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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.





Entries in Rwanda (9)


Trip Report Part 1: Great Apes Photo Safari


Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda


I am recently back home from a pair of back-to-back safaris in east Africa, and this trip report is part 1 of 3 in the series. Part 1 will cover my primates trip, Part 2 will cover the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Part 3 will cover a post safari extension to the greater Amboseli N.P. region of Kenya. So here goes!

Our Great Apes Photo Safari took place between two eastern African countries, Uganda and Rwanda. We trekked for two primate species, chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Chimpanzees can be found in many different countries, and on our itinerary we chose Kibale National Park, Uganda as our location. Kibale National Park is a premier location for observing and photographing wild chimpanzees, as we are allowed to obtain ‘habituation’ permits. These permits allow us to trek with chimpanzees and observe them from sun-up until sundown. I cannot stress the importance of this setup, as a normal permit scenario allows for only 1 hour of contact. All-day permits are incredible important for photographers, as there are so many behaviors these beautiful and dramatic primates go through throughout the day.

Our trip began in Entebbe, Uganda, where my small group of 7 people gathered after making the journey over to Africa. We met for dinner and drinks, enjoyed a few smiles and talked about our upcoming trip. We flew up to Kibale the next day, and over the next three days we trekked through the forest to find and keep up with our subjects.


Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda


Trekking with chimpanzees requires a significant amount of walking at the same pace as the troop, which is quite demanding


Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda


Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda


Gear used for primates:

The primary photographic gear amongst our group was a full frame dSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8. Some had other lenses, however the 70-200mm f/2.8 was, by far, the most used during our three days with the chimpanzees. Since the light wasn’t abundant under the forest canopy, I was often shooting at f/2.8 and at ISO values ranging from 800 to 6400. My most common ISO value was either 1600 or 3200. Since I prefer shallow depth of field I rarely stopped adown past f/2.8. I did bring along my Phase One camera equipment with me, however due to the fast moving nature of the chimps I needed to use a system that was better suited for the environment (I did use the Phase One system with the mountain gorillas).


Restful Sleep


The Thinker

Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Uganda


After our three days of chimpanzee trekking we flew down to the border of Rwanda, crossed the border and continued on to our lodge in the Virunga Mountains. This move from Uganda to Rwanda also brought us higher in elevation. We then spent the next three days treeking at higher altitudes for the mountain gorillas, which almost always brings people to tears when they see them for the first time. Our first trek took us to see the Umubano family group, and this hike was (thankfully) one of the easier ones I have had over the past few years. On the second day we saw the most famous of the families, the Sabyinyo group, with its elder statesman Guhonda as its silverback head of family. Guhonda is now and old man by mountain gorilla standards, and this was my third time to see him. He is so gentle, yet powerful.


Guhonda the Silverback





For the mountain gorilla treks I primarily used my Phase One camera gear, as gorillas move much slower and it was easier for me to compose, focus and shoot than when we were with the chimpanzees. Our treks were often very very muddy, which required stamina and good balance, however the effort was always worth it in the end. If you are considering a primates trip, please be prepared for aerobic exercise at altitudes up to 10,000 feet and for 6 to 8 hours. Each day. These trips aren’t for everyone, however I have never had a customer not see what they were there to see, even if they didn’t partake in all of the available treks. These days do wipe people out, with myself included.





I have a primates trip scheduled for 2015, and the trip is already sold out before I even had the chance to do a trip write-up to market it. Due to the high demand for these trips, my co-leaders Randy Hanna and James Weis will also have trips planned in 2015 and beyond.




Back to Africa

I am shoving off for yet another adventure in Africa, and this time I will be guiding two back-to-back safaris between three different countries. My first safari will be my Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees: The Ultimate Great Apes Photo Safari. We will begin with trekking with chimpanzees in Uganda, and then ending with trekking with mountain gorillas in Rwanda. At the conclusion I will then head over to Kenya to guide my Luxury Great Migration Photo Safari, in hopes of capturing some beautiful sights out on the open plains of the greater Maasai Mara. And if that weren’t enough I will be finishing my trip in Amboseli National Park, where I haven’t visited in many years.

