Diver Captures First Full Light Field Underwater Images With Lytro Camera

Lytro camera with underwater housingThe Lytro Camera is an interesting piece of technology for sure. Like all cameras, it is adept at capturing images that we can later share with friends and family. But what separates the Lytro from any other consumer camera on the market is its ability to capture the entire light field in any given shot. That means every ray of light traveling through a scene is captured and embedded in the image itself. This gives the camera the ability to do some very unique things, such as changing the point of focus of the photograph or altering the perspective of the shot, even after the picture has been taken. This may sound like an odd concept at first, but once you see it in motion, you’ll realize just how very cool this technology really is.

Recently, Lytro’s Director of Photography Eric Cheng took one of these cameras with him on a trip to Indonesia. As a professional photographer and avid diver, Cheng hoped to be able to snap the first underwater images ever taken with this groundbreaking little camera. Using a specially built waterproof housing, he was able to do just that and Lytro has been kind enough to share the images with Gadling readers.

The photo below is not only a great example of what Eric was able to capture with his Lytro but also an indication of the technology behind the device. If you click on any part of the image, the photo will automatically update its focus to that point. Clicking and dragging gives you the ability to shift perspective a bit, while double-clicking will zoom in on that particular part of the image.




More Lytro photos after the jump!Here’s another image that really shows off what the Lytro is capable of. It features a tiny fish hiding close to a beer can and at first glance it appears to be completely out of focus. You can change that by clicking on an area of the image, sharpening up the photo in the process. And when you click and drag to shift perspective, you get an almost-3D effect that also alters the image dramatically.




Finally, we have this shot that illustrates the cameras abilities once again, this time with the scary face of a lizardfish staring out at us. The focus-shifting and 3D features of the Lytro are put to dramatic effect in this image, which was taken in Indonesia’s Triton Bay.



For a look at more of the images that Eric captured with his Lytro camera, check out the full image gallery here. And to learn more about the Lytro camera itself, visit the company’s website. The device carries a $399 price tag and opens up some interesting and creative opportunities for photographers of all types.

Lytro would like to extend a special thanks to Nauticam, who manufactured the prototype underwater housing, and to Light & Motion, who provided SOLA 2000 video lights for the shoot.



[Photo Credit: Lytro]

Budget Maldives: How to find perfect beaches and unbelievable snorkeling on a relative shoestring

The Maldives

The lowest lying country in the world does not offer much above sea level, just 7 feet 7 inches at its highest point. This fine sliver of sun kissed atolls is so postcard perfect it borders on ridiculous. White sand beaches, Kool-aid blue seawater, and densely populated coral reefs are de rigueur in The Maldives. It is a different kind of world, a water-world with flying taxis and manta rays measuring over 20 feet from tip to tip, soaring over their colorful underwater kingdoms.

With 1,192 islands covering 26 atolls, the Maldives island chain covers a significant portion of the Indian Ocean between India and Africa. The scantly populated nation boasts only 400,000 humans, many of which are Muslim. The one time British protectorate and Islamic sultanate habitats only 200 of its many islands with the rest defending the deserted island ideal – groves of shady palms trees, tide pools filled with skittering creatures, soft white beaches that disappear into cyan water, and nary a human in sight to spoil the dream.

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Getting there
From the New World, reaching The Maldives is a serious commitment, but the effort is rewarding. While no direct flights exist from the United States, London and Dubai provide worthy hubs to the island nation. British Airways and SriLankan Airlines fly direct from London to Male – the capital city of The Maldives. Emirates flies direct from Dubai in just about four hours.

From Southeast Asia, Singapore Air services The Maldives from Singapore. The easiest (and cheapest) connection to Male is from nearby Colombo in Sri Lanka via SriLankan Airlines. Colombo can be reached cheaply from the hub of Kuala Lumpur with AirAsia.

