. To give up some weight, one assumes that one has to give up on features and padding. I don't think this is the case at all. There are two ways of reducing weight on a bag: reduce features or spend your way out of it with lightweight, expensive materials. Why won't somebody make a high end, lightweight camera backpack? Why do I have to give up on either padding or features to have a lightweight bag? I don't, do I?
Thursday
Mar012007

Image of the Day

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Red Truck and Children
Canon EOS 5D, 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS, 1/250sec @ f/6.3
Luderitz, Namibia, April 2006

Wednesday
Feb282007

Photo of the Day


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Serengeti National Park, January 2007

Canon EOS 1DsMkII, 400mm f/4 DO, 1/800sec @ f/8, ISO 200
Friday
Feb232007

Namibia trip announcement

On the heels of both a successful Namibia safari in April 2006, as well as my recent Namibia portfolio announcement, I am putting together a return trip to Namibia in September 2008. Namibia took my breath away, and it will be difficult waiting for September 2008 to roll around until I get back to the apricot colored dunes of Sosussvlei.

This safari will concentrate on three photographically rich areas: the deserted ghost town of Kolmanskop, the dunes of the Namib-Naukluft and the abundant wildlife of Etosha. The safari will take 8 days out of your schedule once you are in Windhoek, Namibia. If you would like to arrange additional time in Namibia, I can easily arrange this for you.

The cost of the safari is $7990, and after my posting last night, 50% 75% 90% 100% of the safari is already spoken for. If you think this safari is for you, all you have to do is contact me to inquire about availability. **note** I am exploring the possibility of adding another Namibia trip either earlier in 2008 or early 2009. I will be on safari in Botswana with Michael Reichmann from September 10 until September 20, 2008, which may be difficult for me to schedule around.

September 1 - 10, 2008 Namibia Itinerary


Gallery I images from April 2006 Namibia safari


Gallery II images from April 2006 Namibia safari


 

Thursday
Feb222007

Lightroom versus Aperture

Well, I am now diving into Lightroom 1.0, and I will be importing, managing, processing and outputting my images from my most recent safari on both Lightroom 1.0 and Aperture. I think this will be a great exercise for me, as I will be able to make a decision once and for all regarding my platform going forward. I was very happy that Lightroom 1.0 ships with a spot/dust removal tool, as well as a basic 'stacks' functionality (I thought Apple owns the patent to that?). Since I have a new Mac Pro desktop with dual 2.5ghz dual core CPUs, as well as 5GB of RAM, performance in my environment should be about as real as real can be. No hypothetical statements like 'if had a faster computer' will make it into my final analysis.

Other than preparing from my upcoming Galapagos workshop (1 last spot is available if you are interested), my main goal will be importing and categorizing my entire library over the next few months. I also need to get my Photoshelter library up to speed with ecommerce capabilities, which shouldn't be a big task once my images are organized.