As far as gear goes for this 3+ week long trip, I am bringing a combination of medium format and 35mm gear. As you may know, I sold off all of my Nikon camera eqiupment earlier this year as I moved to Phase One medium format. This trip has some challenges that medium format may not be able to handle, so I am bringing a backup Canon system with me for either longer focal lengths or for ultra high ISO’s. Here is what will be in my Gura Gear Bataflae camera bag:


  • Phase One DF+ camera body
  • Phase One IQ250 50 megapixel digital back
  • Phase One IQ280 80 megapixel digital back
  • Phase One 75-150mm
  • Phase One Schneider 240mm
  • Phase One 2x teleconverter
  • Canon 5DMk3 + portrait grip (rented from
  • Canon 70D (rented from
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II (rented from
  • Canon 1.4x III (rented from


Phase One has graciously loaned me the new IQ250 50 megapixel digital back for the trip, and I can choose between the 50 and 80mp backs, depending on the situational need. The new IQ250 allows me to shoot at higher ISO’s, say up to 1600 or perhaps 3200, has a higher frame rate and is a slightly smaller chip in size (and thus a more narrow field of view is captured), and the IQ280 has a larger file size yet at the cost of only being able to use lower ISO values, like 50, 100 and perhaps 200 or 400. It’s the best of both worlds and I am going to feel spoiled.

The Canon gear is all being rented from This allows me to flip flop between Canon and Nikon systems on different trips, a wonderful bit of flexibility that I need in this day and age. Why would I want to have different systems on different trips? It’s easy: I want and need to communicate to my travelers that I understand the systems that they use and that I can understand how to setup and use their cameras and lenses.


Photos of the Day - A Trio of Mountain Gorillas

It’s been a crazy 2013 so far, and I haven’t done a good job of posting timely and useful content on this blog. In an attempt to even it all out, how about a Photo of the Day entry with 3 images? But seriously, when life and business get busy the first thing that typically falls off is posting to this blog.

Last month I lead a safari into the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, and had some amazing experiences wtih the resident mountain gorillas. This year’s hikes were quite difficult, however the resulting photographic opportunities were over-the-top amazing. I couldn’t be happier, and I have included just a few of the images down below. For some reason I ended up preferring to use black and white over processing the images in color, likely because I have a better ability to create a sense of mood without having to stay in the ‘color box’, otherwise known as reality. I can get much more aggressive with dodging and burning without breaking too many rules that color photographs somehow are judged by.

I will be leading a trip back to the Virunga Mountains for mountain gorillas in 2014, and the trip will also include trekking for wild chimpanzees as well. It will be a 1-2 primate combination, limited to only 7 people.



Nikon D800E, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/400 @ f/2.8, ISO 1600



Nikon D800E, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/250 @ f/2.8, ISO 1600



Nikon D800E, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/400 @ f/2.8, ISO 2500


Safari Summary from Rwanda and Kenya


Guhonda the Silverback

Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda. September 2011

Nikon D3x, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/1000 @ f/3.5, ISO 800


I am back from and amazing 3+ weeks out on safari in the African countries of Rwanda and Kenya, and I thought I would put down some words to describe the trip. My trip was broken into two distinct safaris:

Safari #1: Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda and Kenya’s Masai Mara ecosystem on private concession

Locations: Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Rwanda and Mara Plains Camp, Olare Orok Conservancy (just outside of the Masai Mara Game Reserve)

Safari #2: Masai Mara migration

Locations: Mara Explorer Camp, Governors’ Main Camp

Photographic Equipment

Cameras: Nikon D3x, D3, D7000

Lenses: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 200-400mm f/4 VR

Camera Bags: Gura Gear Kiboko 22L+ bag, Gura Gear Chobe shoulder bag

Ok, let’s dive into my first safari’s summary: it was absolutely awesome. We stayed at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, and cannot say enough good things about the staff, food, accommodations and overall feel. We went on 3 gorilla treks; some were easy and a few were not so easy. If you are thinking of joining a trek someday, please be prepared to move your legs on slippery and steep earth for 2 to 6 hours. Each day’s hike centered around a different family group of gorillas, and each experience was totally different than the others.

