SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES, as well as bringing untold joy, can be cruel and cold places.
One of my early forays onto YouTube was to upload a photo slideshow of diving at St Abbs, which featured what I thought to be a splendid array of images showcasing the diversity of the North Seas marine life.
I received nice comments from viewers, but the one that stuck in my mind was: Very good, but wheres the wolfie
Only six words, but they pierced my ego like a needle would a balloon.
Why Because every underwater photographer has a subject (more usually several) of which they have no shot; or a subject that, if they do have a shot of it, its rubbish. And
so it was with me and the wolf-fish.
Certainly I had seen several wolf-fish at St Abbs, but they had all been extremely shy and residing in the most inaccessible (that is, well-chosen) nooks and crannies imaginable; places into which youd be lucky to slip a compact camera, let alone a monster SLR with flashguns.
It didnt help that every other buddy-pair on the boat always seemed to spot wolf-fish in abundance. I was sick of hearing tall tales of divers seeing five wolfies on a single dive; of them seeing wolfies free-swimming; seeing three in one hole, or observing entire families out and about and living it up good-style in St Abbs splendid gullies. How my obsession was being fuelled!
But good things come to those who wait, and my strategy of simply continuing to dive at St Abbs in the knowledge that one day a decent wolf-fish photo-opportunity would come
my way eventually worked - albeit some five years on from that slide-show!

SO NOW I HAVE A PORTRAIT of a wolf-fish of which I am not ashamed, and which I would be happy to show on a YouTube slideshow. Not only that, but I have discovered that wolf-fish photo opportunities are like buses; you wait an age for one, and then several come along at the same time.
Because not that long after capturing a decent portrait, I happened on another wolf-fish in open water. Im not sure which of us was more astonished to see the other, but I was so slow on the shutter that the wolfie made it to the safety of a nearby, and inaccessible, hole in several blinks of the eye.
Despite my sluggishness, I managed to grab a shot - not the best in the world, but its my shot and the moment I came across that wolf-fish sitting out on a rock watching the world go by is recorded for posterity.
Of course, rather than feel satisfied, I moved on to the next creature on my long list of never-photographed critters - the rare thornback ray. I had read tales of sightings on a few of my local dive sites on Internet forums but my search had been long and wearisome.
Every July (which is when the boffins on tInternet claim thornbacks are around) for the past few years I have headed west to scour some of Scotlands gently sloping sea lochs.
And last November, I thought Id had a breakthrough. While diving a site thats a regular haunt of mine (and not one where thornbacks had been said to have been spotted), I came across what I thought was one of these rays, nestled at the edge of a boulder reef at 16m and partially buried in the sand.
My elation knew no bounds. Gurgly whoops came from my reg; my mask kept flooding as I smiled. Typically, the ray was in an awkward position to frame, but I didnt care - I had some shots of a thornback ray! Woo hoo!
Except, I didnt. Keen to share my magnificent find with the world, I set to work uploading a couple of images to Facebook for all my friends and fans to see. And within 10 minutes
the messages came back: ...er, are you sure thats a thornback ray Looks like a cuckoo ray to me.
Damn these social networking sites!
A few minutes later, courtesy of Google Images, I felt both devastated and delighted - devastated that my brilliant find of a thornback ray was no such thing; delighted that I had stumbled across the even rarer cuckoo ray (which I didnt know we had in Scottish waters).
But my search for a thornback goes on. Along with my search for an anglerfish, and umpteen other critters.

ITS NOT JUST RARE STUFF on my list, because I get as much delight when I first come across the more common critters as I do when I come across the more elusive. The day I spotted a brown shrimp was a red-letter day in my household. I had never seen one before. and I have never seen one since.
I am now quite philosophical about spotting critters and rarely embark on a specific dive with the expectation of seeing anything in particular. Experience has shown me that the best encounters are by chance. So although I have been told about a site in northern Scotland that definitely has thornback rays (yeah, right!), I probably wont go
there any time soon to find them.
The joy of underwater photography for me comes from the expectation of what you might see, what you actually do see and what you almost definitely missed - which is what keeps us all going back into the water.