I’ve always been a fish guy, and I’ve had aquariums for as long as I can remember. About a year ago I made a special trip to Atlanta to see the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium. I was totally blown away by the size of the exhibits and the incredible diversity of sea life.
I recently discovered this book on the new bookshelf, and I am again blown away by some of the same creatures I saw at the Georgia Aquarium. Sea features over a hundred incredible photos of sea life from the acclaimed photographer Mark Laita. The colors are so vibrant that these animals almost jump off the page (which thankfully they don’t do) and many are breathtakingly beautiful.
You will not want to miss my top three favorites: the incredible blue & green colors of the Portuguese man o’ war, which looks like an oversized jellyfish with long tentacles; the tessellate eel, a serpent-like creature with a yellow & white pattern with black dots; and a group of moon jellyfish, with the pale blue colors imbedded with electric neon-white flower patterns.
Laita explains in the introduction how he was able to achieve such amazing detail with his photos. He did this by recreating the sea in his studio using custom built fish tanks and lighting where he could frame the animals and control the exposure of his photos. For some of the bigger creatures, like the whale shark, he visited several aquariums (like the Georgia Aquarium) to get their pictures. Those pictures are much less interesting, and the colors look rather drab compared to those he took in his studio. But most of the photos in this book are studio-produced and contain unique details like color that you won’t find in any other resource.
I liked the layout of the book, with a few exceptions. His photos are presented one per page on a black background without descriptions or page numbers to distract from the visual experience. There is a helpful information index at the back of the book that includes a small snapshot of each creature’s photo along with their name, temperament, maximum length and distribution. Some people might find the lack of descriptive information on each page annoying (I found the lack of page numbers to be annoying), but you get used to it. I do think it would take away from the visual experience if he had included them. Laita provides very general information about how he took these pictures, though he does not reveal technical details that many would like to know, like what cameras he used and what programs he used to develop his pictures. I would also like to have seen a few photos of his studio when he working on this project to see what his custom built fish tanks looked like and the size and position of the strobe lights he used.
Mark Laita has built quite a reputation as a photographer, and he has worked on a multitude of projects. You can see many of his photos, including those in this book, on his web site, www.marklaita.com. You should definitely look at the photos from his latest project, Serpentine, which features amazing colors and shapes of 100 of the most poisonous snakes in the world. While working on this project he was actually bitten by a deadly black mamba snake, which he didn’t realize until the next day when he was looking at his photographs. Check out the story from The Daily Mail. The snake photos, like the sea photos in this book, are absolutely gorgeous. Hopefully the library will be able to get this book when it comes out later this year.
Check the WRL catalog for Sea