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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 Tanzania (57)


Serengeti Safari Update - Ndutu

Today was our last full day in the greater Serengeti ecosystem at a place we call Ndutu, and it was one of the most photgraphically rich days we have had on the safari. Read on!

Just outside of camp we stopped for bat-eared foxes, and unlike most I have photographed in the past the 5 individuals were curious about us and didn’t run away. Typically they are quite shy and skiddish, and these were a welcome sight for me, as I don’t have enough quality photos of them.

Cheetah were next on our sighting list, and we watched 2 adult males walk the swamp edges for more than an hour. With a respectful distance, we watched them jump across water, play with each other and rest when they needed to rest. It was a great hour of entertainment, and the highlight was watching them both drink at the water’s edge with their eyes looking our direction. Oh, and their reflection in the water was the icing on the cake.

When they sat down to rest in the shade, we waited for 30 minutes to see if they would give us another show, but it appeared to be it for a while. We moved back to the main area of the swamp, and located the lion pride with the 3 cubs again. They were happy to be sleeping, so within minutes we found our next photo op that would last the remainder of the morning: zebras at a watering hole.

We photographed zebras coming and going in and around a large watering hole, and every few minutes a group would get spooked and would run through the water back to the safety of dry land. What great photos can be had in these situations, and it takes patience to get the right shots. I think I burned 10gb of memory in 1 hour, which is a significant burn rate for me. I just don’t shoot that many images, and I had to seize the opportunity.

After our lunch and midday rest, Troy and I spent a few minute shooting video testimonials from some of our travelers, as well as short interviews with the guides. Troy is shooting all of the video, and I am just acting as producer / interviewer. We did bring along high quality Sony wireless lav microphones, which really helps with the production quality. Audio quality is very very important!

We found a pride of 9 adult lions out on the open plains, who were seeking shade underneath a large acacia tree. Not much happened, but we were able to shoot some 60p slo-mo video of lions yawning, which may turn out to be interesting to see. After a little while we moved on and saw another 2 adult male cheetahs. They were extremely skiddish, and we left within a few minutes, as they weren’t interested in being near us.

On the way back into the acacia woodland near Lake Masek, we watched 2 adult male giraffes fighting. I have seen many many sparring giraffes, however this scene was an aggressive fight that could not be considered sparring. Male giraffes yse their necks and heads to deliver blows to each other, and timing the best time to take photographs can be tricky.

A short trip around Lake Masek followed, and we stopped a few places to shoot the flamingoes in the warm afternoon light.


Serengeti Safari Update #5

Today was our first full day in the Ndutu area, which is technically part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, however it is still part of the greater Serengeti ecosystem. The NCA has more relaxed rules when it comes to offroad driving, which is a double-edged sword. It works great when you are all alone and have found something you would like to photograph, however if there is a ‘high value’ subject like cheetah then it can be challenging. Why? Because the natural tendency is to have a clear view of a subject, and that can turn into encircling a subject with vehicles. Responsible safari outfitters, like Thomson Safaris, know better than to do this, however some of the other less reputable and knowledgeable guides may not know what the best practice is.

We met up with yesterday’s lion pride with the 3 young cubs, however they were in the tall green grass in the middle of the marsh and it was difficult to get a good view.

We continued out onto the open plains, and spent time scouting for cheetah. Our hard work paid off, and we located 3 adult male cheetahs. We sat and watched for the rest of the morning, or about 4 hours, as they would sit up and take notice of the surrounding game. It took some time, and the 3 boys walked off to investigate and mark some trees nearby. After that, one of the cheetahs jumped up into a dead acacia tree, and he surveyed the area from his vantage point. It was awesome. High fives all around, as it was a great view of such a beautiful and graceful cat.

After lunch we went back out in the afternoon heat, and went straight for the wide open plains to the south and east of Lake Masek. We spent the whole afternoon following the wildebeest, as the were lined up and moving in single file lines. This is the part of the Serengeti that I find thrilling: herds of wildebeest and zebra.

As far as photography goes, my main goal was to use dramatic light to illustrate the wildebeest, and backlighting or 3/4 lighting (the sun is 45 degrees off of coming straight into the camer) was the right tool for the job. Wildebeest have a light-colored beard that lights up like fire when backlit, so this was my approach. This means that I had to find wildebeest that were walking at a 90 degree angle to the sun, as I wanted them walking across the frame and with their bodies sideways to the camera. I only found a few good opportunities to shoot in this manner, but it was what I was after.


Serengeti Safari Update #4

Today we left our camp at El Makati, and made our way south towards Ndutu. The southern part of the Serengeti ecosystem is where the wildebeest calving season occurs, typically during the months of January and February, and also early March. The short grass plains in the area yields rich grass, which the wildebeest prefer when they are nursing their young.