The Maldives

Lodging
The Maldives is home to some of the nicest resorts on the planet. It is one of the most exclusive and expensive places to visit, but value can be found for those that look. Websites such as Kayak will show aggregate pricing from a number of hotel booking sites, and it is possible to pounce on insanely good deals. Just be sure to factor in airplane transfers (seaplane taxi can reach $500 per person from the airport) and the inevitable massive dining bill on top of your nightly fee. For a mid-range resort in the Maldives, expect to pay at least $35-$100 per meal per couple (without massive alcohol consumption) and be sure to choose a package that includes a free breakfast.

A great workaround to the expensive seaplane taxi is to book a resort that can be reached by yacht. Resorts such as Kurumba and Kuramathi are close enough to the airport for cheap boat transportation, but the trade-off of hearing planes landing may not be worth it for some people.

The Maldives

Since every property in the Maldives outside of the capital city of Male is on its own private island, it is very important to choose wisely. The commitment is unlike choosing a regular hotel in a regular city because you are literally on an island, forced to eat and sun exclusively on island, with the exception of occasional excursions. If the food is sub-par and expensive, then you will be a slave to this dining arrangement for the duration of your stay. Therefore, it is very wise to do research on sites like Tripadvisor to insure yourself against the plague of daily disappointment.

The Maldives

Underwater
As far as snorkeling goes, it does not get better than the Maldives. With 200 species of coral reef and 300 species of fish, the underwater beauty is mind-blowing. It is one of those rare locations where the snorkeling is as good as, if not better than, the scuba diving. Experiencing both is ideal, but if you are not into breathing compressed air, then snorkeling the Maldives will certainly suffice in providing one of life’s great experiences.

The coolest thing about the snorkeling is the accessibility. The water is extremely calm, and many offshore reefs are shallow. This provides an environment that even novice swimmers can be comfortable with. Most resorts also have house reefs that begin just steps from one’s guestroom. This proximity to the coral reefs provides a convenient, and free, gateway to the underwater kingdom of the Maldives.


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The Maldives

The Capital
Malé is the island capital of the Maldives (above) with 100,000 Maldivians making it one of the most densely populated islands in the world. The island is filled with tall buildings, mosques, and fish markets. People do not generally visit the Maldives to see this bustling island, but those that do visit the capital find an extremely interesting society based around the worship of Islam and bounty of the sea. It is also the cheapest place to stay in the Maldives with sub $50 rooms.

The MaldivesMaldives on a Budget
So what is “budget” in an island playground for the wealthy? The term “budget” is relative. Visiting Quito, Ecuador on a budget may involve a $35 per day allowance, while a budget Maldives trip can be realistically done for $250 per day per couple. A huge difference, but the price of paradise has a premium.

The Maldives is one of the most expensive destinations in the world. Just getting there will cost at least $300 round-trip, and upon arrival, the real hemorrhaging of cash begins. Rooms reach upwards of $1000 per night, private taxis from the airport can cost over $500, and food, bearing hefty logistical costs, is also quite expensive.

If done right though, it is possible to book a room for a little over $100. Airport transfer can also cost a fortune, but, if the resort is close enough to the airport, it is possible to pay only $25 each way for private boat transport.

Utilize websites like Kayak and Agoda to find cheap rooms and inquire directly with the resort about cost of transport from the airport. On my last visit to the Maldives, I paid $166 per night for a room at Kurumba (with breakfast, crucial, for stealing snacks later called lunch) and about $50 per person for return transport to the airport. My daily budget averaged $280 for two people that drink modestly – not a shoestring, but relatively cheap for one of the most expensive destinations in the world. (Disclaimer: I ate chicken nuggets off the toddler menu twice.)

Global warming and the Maldives
In 2009, the president of the Maldives and his cabinet held a meeting underwater to illustrate the Maldives status as one of the few endangered countries on the planet. With sea levels rising and the Maldives being the lowest lying country in the world, its fate as the first submerged nation is very possible. All the more reason to visit this spectacular land while it is still above sea level.

