by syaffolee

Shallow Waters Under Camera Strobe

Reef is a hefty coffee table book produced by Scubazoo. It’s filled with bright eye-catching photography showcasing the creatures that inhabit the kelp forests, mangroves, and coral reefs of the world.

There’s tons of stuff to browse through. The usual suspects are present of course–who can miss the flashy nudibranchs, the cleaner shrimp, or the ingenious cephalopods? Sure-fire crowd pleasers like shark close-ups and cute sea lions also make the pages. But there are other interesting animals too. I was struck by the unusually ugly although perfectly camouflaged whitemargin stargazer (Uranoscopus sulphureus). A diver also managed to capture a cannibalistic devil scorpionfish (Inimicus didactylus) in the midst of devouring an unfortunate potential mate who failed to impress her with his courtship rituals.

Nature photographers have my respect in their efforts to capture the perfect shot. It requires diligence, patience, and sometimes guts to get close to wild animals. In the making of Reef, they had to endure hours of waiting in cold waters, snapping who-knows-how-many pictures because nothing was in focus, or getting their fingernails ripped off by cranky moray eels. Of course, the end results are some pretty terrific photos–some of them seemingly surreal in their neon colors and alien detail. My favorite photograph out of the whole book is on page 219. It is of a pygmy sea horse (Hippocampus bargibanti) with its tail curled around a branch of coral. It’s almost like a cartoon–pink and lavender–yet it blends in with its home so well that as a reader, I had to do a double take.

Reef also contains a supplemental DVD which has video footage of many of the places where the photographs were taken. It was interesting to see the sea life on the pages now depicted with movement–but the film did not have any narration. Instead, it was set to some sort of synth easy listening soundtrack that would do well as elevator music. That is, I was not impressed with the DVD. Then again, I’m pretty much spoiled for all ocean documentaries after watching The Blue Planet.