Behind the lens: The blue dragon
At some time in our lives we have all walked down a windswept beach and as the waves crashed and wind blew, we found ourselves sidestepping myriad of bluebottles washed onto the beach.
Some of us have even been tempted to pop one or two of these nasty stingers. But they present a wonderful opportunity to snap an image or three, and if you look carefully there may also be other less obvious sea creatures around.
One such inconspicuous creature is a nudibranch – Glaucus Atlanticus – also known as the blue dragon. This little fellow is about the size of your thumb and can be easily missed. It is a vibrant blue, and floats upside down, moving in the ocean at the whim of the winds and currents before being washed ashore with the bluebottles.
When I spotted these stunning little creatures on a NSW South Coast beach I figured they may also be in the rock pools nearby as the seas had been high, something that turned out to be correct. But even if do only find one on the sand, they can be carried to the still water as they are much more spectacular floating on a calm surface. They do have a habit of curling themselves up on the beach and aren’t very photogenic.
Care also needs to be taken when handling these exquisite little critters as they store poisonous stinging venom. This poison is actually acquired from feeding on bluebottles.
I took a number of images using a 60mm lens and my off-camera flash. The flash enabled me to darken the background and make the blue devils much more prominent.
So next time you’re strolling down the beach and stepping among bluebottles, look closely and you may be lucky enough to spot Glaucus atlanticus and get some wonderful shots. Good luck! ❂