All photography by Justin Delaney
Aerial photo of Male from Wikimedia Commons

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Behind the Scenes of BBC’s ‘Life’ with Roger Munns!

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 19 – Click above to watch video after the jump

For Roger Munns, jumping in the ocean with 100 ton whales while they fight for the female is just another day at work; come with us as we go behind the scenes of BBC’s ‘Life’ series. Roger gives us the inside scoop on what it’s like to dive with whales, all while holding his breath and keeping the camera steady.

Click through to check out the interview and see some of the amazing footage he shot while capturing the never-before-seen Humpback Whale Heat Run for BBC’s ‘Life’.


If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
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Links
Read more about Roger right here!
Check out BBC’s ‘Life’ series – just in time for Father’s Day!
Find out more about Humpback Whales & heat runs.
Want to see who else is behind the cameras? Check out award winning filming/photography company ScubaZoo.



Hosts: Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special Guests: Roger Munns

Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea

Through the Gadling Lens: 5 of the best travel photographers of all time

I’m in the middle of a crazy travel time: I’ve been to both New York and Chicago in the past two weeks, and there doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight in the upcoming 2 or 3 months: Portland, Atlanta, London and Paris are all distinct possibilities. And while being away from my family for all of these trips doesn’t please me in the least, I can’t help but be a little excited at the prospect of some great photo ops coming my way.

Like most, I often search Flickr and other sites for some inspiration. In addition, I’ve been known to pour through the work of some of my photography idols — Herb Ritts, Annie Leibovitz — the people who got me interested in photography in the first place, to get some ideas. But since I’m in the throes of traveling, I thought that this week, I thought I’d share the photographers who, in my opinion, are absolutely the tops when it comes to travel photography. Greater minds may differ, though, so I hope you’ll challenge me in the comments.

With that, on with the show:

Landscapes: Ansel Adams

I think it’s arguable that Ansel Adams is the most recognizable name in photography — I’d heard of Ansel Adams and his stunning images of Yosemite before I’d ever heard of an SLR camera. According to the official website, American photographer Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco, California, at the beginning of the last century. Originally, he was training to be a professional piano player, but eventually left music to pursue photography. In addition to being a photographer, he was also an avid environmentalist — and his passion for the environment is obvious in his images of Yosemite, and other areas of the Southwest United States.

Of course, the subject matter of Adams’ photographs is pretty breathtaking, but the reason I love his work is not because of his composition, so much as the way he processed the images. Again, from the official website: “Adams developed the famous and highly complex “zone system” of controlling and relating exposure and development, enabling photographers to creatively visualize an image and produce a photograph that matched and expressed that visualization. He produced ten volumes of technical manuals on photography, which are the most influential books ever written on the subject.”

In other words, Adams was one of the first photographers to codify the idea of visualizing the resulting image before you actually squeeze the shutter, and then using the developer chemicals (or, these days, Photoshop) to ensure that the resulting image accurately reflects what you visualized. He was one of the first photographers to think of the image as a form of expression, rather than documentation. And for this, in my mind, he will forever be a rock star.

(For more information about Ansel Adams, be sure to visit the official website.)

Portraits: Steve McCurry

You may not know his name, but chances are you’re familiar with his famous photograph of the young Afghan girl with the piercing green eyes, which graced the cover of National Geographic Magazine in the mid-1980’s. Steve McCurry is an American photographer born in Philadelphia, and graduated cum laude from my dad’s alma mater, Penn State University, from the College of Arts and Architecture. But my favourite part of his official bio describes how his career got its start:

“His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian invasion. When he emerged, he had rolls of film sewn into his clothes of images that would be published around the world as among the first to show the conflict there. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise.”

See what I mean? Rock. Star.

