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Winter 2008 Roundup: Coffee-Table Books

David Schoonmaker, Catherine Clabby, Fenella Saunders, Morgan Ryan, Anna Lena Phillips, Flora Taylor

Over the Rivers: An Aerial View of Geology, by Michael Collier
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Roughly speaking, the difference between sedimentologists and geomorphologists comes down to their angle on the geological world. Sediments are, at least by origin, horizontal and always require that perspective. Geomorphologists prefer the vertical: What shaped a particular topography? In this, geologist and family physician Michael Collier is the quintessential geomorphologist. He peers down on the landscape with a Pentax from his Cessna 180 recording the way rivers and the land they cross interact. But he’s more than that.

After my first browse of Collier’s book, Over the Rivers (Mikaya Press, 2008, $34.95), neither earth scientist nor physician came to mind. Collier is a photographer of the highest caliber, someone who deeply understands the photographer’s paintbrush, what he himself calls “Rembrandt light.” Each of the book’s 73 aerial images of rivers at work is captivating, and the accompanying text helps the viewer decipher the landscape.

The photographs are restricted to North America and concentrate in the desert Southwest, where the Earth readily reveals in skeleton. But nothing is lost by the focus. It’s impossible to come away from this book without a deeper appreciation of our home and the processes that shape it.—David Schoonmaker

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