Physicist and photographer combine talents to capture high-speed underwater videos


posted Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 1:59 PM EST


Underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen and MIT theoretical physicist Allan Adams might seem unlikely partners, but the pair have just teamed up to produce high-speed videos for the New England Aquarium. If the early results are anything to go by, that's very good news for ocean research!

The two met at a dinner party in 2013 and began to talk about high-speed cameras. Ellenbogen was working with the New England Aquarium on promotional content and Adams had recently discovered a collection of high-speed camera equipment at MIT. They soon realized that they could work together to produce unique underwater videos. Their first project together was to capture footage of a cuttlefish hunting. A cuttlefish typically strikes within a fraction of a second, making it practically impossible to see with the naked eye, but Ellenbogen and Adams were able to capture it in slow-motion.

This impressive video led to the New England Aquarium creating a television ad for the first time since the 1970s. Ellenbogen and Allan ended up working together on an entire ad campaign for the aquarium. The combination of Ellenbogen's underwater videography skills and Adams' knowledge of high-speed cameras led to incredible results and an excellent way to attract visitors to the aquarium. Shortly thereafter, Allan arranged for Ellenbogen to receive a MIT visiting artist fellowship and the two now teach classes together.

Their unique skills may seem very different from one another, but Adams thinks that there is a lot of overlap. His theoretical physics work involves visualization, so Ellenbogen's photographic skills coincide well with Adams' work. The two will continue to teach underwater conservation photography together next semester and experiment with new techniques for underwater photography, which includes their search for new ways to light the scenes.

Want to try your hand at high-speed underwater videography? You might not be able to lay your hands on the same gear as used by Adams and Ellenbogen, but the recently-reviewed Sony RX100 IV can capture video at frame rates up to 1,000 frames-per-second, and you can take it beneath the surface with underwater housings like this one from Ikelite. Check out what the RX100 IV can do in our high frame rate sample video below!

(Seen via Dive Photo Guide)