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Camera trap image taken by Will Burrard-Lucas using Camtraptions PIR motion sensor. (Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas)

What is it like to look up from the feet of an elephant or to see eye-to-eye with a leopard from inches away? UK photographer Will Burrard-Lucas is on a quest to show you, but he had to invent his own set of photo gear and start his own hardware company to achieve it.

I met Burrard-Lucas in December on a photo expedition to Antarctica, which he helped to lead. He shared how his photography has evolved and the devices he has created to support his work.

After studying physics at university and a brief stint as an accountant in London, Burrard-Lucas became a full-time wildlife photographer. In 2009, he invented a remote-controlled vehicle for a DSLR camera called the BeetleCam, designed to get close to large and dangerous animals like lions, elephants and buffalo.

Elephants photographed with a remote camera-buggy (BeetleCam). South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. (Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas)

He also started a company called Camtraptions to sell the gear to fellow photographers. “What I wanted to achieve with it was to get my camera down low, on the ground and really close to my subject, so I could photograph them with a wide angle lens,” said Burrard-Lucas.

Will Burrard-Lucas with a BeetleCam (Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas)

The first version of the BeetleCam revealed a critical design flaw when the camera was mauled by a lion, leading to the current design that includes an armored shell along with four-wheel drive, wireless control and camera-tilting capabilities.

A clan of inquisitive spotted hyenas photographed with a remote-control camera in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia. Hyenas in Liuwa vastly out-number other predators and this has made them extremely bold. The also form large clans of up to 50 animals! I often found the hyenas would stroll right up to my camera to investigate it! Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia (Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas)
(Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas)

The remote-controlled camera buggy wasn’t effective to capture photos of creatures that are shy around humans or nocturnal, so Burrard-Lucas set out to create his own camera trap sensors.

Using passive infrared sensors like those found in your home security system encased in a weather-tight housing, the sensors are able to wirelessly trigger both camera shutters and flashes.

“I can leave it out for weeks or even months at a time, just waiting for that animal to pass, said Burrard-Lucas. “Because the camera trap allowed me time to set up lighting in advance, it is actually one of the best ways to photograph nocturnal creatures.”

Hyena at night taken by Will Burrard-Lucas using Camtraptions PIR motion sensor.(Photo courtesy of Will Burrard-Lucas)

Will encourages photographers interested in camera trap photography to try it out in their back yard. “Whether it’s interesting lighting effects that you setup or going after that really elusive creature, there are a lot of different ways that people are using these camera traps to try to capture something that hasn’t been captured before,” said Burrard-Lucas.

See more of Will Burrard-Lucas’ spectacular work and the remote camera equipment that he created at willbl.com.

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