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new book 

REEF LIFE: A GUIDE TO TROPICAL MARINE LIFE  Our new 616 page book covering everything from whales to snails

Below is the text from an interview with Scuba Diving Magazine. At the end is a link to a small photo gallery of sample images from Reef Life. Enjoy!

Interview with Scuba Diving Magazine RE our new "Reef Life" book

Q: You have been the primary photographer of several other books in the past. How was this project different from others?

A: I like to think of this book as a hybrid, a blending of genres-  critter ID handbook, small format coffee table book, and dive guide all wrapped into one. At its core itís a useful source for identification of a wide variety of tropical marine critters, from whales to snails, but with more creative and attractive photo treatment than one normally sees in guidebooks. I include large format beauty shots usually reserved only for large coffee table tomes, plus thereís a wealth of solid scientific information including regional surveys of endemism, in depth sections on behavior and natural history, and windows into habitats adjoining the coral reef such as mangroves and the open ocean. Lots of bonus material to help flesh out oneís understanding of, and I hope appreciation for, reef ecology and the tropical marine ecosystem. This is much more than your typical ďfish ID bookĒ. Iím grateful Firefly supported my vision in breaking the mold to create something new.

Q: The book contains over 1,000 color photographs. Of this expansive collection, which photos mean the most to you personally?

A: Thereís a story behind most of these pictures, most definitely. As marine photography has been my full-time job for twenty years, I have a very real connection to the thousands of pictures created in my travels. That connection is most often to the photoís subject- the animal or the moment in time- rather than the imageís composition, artistry, or techniques used to make it. Iíve always been more interested in the critters than the craft. Since Iíve enjoyed so many amazing encounters with fascinating creatures large and small, most of the pictures in this book do indeed strike a personal chord. A pelagic feeding frenzy with rarely photographed brydeís whales and dozens of marlin attacking sardine baitballs surely ranks as the luckiest encounter Iíve ever had at seaÖ Slogging through a wasteland of what was once verdant mangrove forest, denuded to make way for a beach resort, left me near tears, as did climbing onto a sharkfinning boat in ThailandÖ On a brighter note, the ďover underĒ split view reef shot which opens Chapter One is a favorite of mine. I believe it nicely illustrates a connection between land and sea, and captures the adventurous spirit which drives many of us in our quest to explore beneath the waves. Additionally, the mermaid pictured is my wife Melissa, my best friend and long-time dive buddy.

Q: How important was it for you to have a conservation chapter in this book?

A: Both the Publisher and I felt it very important to include a conservation section. To only show pretty pictures, to only talk about the beauty on the reef, is only telling part of the story. Though the marine ecosystem is remarkably resistant, man has for too long taken the seaís bounty for granted.  The health of our planetís oceans needs to be addressed now. There is so much at stake. In this book I felt obligated to take a broader, more responsible view, and discuss many of the challenges facing marine ecosystems worldwide. Those of us working beneath the waves must speak for Oceanís inhabitants who cannot.

Q: Do you have a favorite marine animal that you like to photograph?

A: Tough question, but Iíd have to say itís a tie between cephalopods (octopus and their kin, especially the mimic and giant Pacific octopus species) and whales (humpbacks and orcas).

Q: What are your biggest challenges with underwater photography?

A: The challenges start with the obvious, such as keeping my cameras from taking a bath, and maintaining finicky electronics through a gauntlet of rigorous travel and hostile environmental conditions. Then they continue with the need to dive safely when so much of oneís brain is focused on f-stops and strobe output, and of course create interesting, beautiful, emotive pictures along the way. And finally the challenges move into the realm of succeeding in the business of photography, that is effectively marketing the resulting pictures in order to pay the bills and keep moving forward, growing oneís photo collection and traveling to the edges of Earth. Iím pretty sure that med school and a career as a brain surgeon would have been easier, less stressful, and certainly better for the bank account. But not as rewarding in what really matters to me.

Q: What's next for Brandon Cole? What is your next project?

A: There are still many places to explore and animals to photograph, so my bags will remain packed. I will be underwater in Micronesia during the official release of Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life, and returning to the Galapagos, Socorro, and the Bahamas shortly thereafter. Iím considering a companion guide focusing on temperate waters, as well as a book showcasing my encounters with charismatic megafauna. And in the midst of all of this, Iím delving into video to add a new dimension to my library.




Here's what people are saying:

Brandon Cole is one of the world's most accomplished underwater photographers and certainly one of the most prolific.... He has put a collection of his pictures together to form a useful guide to tropical marine life. The text is by Scott Michael, a sometime scientific consultant to National Geographic Explorer and Discovery Channel. Six hundred pages make up a weighty volume measuring 16 x 18cm, and half of that is reproduced in the conventional form of a fish-identification book, with a photograph and details of an example of each species. However, much of this book contains chapters on such issues as parental care in reef fish, schooling and shoaling, venom and poison, and cleaner-fish ecology. It even has an appropriately small section on algae. A major section details the different coral reef communities found around the world... There are chapters on elasmobranches, invertebrates, marine reptiles and marine mammals and all are illustrated, almost without exception, with beautiful pictures by Brandon Cole, although Scott Michael and a few others have filled in the inevitable holes. The text is informative and well sourced without being too wordy. (John Bantin Divernet (Diver Magazine online) 2013-06-01)

Anyone fascinated by the underwater world will be riveted by the photos in this richly illustrated guide... Readers can lose themselves in the magnificent environment beneath the sea, observing a parrot fish sleeping in its mucus cocoon and a manta ray being cleaned by two remoras as a diver swims nearby... it is a comprehensive resource on the many different aquatic species that make their homes in and around the world's reefs. Each listing gives the creature's dimensions, location and specific details about its behavior. For snorkelers or divers who enjoy identifying the underwater life they have seen, this well researched and impeccably documented book will be an invaluable resource. (Publishers Weekly 2013-04-05)




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