Beautiful monsters of the deep! Photographer spends 15 years capturing some of the ocean’s most bizarre-looking creatures

It is often said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean floor – and one look at these strangely stunning creatures will be enough to affirm that.

The colourful critters might look like they’re from another world but they are in fact rarely seen marine life, beautifully photographed to emphasize their vibrant appearance.

Schmeltz Discodoris Nudibranch

Schmeltz Discodoris Nudibranch

Underwater photographer, Colin Marshall, has dedicated more than 15 years to capturing the little-known species on camera and credits his favourite diving spot, Lembeh in Indonesia, where he has completed more than 500 dives, for some of his best shots.

Colin was born in Venezuala but went to school and university in the UK. He stayed in the UK for a few years for work, before moving overseas.

The 52-year-old travelled all over the world before settling in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he has lived for the last 14 years.

Decorator Crab with anemones

Decorator Crab with anemones

Colin said: “One attraction with underwater photography is that there is a very good chance that anyone with a camera can take an exceptional picture of a particular animal, simply because there are very few images of that animal in existence.

“If you are underwater in a place like Lembeh you have a chance in not just seeing an animal that few have seen but also take one of the first – and by definition the best – images of that animal.

“It’s difficult to say that for, say, an image of an elephant or a sunset as there are many superb images of those already out there.”

Flying Gurnard displaying wings on black sand

Flying Gurnard displaying wings on black sand

Despite his love of diving and photography, Colin admits that his passion doesn’t come without risk and describes the combination of seawater and electronics as a “Devil’s playground.”

He said: “Diving is not really a dangerous sport but the problem is that when things go wrong, it obviously only takes a minute or two to drown.

“The most important thing to remember is that the most dangerous thing in the water is you, the diver. The second most dangerous thing is probably the other divers in the water, especially if any are panicking.

Pair of Harlequin shrimp

Pair of Harlequin shrimp

“You are far more likely to have a serious problem due to your, or others’ own stupid mistakes than by, say, a shark attack.

“Underwater photography is much more challenging than land photography. The main difference is that you generally have to bring your light with you, as there is not enough light underwater. So the challenge is getting the light right, trying to avoid backscatter.

“Wide-angle shots are especially difficult as it is so difficult to brighten a large area properly.

Stigma Egg Cowrie camouflaged on soft coral

Stigma Egg Cowrie camouflaged on soft coral

“Macro close-up photography is a lot easier but there are still challenges, usually involving getting in the right position, not scaring the animal, composition and, of course, not getting into trouble underwater – like getting so engrossed in taking the image that you run low on air.

“The rule of most sensible divers is look but don’t touch. In addition to not stressing the animals, there are good selfish reasons for this too as many of these animals either bite, sting or have a toxic slime on their body which is painful to us.

“In addition, from a photographic viewpoint, as soon as you disturb an animal, it tends to try to find the quickest way to escape, and generally becomes very unphotogenic.

Stimpsons Snapping Shrimp

Stimpsons Snapping Shrimp

“As long as you don’t try to touch underwater animals, they will generally leave you well alone.

“Some of the more alien-looking creatures are indeed very weird but they are absolute testimony to the amazing nature of evolution, of how animals adapt to develop a certain skill or ability to survive in a particular environment better than their competition.

“These animals are truly beautiful, notwithstanding most also being ruthless, violent and savage predators.”

Talented photographer Colin

Talented photographer Colin