Barry Oliver dips into a new book dedicated to the dwellers of the deep
ALEX Mustard apparently practises ‘‘ revolutionary natural-light filter underwater photography’’. Whatever that is, the results are impressive judging from ReefsRevealed (ABC Books, $59.95), his coffee-table collection of images from a strange, usually hidden world.
His colourful ‘‘ wonderland of characters’’ is a sight to behold but reefs seem to be alive with possibilities for photographers who aren’t afraid of getting their feet wet, though I’m sure a lot of divers would pass many of Mustard’s subjects, unaware they were even there.
Our snapper, an award-winning marine biologist, mostly goes well beyond the usual waving coral or giant wrasse close-up, though the Nemo-like clownfish peeping from a sea of tentacles on the cover is a bit of a disappointment.
There are far better shots inside: the weird shoal of ghost pipefish, the wonderfully named Spanish dancer nudibranch, the sea whip goby with its goggle eyes, the Coleman shrimps, which wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie, and the mimic octopus, which only came to the attention of scientists in 2005.
Estimates of the number of species living on coral reefs vary wildly, from 618,000 to 10 million, Mustard says, with more still being found. (The walking shark, on p124, was not discovered until 2006 and as yet has no scientific name. The author says that in all the time he spent photographing them, off Indonesia, he never saw one swim.)
Despite global warming and other concerns, Mustard remains cautiously optimistic on the future of coral reefs: they may be fragile on a short timescale but over longer periods they are geologically robust, he says. Even so, human actions remain the most serious threat to this remarkable ecosystem’’.