NatGeo to capture sensational images of African lions with robots and drones

The award-winning photographer and editor, Michael Nichols has spent the past two years living with lions in Tanzania. He has been working on a feature story published in this month’s issue of National Geographic where he ventured into Africa’s Serengeti Plain in July 2011 to document a pride of lions. According to the magazine, he was to provide a more intimate glimpse into the daily lives of one of the world’s most fearsome predators — and to photograph them in ways we have never seen them before.

“You don’t want to be looking down on animals. They hate it; it is demeaning to them, I couldn’t bear photographing lions looking down on them; it made me sick to my stomach.”

— Michael Nichols

Without mentioning it, its obvious that capturing the lions from an up-close, ground level posed obvious risks, both to the safety of the Nichols’ team and the welfare of the lion pride they were following. They could have easily photographed the lions from afar with standard telephoto lenses, but National Geographic had a another solution in mind — one that involved aerial drones, robots, and infrared lights. And the results, published last week in an online gallery and interactive website, are nothing short of astounding.

There was a fear of how the animals would  react to the drones and robots, but according to cinematographer Nathan Williamson, 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.”

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According to Nichols, the technology provided “an opportunity to photograph animals on their terms,” though it’s unclear whether similar devices could be used to capture elephants, zebras, or other species.

Source: NatGeo; YouTube; Living with Lions feature

Image Credit: National Geographic