I seriously can’t get enough of McCurry’s work, and frankly, he’s my very favourite photographer of those I’m featuring here on this post. In particular, I love two aspects of his work:

a) He is masterful when it comes to understanding colour and light. When you look at his images, it’s clear that the colour palates of compositions are at least as important as the subject matter itself. The light of his images is always breathtaking, and the catchlights in his subjects eyes’ always draw you right into the image; and

b) He is prodigious when it comes to capturing a glimpse of the spirits and souls of his subjects. When you look at his portraits, you’re not just looking at a pretty face, or a weathered expression, you’re catching a glimpse of the thoughts and emotions of his subjects as well. I absolutely believe that this ability of capturing a quick flash of someone’s soul in a photograph is one that is truly a gift, and can’t be taught. But that’s not to say I don’t try to tap into my own ability to do this every single time I click my camera.

(For more information about Steve McCurry, visit his official website. Also? Be sure to check out the posters and fine art prints he has for sale. I purchase the portrait of the woman in Peshawar, Pakistan to hang in my studio for inspiration.)

Wildlife: Jim Brandenburg

American photographer Jim Brandenburg has been a photographer with National Geographic for more than 30 years. As I look through the gallery on Brandenburg’s website, it occurs to me that his portfolio entirely and decisively debunks the myth that all you need to take a good wildlife photograph is a long lens: his images of the animals in the prairies and other wild locations show emotion in these animals; whether it’s the sheer, frozen determination on the faces of the bison caught in the blizzard, or the apparent hysterical laughter on the face of rabbit on Brandenburg’s image, entitled appropriately, “Laughing Rabbit.” In addition, his panoramas of wide open spaces are wonderful studies in colour and pattern and repetition. Really inspirational work.

(For more information on Jim Brandenburg, be sure to visit his official website.)

Architecture: Julius Shulman

If you’ve ever been struck by the way many historic images of mid-century modern houses are shot, chances are you have photograp
her Julius Shulman to thank. Shulman was widely considered the most innovative architecture photographer of all time — and sadly, he died at the age of 98 this month. In the obituary announcing his death in the L.A. Times, the late Robert Sobieszek, former photography curator at the Los Angeles County Musum of Art, described Shulman’s work as follows: “He has a sense of visual bravura of composition, so that he can take a rather mundane house and make it look exciting, and take a spectacular house and make it look triply spectacular.”

His most famous image is the one you can see above, and I can tell you that it must have been a doozy to capture. The multiple light sources — the ones hanging on from the ceiling of the house, the lights of the city below, and the fact that the women seated appear to be lit from a source near the floor as well — makes this nearly an impossible image to expose properly, and yet Shulman does it flawlessly. The women add perfect scale to the image, without distracting. And he did all this without a digital camera. Amazing.

(For more information about Julius Shulman, see his Wikipedia entry, with links to external sites discussing his work.)


Underwater: Chris Newbert

I’m a scuba diver, but one type of photography I’ve just never been able to nail down is underwater photography. I’ve been diving in some of the clearest, stillest water possible, but still — the water never seems still enough to get a sharp image, it’s difficult to hold the camera steady while you’re floating, and the diffused light through the ocean totally distorts colours. I just can’t get it right, and unfortunately, I don’t get enough opportunity to dive in order to practice.

Which is why, I suppose, I’m absolutely blown away by the photography of Chris Newbert. Newbert is also a photographer for National Geographic Magazine, and his images of translucent underwater creatures is breathtaking. Are you looking at those? Incredible. According to his official bio, Newbert has been shooting underwater since the early 1970’s, and has received worldwide accolades for his work. It’s truly breathtaking.

(For more information on Chris Newbert, visit his official website.)

So, that’s my take on the top 5 travel photographers ever. If you have any other photographers you’d like to add to my list, be sure to leave them in the comments, below. As always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Test Driving the Olympus Stylus Tough-8000

When we see “tough” in a product’s name, its got big shoes to fill. Travel bloggers are the sort of people who shred digital cameras, so when Olympus gave us an opportunity to test out the STYLUS Tough-8000, we jumped at the opportunity.

