NOV 13, 2019 4:24 PM PST

"Sea-thru" Algorithm Clarifies Underwater Photos

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Have you ever tried to take photographs underwater, only to be sorely disappointed by the results? Pictures of vivid underwater scenery usually appear very dull, distorted, and mostly blue-green. According to Scientific American, this result is due to how water absorbs and scatters light at different wavelengths. While you might be frustrated with your vacation photographs, imagine how scientists and professional photographers must feel—particularly those working with vibrant coral reefs.

Luckily, engineer and oceanographer Derya Akkaynak—who specializes in underwater imagery—has invented a solution called “Sea-thru.” She spent four years developing the algorithm, which, simply stated, removes water from the photographs so that they appear as if you’re seeing them on land. In the video above from Scientific American, Akkaynak emphasizes that this method is not photoshopping or editing the images. She states that “it is a physically accurate correction, rather than a physically pleasing modification.”

Akkaynak presented her methodology this past June at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. In the paper discussing the algorithm development, Akkaynak and her post-doctoral advisor Tali Treibitz wrote, “Sea-thru is a significant step towards opening up large underwater datasets to powerful computer vision and machine learning diagrams.” They’re hopeful that this algorithm will benefit underwater research, which is critical “at a time when our oceans are increasing stress from pollution, overfishing, and climate change.”

Sources: The Computer Vision Foundation, Scientific American

About the Author
BS Biology
Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
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