West Coast Shootout
With all the excitement surrounding last year’s West Coast Shootouts I had to continue this monthly event into 2011. The first shootout was at Madrona Point in Parksville, BC. The amazing marine life and incredible visibility at this site keeps me coming back both for myself and to showcase it to others. As an underwater photographer, Madrona is one place where I can photograph a multitude of nudibranch, rockfish and other fish species all condensed into one small area. This site is also great for spotting wolf eels and octopus, along with the occasional sea lion encounter.
On this particular day, the plan was to do two dives: one at the large wall, and the second dive at the small wall. Madrona’s large, or main wall, starts in about 35 ft (12 m) of water and drops down to 100 ft (33 m), and is a haven for several rockfish species and kelp greenlings. If you can imagine, this wall is about 500 ft (150 m) long and is 65 ft (20 m) high at its highest point, tapering off at each end. The wall is covered in what can only be described as mini caves and holes. A vast array of marine life reside in these holes of various sizes and shapes: octopus and wolf eels use them for dens, Tiger Rockfish nestle deep inside the larger ones, and gunnels and sculpins peer out at you from the darkness.
Once everyone was geared up, we headed out for the main wall. The visibility could only be described as a phenomenal 50 ft. + (15 m.), and once we reached the wall it was alive with life. Everyone paired off and most of the photographers stuck together trying to help each other find something cool to shoot. I was able to get some images of a number of rockfish but most importantly I found a baby wolf eel. So exciting! After the dive everyone was raving about how amazing the visibility was and the amount of life everyone had seen.
The second dive of the day for the West Coast Shootout, we hopped in at the small wall. This wall is located to the left of the beach, and the best entrance is down a small ravine that leads to the water. This wall runs parallel to the beach and is quite shallow (maximum 40 ft/ 12 m), however the life is incredible. The rocks that jut out of the sand are covered in anemones, sea stars and macro life. The wall is also undercut, providing a sanctuary for many juvenile fish and is a great place to find Bay Pipefish, which are relatives to the seahorse. On previous dives I have seen hundreds of these elusive creatures in one area. There are also a number of shallow octopus dens scattered along the length of this wall. On this particular dive, we managed to find 4 octopus on the wall and I was able to get some great images of one large octo hunkered down in its den. I decided to shoot macro on this dive hoping that I would get some images of a pipefish along with some of the different nudibranch species that reside on this small wall. I was not disappointed: not only did I find a pipefish, but I also managed to shoot a large octopus in its den. This particular octopus was quite large (5-6 ft /2 m) across and was hiding under a slab of rock. To be able to get a good shot I had to remove my strobes from my housing and place them off camera to generate the light that I needed. I also placed my spotting light off camera, which allowed me to see, and my camera to focus. The images turned out quite well showing that sometimes you have to think outside of the box to get the shot you want.
I would like to thank everyone who came out for this first shootout, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year!
Additional Images from West Coast Shootout #1 - Link
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