October 4, 2010 –
“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” ~Robert Louis StevensonNed opens the Authors’ Note for his and Paul Humann’s new field guide Reef Creature Identification: Tropical Pacific with this favorite quote, which gives me pause to reflect back on the happy days we’ve had the past five years hunting for critters in the Pacific. We typically spent five hours a day underwater during numerous two-month stays, in Ned’s case, much of the time making night dives. Ned’s philosophy with all his marine life photography is “we owe it to the animals to present them to the world in their best light”.As the work progressed and it became evident that many of the creatures we were finding and photographing were new to science, presenting each animal in its “best light” became an even more meaningful credo.
After the 2003 publication of the Tropical Pacific fish book, in partnership with Dr. Gerry Allen and Roger Steene, Paul’s and Ned’s tongues were hanging out. It took a while for the pair to recover from the rigors of cataloging images, corresponding with scientists, writing descriptions, editing, re-writing, designing the format, laying out copy, and marketing. Whew! Although the idea of creating a companion guide of Pacific invertebrates had always been on the table, Ned and Paul were hesitant to jump back into another protracted project. After several months, I began to nag a bit. Good friends like Scuba Diving editor David Espinosa and Cary Yanny would help the cause by dropping occasional e-mail hints. After a year, we were packing bags and jetting off for an extended stay in Indonesia, and the critter hunt of our lives began.
Five years later, on August 24th, the five advance copies of the new book arrived from Singapore via DHL, just as Ned and I were leaving for a REEF Field Survey in Key Largo. Needless to say, our drive south was delayed for a few hours as we eagerly thumbed through the 500 pages. We dropped a copy into the mail for Eric Cheng, who had interviewed Paul and Ned about the book for a Wetpixel Interview then headed to Fort Lauderdale to deliver a copy to Paul before continuing south. Being well aware of the hundreds of hours of work, and their trials and tribulations both below and above water, I enjoyed watching Ned and Paul having their first look at the finished product. I know I am biased but I think this is their best, most beautiful book yet. The following morning we dropped by Stephen Frink’s studio in Key Largo, where Ned presented Stephen with a press copy and we had a few shots taken to commemorate the occasion.
Back in Jacksonville, our photo editor and managing director Eric Riesch was busily working out the final details for a limited-edition release of the book. Eric had managed to arrange for an early shipment of 500 books and talked Ned and Paul into selling them exclusively through our web site as a signed and numbered edition until the remaining books arrive in November. By the way, there is still time to order your own pre-release, limited-edition copy, which sells for the regular price of $48.
Ned and Paul decided to donate the first five numbered copies to REEF to auction off as a fundraiser. The 10-day auction went live on eBay just after we arrived in Bonaire for our annual September visit at Buddy Dive. What fun – the winning bid for signed book #1 was $515!All together, the auction fetched $1,735 for the five copies, with all of the proceeds going to REEF via eBay’s charitable giving division.
We returned from Bonaire last Saturday just as Paul flew in for a few days to sign the first 500 copies.
While Ned and Paul developed a nasty case of writer’s cramp, I packed for our Thursday departure for Indonesia. We’ll be staying at the Lembeh Cottages on Lembeh Strait and Kima Bajo resort outside the city of Manado on the island of Sulawesi. We will be hosting a Fish and Critter Hunt, modeled after our annual Bonaire event. On our return through Singapore we’ll participate in several media events celebrating the release of the new book to the Asian market, organized by Ivan Choong, our book distributor in the region.
To me, Reef Creature Identification, Tropical Pacific goes well beyond the standard field guide. With 2000 splendid photographs of 1600 species, it is an intoxicating cavalcade of the sea’s biodiversity. I was privileged to be part of the project, and with each new animal we discovered, reminded anew of how very lucky we are to be able to spend so much time underwater.
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