Beneath Cold Seas – David Hall Underwater photographer David Hall brings readers to the Pacific Northwest with his book Beneath Cold Seas. Hall’s passion for underwater exploration is revealed through a collection of stunning photographs of various creatures and specimens he encountered throughout the years. The photos collected during his career are stitched together using short essays describing his struggle to photograph specimens such as translucent hooded nudibranchs, his search for warbonnet and his anxiety when he encountered a group of sea lions. Particularly outstanding shots include the delicate, fluorescent hooded nudibranchs and jellyfish on pages 80 and 81, which are detailed and set upon a perfect black background. Hall’s mastery in photography of underwater subjects is evident in this coffee table book of his explorations, but the packaging of the story, and more importantly the writing in the sections, could use some extra work. The end of the book is abrupt and didn’t ease out of the underwater world as naturally as presented in the beginning. While there are some good anecdotes scattered in the book, the story lacks a sense of completeness or cohesiveness.
Arctic Eden – Jerry Kobalenko In Arctic Eden, Kobalenko presents us with beautiful, well-balanced compositions of a variety of Arctic scenes, escaping the dreaded cliché of too many photos of snow, given the subject of the book. But interestingly enough, he includes a section explaining the 33 different types of snow he encountered, such as “the first light of snowfall on mountaintops in late August” and “drifted snow that has begun to form sastrugi or windpack, but needs more wind to turn fully hard.” Less a “photo book” and more of a 50/50 split of writing and photography, Kobalenko describes his journeys into the cold and the various characters he met, but not without laying a good background of Arctic exploration. He starts with the controversial battle of 1909: which American explorer set foot into the North Pole first? The personable Frederick Cook or politically-aligned Robert Peary? (For the record, according to Kobalenko, it’s highly unlikely either reached the pole.) The rest of the book follows Kobalenko’s trek towards Greenland and shows the details of his trip, such as wild buffalo, arctic hares, his travel companions and miles of untouched snow.