Monday, March 5, 2012

Incredible Lion Photos Taken With High-Tech Remote Control Camera

© William Burrard-Lucas

by Jaymi Heimbuch Technology / Gadgets

Photography is a high-tech industry, especially when photographers try to figure out ways to get closer to dangerous animals without putting themselves in harm's way. Conservation photographer Will Burrard-Lucas has created a high-tech solution that has helped get him amazing images that would otherwise be impossible -- such as lions feasting or Komodo dragons flicking their tongues at the lens. Most recently Burrard-Lucas has made modifications to their "BeetleCam" that provide photographers with even more flexibility for getting images, and these incredible photos of lions show off what is possible.

Brothers Will and Matt devised the BeetleCam in 2009 in order to get close-up photos of African wildlife. It is essentially a remote-controlled car with a DSLR mounted to the top. But after an unfortunate encounter with a lion, it was clear the BeetleCam needed to be armored up. After a few design tweaks, this new version of the BeetleCam is just what the brothers had hoped for, and they took it back out to try it with lions -- and this time they were able to capture winning images.

Will Burrard-Lucas states,

"I have now created a 3rd generation of BeetleCam which has evolved to take into account our experiences from previous trips."

The newest iteration of the BeetleCam can be equipped with flashes, the top can adjust remotely to move the angle of the camera, and you can even zoom or use liveview from a distance.

As for the lions, they provide a bit of adventure as they're modeling for photos. Burrard-Lucas states of a run-in with four cubs,
"They intuitively recognised the front of BeetleCam and would try to circle around to attack it from behind. They also grew bolder whenever BeetleCam retreated, swiping at it with their oversized paws. We were just getting the hang of this new game when disaster struck; BeetleCam’s front left wheel hadn’t been tightened properly and it worked its way off! The cubs instantly seemed to recognise that the buggy was in distress and they closed in...The cubs ran off with it and proceeded to have a highly raucous game as they tried to steal it off each other. We had to wait for over an hour and a half before we were finally able to retrieve the saliva-sodden tire! To our amazement, it had a few punctures but was otherwise undamaged. We slotted it back onto BeetleCam and we were ready to go again!"

That's quite a testament to how much abuse the BeetleCam can take and still be ready to roll for more images.

"Over the course of the next few days, we were able to gain new understanding and respect for the lions we were photographing. We were always mindful that we didn’t want to harass them or intrude on their lives. However, we came to appreciate that lions are incredibly curious cats and full of the bravado that comes from being the Masai Mara’s top predator. This resulted in plenty more raucous games with the youngsters and some wonderful encounters with older individuals, who treated BeetleCam with nonchalant disdain, deliberately ignoring it as it manoeuvred around them," says Burrard-Lucas.

It's a great way to show how a little high-tech tool can be a win-win situation for humans and animals -- we can see some of the most incredible images of wild animals from ground-level angles, and we can do so without disturbing the animals (or just giving them a temporary toy...). It's a fantastic tool for conservation photographers who want to keep space between themselves and their subjects.

Here is a video from the BeetleCam's adventure with the lions:

... view more amazing photos at

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