Published the 16th of November 2020
For photography is a passion, it all is about life experiences. The camera can freeze a moment which can be shared with others and bring back memories, but the experience itself is so much grander. She focuses on Wildlife Photography and especially on Underwater Photography. Jennifer submitted her first photograph on 1X in 2019.
Nowadays she is totally hooked on 1X and admits that, in a way our site raised her in the field of photography. She will never stop studying and learning from others as well as from her own experiences and always is open to new advice.
Dear Jennifer, can you briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs?
My Name is Jennifer Lu. I grew up in Beijing, China, and moved to the USA 20 years ago.
It was a life-changing move.
I completed my MBA in the USA and I became a Real Estate Agent and Private Investor.
Later in life, I got more time for hobbies, particularly diving. I became fully qualified as a scuba diver.
Currently, my hobbies are travelling, scuba diving, and photography. For photography, I focus on Wildlife Photography, especially Underwater Photography, whenever I get a change.
I love adventure and also love challenging myself and testing my limits in any field. That is how I know myself. Everything becomes possible then. Whenever I set a goal, I remain very dedicated to it, nothing can stop me.
As an example, I have already gone scuba diving in the (in)famous Blue Hole, and made it to 150 feet deep.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
When I grew up, I had no exposure nor experience in anything related to Photography.
My mother was a doctor and my father was a business man.
My own major is business management (MBA).
After I got my scuba diving certificate in 2016, I was super excited and made my plan for scuba adventures immediately. My immediate goal was to “scuba dive all around the world” to see this other world below the surface at so many beautiful places. So, I quit my full-time job and started my scuba dive journey with my little GoPro camera. In July 2017, in order to become a better diver, I took a specialized, three months dive-master training course in the cold waters of Monterey Bay in California.
At the end of 2017, I realized that my GoPro camera wasn’t cutting it, and I bought my first Sony 6500 camera with a full complement of underwater housing, just because I wanted to capture what I saw as a diver. I had, at the time, literally no idea on how to use any of it. So, I went to an underwater camera shop and asked for someone to set it up for me. With these basic instructions, I set off to the Red Sea for a scuba diving adventure. Alas, my inexperienced showed, and the second day my entire camera system was flooded and became useless. So, I had to use the GoPro camera again, which saved my diving experience – at least I could record the underwater images.
This experience taught me a valuable lesson: I had to learn my camera and camera equipment in excruciating detail prior to me trying to use it. I took this even further: I had to learn about photography itself, and started all the way at a photography beginner class in early 2018. This not only taught me about photography from all basics, I also got to know a number of good photographers during the classes and started to see some of their work. I enjoyed the journey.
I also learned about underwater equipment properly, and in April of 2018, I replaced my A6500 underwater setup with the Sony A9 with its underwater housing setup. I still wasn’t ready to ‘go out on my own’, so I signed up for diving trips with professional underwater photographers to learn from their knowledge, tips, experience and expertise.
Then my underwater photography life really started …
And, when I am not scuba diving, I do go to local parks to practice focus tracking of hummingbirds or other wild animals. This made me fonder of animal photography in general, and specifically wildlife photography.
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
1X is the one place that really influenced me. Friends pointed me to 1X after I started to learn how to take photographs in early 2018. They recommended that I study other photographers and learn in this field from their images.
So, I signed up with 1X, but didn’t pay too much attention until I submitted my first photograph in Oct 2019. I was encouraged by a friend to do so.
That was 10 months ago. I got quite active with 1X after that and I got very excited about 1X. Now, after 10 months, I am happy to see that I have 185 images that are published.
Prior to April 2018 I had zero camera knowledge, and after October 2019 I had my first published images. You can tell how much I learned and how much I enjoyed it. Today, I am totally hooked on 1X.
In a way, 1X raised me in the field of photography. I feel that I am still at the beginning of my journey, and am always hungry to learn. I will never stop studying and learning from others, as well as from my own experiences nowadays. I am always open to new advice.
What first attracted you to photography?
After I started scuba diving, the amazing underwater world attracted me enormously. Everywhere, each site, each moment is unique and different. Especially black water diving inspires me. I am always excited to drop down into the ocean to find something new and enjoy the excitement. I feel lucky to be able to dive deep and explore this phenomenal underwater world.
I want to share my experience with people that cannot see this themselves. Especially with underwater flora and fauna.
I always fall in love with wild animal behaviour, both under water and above ground. Especially underwater is always so graceful, neither pictures nor video can do this full justice.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I always thought that camera and equipment were a man’s job. The extra gear is unwieldy, heavy, and hard to maneuver. Trying to get the shots underwater was not simple.
You have to ‘see’ the image and ‘know’ how the equipment must be handled and wait for the right moment .
But as soon as I got a decent handle on it, and got my clear shot, I forgot all about the heavy equipment, and enjoyed myself truly. It took me over a year to get there, but I can manage now. On the boat, the most common thing that people comment on me is like: “Your camera is bigger than you …” (I am a small person).