Photographically I used a Nikon D3 and D3x as my camera bodies, and 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses. Nearly all of my shots were taken at either ISO 800 or ISO 1600, and all were shot between f/2.8 and f/5.6. Most shots were near f/4.0, as I was trying to walk a tight balance between depth of field and minimum shutter speed. Depth of field is definitely an issue, as at f/2.8 on a 70-200mm (at most focal lengths) isn’t enough to have both eyes sharp at a distance of 10 to 20 feet. Technically we had to stay at least 7 meters away from our subjects, however they are active and move around quite a bit, and you never know how close they will come to you.

After our time in Rwanda, we flew back to Kenya and stayed the night at the historic Norfolk Hotel.


Baby Mountain Gorilla

Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda. September 2011

Nikon D3x, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, 1/320 @ f/5, ISO 1600


The next morning we flew out to the Masai Mara where we were met by our guides from Mara Plains Camp. We loaded up into the vehicles, headed towards camp and enjoyed some great wildlife viewing along the way. Our safari group stayed at Mara Plains Camp for 6 nights, and it was great to spend so much time in only one location. The Mara Plains Camp managers are Richard and Lorna, and they made us feel at home during our stay. Our guides were all locals Maasai from the surrounding area, and many of them actually grew up on the Olare Orok Conservancy, which is where the camp and game drives centered around.

The wildlife, experiences and weather were all extraordinary during our stay, as we had more big cat sightings than I could count. Numerous lion prides are on the conservancy, and we never went a game drive without quality sightings of them. We also had leopard sightings on most game drives, as well as cheetah. The cheetah sightings were all top notch, and the benefit of being in the Olare Orok Conservancy is that were are allowed to drive off-road. The ability to set up our shooting angle and location are a huge benefit for photographers, and enough cannot be said about this benefit. There are only 3 camps on the Olare Orok, and Mara Plains Camp is my choice of the 3 for many reason: guides, accommodations, camp staff and proximity to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Mara Plains Camp only has 7 tents, and my safari group completely took over the camp during our stay. We actually brought our own wine for our Kenya portion of the safari, and that certainly made for smiles on faces. The wine was compliments of Vines of Mendoza’s founder, Michael Evans. Thanks, Michael!


3 Happy Safarigoers


At the end of my time at Mara Plains, I said goodbye to my safari group and welcomed another. This all happened at the airstrip within a 5 minute period, so there was no rest for the weary. My second safari was designed to be both a small and intimate safari, as well as it was centered around the wildebeest migration.

We started off our safari by checking in at Mara Explorer, which is related to Mara Intrepids, but much smaller and intimate. We spent the next 4 nights at Mara Explorer, and used our time there to run our game drives on the eastern side of the reserve, north of the Talek River. Our game sightings were all excellent, with good general game, big cats, rhino, birds of prey and all paid off photographically. I don’t think we ever had a game drive that didn’t produce something that made me or my travelers happy.

We finished up our safari at Governors’ Main Camp, which is in a different area of the Masai Mara, and this allowed us to spend more time along the Mara River in the hopes of photographing a river crossing of wildebeest or zebras. For some of us in the group the time spent along the Mara River really paid off with a great crossing or two. This really made me happy, as this is what they had come for. Again, amazing sightings all around, especially for lions.

This is a very brief summary from a wildlife perspective, because it is so difficult to chronicle all of the subjects we saw each and every day for all of my 3 weeks in Africa. Let’s talk about a little bit of gear for a few moments.


Cheetah on a Tree

Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya. September 2011

Nikon D3, 200-400mm f/4 VR, 1/500 @ f/4.5, ISO 800


What Worked and What Didn’t

I switched over the Nikon in early 2009, and I am still quite happy with the gear that I own. The D3 is getting a little long in the tooth, but it is still a great performer in the low light territory. Yes, it is only 12mp, but those files that come off are just gorgeous. I do need low light for at least 60 minutes of shooting each day, and I wouldn’t want to go on safari with a camera that didn’t perform well at ISO1600 or even 3200. You really do need that kind of low light needs from your digital camera.

