Sea of Light - Underwater Photography of California’s Channel Islands by Richard Salas
Sea of Light by Richard Salas is a gorgeous coffee-table book celebrating the marine biodiversity of California’s Channel Islands through spectacular underwater photographs. It will appeal to underwater photographers of all stripes, in addition to any diver in love with the unique cold water habitats of California. Having made several trips to the Channels myself, I have a deep appreciation for these photographs, and truly respect what Salas has achieved through his work, photographing in these cold waters for five years to assemble the material to publish this book.
Richard Salas, a Santa Barbara based photographer, studied at the Brooks Institute of photography, where he first began photographing underwater in the late 1970s. His understanding of light is one the key strengths in showcasing the many marine species featured in this book. Through the images and the accompanying text, which include personal stories about his experiences diving, you can really feel Salas’s affinity for his subjects, as well as for the beauty and fragility of the Channel Islands. In the words of Ernest Brooks, founder of the Brooks Institute and Salas’ mentor, from the book’s introduction:
“Sea of Light is a manifestation of Richard’s love of life, light, photography and the Channel Islands. It feels as if through these images, his subjects are asking us to understand, protect, and account for their place on this earth.”
California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus)
Sea of Light is divided into sections focusing on the Northern Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel) and the Southern Islands (Santa Catalina, San Clemente, Santa Barbara and San Nicolas), and shows the different residents of those two distinct habitats. The book depicts a plethora of animals that will be familiar to divers who have spent time in California’s kelp forests: spanish shawl nudibranchs, garabaldi, lingcod, and of course sea lions, among many others. In fact, the Visual Index located in the book’s back matter includes both common and scientific names for every image in the book, carefully verified with the help of biologist Shane Anderson, the Natural Historian and Marine Collector at UC Santa Barbara. This section is extremely useful, as it’s like having an underwater field guide to the Channel Islands.
Northern Kelp Crab, (Pugettia producta)
While Sea of Light features numerous lovely macro photos of interesting critters, where Salas’ photography really shines are in his wide angle images showing animals in their environment. It is with these images that he really gives a sense of what it is like to dive in the great kelp cathedrals of the Channel Islands. Salas’ careful balance of ambient exposure along with impeccable use of strobes portray the subjects in their best possible light.
Kelp Rockfish (Sebastes atrovirens)
Salas’s concern for the marine environment is evident through his commentary throughout the book, the poignant afterward by conservationist Peter Howorth, and the inclusion of a list of conservation organizations active in the Channel Islands region. This is a great resource for those interested in getting more involved in supporting the conservation of California’s kelp forest environment. If you have never dived the Channel Islands, this book will certainly make you want to make the trip.
Sea of Light is a high quality book, with beautiful reproductions, featuring a lovely contemporary design. Its visual index to all of the species included in the book is an added bonus. It is available for purchase from the book’s website for $75. It is a must-have addition to the library of any lover of California’s Channel Islands.
Review by Sterling Zumbrunn