Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, also known simply as Andy Casagrande, is one of the world's premier wildlife cinematographers, who has shot award-winning wildlife documentaries, television commercials and feature films. He’s also a friend to Fujifilm Optical Devices. Despite his busy schedule, which includes wildlife filming across the world, he took some time to talk to us about his life, his work and his love of Fujinon lenses.
We follow you on Twitter…you are constantly posting photos from your wild adventures. What are some of the projects you’ve been working on this year?
I've been very busy this year with various wildlife films around the globe, from Alaska & the Bahamas to Palau & New Zealand, on to South Africa & Australia. I have been working on a number of Shark films for the BBC
, National Geographic
& Discovery's Shark Week
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced shooting this year?
The overall biggest challenge this year has simply been scheduling! I never seem to have enough time to fit everything in! I've been trying to figure out a way to clone myself so that I can work everywhere at any time. Considering my wife, Emma, and I are having our first baby boy this September, maybe that is exactly the clone I have been waiting for!
Congratulations! Looks like a lot has changed since we last interviewed you. At that time, you’d been using the Fujinon 25x lens to capture footage of polar bears in the Arctic. Have you tested out any of the new lenses?
I have been very lucky to have tested out the new Fujinon 19-90mm T2.9 Cabrio PL mount lens
, which is a stunning piece of glass…super compact digital zoom and captures razor sharp images with an amazing range. I love it!!!
Speaking of polar bears, you tend to put yourself right on the frontlines of some of the most dangerous animal territories known to man. Lions, sharks, cheetahs…these are challenging subjects, to say the least. Do you have tricks for prepping your equipment so you can get “the shot” and get out of Dodge quickly if need be?
The trick to filming "dangerous" wildlife is doing your research and always being ready for the unexpected. Whether it's King Cobras or Killer Whales, Great White Sharks or Grizzly Bears, you must always understand each animal’s specific behaviors. Every animal has its own unique personality – some sharks are "nice" and some are "not-so-nice" – and being able to understand which ones might try to bite you and which ones just want to "cuddle" is very, VERY important! I always do my homework and do my best to understand every possible scenario when it comes to getting close and getting the shot!
Stay tuned for Part II of this interview to learn more about Andy’s work with sharks, and creating new rigs.
Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, known to most as Andy Casagrande, is one of the world's top wildlife cinematographers. Despite his busy schedule, which includes a new series on National Geographic WILD, several shows for the Discovery Channel’s annual, highly anticipated Shark Week
and countless other projects, he took some time to talk to us about his life, his work and his love of Fujinon lenses.
Fujinon: You have shot in places people usually only hear or read about, and many of those locales have some pretty challenging environments. From an operating perspective, what is probably the biggest obstacle you've faced during a shoot and how do/did you combat it?
Andy: The biggest obstacles I have had to overcome while operating cameras and high-tech gear in the field have always been related to weather. If it's too hot, the cameras overheat. I’ve even had some melt! If it's too cold, the cameras can freeze and the electronics fail to function. Shooting polar bears and lions have always been my most challenging project. Oh, and Great White sharks are not easy either! Salt water & electronics do not mix…and neither do sharp teeth and soft flesh!
Fujinon: You mentioned that you used the Fujinon 25x lens to capture footage of polar bears—polar bears that, it should be mentioned, you waited SIX MONTHS for in the freezing Arctic (pictured right). After all that time and dedication, there's no doubt it was a shot that meant a lot to you. Why that lens?
Andy: I use Fujinon lenses because they are some of the best in the world. I chose the 25x Fujinon lens to film the polar bears because it is an extremely light and compact lens but it packs a very powerful punch. Amazing range, super sharp images and so small—I love it and it's perfect for wildlife filmmaking!
Fujinon: Is there one instance you can pinpoint that turned you on to cinematography?
Andy: I was born with an extreme fascination of Great White sharks. These predators are what inspired me to become a wildlife filmmaker.
Fujinon: Wildlife clearly has you intrigued, both personally and professionally. What is it that draws you to this type of work versus another category?
Andy: I'm not a people person and I try to stay way from people as much as possible. Animals don't complain and take too long to put on their make-up, they don't make bad jokes, etc. I was just born this way; I love wildlife.
Fujinon: What was your first "big break" in this industry?
Andy: I was working as a research cameraman in Cape Town, filming and photographing Great White sharks for science. Then, National Geographic came down to Cape Town to deploy its “Crittercams” and make a documentary with the scientists I was working with. After the shoot, they offered me a full-time staff job in Washington, D.C. as a filmmaker in their Natural History Unit.
Fujinon: Your new show for National Geographic WILD, "Killer Shots," premiered just this month. For those who haven't seen it, what can they look forward to and is there anything you'd like fellow cinematographers to take note of?
Yeah, “Killer Shots
” is a cool series. I focused on Great White sharks, lions, cheetahs and polar bears. It's a cool concept because it's a behind-the-scenes show about what it takes to be a wildlife cameraman and bring home some “Killer Shots.” I used all types of the latest advancements in technology, including rebreathers, slow motion cameras, infrared cameras, thermal cameras, remote controlled cameras, bite-cameras, tow-cameras, breach-cameras, etc., etc.—it was AWESOME!
Fujinon: There are a lot of “Shark Week” fans out there and you've done quite a bit of work on that series. In fact, you shot three shows for this year's “Shark Week.” What are some of the precautions you take when shooting in shark-infested waters, both for yourself and your equipment?
Andy: I don't take any special precautions aside from keeping my eyes open and my hands/legs/arms/feet away from the sharks’ mouths.
Fujinon: You have custom created some pretty nifty camera-rigged contraptions. What's the most inventive thing you've ever done with camera equipment to get your shot?
Tough question, but my bite-cameras
have yielded some amazing images—images that I could not possible have gotten any other way…unless I got bit myself, which is not an option!
Fujinon: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Andy: Be nice to strangers and live the life you dream.
The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” starts July 31st at 9:00 p.m. e/p and airs through August 5th. Check your local listings for specific shows or view the full schedule here: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/shark-week/tv-shows.html
. To learn more about Andy’s work, visit his website: http://www.abc4explore.com/ OR
watch this ABC Nightly News piece: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/wild-nat-geos-killer-shots-14024961
To learn more about what Andy does as a National Geographic cameraman, go to: http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/speakers-bureau/speaker/andy-b-casagrande/
To check out the video gallery from ‘Killer Shots” on National Geographic WILD, go to:http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/nat-geo-wild/shows-1/killer-shots/