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National Geographic drones help capture Serengeti wildlife close up

By dpreview staff on Aug 11, 2013 at 00:18 GMT

What's the safest way to get close up photos of lions on the Serengeti? Send in a robot. And an aerial drone. That's what photographer Michael Nichols and his crew did, producing incredible images for a National Geographic feature. From a nearby car, Nichols and crew directed a small remote-controlled robot outfitted with a Canon camera toward lion prides as they hunted, slept and well, do everything lions do. And we do mean everything.

Photo by Michael Nichols. A remote-controlled robot was used to get this shot.
Photo by Michael Nichols. Infrared light was used to photograph lions at night without disturbing them.
Photo by Michael Nichols.

We highly recommend taking a look at the rest of the published photos from this project, as well as the interactive feature on the National Geographic website.

Comments

Total comments: 43
Visit50
By Visit50 (8 months ago)

They explain the challenges with using flash for the night pictures in the full image gallery - but the infrared seemed to work great.

"Everything was being destroyed by curious hyenas and hippos angry after being flashed in the face, so we told the cameras not to take pictures at night ... just at dusk and dawn"

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/visions/field-test/nichols-serengeti/photo-gallery#/13
-Todd @ Visit50.com

0 upvotes
Visit50
By Visit50 (8 months ago)

Awesome shots! They were originally posted in 2011 on Nat Geo's site.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/visions/field-test/nichols-serengeti/photo-gallery#/1

-Todd @ Visit50.com

0 upvotes
Photo-Wiz
By Photo-Wiz (8 months ago)

Photos are stunning. The Videos are the best lion videos I've ever seen...akes you feel like you are walking right along side the lions c

0 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (8 months ago)

Don't the camera drones make a heckuva lot of noise? Hardly compatible with "candid" shots. Imagine one that lands (or malfunctions) near some irate beasts. There goes a $7k drone.

The robots present a similar dilemma. "OK, all you cats. Shots over. Go away. Hatari want camera back. Bwana."

0 upvotes
Mrrowe8
By Mrrowe8 (8 months ago)

Apparently not and these are super photos and actually might b better ,less of a foot print in the ever shrinking habitat of these noble animals

0 upvotes
T3
By T3 (8 months ago)

Hmm, lets see: internet nerd on some photography equipment forum telling National Geographic photog how to do his job, versus National Geographic photographer actually *doing* the job and bringing back excellent results with the same "camera drones" that the blowhard internet nerd says is "hardly compatible with 'candid' shots." Uh, I think I'll side with the National Geographic photographer.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
T3
By T3 (8 months ago)

BTW, some of these photos were done with a DSLR mounted to an R/C car that they remotely "drove" into position to take the shots. That's why a lot of these shots are so low to the ground. Basically just a fancy toy remote controlled car. Not a whole lot of noise there, especially if it's stopped.

0 upvotes
lucidmedias
By lucidmedias (8 months ago)

awesome!

0 upvotes
Vadimka
By Vadimka (8 months ago)

Were those taken before or after it blew-up Al Qaeda leader?

0 upvotes
RDCollins
By RDCollins (8 months ago)

I don't see anything in the article about using drones. Any more information on that?

0 upvotes
JackM
By JackM (8 months ago)

Exactly. Drone is the wrong word here.

0 upvotes
Allison Johnson
By Allison Johnson (8 months ago)

Here's another Verge post that better explains the use of drones: http://www.theverge.com/2011/12/18/2645097/national-geographic-living-with-lions-micro-copter

0 upvotes
RDCollins
By RDCollins (8 months ago)

Thanks, although I can't believe that thing could get close to the lions without scaring them away, especially considering some of the photos.

This story lacks critical information.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (8 months ago)

Some of the critical information is in this Verge story, which has a lot more detail than the Verge link Allison posted. For one thing, it says the lions acclimated to the drones much faster than they ever did to humans.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/9/4604876/national-geographic-living-with-lions-serengeti-robot-drone-photography

"There was also concern over how the lions would react to the drone and robot, but according to Nichols, they adapted rather quickly. 'After only three visits they didn't care about that tank," he told the magazine. "At first they were cautious... But after five or six times they were all falling asleep with it.' "

0 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (8 months ago)

This use is interesting.

