Robotic camera meets lion pride

Here’s a nice video of a photographer enclosing a Nikon in a robotic vehicle, directing it into a lion pride, and then snapping away remotely.  There are some great photos here, and the lions’ behavior when they first see the tiny vehicle is priceless.

Of course one lion decides to nom the thing, but the camera and its photos survive.

h/t: Jacobus


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    In one of those photos, the lion on the left has a blue eye. I wonder if it’s injured.

    • Maple
      Posted December 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Her ear was a tattered too, I was wondering if she was blind in one eye, or had some other eye trauma…?

  2. Achrachno
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Looks like they need to coat the buggy in pepper sauce, or similar.

  3. hank_says
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Now that is how you shoot a lion.

  4. Posted December 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on SelfAwarePatterns and commented:
    I’m struck by how much the robot looked like an animal itself wondering into the pride. It’s a wonder the lions took as long as they did to treat it as prey.

  5. P
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    the lioness response to a a moving (probably more specifically, non-random moving {i.e. does not follow newton’s laws} object), unidentified object are:
    1. if it can’t/won’t/doesn’t harm you or others like you
    2. then it is food


    • Damocles
      Posted December 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      These are cool pics, but I think this is more of a novel marketing idea than something really necessary. If you want to take cool pics of lions you don’t need a remote control camera. Lions can be just as “chill” and lazy as housecats.

      Here’s a short photo-blog post about getting close lions that a guy made in response to Melissa Bachman’s murderous and cowardly “hunting” of a lion:

      • microraptor
        Posted December 1, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        I can think of things that are more cowardly than killing lions, but bragging about killing a lion with a high powered, scoped hunting rifle is pretty pathetic.

        Really, if you want to show how impressive you are because you can kill a lion, you should make it a proper challenge: walk up to the lion and slap him in the face with your glove.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 2, 2013 at 4:30 am | Permalink

        Nice link. I particularly liked the comment “Lions do not give a shit about you. They see you as that big van. They don’t mess with you.”

      • Posted December 2, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink


        You want to impress me with your lion hunting prowess, show me a selfie of you putting a PostIt with your signature on his ass.

        Either that, or use a dart gun with a tranquilizer, and only when the licensed veterinarian who hired you so the cat can get a thorough physical / dental tells you it’s okay.


        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 2, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          Sneak up behind a lion and pull its tail!

          • Posted December 2, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink



            That’s too chicken.

            Bite the tail.


            • Marcel Volker
              Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

              (what would Steve Irwin do?)

              He’d jump the lion from behind, wrestle it into submission, then pick it up by its tail.

              “Oh look, it’s tryin’ to bite me!”

              Anything less than that is just ho-hum :).

      • Marcel Volker
        Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Re the pics, I agree, actually it struck me how the best pics were taken from just a few metres away – presumably from the van – of the pride AND the buggy.

        The photos from the “rig” are indeed more a kind of advanced Facebook snap.

  6. Posted December 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    As an anecdotal comparison, I have approached domesticated dogs with a small RC car, and they were pretty freaked out about it. Excited and interested, but they would not come near it. Here the lions come right up, investigate, and try to nom it.

  7. Posted December 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Four-and-a-half-minute video with less than a minute of footage from the featured equipment?

    Marketing, nothing more nor less. Any zoology department at a decent university could do WAY better…

    This is an advertisement, end of story.

    • Walt Jones
      Posted December 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      And most of the stills in the video were of the camera, not from the camera.

    • hank_says
      Posted December 1, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      The first couple of seconds of the vid, where the HP and Nikon logos are front and centre – makes it pretty clear that that’s what it is. Dunno why people are getting miffed about it being an ad – it’s not like it was a surprise.

      • Walt Jones
        Posted December 2, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        I don’t care that it’s an ad, per se, but I wanted to see more of the pictures from it. Because it’s an ad, however, the producers needed to show the product.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

          Possibly there weren’t that many good pics from the camera. After all, they couldn’t accurately frame the shots (could they? – I don’t think it had a transmitter for the LCD display). I suspect they just had to trigger it when they thought it was looking in the right direction and hope the shot came out.

          Still a clever idea though.

  8. BilBy
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    As someone who once had the misfortune to get out of a car in a game reserve, and then look down a very shallow slope and see the face of a lion about 2 metres away staring at me intently, I cannot now see those pale round eyes without feeling a chill (note: I wasn’t being a total idiot, we did have permission to be out of the car to do research, we had just got lazy about checking for big dangerous things – we stopped being lazy after that)

  9. Stephen Barnard
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I was a litle disappointed with the stills from the camera, though some were dramatic. It needs work. Video could be better? The most interesting content was long-range. Good effort.

  10. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    A different and interesting example of wildlife action photography: a White-bellied Sea-eagle flies off with a video camera, which was later found 110 km away from where it was set.

  11. Posted December 2, 2013 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    The BBC with Sir David Attenborough disguised a camera as elephant poop on wheels many years ago to get unique footage of wildlife.

  12. Posted December 2, 2013 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Great video, by the way (the lion one).

  13. Marcel Volker
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    The funny thing is that this is a Nikon ad. But actually the 800E that they used is hardly the best camera to do this with.

    It’s expensive, so needs more protection, it’s heavy, so needs a heavier buggy, and it’s full frame, so it gives you less depth of field. Its 36 MP is also quite overkill.

    This could have been done for a third of the effort and expense with a good micro four thirds – Panasonic most likely, or the latest Olympus – and you’d get as good or better pics. But Nikon has the marketing budget to do this.

    • Posted December 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s especially true considering the lens, ISO, focus, and aperture they’re using. All they’re getting with that camera is a high resolution image of lens aberrations. And they don’t even get a particularly fast frame rate, either. Definitely not the right tool for the job.

      Much better would have been a Canon 1DX with the TS-E 17mm f/4 L for the same field of view, and a good argument could be made for either the 14mm prime or the 8-15 fisheye zoom as well.

      I imagine Nikon has similar offerings…but not, at the moment, for the body….



  14. marksolock
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

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