How do you look a lion dead in the eye?
Or go face-to-face with a deadly African buffalo – otherwise known as “the Widowmaker?”
Australian husband-and-wife team Kym and Tonya Illman have worked it out.
Using pioneering photography techniques – including quadcopters, remote-controlled camera buggies and cameras buried in dung – they’ve managed to get the kind of closeup views of African wildlife usually seen only by creatures who are about to become lunch.
Learning in the field
The enthusiastic amateurs have no formal training.
They learned their tricks in the field during safari vacations.
“The vast majority of wildlife safari photos are taken from the top of a vehicle looking down on animals,” Kym Illman told Digital Photography magazine.
“We took the same easy route on the first couple of safaris and ended up with the same sorts of shots most people come away with.”
The Illmans began experimenting, and came up with a mobile ground-level camera buggy that they operate remotely to get different perspectives on wild animals.
Traveling through six countries
Their new book “Africa on Safari” is the culmination of thousands of hours journeying across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa and tells the stories behind the shoots.
They share all their secrets, including the types of cameras and other equipment used, and recommended locations.
The cover shot was taken in the Mara Triangle in Kenya when they spotted a hippo out of the water.
They placed the remote-controlled camera buggy in its path and the hippo walked straight up to take a look.
2,700 pictures and one star shot
One of their favorite shots came about when they came across a dead zebra and then hid a GoPro camera beside it in a pile of dung, programmed to take a photo every two seconds.
It took 2,700 pictures that day – including one perfect shot of a leopard.
Wild dogs and adolescent lions are intrigued by the buggy; cheetahs, lions and adult males aren’t interested; and giraffes and zebras run away from it.
The Illmans, however, say they’re always careful not to invade the animals’ personal space.
“Every day brings something new,” says Kim on his website. “I try to capture the new with new angles and new technology to get something unseen – something striking.”