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Celebration of a vanishing world

Bloom devoted 10 years to portraits of wild animals

When I saw the cover of this book - a grizzly bear running straight toward me - I was hooked. Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover. "Untamed," by photographer Steve Bloom, is jampacked with dynamic images of the world's wildlife. His pictures of stunning action and intimate moments between the animals will leave you asking, "How did he do that?"

Bloom didn't start to photograph wildlife seriously until he was 40, but he quickly made it his mission for the next 10 years to capture portraits of a vanishing world. He joins other serious wildlife photographers like Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe, Jim Brandenburg, and Thomas D. Mangelsen who fight to awaken humanity to the looming tragedy of environmental degradation and extinction.

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"We are witnessing tangible evidence of the fragility of ecosystems, brought about by the indifference humans have toward the earth and its resources," Bloom writes. "Yet we are all interdependent, and the preservation of animal cultures is essential to the balance and perhaps the ultimate survival of our fragile planet."

Bloom's anthropomorphic photos of animals will make viewers care: a chimpanzee playing with raindrops, proud albatross parents gazing at their young chick, a snow monkey enjoying a hot pool, hippos lounging in the mud.

His skill as a photographer is matched by his patience and perseverance. It took him 16 days in a rocking boat to capture the moment a great white shark breached while tossing a seal in the air.

"Untamed" is a large, beautifully reproduced book that weighs almost as much as a coffee table itself. The four-page foldouts are an added treat. My favorite is the polar bear walking across a frozen expanse of northern Canada at sunset ... or maybe the horses galloping through the marshes of France ... no, the grizzlies trying to catch salmon for dinner....

Melanie Stetson Freeman is a Monitor staff photographer.