Nature is rich source for summer reading

  • By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
  • Friday, July 13, 2007 3:58pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The snowy egret had just made an unsuccessful dive into a tidal marsh and was ruffling its feathers to dry off when the moment was caught by the lens that captured the stare of the egret, backlit by the sun, its plumage spread wide.

A white-tailed deer fawn peers through the brush. An osprey flies with its catch, an oystercatcher with its meal. Ancient rock is colored in sweet pastels. The light casts shadows across the low-tide ripples of sand.

Photographer Ian Plant’s three-year project to kayak and photograph along the routes of Capt. John Smith’s exploration of the Chesapeake Bay 400 years ago resulted in “Chesapeake: Bay of Light” ($45, Mountain Trail Press), proving that a beautifully done coffee-table book can be about a place 3,000 miles away, yet speak to far-flung readers in the common language of nature.

Plant excels with his use of light and sense of timing when photographing wildlife. The book reflects the length of time that he took and his respect for the wild places that have survived the urbanization of the bay.

Essays by Tom Horton are just the right touch to complement the art.

Other options for summer reading include:

“Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after Snakebite” ($16, University of Arizona Press). Erec Toso has been bitten by a rattlesnake, a near-death experience whose effects linger for months and may have changed him forever.

The well-written “Zero” is part nature writing, part philosophy, part a very personal rendition of his relationship with the experience and how the bite affected his life. It’s a moving look at loss, death and our part in the natural world.

“Do Dolphins Ever Sleep?” ($20, Sheridan House). Pierre-Yves and Sally Bely answer 211 questions about the sea, the sky and ships. Why is the sea salty? Why are icebergs white? Why do barnacles attach themselves to boat hulls? Why are cold seas green and warm seas blue? “Dolphins” is loaded with answers, photographs and illustrations.

“The Songs of Insects” ($20, Houghton Mifflin). Lang Elliott’s and Wil Hershberger’s book has it all: large photographs, illustrations, range maps, song graphs, a short text on each insect and its song (and a lengthy introduction), and a 70-minute CD including all 70 insects in the book.

Even the names of insects are intriguing: confused ground cricket, handsome trig, gladiator meadow katydid, slightly musical conehead, rattler round-winged katydid, robust shieldback, and scissor-grinder cicada are but a few.

“Glacier: A Natural History Guide” ($18, Falcon, 2nd edition). Taking a trip to Glacier National Park this summer? Let naturalist David Rockwell be your guide to the flora, fauna, geology and history of the park. Although there are some where-to-go elements (geology, wildlife), the book focuses on several areas of the park and the life and geology in those sections.

“Sharks of the Pacific Northwest” ($20, Harbour). Eighteen species of sharks inhabit the waters off our coast, including bluntnose sixgill, Pacific sleeper and great white sharks. About half the book concentrates on biology, ecology, shark and human interactions and identification; the second focuses on species profiles.

“Photography for the Joy of It” ($22, Key Porter). Are you just starting to learn the joy of getting up at the crack of dawn to photograph in the magic morning light? If so, Freeman Patterson’s and Andre Gallant’s “Photography” (30th anniversary edition) can enrich your experience with this book, an introduction to film and digital photography. The “Learning to See” section is the most important part of the book.

“Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins and Feather Stars of British Columbia, Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound” ($25, UBC Press). Color photographs are in the center of the text that examines 24 brittle stars, eight sea urchins and two feather stars. Description and biology, plus illustrations, cover the marine invertebrates.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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