The Panographers - Episode 2: OCEANS (underwater panoramas)

Host: Gavin Farrell, Cohost: Thomas Hayden


Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth's surface yet until recently there hadn't been an abundance of documentation in the form of underwater spherical panoramas.  Standing on a beach on a stormy day and looking out across the water it's not hard to imagine why. The ocean poses logistical, technical and physiological challenges to a panoramic photographer, whether shooting spherical panoramas and "underpans" or with specialized hybrid systems. This episode will give you an amazing glimpse into the people who have not only risen to the challenge but have created masterworks. People who have combined engineering with an unparalleled creative vision and tackled the problems from all sides. We'll dive into the nitty-gritty and hope you rise to the surface inspired. 




Aaron Spence - Founder & Lead Photographer,



Corey Jaskolski - National Geographic Fellow

Jason Buchheim - Marine Biologist

Richard Chesher - Marine Biologist



Aaron Spence:

GRR: Transect Viewer: Dolphins

Catlin Seaview Survey:


Google Views Oceans:

Aaron's Company:

Project Company:


Corey Jaskolski:

National Geographic Fellow link:

National Geographic Magazine Issue shown:






Jason Buchheim:


Marine Biologist/Underwater Photographer/Adventurer: jasonbuchheim @

Director, Odyssey Expeditions Tropical Marine Biology Voyages:  



Links to Jason's underwater panoramas



Jason's  3D panorama viewer can be used for viewing stereoscopic image pairs in side by side, over under (3DTV) and anaglyph (red-blue glasses)  he has it set up to work with image pairs that have been uploaded to



You can explore these images here  please explore these and try zooming far into the scene.  (these do not work on iOS devices currently, for demo of iOS devices, see )



If you would ever wish to try stereo panoramas, please sign up for a free account here

Contact Jason and he will try to set you up with an account and instructions on how to  use the image pair alignment software.  The stereo software is actually does an amazing amount of stuff behind the scenes to create a smooth, seamless experiences for the users, without the alignment technology, deep zoom of stereo pairs would not be possible.



Richard Chesher:


The first five panoramas shown in this episode as well as additional descriptions written by Richard himself, as follows:


I began taking professional underwater photographs in 1960 as a professional diver with Ribikoff Oceanics - a company that made underwater camera equipment. National Geographic first published one of my images in the November 1966 issue for an article about night diving in the Florida Keys. Since then I have taken and published thousands of ocean-related images from around the world.



1. The Underwater Photographic Challenge



As everyone knows, taking photographs underwater is a challenge due to all sorts of technical issues, ranging from optical distortion and the various issues of trying to take a photograph through a giant salt water filter to hassling with big, bulky camera cases needed to keep the equipment dry.



And then there are physiological issues (breathing, cold, compressed atmosphere, nitrogen narcosis) and psychological issues (balance, orientation, fatigue) and dangerous marine creatures.



It is little wonder that 99% of underwater images are either close-up snapshots of fish or other sea life (specimen shots) or fuzzy blue images with maybe a highlight spot of color from a flash on something close to the camera. Except for science related photography for my environmental projects I was completely bored with underwater photography by the end of the last century.



2. The Underwater Sphere



And then, in February, 2008 I took my first underwater sphere image of a coral reef at the Bokissa Private Island Resort in Vanuatu.,55.60,60.0



I discovered a whole new world of underwater photography that revealed the true beauty and attraction of the underwater world. The sphere images offered a truly wonderful interactive scenic view of the coral reef.



3. Cloud Spheres of Fish



Over the next year I took lots more underwater sphere images, each time trying to overcome the technical problems associated with successfully stitching the images into a sphere - like keeping the camera in exactly the same spot while turning it around (tripods and pano heads were out of the question) plus issues of poor edge definition and moving targets (like fish) and areas with nothing but deep blue. Fortunately Kolor's AutoPano software somehow managed to stitch the images together with some extra cleanup of half-fish and coral glitches in Photoshop.,-14.00,70.0



4. The Monster in the Center of the Sphere



Now I was able to take behavior-oriented images; sphere images that showed aspects of coral reef behavioral science.


But the big problem of taking behavioral images of coral reef creatures was  the giant monster thrashing around right in the middle of the image - me.


So I decided to get rid of the monster that was scaring the fish by building an automated system that took the sphere image without my being in the water. It was a fairly simple rig and I was able to take images like this one of schooling yellow snapper.



5. Expanding the Bubble



I wanted to see how far I could push the limits of an underwater seascape. So I did a series of sphere images out in the clear waters of New Caledonia's Great Southern lagoon. This one was, I think, the one that looked great and showed something of the mega-structure of the reef itself.,23.88,70.0



6. From here to Infinity



And then, on one of those rare special days when it is so calm and clear you can see the whole reef as if there was no water, I decided to try capture a view of the coral reef that showed the reef and the lagoon and the lagoon island all in one sphere; from the coral head right under me to the far horizon:,28.30,80.0


Gavin FarrellComment