Getting up close and personal with large lions is really only an option for a few people in this world; for the rest of us, capturing close-ups requires a bit of engineering. Enter wildlife photographer Steve Mandel and his LionCam.
Inspired by UK photographer Will Burrard-Lucas (a favorite wildlife photographer of ours here on PetaPixel) and his famous BettleCam from a couple of years ago, Mandel took Burrard-Lucas’ design (they had been emailing back and forth) and augmented it to suit his needs on a recent trip to Kenya.
Specifically, Mandel tells, “I redid the electronics inside and out, new transmitter system, added a CamRanger, and re-machined the cover attachment system.” What he ended up with is the little-camera-housing-that-could you see in the video below (be sure to watch to the end!):
His version of the BeetleCam, much like the original, allowed him to get much closer to lions and other African wildlife than any normal wildlife photographer would ever dare to get.
Plus, it provided a curious toy that all the lions, and particularly the cubs, enjoyed playing with. That’s the part Mandel enjoyed most:
Really, the most fun was this lion in the video who wrapped his paws around it, hugging it, and would not let go. It was just a big cat toy for him. I think when he realized that it was neither prey or predator he just, in the end, ignored it. Treated it rather like a moving rock. He was so tired from hunting all night (this was shot at sunrise) he finally just went to sleep, cat-napping really.
Here are some of the images that Mandel was kind enough to send our way:
LionCam might be a premature name for it though, since Mandel tells us he intends to use it in other, perhaps even more dangerous, situations:
I was in Kenya to do some photography but I also do some work training wildlife conservation NGO management teams. One of them, Save the Elephants, asked me to try it out on elephants but warned me that an elephant might kick it or just crush it. They were just not sure. I didn’t get the opportunity to test it out on this trip but next trip to Africa I will. Now, where did I put that insurance policy? Hmmmm…
To see more photos taken with the LionCam, or if you’d like to browse through any more of Mandel’s wonderful wildlife photography portfolio, be sure to pay him a visit at his website.
Image credits: Photographs by Steve Mandel and used with permission