Most of the time, when we think of love letters, we think of saccharine sentiments, pastel parchment, and flowery phrases. But how do underwater photographers craft a love letter? While some may use frou-frou words to convey their feelings, most are likely to use other ingredients: the camera, an artistic sensibility, and the undersea landscape. In the case of Jeff and Dawn Mullins, they used these tools to great effect to craft a love letter to Tulamben. They call their love letter Reef, Wreck, & Critter.
Regular visitors to Tulamben since 1980, the Mullinses recently settled there and now lead personalized, guided tours among the area’s pristine dive spots. Consequently, Reef, Wreck, & Critter doesn’t convey the sentiments of a fledgling high school crush; their love of Tulamben is enduring, and it shines through in each page of this fabulous visual guide.
Tulamben is a quiet fishing community perched on Bali’s northeast coast that sports killer dive sites just inches from shore. Personally, I’ve never visited Tulamben, but after reading Reef, Wreck, & Critter I know, for example, that divers can easily fin out to the wreck of the Liberty and see huge Bumphead Parrotfish, vibrant Thorny Oysters, tiny Squat Lobsters, and more. Reading the book, I also learned that Tulamben boasts plenty of easily-accessible coral reefs (Kubu Reef, for example, boasts barrel sponges as large as washing machines); high concentrations of unusual marine life (frogfish, scorpionfish, and mantis shrimp abound); and clear, warm, calm water (perfect for practicing your sunburst shots). The area is literally a gold mine for underwater photographers aching to add to their collection.
Jam-packed with vibrant images and interesting details about Tulamben’s underwater treasures, Reef, Wreck, & Critter packs over 130 full-color, jaw-dropping images into just 32 pages. Personally, I was amazed by the shot of the meter-long Garden Eels, as well as the photos of Ribbon Eels, Coleman Shrimps, and mating Cuttlefish. However, my favorite shot was taken topside: you’ll be surprised how the porters carry your dive gear!
Reef, Wreck, & Critter is a “niche guide” that many divers will probably overlook. Too bad for them. However, there are plenty of divers who will consider this beautiful, readable little book a must-have. First, divers who’ve never been to Tulamben but are considering a trip would probably find Reef, Wreck, & Critter a valuable investment. While the book doesn’t offer tips on accommodation or dive shops, the information on the dive sites (like The Drop-Off, Alam Anda, Seraya Secrets, and others) should be more than enough to tell you whether Tulamben is worth your time and money. Second, divers who want to see what kind of magic an point-and-shoot can deliver will definitely want to order a copy of the book: every single photo in Reef, Wreck, & Critter was taken with an Olympus point-and-shoot in an Olympus Housing. When you consider that *some* people spend thousands of dollars to create pictures with this kind of clarity and pop, it’s a testament to the Mullinses that they managed to achieve such exceptional beauty with such “ordinary” equipment.
If you want to learn more about the Mullinses, check out their website, Reef Images. To see what the book looks like, or to order your own copy (for $20), head to Reef, Wreck, & Critter’s website. This is one love letter you’ll be very curious to read.