In 2004, the judges at Antibes, France, downed the last of their Haut-Médoc, set down their Bordeaux glasses, dabbed at the corners of their mouths with their little monogrammed handkerchiefs, and awarded Andrea and Antonella Ferrari the World Grand Prize for their large and exquisite coffee table book, Oceani Segreti. Italian for The Secret Oceans, this 390-page sparkler of a book showcases the beauty, the majesty, and the freakishness hidden deep beneath the world’s waves.
Before I proceed, let me tell you that there are no copies of Oceani Segreti remaining. Big, bold, and bright, Oceani Segreti was adored by more than just the judges at Antibes. In fact, the book sold out of its entire run of 12,000 copies in less than 12 months. Since that time, however, the Ferraris managed to have the book translated and published in a Spanish-language edition. This version—called Oceanos Secretos—is the version I have, and it’s amazing. Before you wince and roll your eyes because the book is in another language, consider this: Penelope Cruz is still stunning even if she’s speaking Spanish. Similarly, beautiful underwater images are beautiful underwater images regardless of the language the captions beneath them are printed in.
With countless dizzying hues, Oceanos Secretos features over 200 images covering a wide-ranging selection of marine life. When I first opened the book, I gasped at the crisp colors contained therein—and then I leapt in with gusto. From wide-angle shots of vibrant Indonesian reefs, to super-macro shots of Botrylloides; from a cute portrait of an Ornate ghost pipefish family, to the terrifying glare of the Stargazer, the pictures will, no doubt, inspire you to take more photos—and to try taking them from different perspectives. In my opinion, one of the best aspects of Oceanos Secretos is that the fish aren’t just frozen in profile against the reef. Rather, Oceanos Secretos showcases the Ferraris’ greatest talent: capturing marine life in their everyday habitats—hidden in the muck; peeping out of coral rubble; cowering inside a barrel sponge—simply living a fish-ly life. The shots that fill the book explode with the vitality and the richness that all divers know hides deep beneath the waves.
Another remarkable skill showcased in Oceanos Secretos is the Ferraris’ ability to tell a little story with each picture. While reading the book, I frequently found myself staring at the page, thinking, for example, about what motivated that Zebra crab to skitter across that long-spined sea urchin. On another page, I imagined being inside the head of the Giant mantis shrimp, glowering with its white-speckled eyes. On yet another page, I pictured that Devil scorpionfish quickly and irritably camoflaguing itself with the muck when it saw Andrea’s camera rig approaching.
With so many images of animals actively engaged in their environments, I was intrigued, entranced, and involved. I was sucked in deep, deep into the secret lives of these animals. Although Oceanos Secretos doesn’t contain a story line, I nevertheless found myself caught up in the moment, wondering what was going to happen next. Turn the page, I implored myself. See what creature will flit past. Oh, what kind of nudibranch is that!?
Similar to Penelope Cruz, Oceanos Secretos is more than just pretty to look at. There’s substance underlying the beauty. Oceanos Secretos is set up differently than most underwater photography books—and to great effect. On the right-hand page is an image of a nautilus, for example, or a speeding shoal of barracuda. On the left-hand page is the same image, but with certain features highlighted. For those highlighted features, the Ferraris have included explanatory texts, which often include scientific information or anecdotes about creating the shot. By including the left-hand page, it’s like the Ferraris are letting you peek at the Director’s Cut of a movie. I don’t speak Spanish, but stumbling over the text, I learned, among other things, that the regal Bumphead parrotfish is suffering serious population declines due to its beauty, and that the frogfish has little prehensile “graspers” that help it hold onto the reef. Seriously!
In short, I love Oceanos Secretos and its evocative images. I long for my underwater shots to be as vibrant and as alive as those in the book. Before my next dive, I plan to flip through the pages, choose the shots I like most, and visualize how I can create similar ones myself. In the meantime, my copy is sitting on the coffee table in my living room. You can have your own copy of Oceanos Secretos sitting on your coffee table soon, because Amazon will have them in stock starting in May 2007. Better pre-order yours now, though, before this run sells out, too.