Trekking in the Khumbu region of Nepal with a rather big and heavy lens. Gokyo Lake in the mid-background, and the tallest peak in the far back is Everest/Sagarmatha.

Trekking in the Khumbu region of Nepal with a rather big and heavy lens. Gokyo Lake in the mid-background, and the tallest peak in the far back is Everest/Sagarmatha.

Hello/你好/hola/नमस्तेnamaste/བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས,-tashi delek/こんにちは-konichiwa/สวัสดี-swasdi/שלום-shalom!

My name is Jonathan. I believe in the power of stories, the goodness of people, the resilience of communities, and the wisdom of the earth. I typically introduce myself as a traveling photo & videographer, however, I believe my life and purpose go much deeper than that. 

I was brought up in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, but would rather be associated as a fellow citizen of this planet. I strive to balance living a simple life while doing good for others and in the world. My background is in earth sciences, permaculture, and systems thinking, and I have a passion for conservation, wilderness, community engagement, sustainable food systems, and no doubt photo and videography. In the past several years, my work and interests have taken me to various parts of North and Central America and Asia for learning, serving, and sharing in all forms. Two of notable recent collaborations are the Beacon Food Forest, an open-harvest, urban permaculture-inspired food forest in Seattle, Washington, plus Conscious Impact, a grassroots organization dedicated to rebuilding community in a rural Nepali village following the devastating 2015 earthquakes through global collaborations in earthen building materials & techniques, capacity building, and youth empowerment. Together with hundreds of volunteers, we've leveraged personal connections + social media to spread the word, tell stories, and continue the funding for both of these projects.

Since September 2017, I’ve been primarily in Christchurch, New Zealand, learning about the effects of the 2010 & 2011 earthquakes, and how the community has responded to the crisis through grassroots initiatives, social enterprises, and putting people before economic gains while dealing with trauma and shortcomings. Several of my current creative projects are supporting these very initiatives from cultivating entrepreneurship and social enterprises that put purpose/people/planet before profits, to urban food production & community engagement, and also building resilience in organizations and society at large. 

My current interests are in systems change for harmonious lifestyles from an individual to society level with natural systems, bettering my skills in documentation and storytelling to inspire paradigm shift and action, and balancing all that into a simple life that allows space and moments of tranquility & awe in wild places.

Services Offered:

  • Event, wedding, nature, and time-lapse photography and videography
  • Photography lesson and workshop (1 on 1 and small group)
  • Stills and video editing 
  • Enlargements on different mediums
  • Printing advice
  • Social media and marketing consultation 
  • Speaking/storytelling on photography, community development, environmental sustainability, and places & people I've had the opportunity to visit/live and meet

--> Contact me to chat about your needs and vision!

I am sure that those pictures will leave my children with very good childhood memories in their future lives. When I showed my children the pictures, they laughed and saw it again and again.
— Zhi Qiang
I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Jonathan recently and I can honestly say he is one of the best photographers I’ve ever worked with. Super-talented, hard-working and fun to be around - Jonathan also has the magic ability of being in the right place at the right time. I can totally recommend him for any photography work - let him share his vision of the world with you!
— Graham W.

About Me, continued:

Many people ask if I've gone to school for photography and/or film. I am self-taught, and quite proudly so. I started taking photographs as a young teenager. I often credit my mom's point & shoot/automatic film camera as well as my cousin's Sony Mavica floppy disk digital camera in the late 90's that captures images at a whooping 0.3 megapixels(!). When the consumer tech jumped to 2 megapixels a couple years later, in the form of Canon's ELPH S110, my sister picked up the camera, and I ended up using it much more than she did. While in high school, my parents bought me the Canon S50 point-and-shoot camera with full manual functions. That exponentially opened up my photographic world and what I was able to capture. After working and saving up in 2005, I picked up my first DSLR, the Canon 350D/Rebel XT, and since then it's been a cascading rush of learning and improving. My first paid gig came a year or two later, and after more than a decade now, it's still a happy long-term relationship. 

I grew up in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, though don't particular feel at ease or comfortable in urban jungles anymore. Since graduating in 2010 from University of California, San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography with a degree in Earth Sciences and Environmental Systems, I have worked in the realms of community development and environmental education locally and globally while doing photography continuously. Between 2015 and 2016, whilst living in Seattle, Washington state, I was actively involved at the Beacon Food Forest, a community-driven, open-for-all, food-producing garden and forest in the city. I love that place. I had the opportunity to serve on its Site Development and Steering Committee for a year, and together with my neighbors we did some radical things to bring folks of various backgrounds and social-economic levels closer in a safe space that (re)connects people to one another, to food, and to nature. To this day, I still leverage their Facebook page with 13,000+ followers to spread inspiring  projects, innovations, and informative truths about communal, local, and organic food production. I believe in the immense power of using social media for good.

In response to the devastating earthquakes of April and May 2015, I have spent much time in the village of Takure in the Sindhupalchok district of Nepal with the organization Conscious Impact, where I've lived and rebuilt alongside locals and international volunteers while documenting the collaborative work. Together with the Conscious Impact team, we have leveraged social media to spread the word, tell stories, and continue the funding for the rebuilding project. Besides the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, I haven't found a better, more meaningful way to use photography and social media for social and environmental good alongside selfless individuals with the common goal to help and serve others. Definitely check out their website, Facebook page, and Instagram @ConsciousImpact to check out the latest project and community updates from the team working on the ground, and possibly how you can get involved!