My other main camera is a Nikon D3x, which I prefer to use whenever I don’t need ISO1600 or higher. Yes, I do use the D3x up to 1600, but rarely beyond that. My preference is to keep it to ISO800 or below, as that is where this camera really shines. The D3x has pixels to burn, but I don’t like to crop my images if I can help it. My print sales business really does benefit when I can sell 40x60” canvas prints to the interior designers out there, so I do everything in my power to enable those print sales. Some of my prints are 20x30” or perhaps 12x18”, but the bulk of my sales are large canvases. I do swap my D3 and D3x cameras between my 70-200mm and 200-400mm lenses, depending on what I need at that time. For my Botswana safaris I use my 70-200mm 50% of the time, and when I am in Kenya or Tanzania I probably use it around 25% of the time. The primary reason is how close we are to our subjects, and in east Africa we tend to be farther away from them.

My third camera was a Nikon D7000, and I brought the camera to be used primarily as a video camera. My video needs are fairly simple: I use video for marketing purposes on my web site. Most of the video that I shoot is of camp interiors, so my potential customers can understand what level of luxury or comfort they can expect. I have to be honest that when I did shoot still with the D7000 I wasn’t overly impressed with the autofocus capabilities. The AF accuracy wasn’t what I am used to with the pro level cameras, unfortunately. The image quality was also disappointing, even at lower ISO values. There is something very soft to the images, and I don’t know how else to describe it. It isn’t my preference, for sure, and I have relegated the D7000 to video or grab shots only. I did purchase the portrait grip for the D7000, and was largely happy with it, however I do wish I could put a D3/D3x battery in it like I could with the D700/D300/D300s portrait grip. This would be a huge benefit.


My Gear for all to see. Notice that I use gaffer tape over my VR buttons to keep them from switching off. It is a problem when shooting on beanbags to have the VR switch go off without your knowledge. Not good.


I did take all Gura Gear camera bags with me (surprise surprise), and they worked out perfectly. My main bag was the new Gura Gear Kiboko 22L+, and I carried the following gear inside: 

The new Kiboko 22L+ is our newest bag on the block, and will formally be announced soon. Very soon. Our original Kiboko bag was updated recently, and is 30 liters in volume. Our newest bag can be best described as it’s smaller brother at 22 liters, but not smaller in features. We actually put our pencils to napkins (beer coasters included) on this one and outdid ourselves by making a bag that accommodates our original principles of being lightweight, made out of the best materials, allows for easy transportation and easy field-use and is airline compatible for overhead compartments. We beefed up the shoulder straps, make the 30L smaller and also added in a compartment for a laptop computer. Ta-da! Yup, you asked and we delivered.

My other Gura Gear bag was the new Chobe shoulder bag. The Chobe carried: 


iPhone shot of two Gura Gear Chobe bags


The Yet-To-Be-Announced Gura Gear Kiboko 22L+ and the Chobe 19-24L. (Yes, I must be hip because I am using Instagram and Hipstamatic more and more on my iPhone)


The Chobe is a great travel companion to the Kiboko line of camera bags, but it can also be used as a camera bag itself. The bag is 19 liters in volume, and it can be enlarged to 24 liters by unzipping an expansion zipper in the middle of the bag. There is a padded insert that converts the Chobe 19-24L into a bag that can carry many different configurations of cameras and lenses, and it is a popular option for those users who may not be traveling with a Kiboko. In other words, great for people on business trips, portrait photographers or wedding photographers. As an aside note, the Chobe bag can easily carry my Nikon 200-400mm f/4, which means that I can always offload my big lens to from my main Kiboko bag to the Chobe during checking into an airline, as this can help get my weight down even lower on my main carryon bag. Tip: airliness rarely, if ever, weigh your ‘personal item’, so shifting weight around between your main bag and your personal item can be an ace in the hole.

As far as what didn’t work on this trip I have to say that not much disappointed me. The D7000 didn’t turn out to be what I had hoped it to be, but other than that I was happy with everything else.

Summary of my Safari Summary

I was away for more than 23 days, which is one of my longer trips away from home. I came home with more than 8300 raw files, and I haven’t found much time to whittle them down to my favorites as of the writing of this blog entry. The Rwanda mountain gorilla experience was one that I will never forget, and I eagerly await my next visit when I will be back there in August 2013 (trip is being planned right now). My 14 nights in the Masai Mara made for some very happy travelers, and Kenya is back on my list for places to operate my higher end safaris. Why? Because the combination of off-road driving, wide open savannah plains and quantity of wildlife all add up to a rich safari experience for photography.


