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Lions, meet BeetleCam

Most wildlife photographers are hesitant to walk straight up to a lion to take its picture. Brothers linkurl:Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas;http://www.burrard-lucas.com/ feel the same way, but that didn't stop them from getting extreme close ups of one of Africa's most fearsome predators. They designed a rugged, remote-controlled camera car that could traverse the African plains, snapping photos of animals as it went, while keeping the brothers at a safe distance, hiding in a bush. Image: linkurl:

By | June 18, 2010

Most wildlife photographers are hesitant to walk straight up to a lion to take its picture. Brothers linkurl:Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas;http://www.burrard-lucas.com/ feel the same way, but that didn't stop them from getting extreme close ups of one of Africa's most fearsome predators. They designed a rugged, remote-controlled camera car that could traverse the African plains, snapping photos of animals as it went, while keeping the brothers at a safe distance, hiding in a bush.
Image: linkurl:Burrard-Lucas Photography;http://www.burrard-lucas.com
While their linkurl:"BeetleCam";http://blog.burrard-lucas.com/beetlecam/ is not the first camera buggy, capturing such intimate portraits of wildlife is usually achieved through the use of stationary camera traps, says Matt, the younger of the pair and a fulltime chemistry student at Oxford University. "This is a lot more active [so] we can get a much higher success rate." "The idea certainly has got potential," says wildlife photographer linkurl:Nigel Dennis.;http://www.nigeldennis.com/ "Now is a better time to do it because the technology has gotten smaller and cheaper and lighter." The idea came to the brothers early in 2009. As photographers, they liked "to get original perspectives of wildlife [by] putting the camera into unusual situations or trying to get different angles," Matt says. So they decided they would construct a remote controlled camera that could get far closer to the wildlife than they could themselves. After a couple months of construction in Will's small garage in London, the four-wheeled buggy fitted with a digital camera with a wide angle lens and two flashes was ready, and the brothers hopped a plane to Tanzania for its first test run. "We really just didn't know what to expect -- it could have been a great success or it could have been a massive failure," Matt recalls. "It was a pretty big gamble." But on their first day out, targeting a group of elephants, they realized the potential of BeetleCam to get some rather remarkable photographs. They also realized that it would take some finagling to capture the animals behaving naturally. Because the elephants could hear the camera coming, Will and Matt learned to position the camera well in front of the elephants, and then wait for them to saunter by. "We try to disturb them as little as possible so we get natural shots," Matt says. For the elephants, this seemed to work wonderfully. But lions, as they learned on their second day out, were a different story. "I was optimistic," Matt recalled. "I didn't think anything bad was going to happen." They navigated BeetleCam to about 30 meters away from a couple of lions sleeping under a tree. It didn't take long for the lions to get curious, and a lioness and a young male started walking towards it, Matt recalls. "At that point, we were pretty nervous." Sure enough, the lioness snatched up the camera in her teeth and carried it off into the bush. Matt and Will tried to take photographs, hoping that the clicking would coax the lioness to the drop the camera. Instead, they got some interesting photographs of the inside of her mouth. While the camera had been mangled, the memory card survived intact, preserving BeetleCam's unique perspective of the encounter. "I've think they've done well to get some pictures," Dennis says. When the animals interact with the camera, "it makes for more striking images although it wouldn't necessarily be entirely natural behavior." The brothers plan to continue BeetleCam's adventures, and improve their technique along the way. "It was more of a success than we expected," Matt says, "but there's definitely more than we can do," Matt says. They hope to capture a wider range of species, including more predators, he says, and are also considering attaching a remote video camera aimed at the view finder of the BeetleCam's still camera "so we could see exactly what the camera was looking at." And, of course, if they decide to photograph lions again, they would have to bulk up the camera's protective shell -- "more like a tank, more solid, to stop them from being able to bite the camera."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Pride vs. tribe;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/55775/
[July 2009]*linkurl:Giants and men;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/55673/
[1st May 2009]*linkurl:The task of keeping elephants;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23540/
[June 2006]
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Comments

Avatar of: john toeppen

john toeppen

Posts: 52

June 18, 2010

Most cameras, even HD ones, have a 640x480 AV output that can be transmitted to a remote monitor. This allows one to use cheap digital cameras for HDTV with transmitted monitoring. Still photos can also be taken using StereoData Maker (SDM)and/or CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit).\n\nhttp://stereo.jpn.org/eng/sdm/index.htm\nhttp://stereo.jpn.org/eng/sdm/chdk.htm\nhttp://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

July 1, 2010

The BeetleCam camera looks like a face. I think this would likely attract the animals' curiosity. Could it be disguised to look like a rock or a log?

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