I love bicycles, cycle touring, backpacking, wilderness, and am fascinated by big mountains, as well as the wisdom, culture, and way of life of indigenous peoples all around the world. Traveling has added tremendous global perspectives and knowledge I wouldn't have gained from formal education. Through my work and travels, I have spent time with the indigenous Emberá, Guna, and Ngäbe-Buglé peoples in Panama, the Sechelt/Shishá7lh FIrst Nations of coastal British Columbia in Canada, the Ahka people in northern Thailand, and the Ladakhi, Spitian, and Sherpa peoples of the Himalayas, and now gradually about the Māori people while being in New Zealand. I have deep, profound respect for their wisdom and connection to the earth and its natural cycles.

Sometimes I like to geek out on gear, especially outdoor gear and lenses. But over the years I have slowly learned that it's still first and foremost the photographer, the time and place, the lens, then lastly the camera. The camera helps create the image no doubt, but just as you wouldn't complement chefs for their *amazing* frying pan or wok for their gastronomic creations, why are so many people fixated to ask the photographer the camera that they use? A quality camera only takes quality images if you bring it with you AND gets utilized. Having the foresight, the patience, and often local knowledge are some of the numerous factors that go into the creative process of capturing an image that will be remembered forever. The best camera is quite often the one in your hand. 

Note that this site may not yet have my latest work, past and present. Social media is a good bet to see some of my newest captures. Connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and LinkedIn.

I've had some great opportunities in recent years to present my work and stories of places and people I've been and crossed paths with, namely in San Diego, Panama City, Seattle, Kota Kinabalu, and Christchurch. A few recent presentation/talks have been recorded/recapped: with Upstream Daily during the Social Enterprise World Forum in September 2017, at PechaKucha Christchurch in September 2017, for Ministry of Awesome's Coffee & Jam in December 2017, and with Steven Moe for Seeds: Talking Purpose Podcast also in December 2017.

Please get in touch for commissioned work, printing, licensing, and collaborations to discuss your needs. :)

Jonathan’s ability to share the energy, beauty, and love of a moment through film and photo is truly something cosmic.
— AJ K.
[Jonathan] is really gifted, he shoots pictures not only with his professional skill but HEART, he doesn’t mind to get all wet or dirty as long as he gets the best angle or distance for the pictures, I am very satisfied with Subtledream Photography and definitely will refer to my family and friends.
— Dennis T.

Me, in photos:

Photo credit: friends and strangers from all walks of life. Notable mention: Graham Wynne ( top row left (both).

To look in Jonathan’s camera, is like looking into his heart - for that is where he perceives the world from. Always finding a way to capture expressions of the ‘love bubble’ that is the scenery of his own existence.
Merging simultaneously with his camera and his surroundings, he has the rarest talent; to make every being feel like they are a miracle - perfect in their own unique way. Rather then noticing a photographer, his undivided attention encourages all to be more of what they already are. To notice the bright colors of life unfolding around, and shining its light straight back in true freedom of expression.
— Inga P.
Jonathan is an amazingly talented photographer, who not only captures the essence of the subjects in his pictures, but truly makes every effort to connect, learn, and better understand them. He has the biggest heart for all walks of life on this planet and is able to capture the beauty of the world seen through his eyes. I’ve had the great opportunity of doing a photo shoot with Jonathan and it was one of the funnest shoots I’ve ever done. I highly recommend his work to anyone who crosses paths with him. He will bring out the best in you and everything around you.
— Cynthia L.
I have a senior dog that I’d been meaning to do a photoshoot with, so when Jonathan told me he’d be in town, I jumped at the chance to book a session with him. I’m so glad I did! The photographs and prints that I got from him were STUNNING! Aside from being tack sharp and well-composed, they also demonstrate Jonathan’s knack for capturing moments perfectly (no small feat considering how difficult animals can be to photograph). Stellar images aside, Jonathan is professional, punctual, and fun to work with. I definitely recommend him and his work!
— Lesley P.
Jonathan has photographed my family twice and each time was a wonderful experience! He is fantastic with kids, he gets their attention, and of course he works his magic and gets the most beautiful photos. Jonathan is great to work with. I don’t know how he does it but he always has amazing photos. He is able to capture scenery and light at just the right times. I am never disappointed with Subtledream Photography, and will definitely work with Jonathan again and again.
— Lyric A.
Everyone thinks their wedding is the best wedding ever but thanks to the stellar skills of Jonathan Lee, we have proof that ours was in fact historic. This camerasutra made us shutter with his tree climbing, dance floor shuffling, and child entertaining to capture every moment of our wooded wedding. Never negative and always keeping focus, Jonathan was there in a flash to encapsulate our day from angles that other photographers wouldn’t be daring or skilled enough to master, all the while, offering smiles and laughter and wooing our family and friends— he really clicked with them. Looking back at our wedding photos and getting to see our special day through Jonathan’s lens is my new obsession.

If you are looking for some exposure to an incredible artist (who appreciates a good photo pun) then you really oughta give Jonathan a shot. He can offer just the white balance between a friendly experience and professional stunning photos for your special moment!
— Jennifer G.

More testimonials and reviews via my Facebook page.

The best camera is the one in your hand.
— not me, just simple truth

Instagram @subtledream