Sadly, wild African lions and humans aren't exactly the best mix together (because we're their food), but since lions are one hell of an interesting animal, we can't help but document what goes on in their lives. 

National Geographic knows this well, and they recently used drones and robots to take awesome pictures of African lions in 2011, which are just getting published in this month's issue. 

"Lions have already been photographed a lot," said the photographer, Michael Nichols, in an interview with National Geographic this month. "But there are a lot of barriers to making interesting photography. Lions sleep all the time. In the day they are in energy-saving mode, and they work at night. Almost all images are made from the protection of a car, because they are dangerous predators. So you see a lot of portraits through telephoto lenses, mostly of things like lions sleeping under trees."

"You don't want to be looking down on animals: They hate it; it is demeaning to them," he continued. "Old zoos put the animals in pits, but if you go to a modern zoo you look up at the tigers. That makes their lives better; it makes them feel like king of the beasts. I couldn't bear photographing lions looking down on them; it made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to photograph them at their level or lower."

Normally, photographers take telephoto lenses that can snap photos from afar, but the magazine had a different idea in mind: using drones, robots, and infrared light. The final photos are amazing, and you can check out some of the best above, and go to National Geographic's interactive website for more.

[via National Geographic]