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Return to Bloody Bay Wall

The National Geographic photographer Emory Kristof introduced me to Jim Hellemen and his fascinating work about a year ago.  Right away, it was clear to me that Jim’s charting of the visual detail of Bloody Bay Wall was a compelling and worthy endeavor.

His return trips in 2010 will add the dimension of change over time, providing a story thread for anyone who has an interest in exquisitely beautiful visuals and the life of the sea.  His plans for a Birch Aquarium exhibit is well placed to entice sponsors and venue programmers for a traveling show.  I also believe Jim’s work, with supportive storylines of researchers, has international relevance and excellent potential as a television program for broadcast, and as a theatrical short for non-broadcast distribution through the mini-theaters of aquariums, maritime museums, and science centers.

In addition to our coverage of Jim’s work and the local research of Carrie Manfrino and David Gruber, we will record a sunrise on Little Cayman, in the manner of our 65 episode series SUNRISE EARTH.

“Portrait of a Coral Reef”

Completed 1999 – 2000
The primary goal of the original “Portrait of a Coral Reef” project was to produce a life size wide-view image of a coral reef, preserving the full-spectrum color and details necessary to understand life on the reef. The concept was to photograph a large reef area in a sequence of close range images and use digital imaging techniques to assemble them into a seamless high resolution composite image that could be reproduced at actual size. The result was a high resolution image of Great Wall West, a site in an area called “Bloody Bay Wall” on Little Cayman Island in the British West Indies. The 1.77 Gigapixel, produced from over 300 individual images was among the highest resolution images ever produced, and has been displayed in different forms at multiple venues. It is currently on-line in a format that allows viewing the entire reef scene, or
zooming and panning for an amazing macro scale detailed view.


The Great Wall West image was published in National Geographic (October 2001, “Portrait of a Coral Reef”) and has received attention from many in the marine science community. The image is an accurate high resolution image of the reef wall and researchers have pointed out that the coverage and resolution of the image is a sufficient sample size to determine the biodiversity in an area, and that images like this can be important to marine science and that if photographed over time can be used to study reef sustainability.
The full resolution Great Wall West image is currently being used as a demonstration tool at UCSD’s Calit2 Visualization Group using the HIPerSpace display system. The 286 MegaPixel tiled monitor display is driven by a cluster of Intel multi-core processors.

“Return to Bloody Bay Wall”

This project proposal builds off the “Portrait of a CoralReef” project, and involves returning to the site previously photographed in 1999, to obtain the images required to produce a new matching image eleven years later. The resulting image would be used to study changes in the reef over a decade time frame, and provides a unique and important baseline for future research.
Display comparison images on Calit2’s HIPerSpace system. The images remain for use in demonstrations and are made available to researchers via Calit2’s network and affiliates.
Public displays at aquariums will show large high resolution prints of the comparison images illustrating changes in the reef over time.
A web-based display of the images and results to promote environmental awareness, and Intel’s work and
commitment towards environmental sustainability. A documentary produced by the Intel team for internal education and promotion of this project will be part of the public display and used internally at Intel.
A short film produced by Compass Light Productions will be distributed to aquariums and museums.

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