Coming to Terms with Fish-Mug Mini-Obsessiveness

Back when I wrote about my nemesis hooded nudibranchs, I was naive. In my narrow view of the world, those many dives ago, I thought hooded nudibranchs were my only nemesis in the sea. I’ve lost that innocent view of the water; I now have many nemeses.

So many in fact, that I think of them now as mini-obsessions: I get a new nemesis and seek it out until I gain photographic satisfaction.

I finally came to accept these mini-obsessions recently as I was doing repeated visits to Cove 2. My target was the incredibly cute decorated warbonnet. Despite the rather ostentatious name, the fish is generally shy and completely adorable. And as I am now well aware, most of my mini-obsessions result from seeing someone else’s really great photo of a given animal and wanting to make my own really great photo of the same species.

I had not even wanted to dive Cove 2 — it sounded boring to me. I had not been in the water in 6 weeks – which is very unusual. So first splash back, June 13, John suggested Cove 2, which I thought sounded monumentally uninteresting. Like I said: Bo-Ring. Little did I know a new [mini-]obsession was about to be born.

It all began when I spotted a decorated warbonnet in a piling. (By the way, this is one species that is hard to create a cute nickname for — warbie? decky?) The decorated warbonnets at Cove 2 are seasonal, and to me this sighting meant that they had returned for the summer. The one I found was posed exactly perfectly beautifully. It was not shy, not moving, and I had a clear shot. I should have come away with stunning images. But instead, I had a minor gear malfunction (with my brain). I could not understand why every single photo was getting totally blown out, no matter how I changed my camera settings. Well, despite having faced this exact same issue probably 10 or times previously, I failed to remember the solution, which had nothing to do with camera settings and everything to do with accidentally hitting a button on my YS-D1 strobe so that it was set incorrectly. (One of the drawbacks of that strobe is how easy it is to knock the buttons to unknowingly put the settings askance.)

June 13. Total blow-out. Comical, really.

June 13. Total blow-out. Comical, really.

Bad photos of a perfectly set up Warbie = must return and try again. I went back with Don on June 14 (yes, the next day).

This time, the little guy was home, but for whatever reason, 24 hours later the Metridium (the giant plumose anemones) were completely obstructing the view. I snapped a few photos but was painfully unsuccessful…

June 14. View obstructed.

June 14. View obstructed.

Okay, that’s two dives at Cove 2 with two different buddies. I decided to add a little challenge to my quest for a good Deckie photo — to do every Cove 2 dive with a different buddy for as long as it took to get a photo I would like.

On my third attempt, June 22 with Eric, exact same route, and the same little guy was home, and the Metridium were not in the way. I took a few photos that I thought looked great in my view finder. I felt very expectantly happy… felt like I finally did it! This was going to be it. I was finally going to have my great shot of this fish whose super cute mug I had failed to adequately capture for years, despite repeated efforts. After I was satisfied I had finally done it, reached the top of Everest, I let my buddy know about the fish so he could also see it and take some photos.

Back home, my photos were not what I had hoped. They were okay but not *wow-great* which was my goal. It was too shallow to blame narcosis. I simply didn’t reach Everest. I was only at Base Camp.

June 22. Cute but still not what I was hoping for.

June 22. Cute but still not what I was hoping for.

(Eric’s photo was terrific.)

My fourth attempt… July 12 with Kimber. This time we headed out to the end of the I-beams (a break with tradition). Along the way we found a huge surprise for Cove 2 — a spiny lumpsucker (I will blatantly point this out as foreshadowing to a future SeaJen). The end of the I-beams are covered in Metridium — favorite habitat for the Cove 2 DecWarbs. Therefore, Metridium was all I cared about inspecting… and voila! An I-beam DecWarbie. Snap snap snap.

We headed back upslope to the pilings where my little pal had been the previous three dives. But I had an empty feeling approaching the piling, and my instincts were right. No,  the little DecoWar was not there. But as there was plenty more Metridium in the area, I was back on the hunt. And pretty soon I found not one, but two more Warbonnies. They were next to each other — one hiding in a hole, the other wedged in amongst the wood and Metridium. Poof, Poof, Poof, went the strobes as I blinded these guys relentlessly in my complete and total obsession with getting one good photo.

So, are you dying to find out?

On this day, I got my best so far. It is still not perfect. But it is probably as good as I will ever get at Cove 2 with the camera I am using.

July 12. As good as it’s gonna get.

July 12. As good as it’s gonna get.

Epilogue: I returned the next day, July 13, to Cove 2 with yet another buddy (Bobby), but it was like going back to base camp from the top – no, not even that. It was like nothing at all. I barely even searched for the Raters. And in fact I didn’t see much at all. Which was fine. I felt like I was being let out of rehab. No, that’s not right; rehab implies one is rehabilitated. Spiny lumpsuckers, here I come…


About Jen Vanderhoof

I'm Jen Vanderhoof. I’m an ecologist with a wildlife background, and I spend a lot of time outdoors near water looking for signs of beavers and, when I'm lucky, photographing beavers. I am also a birder, scuba diver, and accordingly bird, nature, and underwater photographer. I write and draw, and I also enjoy carving beaver-chewed wood. I hope to spread the understanding, acceptance, and love of the most incredible animal species I know, the beaver.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s