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Bruce Obee
Photography by Tim Fitzharris North Vancouver (B.C.), Whitecap Books, 1991. 152pp, cloth, $39.95
ISBN 1495099 86-2. CIP

Reviewed by Fred Leicester

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

This 33.5 x 24.5 cm production, a collaboration by Vancouver Island writer Bruce Obee and well-known wildlife photographer Tim Fitzharris, falls a little short of the necessary heft and sumptuousness to be accorded full-blown coffee-table-book status. It is a toss-up whether one would describe this book as a pictorial work with text or as text with a lot of photographs, as the two components are about evenly balanced.

What we have is an interesting narrative written in a chatty, easy-to-read manner that is both accurate and informative, supplemented with photographs of the animals being described. The non-technical text not only deals with biological and ecological information but also often includes an historical perspective. For example, the article on killer whales talks about their capture by aquariums and the subsequent well-publicized fate of some of these animals. Likewise, the trade in sea otter furs is discussed.

The coastal wildlife that Obee talks about and Fitzharris has photographed is restricted to the larger, more visible species of birds and mammals to be seen on the B.C. coast. Thus the text describes, and the photos depict, seals, otters, whales, porpoises, bears, cougars h and deer, as well as raptors, shorebirds, gulls, dabblers, divers and other waterfowl. More than half the book is devoted to birds.

Although this is a nicely produced, strongly bound book with an interesting text I was rather disappointed with the uneven quality of the photographs, especially given the reputation of the photographer. There are some very effective and beautiful photographs to be sure, and most of the photos are crisp, but there are also shots that are blurry, or so dark as to make the subjects indistinguishable from the background, or else (to my admittedly inexpert eye) just plain ordinary. Another feature of the book that I found distracting was the use of photo spreads partly extending over two pages in which the subject's head, for example, disappears into the book binding.

Because the selling feature of this kind of book is the pictorial content, in today's competitive world of nature photography simply being good is not sufficient really to arouse the interest of prospective buyers. It is on this count that the book falls short of being given my unreserved recommendation for school library purchase. However, for those institutions with funding for further purchases in this genre, or for British Columbia schools building their provincial natural history collections, the book would be a solid buy.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up

Fred Leicester, Golden School District, Golden, B.C.

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