UW360 talks to underwater photographer Glenn Yong about his amazing career and images
Glenn Yong’s photography journey began with a career switch from an industrial designer. Starting out as a photographer for weddings and commercial jobs, he later transitioned to underwater photography in 2013. Scuba diving came to Glenn in 2010 as a desperate respite from work. The feeling of weightlessness, the lifestyle and the people he met while diving drew him deeper into the sport. Scuba diving not only changed his lifestyle, but became the reason for his decision to leave industrial design to be a photographer.
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
I started out with a little Canon IXUS camera on my first leisure dive in Pulau Dayang. I remembered it to be housed in a Ikelite housing, and I figured that a camera that was able to capture images in RAW would be ideal for me to start out with since I was already familiar with the “magic” of Photoshop and image processing. However, all I got from my first leisure dive was blue and green-tinted photographs, even after intensive editing. The determination to produce photographs that I would be proud to share began a journey of countless cameras, housings, strobes, and trips. After years of practice around Indonesia, I finally mustard up the courage to become a full-time underwater and commercial photographer – three years after getting my first camera.
Your first underwater shot?
My first photo was taken on September 25, 2010 with my first camera, the Canon IXUS120, and an IKELITE underwater housing. I went to Pulau Dayang for a weekend leisure trip and this was the first photograph I took:
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
I was kind of discouraged for a couple of years after failing to encounter any mantas in the first three to four years as an underwater photographer. I headed to numerous spots that guaranteed sightings of mantas but often went home disappointed. In 2017, the dry spell finally broke while on a dive trip in the south of Komodo. I was blessed with a sighting of more than 20 mantas, not only photographing them up-close, but also witnessing their mating behavior which I managed to document on film. There were mantas approaching the cleaning station and staying there calmly for us to enjoy the amazing sight. Ever since, manta spotting has been relatively easy. Although these are not my best images, it was an extremely memorable dive trip.
Where is your favourite dive destination?
I don’t have a favourite dive destination, but I do have favourites for different types of dive sites. For reefs, walls, and swarms of fish, Komodo would be my favourite. For schools of fish, and mangroves, Raja Ampat is the best. Lembeh is my favourite for photographing macro subjects and learning about their behaviour up-close. The guides working at Lembeh and Manado have extraordinary eyes that can easily spot tiny critters.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
Guadalupe and Socorro Islands for sharks, and pelagics. I’d also really like to visit Florida for the manatees, Cuba as well for more sharks, and Japan for some unique macro shots and ice diving.
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
If I had to point out the weirdest thing I’ve seen, it would be the scene of a naked diver finning around the cleaning station off Batu Bolong in Komodo, Indonesia. It was absolutely disturbing.
What camera equipment are you currently using?
I am currently using a Sea&Sea MDX-D810, with my Nikon D810. When I use the Nikon D300, I pair it with the Sea&Sea MDX-D300. For strobes I use Sea&Sea YS-250 Strobes and INON 240s. RGBlue Premium Colour lighting Systems, and a combination of Nikon & Zeiss lenses.
What is the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career thus far would be to be recognised as a professional photographer in the region, and to be able to share my insights and stories in schools to inspire future generations of ocean-loving people.
… And the low point?
The lowest point in my career would when I was injured or ignored medical care and rehabilitation programmes to help me recover better. There was a point where my health deteriorated so much that I could hardly move around. It was frustrating not being able to return back to the sea where I loved to be in. I learned that apart from happiness from diving, health is extremely important to all of us working out in the field.
Any advice that you’d like to give to aspiring underwater photographers?
Never give up on your dreams. It is a tough journey, and there may be days you go hungry. But you will live a fulfilling life, with job that many could only dream of. Never give up – bite the bullet and go on.
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
Great white sharks, more sharks, more mantas, and more sharks.