There are hundreds of nature photographers participating in building the species photo galleries on E-Flora BC and E-Fauna BC. They range from professionals to amateurs, and use equipment that ranges from point and shoot cameras to iPhones to top-of-the-line photographic equipment. Many of them have tales to tell of their adventures while photographing wildlife or plants in BC, but only one has mentioned being attacked by a North Pacific Giant Octopus--Derek Holzapfel.
Derek is a retired computer professional who is now a scuba diver and nature photographer living on Pender Island. He has more than 30,000 photos in his collection, 5,000 of those are underwater photos of marine life in BC. Originally from Ontario, Derek moved to BC in 1992, and to Pender Island in 1999. He now aims to document BCs marine species and is a significant photo contributor to E-Fauna. This hobby, however, has its dangers, such as his wild octopus encounter.
Derek provides an account of the octopus attack on his web site, NatureDiver Photography. He says:
"Having waited until late afternoon for a slack tide, I hauled my gear down one of the ocean access trails. My dive started with a curious whitespotted greenling darting around me, and some macro photography of the delicate white gills of the frosted (alabaster) nudibranch. To my disappointment, the ambient light slowly faded and the batteries died in my primary dive light, leaving me in the dark. I decided to continue the dive using the camera's (very dim) LED spotting lights.
Down at 21 m, in near darkness, I was concentrating on some super macros shots of the intricate red patterns on the back of a vermilion star when a shadow emerged from the gloom. As I recognized a Giant Pacific Octopus coming towards me, I thought, "A friendly octopus coming to say hello--this should make for some great photography!" How wrong I was. To my utter amazement, this huge creature lunged forward and latched onto me and my camera with four of its tentacles, while using two others to anchor itself around a rock. I initially thought, "So this is how my life is going to end," followed by "Sure would be nice to get some more photos," and then "Okay, how do I get out of this?" In a desperate move of self defence, I pushed my dead flashlight into its body, but to no effect, and I was being pulled down by the cephalopod's incredible strength. My mind raced: should I use my knife, or drop my weights, or let go of the camera gear, or inflate my suit? Fortunately, I was able to swing my fins onto a rock below me and push straight up. After a tug of war and much effort on my part, the octopus decided I was not fit for dinner and released me. I quickly moved to shallow water..."
This underwater adventure hasn't stopped Derek from continuing with his underwater photography. He still takes photographs, mostly in the winter months: "The winter months are ideal for underwater photography, as the plankton dies off during the shorter days, and the silt runoff from the mainland is reduced by the mountain snow pack".
About E-Fauna BC, he says: "My reasons for sharing on E-Fauna is to provide another venue to share my photos and educate people on the amazing biodiversity living in our local waters." All of Derek's photos come with location coordinates, allowing us to map his species records, and providing another example of citizen science at work.
A few of Derek's photos:
Golden Dirona (Dirona pellucida)
Orange Peel Nudibranch (Tochuina tetraquetra)
Frosted (Alabaster) Nudibranch (Dirona albolineata), by Derek Holzapfel
View more of Derek's photos on his web site.
View more of Derek's photos on E-Fauna BC