There’s a Starfish waiting in the pool

He’d like to come and meet us

[sorry, David Bowie]

The Ochre Star is a species of starfish that captured my attention on our recent trip to the Oregon coast. They are bigger than most starfish reaching upwards of one foot in diameter. It’s not the size that caught my attention but the combination of its girth and vibrant colors. Thus, the hunt for starfish became a primary activity as we traveled up the coast. They live mostly in tidal pools meaning we need to conduct our hunts during the lowest of tides. This proved difficult as the tides were mostly higher than normal.

The Ochre Star!

Maybe you are thinking, what really is a tidal pool? A tide pool or rock pool or tidal pools is a shallow pool of seawater that forms on the rocky shore. These pools exist as separate bodies of water only at low tide. High tide was great for seascapes such as Thor’s Well, whereas low tide is great for photographing more intimate scenes such as the tidal pool.

Home to many forms of sea life, including anemone, starfish, crab, mussel, and barnacle.

I had an image in my mind, it is of starfish on a rock with the coastline in the distance. Never got it. Did not get close, except once. I found two starfish on a flat rock on the beach. I was so excited. I ran over to them and set up to take a photo with the ocean in the background. Then a wave came, totally submerging them. That would be fine as I could wait for the wave to recede. Except the wave was high, almost over my boots. I attempted the photo multiple times, failing each time in the same way. What’s the definition of insanity? I moved on.

On another day, I noticed a one from a distance, its orange body glistening in the sun. It was attached to the side of a sea stack near the water’s edge, among numerous barnacles. I headed for my prey looking to capture a colorful starfish photo. I got there as the water receded which allowed me to get very close. I readied my camera, checked my settings, fine-tuned my focus, all in just a second. As I was ready to click, a new wave came in, about 3 feet high. By the time I realized what happened, I had some of the Pacific Ocean in my knee-high boots.  I squished my way out of the water not wanting to be dragged in by the fierce undertow. I made it to the top of the beach, removed my boots, poured out the ocean, rung out my socks, and waited for Kathyrn. After a few snarky comments, she helped me back to the hotel. “Did you at least get a good picture?” Failed again, so I moved on.

After much searching and failing, we came across a set of tidal pools. Walking in and around these pools could be slick except for the natural traction provided by the thousands of open mussel shells. The colors were vibrant, green for the anemone, orange and purple for the starfish, and deep blue-black for the mussel shells.

Photographer’s note: do not need a fast shutter speed, the starfish do not move much.

The Giant Green Sea Anemone’s biggest predator is our hero, the Ochre Star.

Ochre Star feels like wet leather to the touch.

We got to witness the entire ecosystem, the anemone’s enemy is the ochre star whose enemy is the sea gull who is my enemy as they eat my friends, the Ochre Stars.