Lion vs. Nikon: a customised 4x4 rig for photographing wildlife

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Lions are often called the most majestic creatures. After watching this video, you will soon appreciate why.

(Screenshot by CBSi)

Photographer Chris McLennan is renowned for his travel images, though none can match the adventurous nature of these stills he was able to capture in Botswana. Rather than taking photos from a safari vehicle with a telephoto lens, McLennan got far closer using a customised camera rig.

The rig is called the "Car-L", which consists of a modified AquaTech sound blimp made to fit on a 4x4 buggy. Inside the blimp, McLennan placed the Nikon D800E alongside an 18-35mm lens to capture the lions. A remote trigger was used to fire the camera from a distance.

Having the rig situated so close to the ground gave McLennan a unique perspective on the lion kingdom. Halfway through the video, the inquisitive beasts try their hand at a spot of photography themselves. Though the rig was pretty much destroyed, the camera survived the inspection, so McLennan could extract the resulting images.

McLennan also explains some of the exposure settings used before he set the rig out into the wild — just in case you want to try this at home.

This is not the first time a photographer has used a motorised rig to get up close and personal with lions. Last year, two British wildlife photographers did a similar thing with two "BeetleCams" that had a live video feed to chart the camera's progress in real time.

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ArdeshirJ posted a comment   

Curious as always - cats.


PriteshD posted a comment   

Simba nooooo!


StephanH posted a comment   

Why did they need the buggy when they got such close shots OF the buggy with the lions? How did they get the video footage OF the lions AND the buggy doing its thing? Seems kinda redundant to me.


blaah posted a reply   
New Zealand

Because you don't get the same photos. Perspective is different with an ultra wide vs super telephoto + teleconverter. Most likely you will get depth of field differences as well. Also you cannot hope to get ground level shots as was shot here with a tele set-up.


BrentT posted a comment   

I dont understand why cnet hasnt optimized their mobile site to run video at 1080 instead of super crap quality. I shouldnt have to go to full site just to watch a video


oakhapa posted a comment   
United States

Melissa Bachman would rather gun them down...then take a picture. That she-devil.


JeffC2 posted a comment   

If only they could talk. I bet that old rubbed lioness has some battle/hunting stories to tell and then some.


JeffC2 posted a reply   


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