We took the long way to our next camp, Ndutu Safari Lodge, which took us past the Masai Kopjes, vilima saba (7 hills), Naabi Hill, and the southern part of Serengeti National Park. We photographed a nice pride of lions at the Masai Kopjes, which were bathing in the morning sun, all on top of various granite rocks. The kopjes, or inselbergs, are excellent backdrops which help illustrate that these photographs were taken in one very specific location. It really helps with storytelling, which is what photography is all about. We have to use imagery to tell our stories, as we don’t often have words to explain what and where our images are all about.

We checked into Ndutu Safari Lodge, ate some lunch and headed back out around 3:30. We drove the swamps to the west of the lodge, as we had heard of a mother cheetah and her 3 cubs that was in that direction. We never found her, however we did come across a pride of lions in the middle of the marsh. There was one adult male, six adult females and 3 young cubs. The young cubs were quietly sleeping, and then all of a sudden they realized they were hungry and attacked their mother for some milk. CUTE is a good word to describe the moment. Dang these cubs were cute. We sat and watched for about 2.5 hours, as the show before us grabbed all of our attention. We saw a lone cheetah in the distance, but we didn’t budge, as we had a bird in hand, so to speak.

I look forward to processing some of the images from today, as I think I have a few keepers.


Serengeti Safari Update #3

Today is day 3 of our safari, and we are all settling into the routine nicely. We are all up early and we aren’t lagging behind to leave camp early, and this always helps in getting the best shots. Today we drove down to the Gol Kopjes in the southeastern part of the park, which is a great location to be remote and to locate hunting cheetahs.

We drove towards the Simba Kopjes first, and decided to spend time with hippos first off the bat. We got out of the vehicles and sat down in the grass with our long lenses in hand. The hippos were active, which made for some great yawning photographs. I absolutely love observing hippo behavior, as it is a challenge to learn much in only a few minutes. After a while, one can learn quite a bit about each individual.

We checked in at Naabi gate before heading off to the Gol Kopjes, and we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon amongst a large herd of wildebeest, zebra, thompson gazelle, grant’s gazelle and eland. We paused for a while to witness a birth of a grant’s gazelle, and wondered at how a newborn can know exactly what to do with regards to nursing. Nature is so amazing.

We had a private picnic under a large acacia tree, with the Serengeti plains all around us. Truly spectacular to see in all directions and see very few trees, tons of wildlife and clouds that touch the horizon.

After our time at the Gol Kopjes, we decided to drive to the Moru Kopjes to intercept what we thought would be a nicely sized group of wildebeest. We had watched a large line walk towards the area in the morning, so we wanted to go check it out.

The afternoon was very quiet, even though we counted 8 lions, with 2 of them mating. All was fairly still, and as stubborn as I am, I did not want to give up. Even the bird life was slow. We did watch a zebra become a meal for 50-odd vultures, which was probably the highlight of the afternoon.

As a side note, as of today we have now seen 42 lions in 3 days. Not bad. I am not sure why I count, actually. I was an accountant in my prior life, so maybe that is the reason. The reality is that my favorite subjects to photograph are giraffe and elephants, and not the big cats. They are all important in my mind, and all worthy of photographing. I just understand the value big cat photographs play in my customers’ minds, and I totally get it.


Serengeti safari update

Today we were up at 5:45, ate a hot breakfast and were out of camp by 6:30. Sunrise was close to 7, so we had some time to get out of camp in time to find a subject in the warm morning light.

The group was split into two, as half left an hour earlier to make it to the hot air balloon liftoff location. The rest of us went on a game drive as normal.

We worked the area near Makoma Hill, in hopes of getting a shot of zebras in the foreground with the 3 hot air balloons in the background. Our timing was off, so we weren’t able to make it happen. We had great general game viewing all morning, and worked our way towards the Masai Kopjes towards lunchtime.

After the Masai Kopjes, we kept heading east and south to the Barafu Kopjes in time for a picnic lunch. I absolutely love picnics in the bush, and this one was no exception.

For the rest of the afternoon, we had more lions, a lone female cheetah, and a large herd of elephant. And, of course, all of the general game that we could ask for.

Today was a long day, and my being tired from jetlag doesn’t help as I write the post. More to follow tomorrow.


Serengeti Safari Update

Today we ate a leisurely breakfast at our lodge in Arusha, and took off for the airstrip shortly afterwards. The drive through Arusha was slow going, as the hustle and bustle of the once-frontier town is now a city with over a million people. I remember back in 2002 when I could drive through Arusha in about 20 minutes. It isn’t so easy now, as the safari industy is much more developed now.

