2006 article, SubSea magazine.
The Making of Cool Waters, Emerald Seas.
This month sees the publication of a major new book on diving temperate waters, Cool Waters, Emerald Seas by long-time SubSea contributor, John Collins. This is a beautifully produced, full-sized coffee table book with over 140 photographs from the world’s temperate seas, shot around Ireland, Canada, Tasmania and South Africa. We caught up with John as the book was going to print.
SubSea: You must be very excited to see this project to fruition, how did it come about?
JC: I really enjoy diving home waters. I think it is the variety and sheer profusion of life on good dive sites, like the Skelligs or the Aran Islands that keeps Irish divers coming back for more. Most of us bemoan the plankton blooms that reduce visibility on dives but it is the green phytoplankton that we have to thank for such a rich diving ecosystem. I felt that this diving is much less celebrated than its tropical counterpart and worked towards a book on it over the past few years.
SubSea: There certainly does not seem to be many coffee table books on cold water diving, did you have difficulty persuading a publisher to take it on?
JC: I came up with the idea about three years ago, though I had wanted to tackle a book for much longer. It was then a case of putting together a compelling portfolio and draft of the text that would present a publisher with a solid proposal. I was fortunate that an Irish publisher, Cork University Press, took it on under their Atrium imprint.
SubSea: Take us through the process from working on the photographs to writing the text and then publishing...
JC: I started with the pictures that I had from home waters and expanded that field to temperate seas worldwide, starting with a trip to Vancouver. With the material from home and Canada, I put a portfolio together and started work on the text. The narrative I had in mind was aimed at a general audience, not just divers. Once I had done a first draft of the text, I put a proposal together and thought about how I would complete the package. I was anxious to include temperate waters from the southern hemisphere and planned a short trip to Tasmania – along with a season’s diving at home – this would give me the photographs I needed to complete the book. Once the proposal had been accepted and refinements agreed, the book went to a designer and the process from that point took about 9 months.
SubSea: So the book is aimed at a wider audience than just divers?
JC: I am sure most Irish divers will agree that it is difficult to explain to non-diving partners, families and friends, what it is we get out of diving the Atlantic around our shores. It is mostly perceived to be wild, barren and forbidding and that diving it is, well, a mild form of madness. I know that’s what my own family think! So the book is a visual journey through our cool seas and a personal narrative on what it is like to dive it. At last, our mothers will get an idea of why we are so addicted to diving...
SubSea: The book certainly is a visual treat, the photographs are stunning. But the text, and particularly the quotations and extracts, are also inspirational. You obviously spent some time researching these?
JC: I love books myself, particularly diving books, and I have quite a library of them at this stage. I re-read many of the classics, particularly those of the early scuba diving pioneers – Cousteau, Hass, Tailliez and reckoned that the sense of adventure and discovery that is scuba diving is the same for every new diver. I have vivid recollections of my own early experiences in the water and so I compiled some extracts and quotations from other writers to insert among the photographs and reinforce this idea.
SubSea: What photographers and writers have influenced you most?
Well, anyone growing up in the seventies will remember ‘The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau’. His films, television series’ and books are superb, and an amazing record of our discovery of what lies beneath the surface of the oceans. One of Cousteau’s contemporaries, Philippe Diole, wrote one of my favourite books on diving, The Undersea Adventure, published in the 1950s. David Doubilet, a National Geographic photographer, has been an inspiration to a generation of underwater photographers through his articles and books. And another American photographer, Chris Newbert’s work is always a joy, particularly his first book, Within a Rainbowed Sea.
SubSea: How have you compiled the book – are there specific themes or chapters?
JC: The book is divided into six sections, each with a chapter of writing and accompanying photographs. The first two are an introduction to temperate water diving, the seasonality of cool waters, as well as personal observations from my own diving. Then there is a chapter on meeting the bigger animals, like dolphins and sharks and some nice images of Fungie (from his early days in Dingle) and some striking shots of great whites from South Africa. A wreck section, with a few favourites like U-260; and a more abstract, artistic section entitled Sea Dreams, completes the photograph portfolios.
SubSea: Congratulations and best of luck with it, we look forward to seeing Cool Waters Emerald Seas on our bookshelves.