Elephant photographers

Filmmaker John Downer turned a bunch o elephants into walking cameras and used them to capture scenes of the jungle:

He fixed webcams to four elephants. One carried a "trunk-cam" - a device resembling a huge log concealing a camera which could be held in its trunk and dangled close to the ground.

Another had a "tusk-cam" hooked over its tusk. The elephants moved so steadily that the images are pin-sharp. Other log-cams were left on the forest floor.

The high-definition cameras were created by inventor Geoff Bell for a documentary in the remote Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh in the heart of India.

Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)


  1. I can’t wait for the inevitable BB story about how an elephant taking photographs for distribution under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license gets hassled by a mall security guard.

  2. This footage is featured in the BBC documentary series: Tiger – Spy in the Jungle. It looks like we’ve already missed episode one, but episode 2 and 3 are on iPlayer right now, and the first, at least, seems to download using the ruby version of “iplayer-dl”, I haven’t tried the strawp version, i will for the second one.
    More later..

  3. as cool as this is, i was greatly disappointed by the size of the camera.

    also, shouldn’t it be “© elephant” at the bottom? i dont take credit for photos people take on my cameras…

  4. OK, strawp doesn’t work, but both episodes 2 and 3 download fine, annoyingly (for non-signers) the 2nd ep is the signed version, so the picture is 15-20% smaller and there is a signer super-imposed on the right hand side.

    The 3rd looks like the original broadcast version.

  5. #9

    The most impressive stuff I’ve ever seen like this, was the WhaleCam stuff they did on Discovery, head-mounting a cam to a pod of humpback (or blue?) whale and watching them go down/down/down so deep.. it was incredible.

    I think it was “Diving With the Great Whales” by Mitsuaki Iwago, but I can’t find any reference pictures or images, so maybe not. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

  6. I too was impressed by the technique, but I have seen better pictures from a Kodak 110. The chromatic aberration is unbelievable.

    I agree that the elephant(s) should get some credit, but according to John Downer’s site there was usually a human operating the camera from the back of another elephant nearby. Many of the shots were taken from logs the elephants dropped off and picked up later. I am not aware of any filmmakers that credit their tripods (or quadpods). Fancy rigs like Westcams or Jibs get credits and truckloads of money.

    #1) I would very much like to meet the fool who would dare tell an elephant to leave a shopping mall for any reason. I would be happy to take CC pictures of them because I am confident they would no longer be in any shape to object.

  7. Arkizzle: I remember that, it was tremendous stuff. The thing that stayed with me about it was that on the way down, the whales were chattering among themselves all the way. Then suddenly they stopped and went quiet. One of the whales moved back and put its eye right up to the camera, which was stuck to its friend’s back. It spent a few seconds looking at it, then they set off, chattering again. It was as if one of them said “What’s that on my back? Have a look, will ya?”. And all at about 300m down.

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