Now, it is my passion, and my new adventures are not always about photography. It is about life experiences. The camera can freeze a moment which can be shared with others and bring back memories, but the experience itself is so much grander.
Still, I love the photography and I love sharing the results, especially if the image captures the way I remember the moment.
Photography has changed me to become a better person. The more I learn about animals’ behaviour, the more I learn about how to protect them, and I share this with others wherever I can.
Photography also changed my daily life. Being a diver, especially a free diver at times, I must be in perfect condition, both physically and mentally.
Since shooting wildlife cannot be directed, To get the most impressive result require a lot of patience . In a way, this also helps me, as there is something very serene in awaiting the perfect moment, for the perfect shot. If I don’t get the shot I want, I will keep going back until I nail it .
Overall, being (becoming) a photographer makes me feel alive.
Why are you so drawn by Wildlife and Underwater Photography?
Wild animals are extremely photographic, and they do not pose, like pets or people would. You have to capture them in their natural habitat which poses all sorts of challenges which make it kind of a sport and extra rewarding if you can get those special shots – lighting, posture, closeness, habitat, action.
Each time I get such an opportunity, I feel my heart beat skip a bit or stop breathing for a bit. I enjoy closer encounters with all sorts of animals, especially dangerous ones.
Animals (that are not hunting me) appear very gently and graceful and more polite than humans perhaps. Discovering their natural behaviours and recording their life while catching exciting and memorable moments is what I enjoy most about it.
I share what I capture with my family and others, and wish that they could experience the same excitement and feelings towards the animals that I had at the time.
What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Definitely the story... Mood reflects the quality of a single image, but my images never stand alone. (They get published stand-alone). I have long series from the shoots, and this always tells me a story – about the animal, about the habitat, about the action, about my journey getting to them.
My skills in post-edit are improving but I am still learning. So, I do prefer to make simple touch ups of my works.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
It is an emotional bond, and comes from within. Scuba diving is exciting in itself, and there are so many things to look around and be mesmerized by. You always have to pay attention to all the rules, signals and communications (group dives for safety). All that is present at every dive.
Then, I focus on the images, which usually only happens during a shorter period of each dive – no more than 45 -60 minutes at a time depends on your depth. That leaves little time for swim-up, safety- stop ( diver’s safety rules) positioning, lighting, and waiting for that magical ‘animal moment’.
When I ‘feel’ the image – I see the animal, and I try to bond with it, do a test shot near me and adjust camera settings and strobes settings quickly then wait for them coming to me (Never touch or chasing animals underwater!!! ).Rules are strict underwater . Sometimes shoots can be wildly especial with huge sharks , we must learn how to protect ourselves in case they are approaching too close to us ( we also got trainings for that ) . Another thing is animals never pose, never wait for you in one place, and are generally shy or cautious.
Finding animals is a treat, having a little bit of time to spend with them is always special, especially during black-water dives.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
Yes, I always do. Different locations have different challenges. On land it is easier to prepare, Underwater is much harder, and sometimes opportunistic.
But depending on where you go, there are certain type of animals expected but we never know until we jumped into the ocean. Also, the deeper you go, the less bottom time you have left . I got ‘Bends’ twice in Anilao Philippines when I was shooting macros (forgot to check my bottom time).
I do need to prepare both dive gear and cameras extremely well, and I need to be prepared to ‘get the shot’ when it presents itself. This can be different at different locations, e.g. easiest are ‘cave sites’ where the situation is a bit more predictable. Other locations may be totally different than from what we originally planned, as animals can be migratory, and seasons change. For example, Orcas will come to the Norway shores around November, and being there in November gives you a change, but not a guarantee, of being able to observe them.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I use a Nikon D850 now for underwater shots, with a 8-15mm lens with a small dome for wide-angle, and a 17-35mm lens with a bigger dome for standard-angle. I also have a 100mm that I use for underwater macro shots.
On land, I use the Nikon D850 as well, with a 24-70mm, 180-400mm and an 800mm lens. I also use a Sony A9 with a 70-200mm and a 16-35mm lens.
What software do you use to process your images?
LightRoom and PhotoShop.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
LR basic adjustments, PS and Tk7.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Wildlife and Underwater Photography and how do you get started?
Learn your skill, enjoy your skill...
Before you can do Wildlife Photography, you have to learn Photography.
Before you can do Underwater Photography, you have to become a skilled diver, AND learn Photography – in a different way.
Learning a skill is not enough – you also have to enjoy your skill. If you enjoy it thoroughly, it shows in the result, and vice versa.
I came into scuba diving by chance – I did not know that I was going to enjoy it so much. And I had a lot to learn. Photography became a must for me, I so much wanted to take the ocean back home with me and savour my impressions afterwards. So, I got a GoPro.