After boarding our private plane, I felt a sense of relief over me. I was finally heading back to the Serengeti. I had not been back since March of last year. Earlier in my photo safari business, I used to run 6 safaris each year in Tanzania alone. Now that my business has grown, and my customers are asking for more locations and experiences, I have to split my time between Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and Namibia. So it was great to heading back to the Serengeti, where I really cut my teeth and learned how to run a well-run photo safari.

The flight took around 45 minutes, and we landed at the Seronera airstrip where the Thomson Safaris guides were waiting for us with smiles on. Kileo, my head guide, greeted me as his brother.

The savannah did not look very dry, rven though there hasn’t been much rainfall. There was a rain a few days ago, and I guess it was enough to make the plains green. We immediately went out on our game drive, and we had some early successes. Without naming all of the species, we had a lion pride of 5 adults, a leopard and some great scenics of the open plains with zebras.

We checked into camp around lunch time, and as we went to our tents I could hear mumblings like “this isn’t camping” and “if my wife saw these accommodations she would say I wasn’t camping”. You see, I don’t know how to properly describe the accommodations. Technically they are mobile tents that are setup for the season, however down comforters, solar light fixtures, en suite shower and bathroom are not consistent with the word camping. Such as it is, my travelers loved it. Home away from home. And maybe one day I will have the words to describe what these camps look and feel like.

After a hearty lunch, we took off for our afternoon game drive at 3:30. We decided to try our luck with the Makoma Hill area, and tracked down another pride of lions, 8 in total. There were 3 subadult males, and they were at the age where they won’t be allowed in the pride any longer. They are growing up and will need to have a pride of their own soon.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with another amazing leopard sighting, and this time she was only a short distance away in a tree (see image). I prefer dramatic lighting, so we positioned the vehicle to shoot directly into the sun. I love this angle, and it requires shooting in manual mode with some significant exposure compensation. I can live with lens flare, to be honest, as it can add another dimension to an image.

We also photographed 2 adult male cheetahs on a termite mound, and I had a devil of a time trying to get the second male to do anything other than show his back to the camera. Cheetahs are regal and graceful, and I could never get used to shooting them through a lens. The light wasn’t the best, but it was an enjoyable time, nonetheless (I think my friend Hari will ask me about my cheetah sightings when I get home, so this is a reminder for me to remember all of them!).

On the way back to camp, we stopped to watch a herd of giraffes browse just outside of camp. I didn’t come away with any useful images, as I was just starting to get used to a square crop on the camera. With the square crop lines in place, I have realized that I don’t need as much lens as I tought I would need. I am probably needing at least 100mm less focal length to make it all work.

After dinner we all headed straight to bed, as the previous 48 hours was filled with travel and an assault on the senses. Today was one of those days that reminded me of how much I love being out on safari: great wildlife, guides that are good friends, rich photography and that feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.


Daily blogging from the Serengeti

I just arrived in Tanzania, and my plan is to update this blog on a daily basis. I did this last year at around this time, however I was shooting with a 6x24cm panorama filn camera and wasn’t able to post any images along with the updates.

I have my trusty Blackberry with me, and I will have to compose all text on the small keyboard. Images will be processed on my Macbook Pro 13” machine, transferred via USB cable to my Blackberry Bold, and then I can email my blog at a private email address either text, image, or both. The gotcha is that I haven’t figured out a way to email multiple images for a blog entry. As a result, I will be limited to 1 image per post. I may post multiple posts for a single day, depending on what we saw.

I am running 2 safaris back-to-back in northern Tanzania. All time will be spent in the Serengeti as well as Ngorongoro Crater. The days are long, so I apologize in advance if my posted text or images are not properly processed or thought out. The purpose of these safari updates is to try and explain what we do each day, and what my photo safaris are like.

On the first safari, we have mostly Canadian and Dutch travelers, and on my second safari we have a mix between American, Canadian and European travelers.

I am still shooting with Nikon equipment, and have the following pieces with me:

D3x, D3, 28-300mm, 70-200mm VR, 200-400mm, 1.4x TC. I have a Brightscreen replacement ground glass on my D3x, and it has crop lines on the sides so I can compose in a square format. It’s really really cool, and let’s see if it works. I have love the square format for many years, and this is just a test to see if I can compose easily in the field with wildlife in mind. We shall see!

Time to go to bed, as the journey was a long (but easy) one. Lala salama (sleep safely).


Photo of the Day - Serengeti Wildebeest


Wildebeest Migration

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Canon 1DsMkIII, 400mm f/4 DO + 1.4x, 1/1000 @ f/5.6, ISO 400

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