A wondrous riot of color under the sea

Many talented photographers have documented the beauty of the undersea world, but Jeffrey Rotman offers a new view of this treasure trove in "Eyes Into Secret Seas," published by Rizzoli ($75).

From the moment you pick up his creatively designed book, you will be dazzled by textures, patterns, and colors. The photographs are almost exclusively macro shots. Close-ups of octopus, corals, fans, invertebrates, and especially fish, all focus on the incredible and surprising details of sea life. Many of Rotman's fish shots look more like abstract paintings than photographs of real creatures. The parrotfish is one of the most colorful characters under the sea: Green, orange, purple, blue, and yellow combine in lines, polka dots, and squiggles over scales, eyes, fins, and gills. Rotman has captured them from every angle. His detail shot of a queen angelfish's gills and tail in bright yellow and gray is stunning. His photo collection of fish lips is wonderful, too.

Fish are constantly in motion. Add to that the presence of a diver with a big camera with flashes going off, and you wonder how anyone could get so close to these shy and skittish critters. Rotman shares his secrets, describing how he got these shots. Most were taken at night when fish usually "sleep" by resting on the reef and thus are more easily approached. Still, the patience required shows Rotman's skill as a naturalist. Dive into this book and immerse yourself in beauty, but remember that the point is to nudge the viewer to care. As Rotman says, "If we collectively, as a species, are not willing to take the steps needed to preserve this gift, it will disappear."

Melanie Stetson Freeman is a staff photographer.

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