Underwater photographer Richard Salas is raising money for The Ocean Foundation with the sales of his newest book, Luminous Sea. The book is the third in a trilogy that explores the sea life of the Pacific Ocean, and is focused on waters along the coasts of Canada and Alaska.
“This one’s more about the beauty of cold water,” Salas told TreeHugger. “So many people think that because the water’s cold, because it’s dark, because it doesn’t have really good visibility that there’s no life there. It’s really completely the opposite.”
The first book, "Sea of Light," explores California's Channel Islands. "Blue Visions" is the second book, and follows the Pacific Coast from Mexico to the Equator.
Salas became fascinated with tide pools at Laguna Beach as a child, sparking a life-long love of the sea. He later learned to dive, which in turn led him to underwater photography, winning a scholarship to work under Ernest H. Brooks.
Salas, who has worked as a commercial photographer for 35 years, says that working underwater presents a unique set of challenges. “You get underwater, and you only have a certain amount of time, because you only have a certain amount of air,” he said. “You have to be a good diver first. You have to be concerned about your air consumption, about your buoyancy.”
Yet the challenges pay off. In January, he was able to photograph a 9-foot pacific octopus after 11 hours of diving. “They’re nocturnal animals, but occasionally you can find them out roaming around,” said Salas. “To go down there and just sit there, in 43 degree [Fahrenheit] water, it’s really no fun. It’s really really cold, and you don’t know when the octopus is going to come out, or if it’s going to come out.”
The photographer particularly enjoyed capturing images of Stellar sea lions, which proved to be very friendly. “They sort of keep their distance at first, and they kind of check out the situation,” said Salas. “And then they just come full-on.” Sea lions use their mouths to explore—and one once fit Salas' head into its mouth. “They’re powerful animals, so they could really inflict some damage, but they’re just curious and they’re sort of like 700 pound puppy dogs swimming around.”
Salas is raising money for the book’s publication with an Indiegogo campaign, and will donate 50 percent of the book’s future profits to The Ocean Foundation.