It's essential to document the current state of our oceans due to the fact that coral reefs, worldwide, are gradually deteriorating from changes in our climate. That's why in January Allan Adams, Associate Professor Physics MIT and Keith Ellenbogen, underwater photographer and MIT CAST Visiting Artist developed a course entitled "Underwater Conservation Photography" — a crash-course in underwater conservation photography covering everything from underwater optics to hacking simple ROVs to building custom imaging devices to the ecology of coral reef ecosystems and the behavior of their inhabitants. The final week of the course Keith and Allan took 16 MIT students to the Wildlife Conservation Society's Glover's Reef Research Station in Belize to practice the art of underwater photography in the field.
Prior to their trip, they contacted the Museum of Science's Planetarium team for their expertise in 360° video and, together, began to plan for the dive. The video was originally created as part of a live talk given in the Charles Hayden Planetarium. Today, we are happy to bring this experience to the web through the use of streaming video and VR.
So, how do you capture 360° video while underwater? It’s possible through the use of 6 GoPro® cameras and a specially designed scuba rig. Capturing full 360° video is very challenging and even more so underwater. There are many worrying factors when pairing scuba diving with photography. You need to monitor oxygen levels, focus and expose your camera, be mindful of sea life, keep the group together, track the boat, and the list continues. For this reason, being prepared mentally, physically, and technically was very important. While the students were practicing shooting underwater still photography in an olympic-sized pool, our friends at the New England Aquarium allowed us to complete our first live test in their Giant Ocean Tank. We were thrilled with the results and ready for the dive.
The expedition began at the Glover’s Reef Research Station in Belize, operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The WCS mission is to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on Earth. The team worked with the research station staff to carefully dive in the conserved coral reefs and shoot underwater photography.
Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR) is located on the southernmost of Belize’s three atolls. It is approximately 45km east of the Dangriga and 75km southeast of Belize City. The approximately 86,653 acre reef was established as a protected area in 1993 and is one of the seven protected areas included within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. It is considered one of the highest priority areas in the Mesoamerican Caribbean Reef system, providing recruitment, nursery, feeding and dwelling areas for lobster, conch and finfish, and providing unique fish habitat in the interior lagoon. It is an important component of not only Belize’s national marine protected areas system, but also at a regional and international level.
A co-production by MIT and the Museum of Science, Boston:
Special thanks to: