On Photo Safari With Dave Burns
On his recent visit to the HCC, guest speaker Dave Burns treated club members to an exciting virtual tour of Tanzania, Africa. I thought it would be interesting to learn more about Dave’s photography and his photo adventures.
HCC: How did you get started and how long have you been running your own photo tours?
Dave: I’ve always wanted to combine my passion for photography with my passion for travel and teaching. In 2008, I was on a horse trek in western Mongolia. My friend running the trip saw all my gear and the amount of time I spent shooting and he asked if I had considered running photo tours. He’s been running trips to Africa for over 35 years so the path became clear from there.
HCC: How do you decide where to conduct your photo tours?
Dave: I chose Africa because I’d been there several times before, I’m passionate about it, and because it’s on every nature photographer’s bucket list (and a lot of other people’s too). When starting any business, you want to focus on doing one thing really well at first and then branch out. After Africa, I hope to offer other locations like Mongolia and the Galapagos, but also less “wild” places like Paris and Italy.
HCC: Have you always been passionate about wildlife photography and what other types of photography do you enjoy?
Dave: I’d say that I’ve always been passionate about photography on the whole and wildlife/nature is a large part but not the only part. Given my wildlife photographs, most people are surprised to hear that I also love classic, black-and-white, Parisian street photography. On my shelf of photography books, next to all the wildlife ones, are books by Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Kertesz, etc. I also have a small portfolio of my own work from Paris that I’m growing that has been well received. During the presentation, I showed what’s in my kit for a safari trip – lots of big gear! But lately for street photography, I’m having a love affair with my Fujifilm X-E1 and a few lenses. Amazing image quality and so much smaller and lighter. Maybe one day I’ll bring something this small on safari. :-)
HCC: Your infrared images are beautiful. They are unlike any other wildlife photos I’ve seen. Did you set about to distinguish your work by making it so unique, or were you just experimenting and found a new creative process?
Dave: Thank you! It started mostly with the latter and has turned into the former. I had seen a few other people experiment with infrared on safaris but not to the depth that I do now. I’ve always been curious about infrared photography so I decided to start with an older camera – a Canon 40D. I brought it on a safari with no expectations but I was very excited with the results! And now I’m all-in: I’ve converted my 5DMark2 and people are starting to expect new infrared work after every safari.
HCC: Besides the amazing photographic opportunities your tours offer, what else do you find most surprises and delights your clients?
Dave: If I tell you, they won’t be surprises! :-) Although many clients have traveled a fair amount, most have never been to Africa before. People are usually surprised by the bonds they form with people they meet – some even stay in touch with the guides after the trip. Also, everyone thinks about the photographic experience but there are all the sounds and smells. For instance, everyone is excited in the morning after hearing lions roaring in the distance during the night! And to be honest, sometimes the expected things turn into surprises: sure, everyone hopes to see lions. But when they’re right there, next to the vehicle and roaring, that’s exciting.
HCC: What’s your favorite thing about leading a photo tour?
Dave: It’s a little corny but seeing smiles during and at the end of the trip. Being there when someone sees their first lion or elephant is a real treat. Knowing that I’ve been a part of what, for most people, is a major life event and that I helped ensure that it exceeded their expectations is incredibly satisfying.
HCC: If you could be anywhere in world right now taking photos, where would it be and why?
Dave: My answer to that question might be different every day and I hope that never changes. While I have only been back from Africa for a few weeks, I already can’t wait to get back. But then again, my fiancé and I are getting married soon and we’re talking about honeymooning for a few weeks in Italy next Spring. I can’t complain!
HCC: If you could give one bit of advice to someone who’s never been on a photo safari before, what would it be?
Dave: Don’t be so anxious about taking great photos that you forget what a rare and amazing thing it is you are doing. It’s a big trip and I understand why people want to get it right. Just remember to put the camera down once in a while and drink it in!
HCC: Where would you like people to go to learn more about you and your tours?
Dave: The first place is my website: www.daveburnsphoto.com, but never hesitate to email me directly even with the smallest questions. I pride myself on the high level of service I give my clients and it starts before a trip and it keeps going after.
HCC: What new adventures do you have planned for your clients?
Dave: In Africa, I’d like to try new areas like Lake Natron for landscapes and birds or the Southern Circuit of parks – beautiful and remote. But I’m starting to plan how to fill the times I’m not in Africa with trips I’ve mentioned: Mongolia, Paris, etc. Maybe even some local weekenders near Boston or Long Island.
HCC: Thanks Dave!!!
Thanks again to the Huntington Camera Club for hosting me. I love presenting something I’m passionate about to a large group of people. Now let’s get that safari going for the club!