Long story short, I had a lot to learn, about diving, about photography, about editing, about story-telling, about travelling, about going to the extremes, every time again and again.
If someone is thinking about getting into this, then I suggest they start with looking at pictures, especially underwater images. learning from the experts – online classes, in-person classes, or just browse images and read books.
I learned from others, and I was a happy student. Yes, it takes lots of time, and feels frustrated because there was so much informations but fun to learn .
Since I am a late bloomer , I started to challenge myself in multiple ways to immerse myself in underwater Photography , I took swimming classes first to the basics down. In order to be a good diver , I took three months intense dive master training in cold waters of Monterey California . In order to be able to dive with Orcas and humpbacks , I put myself to free dive courses this year ( haven’t done advanced course yet but I can hold my breath over three minutes and go down 60 feet with one breath after my first training ) . Free diving has been my biggest challenge to date. It is hard to describe how to meet your limit between going under with the fear and risk of ‘blacking out’ versus assuring that you can surface again before you have to take your next breath. It’s “ kiss the death “ training to me . The feeling of reaching the ‘Black out edge ‘is hard , but it allows me to get that next picture! So I will do it and plan to go deeper .
I was very dedicated . I have learned a lot about photography in past year and know that there is so much more to learn. It makes me appreciate and understand ‘everything’, and I am glad that I did.
Nothing is easy, all of this took many months (each), but I enjoyed the journey so much – the more I learned, the happier I became, and my pictures kept getting better! On land I am just a beginner. I like animals in action.
So, in short, practice, enjoy, learn, enjoy, practice again. This journey will never stops till you stop it . Harness all your skills, and make sure that you don’t skip, especially basics. Learn from others, learn from seminars, be willing to ask for help. A new world will open up for you.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Most of 1x members have been there much longer than me. I do believe they are all great photographers with different styles. I still have so much to learn from them.
Beyond that, Erin is my underwater PS teacher and also a great underwater Photographer for many years. I went on her trip for times already and I learned so much from her and her partner. I am still taking her classes every week.
is my on-land PS teacher for a year now and I am also still taking his classes today.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
This photo taken by David Doubilet was very hard to catch and it made me think about it a lot. He went down there so many times and persisted - he finally got this shot.
What I learned from him is to first know (study) a site well, know what’s in there, and make a plan on how to shoot. Then wait for the right moment, and be prepared.
Preparation (with patience and persistence) is the key!
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
My current target is to capture larger underwater wild animals (specifically, alike Orca, Humpback Whales, Great White Sharks, Crocodiles, Iguanas, etc.) as well as black-water macro-photography.
On land, I am also targeting larger wildlife, preferably in action, alike Lions or Cheetah’s hunting’s, Horses running, etc.…
I haven’t gone to any serious up-land wildlife photography trip yet , and I am looking forward to planning one when possible again (e.g. Kenya).
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
Tiger Sharks fighting. My very first time to see this. It was both scary and exciting at the same time. These animals are very impressive, and very strong. I got the shot, with a lot of adrenaline racing in my body.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I have to say thanks to 1X for giving me this opportunity to reflect on my first year at my photography life. Thanks for teaching me so many things and allowing me up to grow up so fast here.
Kevin Xu PRO
great under water collection, what camera housing you are using?
Jennifer: The work is absolutely amazing. What is more amazing is your dedication and what you have achieved in a few short years. I can only imagine how much time you have to spend to catch these shots. Your perseverance and patience is incredible. Thank you for sharing your work to brighten our days!
Thanks a lot Eric, much appreciated
Amazing work and words too. Thank you very much for your pleasure, Jennifer! Thank you very much Yvette!
Thanks a lot
Bill X. Liu PRO
Wow, you are really gifted photographer! Would like to see more your art works.
Rob Li CREW
Great collection of fabulous work! Congratualations, MF
Thanks a lot Rob
Thanks very much for sharing your experiences and wonderful pictures!
Thank you so much for reading
Thierry Dufour PRO
Splendid interview, Jennifer's photos are amazing. Thank very much Yvette. Congrats Jennifer for your magnificent work !!!
Many thanks for your appreciation and admiration for Jennifer's work Thierry! I fully agree ;-)
Saskia Dingemans PRO
Thanks Yvette and Jennifer for this interesting interview and beautiful pictures .Congrats.
Our pleasure, dear Saskia ;-)
Yongnan Li （李永男） PRO
Like your images,,,,thanks for share.
thank you for your like .
Dennis Zhang PRO
Choose the most suitable life path and lifestyle! Like your images.
Michael Zheng PRO
A very impressive collection, especially those underwater's. Congrats!
Impresionante!!!!!!!. Thank you.
Thank you for your fine collaboration, Jennifer. It was a pleasure to interview you. Congratulations on the 1x Photographer of the week feature ;-) Cheers, Yvette
Thank you so much , Much appreciated your hard and support .