Tin Man LEE


Hello and welcome to my page! Like many of you, I had a full-time job not related to photography. Then one day, all of a sudden, I discovered wildlife photography. Little did I know that my life would never be the same. During my days off from work, instead of sitting on a couch reading a book or watching TV, I found myself wading through chest-deep frigid glacier water, trekking in knee-deep wet mud in deep forests, or running in crusty snow—in other words, “immersing” myself in photography. Wildlife photography rekindled the deep love of wild animals and nature that I had as a kid. Through photography, I found an outlet to express my feelings and reveal my dreams. It's been an incredible journey, and I am so thankful for the new friends I have made along the way, the new places I have gone, and all of the unbelievable encounters with the animals that I have had the privilege of meeting. I hope you'll join me on this amazing journey through my photos and blog posts. Drop me a line at “Contact Me” or reach me at my Facebook page anytime. And most of all, don't forget to sign up for my free newsletter. Thank you so much for your support.

For more info about my photography, here are a few articles about me that I am incredibly grateful for:

#1:  The Art of Nature Photography, foreword by Steve Freligh, Co-founder and CEO of Nature's Best Photography, for the “Natural World, Cultural Elegance”, a Photography Exhibition by Tin Man Lee, Sept 2015 – Feb 2016, HKUST, Hong Kong.

#2: Google/Nik Photographer Spotlight +Tin Man Lee – Nature and Wildlife Photographer by Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler. Special thanks to Laurie Rubin May 4th, 2013

#3: 13 ‘How did you get that?' wildlife photos from Tin Man Lee by Jaymi Heimbuch, Mother Nature Network, Dec 30, 2013

And I am very honored to be selected as one of the:

“22 Wildlife Photographers that Work Wonders” by NatureTTL, along with the legendary Mr. Tom Mangelsen and many other master photographers.

“10 Wildlife Photographers You Should Follow Right Now” by 500px.com, one of the most popular photography sites on the web.

FullSizeRender (2)


By Tin Man Lee, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA 11/6/2014


#2: MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOKS. The Magnificent World of Wildlife by Reader's Digest was a book I hand-picked as my birthday present when I turned six. The book resurfaced recently when mom was looking through storage boxes in Hong Kong for grandma's old photos. Mom said I used to read this book repeatedly, cover to cover, and bring it with me everywhere during my childhood. I faintly remembered the existence of the book, but didn’t remember any of it’s content, so Mom took a few snapshots of the book and sent me. I was surprised to find that the animals I have been so thrilled to photograph were all mentioned in the book, with pictures similar to mine! This book later led me to fall in love with all books written by Ernest Seton especially “Monarch, the big bear of Tallac”.

#3: TO BE HAPPY, ONLY DO IT FOR YOURSELF. I take pictures for my own self-satisfaction—to create images for my own enjoyment and viewing, so that I can remember special experiences with my “wild brothers and sisters.” I only go looking for the specific species I dream of photographing, and I only take photos of them the way I want—not to please anyone else but me. Nothing else really matters. It's a way of finding myself.

#4: A LOST WORLD WAS FOUND. What started as an escape from stress ultimately took me on various trips into nature. Little did I know that I would rekindled my childhood dream. I found a whole new world through wildlife photography—a world outside of human beings, where wild animals are busy minding their own business and trying to survive. Many species are either struggling with the disappearing sea ice, enduring the loss of their natural habitats from urban planning, or running from hunters, yet most of them strive, adapt, and survive. And they are so beautiful. I am privileged to have the opportunity to record the otherworldly, fleeting moments when my life and theirs briefly intersect—moments that have taken my breath away numerous times. Through photography, I can record and tell myself that these were not dreams, but instead were very real. It's a wonderful world out there, and we humans have a lot to learn from it.

#5: “THE PHOTOS YOU TOOK SUCK,” a girl once said to me. It was the summer of 2000, but I still remember it vividly. One doesn't easily forget a moment like that. But my love of photography wasn't based on a desire for validation. For a time, I seriously considered earning an MFA degree in photography, but in the end I chose engineering, focusing on imaging (largely because MFA programs require a portfolio submission, and I didn’t have one). Plus, I always thought imaging and photography were similar. Anyway, one thing leads to another, and I now have a day job in biotechnology, which I do enjoy a lot.

#6: READING IS MY OBSESSION. I was an only child, and my parents used to bring me to their workplace every day, where I would read non-stop. Even now, I can sit in a coffee shop or a book store for hours, just reading, thinking and dreaming. When I let my imagination roam, that’s as good as life gets—especially if there is a latte involved! I feel that if I can come up with one good idea from all the stuff that I read in a day, it's well worth it. I remember I loved the wildlife stories of Ernest Seton when I was a kid. I was so touched by the stories that I would force my parents to sit down in front of me while I gave them a loud stand-up oration—and I would feel depressed if they didn't cry after hearing the stories. I wondered how it was possible that they were not touched, so I would force them to sit still so that I could rephrase the stories, again and again. Now I feel bad that my parents had to sit through all these long speeches! One of my favorite stories was “Monarch, the Big Bear of Tallac.” Little did I know that I would one day come face-to-face with a brown bear, and take a photo of him pouncing in my direction at Katmai National Park. The bear looked exactly like the one I imagined in my childhood!

#7: DRAWING, CALLIGRAPHY, AND POEMS. I love animals, and I have loved drawing them since I was a small child. It all started with our yearly boat ride back to my native village to visit grandma, when my parents gave me a sketch book. The ride took a whole day, and I drew nonstop. I also love to practice Chinese calligraphy. I have always been intrigued by the lines, strokes, styles, and patterns of Chinese characters, and have been practicing since I was seven. My parents recently sent me a few pictures that they found while sorting through some boxes. They reminded me that my calligraphy was much more beautiful when I was a kid! These were the awards I got when I was 12, I believe. It's been a downward spiral ever since!


I also love Chinese poems (and Chinese “Ci”), which we had to study and recite when we were kids. But only recently, when I revisited these poems after having had a taste of life—rejections, failures, loss of loved ones, injuries, breakups, etc.), did I start to realize how deep the feelings were that these poems conveyed. The poets’ creativity, emotion, imagination, attention, understanding, and observation of nature are just so incredibly good. Some of the poets were keenly aware of the light, the life cycle of nature, and the behavior of the animals in their poems—things I would have never realized if I had not been to the wilderness myself. I love Su Dongpo (Su-Shi) the most. Who else has the courage to write two poems right before being sent out for a sudden execution after being framed in a political struggle? (Luckily, the execution was stopped at the last moment—otherwise we wouldn't have many of his masterpieces.)





Due to popular demand, here's a quality translation of these Chinese words that I found on the Internet, by Professor Chunshen Zhu. This is an excerpt from “Reflections on the Ancient Red Cliff”: “I must laugh at myself, letting sentiments grow into grey hairs too soon. But isn't life a dream, after all? Let me pledge this cup to the River, to the Moon.”

How beautiful and poignant! Thanks for sticking with me to the end. I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about my life.