Welcome to the hidden world of little underwater critters…
Even after years of diving, and many encounters with large, majestic pelagics, Jonathan Lin is unwavering in his passion for the art of shooting tiny critters in the deep. There is something captivating about these miniscule creatures. The big blue is full of alien-like beings of different sizes, but as we descend further into the micro, things just get weirder. Let’s not fail to mention that sense of achievement at managing to take a picture of a critter, which all too often scurries away!
In 1996, at the age of 23, Jonathan took to scuba diving. Now, he stands as a veteran with over 2,000 dives under his belt. In 2011, with his first compact camera and a borrowed housing, Jonathan quickly fell in love with underwater photography. Before that, he had always enjoyed taking pictures of small insects, hence the preference for macro photography!
Jonathan’s visual work has been published in various scuba diving publications, including UW360’s ScubaDiver AustralAsia and Asian Diver. He’s also been featured in the prominent Underwater Macro Photographers Facebook group, the Editor’s Choice section for the premier photography community, 500px, as well as SilkAir’s inflight magazine and official website (on diving in Manado, Indonesia).
These days, Jonathan teaches underwater photography and continues to take pictures of sea life, primarily in the waters of Asia Pacific. Thanks to his eye for photography, Jonathan has also been commissioned to carry out photo shoots for a number of resorts in well-known scuba diving destinations, such as Manado, Lembeh, Derawan, Ambon and Bintan.
From macro photography to super macro photography, Jonathan wants to show you the wonderful world of nearly-microscopic beauty – fascinating marine creatures which cannot be seen with the naked, untrained eye.
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
As a child, I watched countless underwater documentaries that fed my curiosity – what mysteries and wonders lay beneath the seas? I picked up diving when I was 23, and for many years I continued as an avid diver, but I never actually clicked with underwater photography. I used to dive alongside professional underwater photographers, and to be quite frank, I always found it slightly boring having to wait up on them! But on one trip, a photographer offered me an old housing and encouraged me to try it out. This opened my mind to a whole new world and a new passion-for-life. Given the fact that I was already into macro photography on land, it took no time at all before I was in the grasp of taking pictures of underwater critters.
Your first underwater shot?
I don’t really remember, but I think it was a clown fish in Tioman Island, Malaysia.
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
I have two memorable underwater shots. The first is a black background reflection of a jelly fish lake. About a week before my trip to Kakaban, Indonesia, I’m having dinner and drinks with some underwater photographer friends. We’re discussing how to get a reflection shot on a black background in the middle of the day. After some discussion of different techniques, I manage to try and combine the techniques a week later and the outcome was very satisfying.
The second one is the Pontohi Seahorse in midwater. After taking some shots of the seahorse, the seahorse starts to feel irritated by my lights. I start to back off to give the seahorse some space, and in that moment, the seahorse starts to move and swim towards another coral patch. I was so lucky to have adjusted the right lighting and managed to get it in focus mid-water. It’s really a lucky shot.
Where is your favourite dive destination?
My favourite destination is Manado and Lembeh. I really recommend it and your readers should definitely come and visit. You’ll have the chance to see both wide angle and macro in the same trip. We have the famous Bunaken National Park in Manado and some macro on the Manado Bay. I’ve personally seen sperm whales, whale shark, dugongs, mantas, eagle rays, barracudas, and of course, lots of turtles. I’ve also heard that Mola Molas and hammerheads are regular sightings too.
Lembeh straits is a Mecca to all macro lovers, and apparently, muck diving started up in the Lembeh straits in the early 1980s. New species are constantly being found over the years, and so you never know if you might be the next person to discover a new species – and perhaps name it!
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
I would love to dive the tiger beach in the Bahamas. I’m currently planning a trip there at the end of this year. Fingers crossed, I’ll strike that one off my bucket list!
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
The weirdest thing I’ve seen is probably a used sanitary pad. I actually pointed it out to a fellow diver, and she thought I was showing her some small critters. In turn, she went in for a very close look. Before long, she realised it was a used sanitary pad, and I could hear her screaming in her regulator while trying to swim away. As funny as the scene was, and as weird as it was to find it, any form of trash pollutes our oceans and it has absolutely no place there.
What camera equipment are you currently using?
I’m currently using a Canon 5D MKIII with Hugyfot Housing and Sea&Sea Strobes.
What is the highlight of your career?
My career has involved a series of highlights. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with big brands like Fourth Element, Hugyfot, Tasik Divers, Dive into Indonesia, and a new brand called Hydrosphere. In 2015, I conducted a joint exhibition with a fellow underwater photographer at the LiShui Photography Festival in China. We were interviewed by Beijing Joy FM and Beijing RBC. I was even invited to do a presentation and workshop about 100 pax for a photography society, and to give talks to children at the International Schools in Beijing China. On top of this, I was recently approached to be featured in an online streaming channel targeted to the diving community, and I saw two of my students win one of the major underwater photo competitions in China. Sufficed to say, seeing people you’ve mentored attain recognition is a very rewarding experience.
And the low point?
I wanted to give up underwater photography at one point because I reached a bottleneck and didn’t know how to improve. I was at a cross-roads where I had to decide whether to stay in diving, which doesn’t bring in a lot of money, or to give up diving, which would bring in the money but not a lot of joy.
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
There are still so many shots I want to get, and I’m still learning from other underwater photography masters on how to get certain shots. Photography is a learning process that never ends!