3D photos using Canon 5D Mark II

Sterling Zumbrunn, Tony Wu and me in front of our sailfish boat, the Lilly M (3D)
- click image for larger photo -
I've been experimenting with shooting 3D stereoscopic images with the Canon 5D Mark II and discovered that it is a very limited platform for taking 3D images. When two 5D2 cameras are mounted next to each other, there is a minimum of 6" between the center of each of the two lens mounts. This extreme separation produces a stereoscopic effect that is too pronounced when using normal lenses (20mm and longer) -- unless you shoot subjects that are very far away.

However, I have had some success shooting 3D images and video using two Canon 15mm fisheye lenses. Subjects still have to be at least a few feet away, but at least it is possible to shoot close subjects.

A secluded coastal path in Isla Mujeres (3D)

Me, with my dual-5D2 3D setup (photo: Sterling Zumbrunn)

Sailfish in Isla Mujeres, Day 2

Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) with a sardine in its mouth.
We left dock at 6am this morning in search of more sailfish. The sun broke through for half an hour on our way offshore, which was fantastic -- until she was swallowed up by a sky full of clouds. As Anthony so cheerfully exclaimed yesterday, "Come to Mexico! Bring a snow jacket!"

That sounds extreme, but it has actually been quite cold for a tropical beach destination. On the water, we're wearing big boat jackets to keep warm. In the water, we're wearing 3mm wetsuits, and I even put on a hooded vest after I started shivering.

Crop of first photo. It's amazing how precise sailfish are when they hunt.

All of this would have been much different if the sun had been out! We've been hoping for the perfect combination of wildlife, water clarity and sunlight, but we've only been able to get two of the three during any given jump. The water had less sediment in it today but was considerably more murky, and the sun didn't come out until the sailfish disappeared.

Still, we had fantastic action and managed to come back with some decent images. Most of the bait balls today were large and fast (usually correlated), and due to his quads of steel, only Tony was able to keep up with the moving fish for long periods of time; Sterling and I used the boat to keep up -- luckily, Rogerio and Juan are incredible and gave us perfect drops every time.

In the following video, you'll see one of the medium-sized balls followed by a short clip of Tony trying to get a tiny bait ball away from him. When a sardine ball gets small enough, one or more individuals will usually decide that it is safer with you than it is out in the blue. Unfortunately, dozens of spear-wielding fish cruising around makes having a little cute sardine friend tucked under your arm not so ideal. In the video, the sardines are nailed as soon as Tony manages to convince them to get away from him.

Watch Tony try to get a tiny bait ball away from him. It's funny. :)

Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) chase a medium-sized baitball. Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

An Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) drives
a school of sardines up to the surface

A baitball of sardines runs frantically in an attempt to avoid predation by sailfish

This sure doesn't look like a pelagic crab! We're 30 miles offshore. Poor thing!

I can't believe it's only day 2. We've already seen so much; even if we get skunked for the remaining 6 days on the water, I'll consider the trip to be a success.

Tony has also written a day 2 report.

Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) hunt a ball of sardines

Tony Wu, Sterling Zumbrunn and I have just returned from our first day out on the water looking for Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) with Keen M International. We had great luck and dropped into the water with two schools of sailfish hunting sardines. Both schools numbered more than 25 individuals -- and those were just the ones we could see at once.

Sailfish took turns approaching the baitball of sardines, slashing individual fish with their bills and wounding them enough to separate them from the safety of their school. Isolated sardines were consumed within seconds by sailfish moving at incredible speeds. In some cases, the sailfish would actually spear sardines instead of slashing at them -- the precision with which they hunt is truly awe-inspiring.

Now all we need is for the sun to come out!

As a bonus, here is a timelapse of Tony and me setting up our cameras. Exciting, I know.

Tony Wu arrives and is very tired

Tony Wu (in 3D) poses with two Reefnet diopters
Photographer Tony Wu arrived today from Japan. He is jetlagged and isn't quite thinking properly. I'm sure he'll be functional after a good night's rest. He did, however, have enough energy to write a blog entry about his arrival.

If you're having problems seeing the 3D effect, there is a larger version of the image on Flickr. If you still can't see it, here is a page that has some hints.