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Ele-vision
March 24, 2008 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Film-maker John Downer fitted four elephants with cameras and set them loose. Many of the resulting photos are cute, and some seem made for photoshopping.
posted by spaltavian (34 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's terrific; the animals are looking right at the camera without any trace of the fear you normally associate with wild animal photography. Very candid, if such a thing applies to animals.
posted by davejay at 8:14 PM on March 24, 2008


These are elephantastic.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:16 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's up with the odd fish-eye effect? Surely he could find a $20 lens that wouldn't cause that...
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:21 PM on March 24, 2008


Those are great. It's cool how much "personality" seems to come through those photos compared with most run-of-the-mill animal photography. Maybe it's the fisheye.
posted by Dr. Send at 8:25 PM on March 24, 2008


Wow. I wasn't expecting the "trunk cam" to be so freaking huge. If I were that elephant, I would be totally pissed.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 8:26 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, did he really have to strap an entire tree to the poor things?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:27 PM on March 24, 2008


More info, including video.
posted by nowonmai at 8:29 PM on March 24, 2008


Pretty cool, do the elephants get the Nat Geo award?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:30 PM on March 24, 2008


Also!
Hilarious tortoise-cam action.
posted by nowonmai at 8:33 PM on March 24, 2008


So elephants are this social in the wild? I had no idea.
posted by null terminated at 8:41 PM on March 24, 2008


Thanks, nowonmai!
posted by spaltavian at 8:57 PM on March 24, 2008


I shot one in my pajamas.

How he got the Nikon EL2 with its companion AW-1 Auto Winder in my pajamas, I'll never know.
posted by tkchrist at 9:01 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Elephants never forget, null. It makes them very social animals. News of the wild, plus they always know your name and details about your family. Gregarious by nature, so to say (they'd rather be left alone, is what I've heard.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 PM on March 24, 2008


This is great! Thanks for posting this.
posted by homunculus at 9:07 PM on March 24, 2008


I can't believe they didn't publish this one.

This is cool anyway.
posted by carsonb at 9:24 PM on March 24, 2008


This is so awesome.
posted by stefanie at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2008


Woop De Doo! They can take pictures. Big deal. They can't dance like Michael Jackson though, can they!

Walruses - 1
Elephants - 0
posted by dobbs at 9:37 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


sonic meat machine, I would imagine that the cameras are not remote control so the wide angle lens would assure more of the subject appearing in the not-so-trained elephant camera operators images.
posted by podwarrior at 9:51 PM on March 24, 2008


I think it's a "Ken Burns" type of effect. It crops in really tight, giving them more ability to make the images appear centered on the frame, even if they were only caught partially on-camera.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on March 24, 2008


Actually, watching the video, it does appear the cameras are controlled. Even more amazing, it shows an elephant placing a camera on the ground with its tusks. So really, it isn't your simple cat cam, it appears that the elephants are actively participating in the photography, which is all sorts of cool.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:33 PM on March 24, 2008


mrzarquon, that makes me think the copyright on those photos should read "John Downer/Elephant's name".
posted by spaltavian at 10:37 PM on March 24, 2008


thank you, spaltavian AND dobbs!
posted by CitizenD at 11:12 PM on March 24, 2008


Adorable.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:18 PM on March 24, 2008


Those other animals seem to be saying, "Hey man, you've got a big tree trunk on your face."
posted by PHINC at 11:20 PM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


null, yes they are:
Elephants, when left to their own devices, are profoundly social creatures. A herd of them is, in essence, one incomprehensibly massive elephant: a somewhat loosely bound and yet intricately interconnected, tensile organism. Young elephants are raised within an extended, multitiered network of doting female caregivers that includes the birth mother, grandmothers, aunts and friends. These relations are maintained over a life span as long as 70 years. Studies of established herds have shown that young elephants stay within 15 feet of their mothers for nearly all of their first eight years of life, after which young females are socialized into the matriarchal network, while young males go off for a time into an all-male social group before coming back into the fold as mature adults.

When an elephant dies, its family members engage in intense mourning and burial rituals, conducting weeklong vigils over the body, carefully covering it with earth and brush, revisiting the bones for years afterward, caressing the bones with their trunks, often taking turns rubbing their trunks along the teeth of a skull’s lower jaw, the way living elephants do in greeting. If harm comes to a member of an elephant group, all the other elephants are aware of it.
Thanks for the link, spaltavian. I wish there were more pictures available!
posted by hellopanda at 11:36 PM on March 24, 2008


shakespeherian: "Yeah, did he really have to strap an entire tree to the poor things?"

My question exactly. These photos are great and all but that photo of the way the camera is attached to the trunk concerns me. There's no mention in the article about how it was attached to the trunk and whether the elephants were in any pain or not. I suspect that its all above board but I'd like more details on that aspect of the project before my conscience allows me to fully enjoy the otherwise very cool pictures.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:29 AM on March 25, 2008


After knowing the People for a year or so, they named me. It was not a name that was formally bestowed on me in a ceremony, but was more a nickname. Someone had probably referred to me as Elephant, and the name stuck (for a while, at least).

I did not like the name Gaja. I thought they saw me as lumbering, awkward, and big. I am not big, not massive as elephants are -- but I am taller than most of the Sng'oi. My mind was stuck on an image of circus elephants doing silly tricks. I was a slave to my own cliches.

Only later did it occur to me that they may have meant something entirely different when they called me Elephant. They had never seen a circus; they would not know elephants that did tricks. And I did not know what an elephant meant to them until one evening long after the sun had gone down. Only a few people were still awake in the hut where I would sleep that night. There was a slight rustle outside, the sound of someone tiptoeing very lightly through dry grass.

"Elephant," one of the women whispered.

"They are very curious, and they walk very softly," a young boy added, also in a barely audible whisper.

I do not think I said anything, but the catch in my breath must have given me away.

"Elephants are also very careful," the boy said. "They do not step on anything."
-- Robert Wolff
posted by Ritchie at 2:31 AM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I found this recent interview with Katy Payne on Speaking of Faith quite fascinating - she has been researching the bioacoustics of elephant (and whale) communication for a long time. By the end of the interview I was fairly convinced that the way we treat these animals is a moral outrage, and I'm quite hard to convince on such matters.
posted by Grangousier at 2:56 AM on March 25, 2008


From the first link: > Two playful leopards get in a tangle
Uh, no, freaked out Mom-cat grabs cub to run away from big camera-carrying elephant.
posted by dabitch at 3:38 AM on March 25, 2008


freaked out Mom-cat grabs cub to run away from big camera-carrying elephant.

Oh, thank you. I thought it was a cat with a birth defect.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:06 AM on March 25, 2008


that photo of the way the camera is attached to the trunk concerns me. There's no mention in the article about how it was attached to the trunk and whether the elephants were in any pain or not.

"John Downer Productions trained ranger elephants working in the Pench nature reserve in India to hold cameras hidden in fake tree stumps or fitted to their tusks... he came up with the “Trunkcam” idea after he noticed how carefully elephants carried firewood to a camp."

I doubt it would take the elephants very long to remove the cameras if they were causing any discomfort.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:03 AM on March 25, 2008


From the video on this site, it appears the elephants were carrying the camera-log with their trunk. It wasn't strapped to them and they could put it down when they felt like it.
posted by rusty at 10:38 AM on March 25, 2008


The first video on this page shows how the "trunk cam" works and helps to clarify things a bit.
posted by podwarrior at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2008


And by "remove the cameras" I think you mean "pulverize them against a rock." I am not real worried about these elephants.
posted by nev at 1:58 PM on March 25, 2008


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