I hope we don't end up with somebody strapping a GOPRO to a prey animal.

1 upvote
Erick L
By Erick L (8 months ago)

They've been doing that for a while:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/crittercam/

0 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (8 months ago)

mercy

0 upvotes
mehran langari
By mehran langari (8 months ago)

this is my wish, wild life photography

0 upvotes
birdbrain
By birdbrain (8 months ago)

Many years ago they used a similar method on a David Attenborough series, the camera was hidden in a mobile rock called 'boulder cam'.

They did a number of series using this camera and it provided some amazing footage.

These shots would appear to be using a similar method first used back in 1995!

It has only taken the photographic world 18 years to catch up!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Wildlife_Specials

Comment edited 11 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (8 months ago)

Catch up? I really doubt the "boulder cam" could move. These cameras are mobile.

0 upvotes
garyknrd
By garyknrd (8 months ago)

I bet that drone cannot run as fast as me if a lion or elephant was chasing it.

1 upvote
babalu
By babalu (8 months ago)

he-he..if a lion or elephant were chasing you, it doesn't matter how fast you run.

2 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (8 months ago)

It is a benefit enough to faster than any other human nearby. He doesn't need to be faster than the lion.

They don't chase /him/, they chase the first thing they can catch.

2 upvotes
babalu
By babalu (8 months ago)

The lions know that. They still go for the fastest guy, and then just wait for the others to pass by.

0 upvotes
narddogg81
By narddogg81 (8 months ago)

how are the getting the lighting in there with the drones? other drones?

0 upvotes
AshMills
By AshMills (8 months ago)

They use interns to set up the lights and do the makeup.

12 upvotes
Michael Ma
By Michael Ma (8 months ago)

Never been much of a wildlife fan, but wow, the interactive website has the most amazing wildlife footages I've ever seen. The closeness makes it better than any documentary shot at a distance.

0 upvotes
Dedcakes
By Dedcakes (8 months ago)

I highly recommend the interactive videos on the article. There are videos from a pov we haven't seen before.

0 upvotes
HarrieD7000
By HarrieD7000 (8 months ago)

I think I never scan make pictures like those, because I'm too old to go to the Serengeti. But I do love these pictures. I do realise I can see pictures my grand parents never saw, or could see. I must be a lucky guy, to live in this age.

2 upvotes
Philz
By Philz (8 months ago)

Why are animals still being photographed? We need stories and, as David Attenborough has shown, those are told beautifully on film.

0 upvotes
brumd
By brumd (8 months ago)

Click on the link that says 'interactive feature'.

0 upvotes
SRT3lkt
By SRT3lkt (8 months ago)

drones can't take blurry elephant photo though...

1 upvote
Tan68
By Tan68 (8 months ago)

That may be true.

The image of the lion giving birth on the zebra is jaw dropping.

3 upvotes
techmine
By techmine (8 months ago)

Appreciate the effort but I still love the normal wild life photography. Those long zooms capturing the animals unaware.

0 upvotes
brycesteiner
By brycesteiner (8 months ago)

Why are the lions not scared of the drones or robots? In one of the pictures on the NatlGeo site you can see the shadow of the robot. It's close.

1 upvote
TWIZEEL
By TWIZEEL (8 months ago)

"cause they use a nose beyond the sight. they trust more smell, than sound.

3 upvotes
Tom_N
By Tom_N (8 months ago)

If you were a lion, would you be scared of a small robot? A lion would probably think of such a robot as PREY that, for some reason, does not smell tasty enough to be worth hunting.

2 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (8 months ago)

Drones are pushing the envelope of accessibility where no one has captured an image angle before.

It's open season as to who will be the first to exploit this advantage on other such "never before done" scenarios, as this article have shown.

.

3 upvotes
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (8 months ago)

A bit creepy and voyeuristic, no?

3 upvotes
Scorpius1
By Scorpius1 (8 months ago)

You need to get out more...

4 upvotes
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (8 months ago)

No.

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (8 months ago)

No, but it sure does have potential....

0 upvotes
iShootWideOpen
By iShootWideOpen (8 months ago)

Awesome!!!

4 upvotes
Total comments: 43