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Q&A WITH ANDY CASAGRANDE

Q.  How did you get started as a wildlife cameraman? Is this something you always wanted to do?

A.  I had never planned to be a wildlife cameraman. I initially wanted to be a great white shark field researcher in South Africa, but fate switched my path and although I did work as a great white shark field researcher for 2 years – shortly after I was recruited by National Geographic to work at the Natural History Unit in Washington, DC.

Q.  Is there anything you haven’t filmed yet that you would like to?

A.  The one thing that I haven’t filmed yet, but would like to – essentially my Holy Grail – is great white sharks mating.

Q.  What is your favourite camera?

A.  The Phantom HD super-slow-motion camera system is by far my favourite camera!

Q. Equipment failure. Long waits. Bad weather. Working with animals. What’s really the hardest part of your job?

A.  The hardest part about being a wildlife cameraman is the “wildlife” – it is completely wild!  Sometimes the weather completely and literally blows you out of the water.  Sometime the sharks just do not show up.  Sometimes the cameras freeze or melt; sometimes you freeze or melt!  Every day is different and brings new challenges and new adventures, etc. That is why I love this job; it is always something new, exciting and dangerous!

Q.  In the episode of Killer Shots when you waited for days to film the polar bears as they emerged from their den, what did you do to the pass the time and stay sane?

A.  Over the course of six months, with more than two months spent in sub-zero freezing temperatures, on snowmobiles, ice-plane, 4x4 trucks, helicopters, snow-shoes, boats, etc.  – I was on a mission to find the polar bears!  I had no idea it was going to take so long!!!  In fact, I did not find my polar bears until the LAST DAY on my last attempt – solo to find the bears – and I found then!  I honestly cannot remember what I did to pass the time while waiting for the bears – aside from try to stay alive and stay warm!  It was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding assignments I have ever been on!

Q. What’s it like to be face-to-face with these predators? What is going through your mind?   

A.  Going face-to-face with the world top apex predators – great white sharks, lions, polar bears…entering their world unprotected by cages or tundra buggies…I often find myself in situations where most people would probably think: “This is NOT GOOD.” I find myself thinking “This is AWESOME”.   I do not know what it is, but entering the hunting grounds of these apex predators makes me feel at home.  And, surprisingly, I feel more relaxed and peaceful while I am underwater swimming with great white sharks than I do walking around New York City.  Anyway, I honestly do not know exactly what goes through my mind aside from focus, aperture, lighting – and trying not to get eaten by whatever I am filming.

Q. Aside from your equipment, is there anything you must have with you when you travel?

A.  Aside from my equipment, the one thing that I must always have with me while I am out on assignment is – BUBBLE GUM and sometimes REDBULL.

Q. You seem pretty fearless. Is there anything you’re afraid of?

A.  It is not the world’s top predators that scare me – it is PEOPLE that scare me.

Q.  What advice would you give to an aspiring wildlife cameraperson/photographer?

A.  If I had to give advice to aspiring photographers and filmmakers, I would have to say “Never Stop Filming” and “Live the Life You Dream”.

Q.  Anything else you’d like to add?

A.  “If I was a Great White Shark – I wouldn’t bite you…”

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