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February 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 38, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Beneath Cold Seas

from the February, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It's hard enough to take a first-rate photo of reef life in the best of conditions. Try doing it in murky, bone-numbingly cold water while wearing a dry suit with 40-plus pounds of weights around your waist, and thick, insulating gloves making it hard to use the camera controls. That's what David Hall had to endure while photographing in Canadian waters, but those physical disadvantages make his 160-page book, Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, all the more amazing.

While there are heaps of photography books celebrating the beauty of tropical coral reefs, there are few that focus on marine life in cold waters. Hall's book successfully disputes the belief that cold-water reefs are drab and dismal. He has regularly photographed the world's most beautiful dive spots for major magazines from National Geographic to Time, but he admits a particular love affair with the Pacific Northwest after diving Browning Passage in British Columbia 15 years ago. While Hall's shots are taken entirely in the waters around there, the reef life he shoots resides along the Pacific Coast, from Northern California up to Alaska, and they are as diverse and spectacular as any creature in Raja Ampat or Fiji.

He shows us Caribbean- and Indonesia-focused divers that colder waters have an amazing -- and mostly endemic -- variety of invertebrates, fish, marine plants and very photogenic mammals. Iridescent jellyfish as delicate as rosettes float in the water with tall pines looming above the surface. A Northern kelp crab poses proudly in all its fiery brilliance. Close-up shots of a crimson anemone, a stubby squid and a cluster of gooseneck barnacles look like Technicolor works of modern art that would appeal to the highest bidder at Sotheby's. And of course, there are the requisite shots of curious sea lions and harbor seals.

Hall's book opens with an introduction by marine biologist Sarika Cullis-Suzuki focusing on conservation issue. But Hall's writing is as eloquent as his full-color photos, with touching vignettes about his curiosity for and experiences in shooting crabs, jellyfish, nudibranchs and octopi, and why he goes to such physical extremes to get these cold-water critters on camera. While not many of us will ever dive the waters of the Pacific Northwest, at least we know what we're missing. By buying his book, you'll understand why Hall goes to the lengths he does for these photos.

Beneath Cold Seas is available in hardback at a $45 list price. Buy it through us by going to www.undercurrent. org and clicking on this book review on the homepage. The profits we make from your purchase go towards protecting both cold- and warm-water reefs.

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