Stunning photos of sea creature captures competition award in Ocean Geographic Pictures of the Year 2019

A Kurnell photographer has put Cronulla on the global map with his stunning photograph of a sea creature he found in rockpools at Oak Park.

Brett Lobwein received the highly commended award in the 2019 Ocean Geographic Pictures of the Year competition for his photo of a blue glaucus, which is also known as the blue dragon, sea swallow or blue angel.

It is a species of brightly colored sea slug (nudibranch) and can be found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans in temperate and tropical waters.

It incorporates toxic chemicals or stinging cells from its prey into its own skin. This ability provides the blue glaucus with a defense mechanism against predation.

Gymea Bay photographer Brett Lobwein. Picture: Facebook

Gymea Bay photographer Brett Lobwein. Picture: Facebook

The creature often floats on its backside, showing its brightly colored underbelly to airborne predators.

Blue glaucuses eat large, venomous prey, such as blue bottles, and store their prey's stinging cells in their bodies to later use against predators.

Despite its impressive arsenal of defense tactics, the blue glaucus rarely reaches more than three centimetres long.

They can swallow air and hold it in their stomach in order to float on the water's surface.

Mr Lobwein won $US300 for the photo.

"If you are a beach goer this animal should become your favourite sea creature," he said.

"My wife Sarah-Jo found the glaucus, she said very large numbers of them has washed up on our beach in February 2018. She had seen lots of images of glaucus washed up on sand or photos of them on the surface of the water but she had never seen a photo of them from underwater. She was lucky enough to find a deep enough rockpool with them in for me to then capture these series of images."

The photographer is no stranger to awards, also being recognised in 2016 for his image of a crocodile in the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year comp.