Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Melissa and I are currently in Palau, Micronesia. Palau is one of the world's top scuba destinations, famous for its beauty above and below the waves. We've been flying over the picturesque islands in a small plane, flying over the coral reefs carried along by brisk currents, submerging in a lake filled with millions of stingless jellyfish, exploring sunken World War II history, enjoying close encounters with sharks and mantas and sea turtles, and in between it all, spending time with great friends we've gathered together from around the world. Fun stuff. We're looking forward to another dive reunion as soon as we can.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


REEF LIFE now available! Thanks for your patience. Our new book is now available at and Barnes and Noble and will soon be in a variety of brick and mortar stores across the nation, and later, overseas.

Below is the text from an interview with Scuba Diving Magazine. At the end is a link to a small photo gallery of sample images from Reef Life. Enjoy!

Q and A with Scuba Diving Magazine RE our new "Reef Life" book

Q: You have been the primary photographer of several other books in the past. How was this project different from others?

A: I like to think of this book as a hybrid, a blending of genres-  critter ID handbook, small format coffee table book, and dive guide all wrapped into one. At its core it’s a useful source for identification of a wide variety of tropical marine critters, from whales to snails, but with more creative and attractive photo treatment than one normally sees in guidebooks. I include large format beauty shots usually reserved only for large coffee table tomes, plus there’s a wealth of solid scientific information including regional surveys of endemism, in depth sections on behavior and natural history, and windows into habitats adjoining the coral reef such as mangroves and the open ocean. Lots of bonus material to help flesh out one’s understanding of, and I hope appreciation for, reef ecology and the tropical marine ecosystem. This is much more than your typical “fish ID book”. I’m grateful Firefly supported my vision in breaking the mold to create something new.

Q: The book contains over 1,000 color photographs. Of this expansive collection, which photos mean the most to you personally?

A: There’s a story behind most of these pictures, most definitely. As marine photography has been my full-time job for twenty years, I have a very real connection to the thousands of pictures created in my travels. That connection is most often to the photo’s subject- the animal or the moment in time- rather than the image’s composition, artistry, or techniques used to make it. I’ve always been more interested in the critters than the craft. Since I’ve enjoyed so many amazing encounters with fascinating creatures large and small, most of the pictures in this book do indeed strike a personal chord. A pelagic feeding frenzy with rarely photographed bryde’s whales and dozens of marlin attacking sardine baitballs surely ranks as the luckiest encounter I’ve ever had at sea… Slogging through a wasteland of what was once verdant mangrove forest, denuded to make way for a beach resort, left me near tears, as did climbing onto a sharkfinning boat in Thailand… On a brighter note, the “over under” split view reef shot which opens Chapter One is a favorite of mine. I believe it nicely illustrates a connection between land and sea, and captures the adventurous spirit which drives many of us in our quest to explore beneath the waves. Additionally, the mermaid pictured is my wife Melissa, my best friend and long-time dive buddy.

Q: How important was it for you to have a conservation chapter in this book?

A: Both the Publisher and I felt it very important to include a conservation section. To only show pretty pictures, to only talk about the beauty on the reef, is only telling part of the story. Though the marine ecosystem is remarkably resistant, man has for too long taken the sea’s bounty for granted.  The health of our planet’s oceans needs to be addressed now. There is so much at stake. In this book I felt obligated to take a broader, more responsible view, and discuss many of the challenges facing marine ecosystems worldwide. Those of us working beneath the waves must speak for Ocean’s inhabitants who cannot.

Q: Do you have a favorite marine animal that you like to photograph?

A: Tough question, but I’d have to say it’s a tie between cephalopods (octopus and their kin, especially the mimic and giant Pacific octopus species) and whales (humpbacks and orcas).

Q: What are your biggest challenges with underwater photography?

A: The challenges start with the obvious, such as keeping my cameras from taking a bath, and maintaining finicky electronics through a gauntlet of rigorous travel and hostile environmental conditions. Then they continue with the need to dive safely when so much of one’s brain is focused on f-stops and strobe output, and of course create interesting, beautiful, emotive pictures along the way. And finally the challenges move into the realm of succeeding in the business of photography, that is effectively marketing the resulting pictures in order to pay the bills and keep moving forward, growing one’s photo collection and traveling to the edges of Earth. I’m pretty sure that med school and a career as a brain surgeon would have been easier, less stressful, and certainly better for the bank account. But not as rewarding in what really matters to me.

Q: What's next for Brandon Cole? What is your next project?

A: There are still many places to explore and animals to photograph, so my bags will remain packed. I will be underwater in Micronesia during the official release of Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life, and returning to the Galapagos, Socorro, and the Bahamas shortly thereafter. I’m considering a companion guide focusing on temperate waters, as well as a book showcasing my encounters with charismatic megafauna. And in the midst of all of this, I’m delving into video to add a new dimension to my library.



Monday, March 4, 2013


While on a recent photo expedition in Mexico targeting sailfish, we came across a group of hungry whale sharks. This photo shows my good friend Paul, one gulp away from a horrible death. To be honest, he was perfectly safe. Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus)-- which can grow to over 50 feet in length and therefore qualify as the largest fish in the sea-- eat plankton (tiny plants and animals) and occasionally small schooling fish. We've photographed whale sharks all over the world, and they are one of the scuba diver's "must see" animals.

We had so much fun snorkeling with whale sharks we're thinking of doing a special whale shark photo trip in 2014. Let us know if you're interested in coming along!

Whale Shark, gulp feeding on sardine eggs from Brandon Cole MARINE PHOTOGRAPHY on Vimeo.