How this ‘camera car’ captured the perfect tiger close-up

It took intimate pictures of big cats—until a curious female got too close.

This story appears in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Every photographer has a dream shot. For Steve Winter, that shot was a tiger’s face seen from below. The challenge, says Winter—who has long covered big cats and other wildlife for National Geographic—was getting that perspective in a way that didn’t end with his own face inside the animal’s mouth.

Enter this apparatus, a camera mounted on a four-wheel, remote-controlled vehicle. The “camera car” had been built by the National Geographic Society's Exploration Technology Lab engineers but never used. Winter saw its potential to capture that looking-upward view and asked if he could take it to India for a project on tiger conservation.

In Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India, male tigers ran from the camera car, but this one paused long enough to be photographed.
In Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India, male tigers ran from the camera car, but this one paused long enough to be photographed.
Photograph by Steve Winter

In the field, the contraption didn’t last long. Though male tigers “ran away” from it, Winter says, a curious female batted it with her enormous paw. That probably did the camera in—but not before it caught the shot Winter was after.

More from Steve Winter

Out of the Shadows

Ghost Cats

Grassland Kingdom

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