An Underwater Panorama - "The Ruby" by Nicolas Barraqué

Nicolas Barraqué shares his process for taking a breathtaking panoramic photo of the Ruby submarine.
By Nicolas Barraqué

Photographing a panorama of a shipwreck is an idea I had as soon as I went digital and gained experience with post-production software. My first attempt in 2006, the wreck of the Ruby was a natural choice. 

Isolated off Cape Camarat, between Cavalaire and Saint Tropez, the wreck of the submarine "Rubis" rests 40 meters on a clear sand bottom. It is 60 meters long and 8 meters high, allowing one to see the full wreck easily in a single dive. However, several dives were necessary to determine the best time, the right lens, and the right technique to take pictures in natural light. So I decided to shoot along the wreck. The major difficulty was to stay parallel to the hull and at a constant height. The depth of field of my wide-angle lens gave me the possibility to stay in manual focus. Using a manual shutter speed and aperture was of course the best choice.


Nikon D850 Camera, Nikon 16mm Lens, Hugyfot Housing, Dual BigBlue 30,000 Lumens Video Light
 1/125 sec, F13, ISO 1600


For post-production, I had assumed that my final result should correspond to the proportions of the technical data, namely: length and height of the submarine. During the dive, I took 80 pictures, 40 for the structure and 40 for details, so that I could improve the editing. Two caffeinated all-nighters and a red-hot hard disk gave me, in the early morning, the first visual that perfectly matched the archival images of the beast on the surface. If you count all the tests and assembly trials, in total it took me more than 300 hours of work! My final file was 160 cm long at 300 dpi for a weight of 1 gigabyte. It was with a life-size print that I returned to the club that had supported me all June. I then had to face the skepticism of the braided monitors:

"Much too long, your Ruby!"

A few explanations and arguments then erased their critical astonishment. Their first impression came from the fact that it is impossible, because of the layer of water, to have a total vision of the wreck when diving and that their only global visual reference came from Urs Brunner's sketch, taken from the illustration of the book WARSHIP n° 26 edited in 1972. This image was not to scale. As our brain does not like contradictions, this dilemma between imagination and reality titillates convictions. My pixels gave back its elegance lengthened by nature to this mythical wreck of the Mediterranean.

In 2019, after having made many other wreck panoramas, I decided to remake "Le Rubis" with newer, more sophisticated equipment, with the idea of restoring a little color to my image - especially thanks to powerful video lights replacing classic strobes that could not keep up with the pace of the shots. I made 3 series of shots: one of 125, another of 110, then one of 95 . The latter seemed to me the easiest to use. I assembled the whole in 8 hours for a 580 cm long image in 300 dpi, weighing 24 gigas in PSD version and 327 megas in JPG


The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips


Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.