Photoprotection is fundamental in photosynthesis to avoid oxidative photodamage upon excess light exposure. Excited chlorophylls (Chl) are quenched by carotenoids, but the precise molecular origin remains controversial. The cyanobacterial HliC protein belongs to the Hlip family ancestral to plant light-harvesting complexes, and binds Chl a and β-carotene in 2:1 ratio. We analyzed HliC by watermarked femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy to follow the time evolution of its vibrational modes. We observed a 2 ps rise of the C=C stretch band of the 2Ag - (S1) state of β-carotene upon Chl a excitation, demonstrating energy transfer quenching and fast excess-energy dissipation. We detected two distinct β-carotene conformers by the C=C stretch frequency of the 2Ag - (S1) state, but only the β-carotene whose 2Ag - energy level is significantly lowered and has a lower C=C stretch frequency is involved in quenching. It implies that the low carotenoid S1 energy that results from specific pigment-protein or pigment-pigment interactions is the key property for creating a dissipative energy channel. We conclude that watermarked femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy constitutes a promising experimental method to assess energy transfer and quenching mechanisms in oxygenic photosynthesis.