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3.5 Stars: Generally Useful Pocket Guide to Hawaiian Marine Fish, But 15-20% of Photos Aren't Sufficiently Clear
on January 30, 2014
I was a bit disappointed with this pocket guide to the marine fish of Hawaii and am surprised that more people have not pointed out its main problem, namely too many photos that do not clearly depict the fish.
This is a small (6" x 4.75"), relatively pocketable, waterproof guide to the marine fish of Hawaii that one is likely to encounter while snorkeling or scuba diving. It contains 154 color 1.25" x 2.0" photos of fish on about 26 plasticized pages, along with a 4-8 word description of the fish as well as the fishes' size.
- Water proof and sufficiently compact that one could easily shove it in the pocket of one's swim trunks. One could also use a hole punch about 1/4" to 1/3" in from the top left corner of the book, which won't interfere with any fish photos and attach a lanyard to it (an old camera lanyard or strap, preferably one with a cinch on it that can be tightened or even a girl's thin hairband from a dollar store would work).
- The majority of photos are clear, they colorfully depict the various species of fish and the inclusion of typical lengths of the different species, along with a comment or two on appearance, helps to identify the fish.
- With photos of 154 different fish, this guide seems pretty comprehensive and likely to depict most of the fish one typically would encounter out on Hawaii's reefs.
- The only real con is that about 20 photos in the booklet aren't very good at all and show some vaguely and non-distinct silvery fish against a blueish or black background that do not show the details and colors of the fish well (e.g. barracudas, Hawaiian Flagtail, milkfish, plus several goatfish, jacks, mullets and snappers). I saw several schools of 6-10" silvery fish off Lahaina, but have no idea what they were because the photos of possible suspects in this book are not sufficiently clear to make an ID. Additionally, maybe 10 other fish photos have too faded of colors to be as helpful as they should be (e.g. several chromis, the parrotfish - none of which were close to as colorful as the brilliantly blue, turquoise, yellow and pink parrotfish we saw at Lanai - and several of the darker tangs). Now granted fish tend not to pose patiently for photographers, but given that the author of this book is supposedly an expert on Hawaiian fish and the fish in the book are supposedly commonly found in the reefs of Hawaii, I would have expected him to have obtained better photos of those 30 or so fish, so that all of the photos in the book were at the same high level. It almost seemed as if 80% of the photos in this book were taken while the author was scuba diving, when he had plenty of time to approach and compose the photos to obtain maximum clarity, and the other 20% were taken while snorkeling, when the author had only a few seconds worth of air in his lungs to take the shot and couldn't be picky.
Overall, I recommend buying this book if you're planning on doing some snorkeling or diving in Hawaii, as it can easily be stuffed in one's gear bag, it can even be taken underwater while snorkeling or diving, and most of the time it has good photos and good information for IDing fish. Ultimately, I decided not to take this into the water with me, as I figured I'd be too busy taking photos of fish with my waterproof camera to have the booklet strapped to my other wrist or be able to pull it out of a pocket; in retrospect, I have no regrets not bringing the book with me while snorkeling. Given the fact that I ultimately didn't need it to be waterproof, I think I might have been happier with one of the author's more comprehensive books instead of the booklet. I took a star and a half off this book's rating because it has too many mediocre photos to deserve a 5/5 rating, just as a student getting only 16 out of 20 right on a basic arithmetic quiz doesn't deserve an A grade. I hope that John Hoover, as more than a few authors do, checks out the reviews of his works here on Amazon, sees this one, takes this advice as constructive, and works on replacing the one-out-of-five photos that aren't up to the quality levels of the average photo in the book, for the next edition.