If you have ever ventured to the third floor of the library, you may have noticed a collection of photographs depicting beautiful microscopic sea creatures hung along the wall. I had the opportunity to take a break from my busy life and examine these photographs and appreciate the beauty photographer, Kevin Lee, was able to capture. The creatures depicted in these larger than life photos are animals called opisthobranchs. Opisthobranchs are commonly known as sea slugs and survive in every ocean and sea from the warm tropics to the frigid polar waters.
Barely visible or several feet long, any color in the rainbow, any shape imaginable, opisthobranchs come in an array of different forms. Many have mastered the art of camouflage and are hidden to the untrained eye. These sea slugs have evolved to lose their heavy shells and have developed a unique defense mechanism. They store toxins from the food they consume by absorbing it into their tissues then releasing the poisons to ward off potential predators. The sea slug’s diet is comprised of algae, bryozoa, sponges, small animals, and sometimes each other. By the unassuming bystander, these small aquatic creatures might be easily overlooked, but thanks to Kevin Lee, I was able to witness the beauty of opisthobranchs.
The artist behind these photos is an Orange County local, Kevin Lee. An avid explorer, Kevin Lee has traveled around the world, visiting all seven continents, as well as trekking to the top of Mt. Everest and climbing Africa’s highest summit, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Kevin began photographing underwater life to show non-diving friends the wonders of the aquatic world. Now, his images are on display around the world. In 2012, six of Kevin’s photos were put on display on the third floor of the library, where they hang today. The six photos depict opisthobranchs from Kenya, Philippines, South Korea, Antarctica, and the United States.
Kevin is an active member in many organizations regarding underwater photographers. He is a part of the Orange County Underwater Photographic Society and the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society. Additionally, he was inducted as a member of the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles in 2012 and has served on the board of directors for several years. He was also accepted as a member of The Explorers Club in 2017.
What I find most striking about Kevin Lee’s photography of opisthobranchs is his ability to bring out the beauty in organisms that would normally go unnoticed, and put them on full display on the wall in large photos for every passerby to see. Without this display, I would have no idea what opisthobranchs are. Kevin Lee’s photography opened my eyes to a whole new world of organisms that I had previously never thought about.