Ray Chin: The First Professional Underwater Cetacean Photographer of Taiwan
Every year, Ray Chin, the first cetacean photographer in Taiwan, travels to Tonga, Norway, Argentina, and Japan in search of cetaceans and dolphins around the world, hoping to meet them in different seasons and waters. Every precious story and moment that has shocked and touched him over the past 20 years are collected in this new book "Whale Odyssey". Let's dive into the photo collections and experience this beautiful ocean from his point of view!

PhotoAuthor Bio

TextRay Chin

Ray Chin is a freelance eco-photographer and environmental educator, he started to take photographs when he was in college, and most of the subjects he took were creatures in nature and the environment. Fascinated by the mysterious cetaceans in the ocean, he settled in Hualien and worked as a docent and research volunteer for the Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation, devoting himself to the field of environmental education and investigating marine ecological resources. With over 20 years of experience in marine ecology photography, from images on the surface of the water to underwater images from recent visits to various parts of the world, as well as records of Taiwan waters, Ray hopes that through his work, more people can begin to appreciate the beauty of the ocean blue that surrounds us.

2017 53th Wildlife Photographer of the Year–People’s Choice Award
2017 P×3 Prix de la Photographie Paris–Gold Award
2020 International Photography Awards–Nature-Underwater–Honorable Mention

2019 “Fishwear: Vibrant Ocean Art” at National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
2019 “Meet the Cetacea” at National Museum of Natural Science
2019 DIGI WAVE 2019
2019 Canon “Our Marine Freeway” Cetacean Photography Exhibition
2021 “Cetaceans in Different Latitudes” at SKM PHOTO Shin Kong Mitsukoshi International Photography Exhibition
2021 “Traces of Ocean Spirit” at Tittot Exhibition

20 Years of Underwater Dreams and Perseverance
"The more I learned from those unforgettable experiences of the sea and cetaceans, the more I aware that how vast and endless the ocean is.
Learning from nature is a lifelong process.
I'm just starting to see the path of its entry."

―Ray Chin

For someone who was sick to his stomach when he smelled the fishy smell of the ocean as a child, who had to go to special composition classes during elementary school, and who still has to spend the whole afternoon writing 500 words, it is a surprise that I am devoted to cetaceans and marine photography, or that I have finished publishing a book. Perhaps even my former composition teacher would be surprised.

I have been asked many times, "How do you adapt to the ocean? I didn't. Because the skills of biological observation, photography, and diving have been learned since I was in college, and they have been naturally applied to the marine environment since then.

Over the past 20 years, I think that instead of adapting to the ocean, I have had many unforgettable experiences, such as recording the calls of orca, young whales swimming around me curiously, having eye contact with whales, and being in the same water with blue whales, etc. I feel that the ocean has accepted me on its terms.

What Makes You Decide to Do Marine Photography?

As I reflect on my original intention, I see myself and my images as a bridge, the most direct way to convey my message. Whether it is during a lecture or after listening to others share their feedback on the images I have taken, I find that many people are not indifferent to the environment they are in, but rather lack interaction with it in their past life experiences; or the research reports that sit on the shelves, their cold appearance of which hides the hard work and passion of the researcher, as well as the interesting stories behind the graphs, tables, and data.

If we can share our feelings with images through a small viewfinder, to make people feel the breath-taking beauty, the existence of those beautiful creatures, or the passion and interest hidden behind the scientific diagrams and tables, they can take the first step in their lives and pay attention to the environment we are all in. Of course, it is also because I like it; I enjoyed the moment when I was completely overwhelmed by the scene in front of me, and the surging throb and concentration of the shooting which made me keep moving forward without hesitation.

Are The Whales Always So Friendly and Kind Towards People?
This is another question that I am often asked about. Just like the ocean, although there are moments of softness when its waveless surface is clear as a mirror, it is also inescapable that there are times when it shows the ups and downs of violent ebb and flow. Natural landscapes and creatures have many faces. When I was in the deep, open ocean, I felt so small and insignificant in the face of huge creatures that are often more than 10 meters in size. Whether it's silently floating next to a pair of calm humpback whales mother and child, timely dodging a curious baby whale, or diving to capture a moment that will soon disappear into the blue, I learn how to achieve my goals in the right way and at the best time.
In this process, other than honing the skills, it is also a training of mind and physical ability, and facing one's inmost being. Sometimes when I encounter undesirable environmental factors, fatigue and burnout will suddenly appear. But working with the natural world, this happens all the time. As soon as I get some rest, I will go jumping into the ocean again with full of anticipation.

At this point, waiting has become an attitude of life: a good picture requires time to hone. It's unpredictable for killer whales or humpback whales to show up, they won't bend nature's order for me to take photos of them, no matter how anxious I am. However, if the conditions are right and the opportunity is not seized, it is a matter of whether I am ready or not.  

This article is excerpted from Whale Odyssey: 20 Years of Underwater Dreams and Perseverance of Taiwan’s First Professional Cetacean Photographer published by Locus Publishing, August 2021.

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