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Underwater virtual reality photography in New Caledonia
New Caledonia

Underwater photography has always been limited by poor visibility and the rapid loss of the red end of the spectrum in water. Not to mention the loss of angle of view from having a flat filter with air on one side and water on the other. As a result there are zillions of images of "specimen shots" of fish, invertebrates, and people but very few underwater landscape images. It is as if our photographic vision was limited by a very restrictive face mask where we can only peer at a limited part of the underwater world. And like night diving, the images only show what we can light up with our flash.

Spherical photography changes this completely, allowing the photographer to capture the whole scene. Although still limited by the water visibility, the images approach the feeling of being there. The blue filter effect remains a problem. When diving, our eyes adjust for this and we percieve more colors than when we later look at an underwater image that we took while diving. But I can process the raw images and white balance the colors to render a photograph that looks pretty close to what it looked like at that place and time.

I took this photo of the outer face of the fringing reef at Ilot Uatio, in the southern lagoon of New Caledonia,  to show the immense size of a single coral head just off the edge of the reef. It is in 8 meters of water and Freddy dove down next to it to give you an idea of how big the colony is.This single coral colony was about 7 meters in diameter and probably began life over a thousand years ago. The coral pinnacles in the area are alive with a tangle of corals of every description.

The resulting scenic of the coral reef really does look like it did when I was there taking the image. It gives you an understanding of the outer edge of a lagoon fringing reef that you would never have get without diving there yourself.

It is a very satisfying photograph. I have been taking underwater photographs since 1958 and I am very happy to be able to present an image that finally shows the reef as it looks to me - and to have it interactive so you can swivel around and admire the wonderful complexity of the coral reef just as I did. You can even hold your breath, if you like, to make it even more real.

Click here to compare this underwater panorama with "normal" underwater images of New Caledonia reefs.

Copyright: Richard Chesher
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 13392x6696
Taken: 12/04/2010
Uploaded: 02/05/2010
Updated: 04/03/2015
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Tags: underwater photography; underwater panoramas; underwater virtual reality; coral reef panoramas; underwater; diving; snorkeling; dive
  • Chloe Morin over 1 year ago
    Feels like it's was taken on an aquarium! Great catch :)
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    More About New Caledonia

    New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.