IN 1995 Alan James spent most of his time travelling and diving off the British coastline, making a trip many would envy. His travels took him from the Channel Islands to Scotland, with various stops along the south coast of England, the Scillies, Lundy and St Abbs. As might be expected of an underwater photographer, he recorded his journey on film and Beneath British Seas is the result.
Among the many photographs in this book are some fine shots of the marine life he saw along the way, and anyone who has struggled with a camera off our shores will admire the way the author has portrayed some of his subjects. Particularly good is a close-up shot of a plaices face, which has the soft and crumpled look of a well-worn slipper. The picture will make it difficult for this unfortunate fish ever to be taken seriously again.
The general balance of colour and mood achieved in most of the photographs is very effective, which makes all the more puzzling the decision to include one or two that are clearly not up to the mark. This apart, there is much to enjoy in the collection.
In a book of 144 pages, mostly taken up with 173 photographs, there is not a great deal of room for text, so the writing has to be good if it is to claim the readers attention. Unfortunately, it is here that the book falters, for the text does not match the quality of the photographs and is very thin fare indeed.
For me the author misses the point of his own book every time he wastes limited space by writing about himself, his camera equipment, and photographic jiggery-pokery. If needed, all this could have found a better home in the chapter entitled Underwater Photography, where it might be skipped by those more interested in the stated subject of the book.
An equal irritation is the puzzling use of the word image. Throughout the book the author chooses to take images rather than photographs.
While Beneath British Seas is unlikely to win any literary prizes, it should nevertheless be of interest to anyone familiar with the sites visited and photographed by the author.

Beneath British Seas by Alan James. Airlife Publishing, 01743 235651. Hardback,£19.95.