Life in the slow lane: time-lapse video of corals and sponges

This video was on Daniel Stoupin’s Photography Blog (he made it), and gives us a nice biology break before today’s final Easter post, in which believers take the opportunity of this holiday to stomp on atheists. In the meantime, look at some wonderful marine animals in slow motion. Stroupin’s site has a nice long explanation of and rationale for his video; I’ve put an excerpt below.

“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.

. . . 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.

More information, including the camera setup at the Vimeo site. 

h/t: Mark


  1. Richard Thomas
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    No corals on that video. Nice presentation of corporate attitudes, though, from Australia.

  2. Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    The corals are mostly soft corals. Anyone know why soft corals tend to be rather fluorescent under the lights used in the video?
    I was not aware of how difficult it was to make this video!

  3. Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    That was very, very well done. And I can especially appreciate the technical challenges he faces…any time you start merging multiple photos together in photography, you’re in for a world of hurt one way or another.


  4. Achrachno
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t that first animal, with the numerous feathery tentacles, a tube worm of some sort? Certainly not a sponge and I don’t think it’s a coral either.

    Of course, in the middle there a non-coral sea anemone too, so there’s obviously some flexibility in what’s displayed.

    • Posted April 20, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I think a feather duster worm, and at normal speed of course.

      • Achrachno
        Posted April 20, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the confirmation.

  5. Keith
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant work. Kudos to Daniel Stoupin for bringing us a glimpse of these critters.

  6. Posted April 21, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I like not only the video but the discussion of slow life, organisms that stretch our grasp of what living things include. This also reminded me of Ursula Goodenough’s quotation (in Sacred Depths of Nature)from her father: “Life is a coral reef. We each leave behind the best, the strongest deposit that we can so that the reef can grow. But what’s important is the reef.”

  7. Diane G.
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Unbelievable! What a thrill to watch!

  8. Adam M.
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Beautiful and so alien.

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