Slow Life

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 by Daniel Stoupin
“Slow” marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives. Learn more about what you see in my post.

To a common question: yes, colors are real, no digital enhancement, just white balance correction with curves. When photographers use white light on corals, they simply miss the vast majority of colors. Read more in my blog. This clip, as well as stock footage, is available in 4k resolution. Make sure you watch it on a large screen! You won’t be able to appreciate this clip or see individual cells moving in a sponge on a smartphone. If you have a full-HD screen, when you enter full-screen mode, please press on “view actual size” next to the HD icon to improve sharpness.

To make this little clip I took 150000 shots. Why so many? Because macro photography involves shallow depth of field. To extend it, I used focus stacking. Each frame of the video is actually a stack that consists of 3-12 shots where in-focus areas are merged. Just the intro and last scene are regular real-time footage. One frame required about 10 minutes of processing time (raw conversion + stacking). Unfortunately, the success rate was very low due to copious technical challenges and I spent almost 9 long months just to learn how to make these kinds of videos and understand how to work with these delicate creatures. I am glad that I abandoned the idea of making this clip in 3D (with two cameras) – very few people have 3D screens and it doubles processing time.

Gear: – Canon 7D (died at the beginning of the project as I had overused it in my research), Canon 5d Mkiii (90% of footage is done with it) – Canon MP-E 65 mm lens – adjustable custom-spectrum lamps (3 different models) – they were needed to recreate natural underwater illumination.  – several motorized stages including StackShot for focus stacking – multiple computers to process thousands of 22+ Mpx raw images and perform focus stacking (an old laptop died on that mission after 3 weeks of continuous processing). Edited in Sony Vegas, Adobe Photoshop CS6, Zerene Stacker, and Helicon Focus. Music: Atmostra III by Cedric Baravaglio, Jonathan Ochmann and Zdravko Djordjevic.

Visit my website to see more cool stuff: microworldsphotography.com (consideration to buy a print from my website or to use the tip jar below the video is always welcome, but this option is better)

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