What I learnt from Will Burrad-Lucas

All the photographs included here are the sole property of Will Burrad-Lucas. I’ve included them purely for educational purposes.

In photography, the goal is to tell a story through an image. Someone should be able to view your image and understand its message. Your inspiration and goal should be encapsulated in the scene before you press the shutter.

But nowadays, images that grab your attention are becoming increasingly rare, especially in wildlife photography. Everyone seems to have taken this medium, and social media is flooded daily with a host of images. Most stories seemed to have already been told. For wildlife photography to rise above this, it must be very powerful. It must herald a new way of looking at these creatures. Gone are the days when a mere edge-to-edge animal portrait could fire up people’s imagination. We need something new, something different.

Will Burrad-Lucas is a photographer who tried to do something different. 

He was a traditional photographer, following the well-worn path when one day, he realised that his images were stale. To battle this, he decided to change his perspective. He strived to photograph wildlife from the ground up, an angle few could even dream of. He wanted an intimacy lacking in traditional wildlife photography at the time. 

His first attempt at such a photograph involved sitting next to a penguin colony and shooting them with a wide-angle lens. Since this yielded some good results, he upped his game to more dangerous animals. By attaching a camera to a long pole, he got some up-close shots of Komodo Dragons, the world’s largest lizard.

Seeing that this line of thought had potential, he did what most aspiring wildlife photographers do—he went to Africa. But he had to tweak his technique since Africa’s iconic animals (lions, elephants, hyenas) were too dangerous to approach up close. He attached his camera to an RC car and drove it up to the animals, triggering it remotely. This got him some of the most unique shots of wildlife the world has ever seen.

Soon, however, he realised that this method was only suitable for shooting bold wildlife, animals that tolerated the car (which he named beetlecam). There were many animals that were too shy remained to be photographed. So he embarked on yet another method to photograph elusive wildlife.

With the help of motion sensors (from home security devices), Will devised a camera trap that would trigger every time an animal walked by. These contraptions could be left in the field for long time periods and, with the help of flashes, could photograph nocturnal animals. So he set up many such camera traps in the field, garnering him some world-class images.

Over the years, he has started a company that sells camera trap equipment that he has designed called “Camtraptions”. They create specialised remote-photography equipment, like the RC car housing he used earlier, camera-trap sensors, flashes and much more

With this technique, he photographed a reclusive melanistic leopard, commonly called a black panther. This almost mythical animal inspires curiosity in many, and photographing it in its element was a monumental task. Nevertheless, with hard work and a lot of patience, he created a photo series that took the world by storm. Through it, he wanted to show the world where nature still held secrets waiting to be discovered.

There are several things I admire about Will Burrad-Lucas. He envisioned a novel approach to wildlife photography and made that vision a reality. He pioneered a technique in a field which seemed to abound with mediocrity. Moreover, he was able to convert his methodology into a product that he now sells to scores of photographers all around the world.

Specifically, I love his work with elephants and leopards. He worked with the

His hunt for the black leopard is a thriller in itself. I’ll let you read it in his own words here.

In his Tedx talk, Will draws out some life lessons he has learnt during his photography journey. He says that when you land on something that works (like beetlecam), you must double down on it. He also says, “The greatest accomplishments are often recognised when the margin between success and failure is at its narrowest”.

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He says that it is always worth stepping out of your comfort zone because the risks of failure are nothing compared to the joy of success. I thought this statement was extremely insightful. We often stop ourselves from trying out new hobbies because we fear failure. But what are we so afraid of? So what if we fail? How does that really affect us, apart from teaching us something?

I highly resonate with Will’s story, method, and shots. His drive to do something different and his ability to monetise his ingenuity separate him from other photographers. 

Now I am not in a place where I can risk placing my camera under large wildlife, but I can adopt this new way of thinking. With smaller animals (frogs, snakes etc.), I can shoot from underneath. I can also shoot people and other subjects from a lower perspective and see how it turns out.

The biggest takeaway for me is that when you’re in a rut, switch things up. Try things that no one else is doing. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone will open several new doors.

A time will come when I can try out Will’s method. Until then…

You must take a look at his work.

You can also check out his company Camtraptions to learn more. 

If you are on Instagram, check out Camtraption’s profile. They post images of photographers all over the world who use their products.

Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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