Virtuoso Client Randy Ubillos: From Apple to Antarctica

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Randy Ubillos (left) and Rick Fath in Neko Harbor, Antarctica.

Why I Travel

Randy Ubillos tapped a Virtuoso advisor to help him travel – and photograph – the world.

A drone's eye view of Alaska's Trimble Glacier.
Wildebeests in Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater.

Interviewed by David Hochman
Photography by Randy Ubillos

Originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life

Few elements of travel are as universally maligned as the vacation slideshow – not that your Yosemite shots aren’t magnificent, but even Ansel Adams could lose the crowd half an hour in. Randy Ubillos’ secret is mixing photos of Iceland and the Serengeti with high-res panoramas captured via drone. His brief bird’s-eye videos, whether of wildebeests crossing a river or a lonely tropical isle from on high, feel cinema-worthy for a reason: Ubillos, 53, recently retired as chief architect of photo and video at Apple, where he developed programs such as Final Cut Pro, Aperture, and iMovie. He and his husband, Rick Fath, 45, a retired landscape designer, now focus on traveling three months a year with help from Virtuoso advisor Ken Neibaur of Palo Alto.
“I travel to experience the things that are often too hard to capture in photos: the grand scale, the sweep of a vast open plain on safari, the perspective from some spectacular vantage point. To see people in different places, to see natural beauty, to view interesting architecture – that’s really why we do this.
Push for plan A, but allow that plan B might be more fun. Over New Year’s in Iceland, we wanted to see the northern lights and a volcano, but it was sleeting. Our guide said, ‘OK, let’s go to the greenhouse. They have geothermal energy. They’re growing tomatoes.’ It was amazing. They had a little restaurant where we ate tomato soup from tomatoes grown 20 feet away. In Iceland!
It’s easy to get caught up in snapping shots of yourself every two minutes, but I refuse to let equipment or shooting take over a trip. If we see something cool, I’ll pop out the camera for 10 or 20 seconds and then return to the moment. What you want are images to cue the memories.
When you go somewhere like Africa or the Arctic, drones let you move around and see remote, difficult terrain in unique and unbelievable ways. We recently took 22 family members on an Alaskan cruise and used our drone to watch bears. One of them looked at it like, ‘Hmm … could you be food?’
After working with Virtuoso travel advisor Ken Neibaur for six years, we’re really comfortable letting him find cool stuff for us. He knows we love to dive, and on our second trip to the Galápagos he made sure to put us with a guide who knew the best spots – Wolf and Darwin islands. They’re an 18-hour sail from the central islands, but Ken said it was worth it, and it was. We saw huge schools of hammerheads and whale sharks.
You can’t beat great service. For that family cruise to Alaska, we wanted eight adjoining rooms – of which there are very few – two suites, and one of the ship’s two penthouses. Ken had someone standing by when ship bookings opened up at midnight EST and got us all 11 rooms, exactly as we wanted.
Look through your pictures along the way during downtime. Pick the very best and those that tell a story, and put them in a folder. A month later, throw away the rest – don’t back them up, just trash them. At Apple, we’d get into heated debates about this, but I say, ‘Don’t drown in your photos.’ What good are great travel shots if you have 10,000 of them on your phone and can’t find anything?"
"We check off one destination and add two more. We’re going to Spain and Portugal for Rick’s birthday. A friend posted pics from Bora-Bora and it made us want to go back to Tahiti. We’ll dive in Australia in April, and have a trip to Norway, including Svalbard, in May. And we hope to spend a month in Amsterdam next August."

If you’d like to work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip, connect with one here.