Roger Steene’s ‘Ocean Wilderness’ captures the deeply weird

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

For just four of the first pages in “Ocean Wilderness” (Firefly, 622 color images on 338 pages, $59.95), Australian author and photographer Roger Steene’s camera roams above the water line. Then Steene and his camera go below, around the world. With a handful of exceptions, they stay down there, collecting images of all manner of sea creatures, cloaked in enough colors and patterns to challenge human imagination. (A few images from other photographers augment Steene’s.)

Just about all of these images will appeal to hard-core divers and marine fiends: Twelve kinds of damselfish, cataloged in two very blue pages! Sixteen cowries, wearing enough psychedelia to annoy the National Guard. This is scuba porn, really, unburdened by an index or even chapter headings. But there’s also plenty to intrigue non-divers who just like the idea of nature imitating a disaster in a neon factory: the red-blue-green legs of the temperate sea spider on Page 149, for instance; and the up-close sea-slugs, coral, sponge and sea cucumbers of Pages 132 and 133. And on Page 223, what is this many-colored thing called a nudibranch?

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