I interviewed Richard Field about his new book, Reef Fishes of Oman, a photographic guide to the fish you are likely to see diving Oman's waters.
Why did you decide to publish digitally rather than as a paperback?
An ebook is readily updateable and amendable. A photo is easy to replace with a newer and better image and name changes (which are frequent) can be quickly changed. I like to be in control of content !
Your web site is called "Reef Fishes of Arabia, The Essential Guide" is that what you were going to call the book originally, and if so why the change?
Yes, originally that was the idea, but unfortunately I do not have enough experience to include the Gulf of Aden. This is an interesting area (not on the tourist map !) where species overlap in distribution from the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.
One of the fish in the book is named Chromis fieldi - was this named after you?
Yes, Dr JE Randall kindly honoured me by naming the Indian Ocean species Chromis fieldi. This was a Field family affair, my wife Mary and son Francis helped in collecting specimens of Red Sea Chromis dimidiata to demonstrate that it is a different species to that found in the Indian Ocean.
You were a pioneer of underwater photography, could you tell me a little about those days?
I have never regarded myself as a pioneer. My interest in Red Sea fishes began in Port Sudan when an Australian marine biologist produced a book 'Red Sea Fisheries of Sudan' for the Sudan government. He was working on a pearl cultivation project and I helped him with some sampling work. All free diving of course since SCUBA was not available. All the fishes in his book were hand drawn by the Port pilot's daughter. I resolved there and then to produce, sometime, a Red Sea fish book with photographs. To start I had to find a camera (not easy in Port Sudan in 1964). Having done so, I made a housing out of scrap telecommunications equipment, and started taking underwater photographs (black and white, of course !), though with limited success.
Although you've been free diving since the 60's you didn't learn to scuba dive until 1993 - do you regret taking so long to do so?
Up to the early 90's I was very happy with free diving and could not understand how people could load themselves with heavy gear to go into the water. My son changed all that when, at the age of 12, he insisted on taking his PADI OW course. So I felt obliged to take the course with him.
Has there been an occasion when you didn't take your camera underwater and really wished you had?
I always carry a camera. I once regretted taking my camera though. I was attending a Fish Conference in Durban, South Africa and after the conference Mary and I joined a group of marine biologists for a week's diving and specimen collecting in Sodwana, near the Mozambique border. My first dive was very short - my housing flooded immediately since I had forgotten to reseal the housing after the flight from UK. To add to the pain, Mary had decided not to bring her camera on the trip !
Which is your favourite dive site?
A good dive site for me is one that contains a great diversity of marine fauna. The Daymanyat Islands of Oman, perhaps.
Are you planning any other books?
I am currently working on a revamp of our book 'Reef Fishes of the Red Sea', published in 1998. This will also be an ebook.
Reef Fishes of Oman is available for 5.99 Euro from Reef Fishes of Arabia. You must click the "Return to derenyimaria @ yahoo.co.uk" link to be directed to the download page.
Richard Field was interviewed by Jill Studholme