Back home from Africa

I just got home from my east African adventure, and I have tons to write about. I wasn’t able to update my blog from the field, primarily due to lack of time and lack of a decent internet connection. I spent time in Rwanda for mountain gorillas, and then split my time in Kenya’s Masai Mara between 3 different camps. I think I came home with some great photographs, however I won’t know for sure until I get some time to sort through them. Heck, I still have to sort through my images from Botswana from July!

A huge thank you goes out to those of you who traveled with me on these 2 safaris. I really do think that I have the best job on earth. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Safari Update from Rwanda - Day 3

Not much to write about today, primarily due to time constraints (and internet connectivity), but I thought I would quickly share a few images. All I can say is that my experience in Rwanda has been amazing. The people, the accommodations, the hospitality and above all else the mountain gorillas. Truly one of the best experiences I have had in all of my travels throughout Africa. Hiking in the Virunga Mountains with mountain gorillas is something that needs to be on everybody’s bucket list.


Charles the Silverback

Nikon D3x, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/500 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 1600


Charles the Silverback

Nikon D3x, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/400 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 800


Safari Update from Rwanda - Day 2


Mother Gorilla and her Baby

Nikon D3, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/400 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 1600


Today we were up again at 5:15, packed up and headed out after breakfast. Both of our trekking groups drove to the same trailhead, which necessitated hiking for about 45 minutes across planted fields of potatoes. Once inside the park boundary, which consisted of a tall wall of volcanic rocks, my group only had about a 10 minute hike to reach our intended group of gorillas. I have to be honest in saying that the hike was fairly easy today, which made a few people quite happy. Most of my trekking group had been on a long, grueling hike the day before, so this trek was a relief.

Today’s time was spent with the Umubano family group, which is led by the silverback Charles. We affectionately referred to him as ‘Chuck’, as he was extremely comfortable with our presence and laid down for a nap only a few feet away from us.

We spent our hour with the the family group in one small location, and we were on even footing the entire time. Woohoo! I know this sounds funny, but yesterday was spent on a very steep incline, which was quite difficult to work with. Today we had clear view of the family, and enjoyed every second with clear views of most of the members.

I haven’t had time to process any images, and those that I have processed have been on my Macbook Pro with a shiny screen. Not optimal, for sure, but at least the images that I do post will give a good idea as to what we have seen.

Tomorrow we will have our last trek with the gorillas, and then we will stay the night in Kigali, before heading back to Kenya for the Masai Mara.


Safari update from Rwanda


Nikon D3x, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/400 @ f/4, ISO 800

We arrived in Rwanda yesterday morning, and after a nice lunch we drove a few hours to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in the Virunga Mountains. My group of travelers enjoyed the warm reception, and even more enjoyed the very comfortable accommodations. After our bags exploded from our journey from Kenya, we all met up for coctails on the verands, followed by an excellent dinner.

We woke up early this morning at around 5am with a knock on the door, followed by a pitcher of freshly brewed coffee. What a way to wake up! We ate a quick breakfast and made our way to the Parc National des Volcans headquarters, and there we met up with our trekking guides. We went through the necessary safety discussion, were allocated an intended gorilla group to hike to, and then drove to the trailhead.

Without getting into too much details, the trek was short but very very challenging. We mostly covered a very steep slope that was covered with stinging nettle, and had to work slowly but deliberately to the Sabyinyo group of gorillas. The Sabyinyo group is reported to have the largest silverback gorilla, named Guhonda, at roughly 220 kilos. That is some serious weight. We caught up with the group as they were feeding in the canopy, and we waited until they came down to move onto other feeding areas. The area we were in was lush with bamboo, and many of the gorillas could not be seen without significant intention.

After the gorillas came down, we did get our hour with them and I have to say that it was both magical and photographically rich. At one point Guhonda walked into our group of 8 photographers and brushed by one of my travelers as he passed through. There was much more going on than I can write about right now, but suffice to say that this is one of the richest safari experiences one can imagine. I only have had time to quickly crank out this 1 image that I have included in the blog post, and I know that I have at least 10 good images that I will be happy with from today. We have 3 days of trekking for gorillas, so more photo opportunities are ahead!