A truly rugged camera should be able to go with you wherever you go. Whitewater rafting in New Zealand, Skiing in Utah, Rock climbing in the Red River Gorge? No problem. It should be able to be sunk, dropped, crushed, and frozen without losing any functionality and it should be able to fit in your pocket. Pretty tall order, eh?

In steps the Olympus STYLUS Tough-8000. Olympus has designed this camera to withstand (almost) any abuse that a digital camera will ever see. It’s waterproof to 10m (33ft), drop proof from up to 6.6 ft, freeze proof to -14°F and crushproof to 220lbf. Recently, we went on a 3 day SCUBA/snorkel trip on the Great Barrier Reef, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to take the Stylus Tough-8000 on a test drive.

Amazingly, it still works (and looks) exactly like it did when it came out of the box. This recent trip brough, situations that allowed us to test each of the manufacturer’s claims. Mind you — Gadling bloggers would never do anything like test the waterproof claims by submerging it in a pint of Victoria Bitter (the biere familiaris of Australians, not Fosters as an oil can chugging Paul Hogan may lead one to believe.) Nevertheless, each test performed swimmingly.The first thought when taking the Stylus Tough out of the box was that it doesn’t look like a waterproof, super tough camera. Waterproof cameras are supposed to be bulky and bubbly, protected by an excessive amount of Lexan and rubber seals. The stylus looks like any other small point and shoot camera — it’s small and light, no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, albeit slightly heavier at 6.4 oz. The body of this unit was glossy black and gunmetal, but Olympus offers 2 other colors. The camera feels really solid, the case is almost all metal and none of the buttons have any unnecessary wiggle. The back has a huge 2.7″ LCD alongside a pretty standard mode selector knob and 4-way navigation buttons.

The menu system of the camera is incredibly intuitive; playing with exposure settings and macro modes right out of the box was simple. The camera sports a 12 Megapixel CCD and a 3.6x optical zoom. Image clarity is excellent — its not a SLR, but takes good enough images so that only the most discerning individuals would be able to tell.

What about underwater? Taking the Stylus Tough out to the Great Barrier Reef brought out spectacular performance. There are no special modes to activate or switches to flip, you just jump in and start snapping pictures. When taking movies in water, the camera recognizes its environment and switches into a special movie mode that helps equalize out colors. The camera also has an integrated manometer, which tells you your altitude above the waves or your depth below.

Topside, the image quality is everything you would expect from a good point and shoot camera. The auto shoot mode on the camera does a great job adjusting the flash and exposure settings to get the best picture possible. We found ourselves in that “auto” mode ~95% of the time because the camera is undoubtedly better at judging the proper settings. The only times the auto mode struggles are in low light situations; switching over to the scenes menu and picking candlelight mode reconciled those problems.

The Stylus Tough-8000 has three macro modes, and it manages macro shots quite well, even underwater. There is a macro and a “super-macro” mode for close shots, but our favorite mode was the “super-Macro LED”. The camera has a small (but very bright) LED near the lens that helps illuminate your entire macro shot. This mode worked great underwater, particularly in low light situations, where we snapped this picture of a Southern Reef Squid.

As light travelers, one drawback we noticed was in the data link. The connector on the side, known as a multi-terminal connector looks a lot like a mini-USB port. Don’t be fooled though, its not. It’s fully compatible with USB, but your mini-USB plug will not fit. Although the connector supports both USB out and A/V out in one plug, the inconvenience of having to carry around one more cable may outweigh the convenience of having one port.

But look at the bright side. you have a camera that can accompany you on all of your expeditions and can handle getting rained on, dropped, and frozen (and maybe even dropped in beer.) If you like to do things that cameras typically don’t like to do, this is the camera for you.

The Stylus tough-8000 isn’t the cheapest camera out there, but it’s undoubtedly worth the price if you find yourself destroying digital cameras on a regular basis like we do. Right now, it can be found online for about $350.