Yesterday (10/10) I took a dive trip with a number of friends and colleagues from the California Science Center to the oil rigs off the southern California coast. This particular set of rigs sit in waters ranging in depth from 200 feet (61 m) to over 700 feet (213 m). Even at the shallowest, this is well beyond the maximum depths for diving using standard scuba techniques, so divers usually hover around the gigantic structure of the rig at depth shallower than 100 feet (30 m(
The rigs are covered with an amazing array of marine life, which has led to a drive to preserve the underwater portions of these structures once their useful life as oil production platforms ends. Schools of various baitfish swirl around the outer edges, while various predators lurk in the shadows making determined rushes into the schools. Immobile species coat the surfaces of the structure, including mussels, barnacles, strawberry anemones, and many more. Even greater numbers of smaller species settle into the cracks and crevices among the larger species.
I made acquaintance with the little character in today's photo, a mussel blenny (Hypsoblennius jenkinsi), during the last few minutes of the last dive of the day on oil rig Elly. I found it living in an empty mussel shell in an angle of the enormous reef structure darting out to catch plankton that was drifting by on the current. The angle also was at least a temporary grazing spot for several small blacksmith fish (Chromis punctipinnis) and a resident juvenile garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus). While watching the darting motions of these small predators, my eye was attracted to the scurrying motion of a slightly larger, darker shape that seemed to appear from nowhere, darted out for a snack, and then as quickly seemed to disappear.
Watching more carefully, I made out the comical head and eyes of this fine little fish poking out of its mussel shell. I spent the next few minutes setting up my shot as it got used to me hanging out at the entrance to its home. Eventually it began to show more and more of itself, but wouldn't completely leave its shelter while I was there. But I was able to get this beautiful shot of this little fish. They remind me of old men with bushy eyebrows, which are a characteristic of all the members of the blenny family.
This photo was taken with a Canon EF100 mm f/2.8 macro lens attached to both a Canon EF12 mm and EF25 mm extension tube on a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III in an Ikelite underwater housing. Light was provided by two Ikelite DS-161 strobes in eTTL exposure mode. The exposure was set to 1/45 sec. at f/9.5 and ISO 200.