13 October 2012

A Rare Young Talent

A Rare Young Talent 
Featuring ButterflyCircle's Jonathan Soong

Butterfly watching has been catching on in Singapore and many countries in the region.  In particular, countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and India stand out, especially where the number of enthusiasts and books written on their butterfly fauna are concerned.  There are several groups in social media and formal societies dedicated to butterfly watching, education and conservation that have sprung up in these countries, and making their presence felt in the scientific and amateur hobbyist communities.  

In Singapore, the groups dedicated to butterfly watching are slowly growing, but generally with not as many members as compared to those in our neighbouring Asian countries.  However, there is a number of young and enthusiastic members who show great potential for the future of butterfly conservation and education in Singapore.  

An example of such a young and talented member of the butterfly watching community in Singapore is ButterflyCircle's own Jonathan Soong. Starting at the very young age of only 11 when he first came on to the butterfly watching scene, Jonathan has learnt fast and has accumulated a good knowledge of local butterfly species.

Taking a look at some of the photos that Jonathan has taken in recent months, one would be amazed to discover that this is the work of a 13-year old Secondary 1 student in a premier school in Singapore! His eye for detail and aesthetics gives him an edge when it comes to butterfly photography, and his work is very much on par with many of the more experienced and older photographers in the group.

But Jonathan's talent and determination to improve both his knowledge of butterflies and photography cannot have been realised without the outstanding support from his family.  There have been many outings that ButterflyCircle members have had, where Jonathan's mom, dad and sister have accompanied the group on long walks in the scorching sun and humid weather in Singapore.

Jonathan's unbridled enthusiasm for butterflies would have all been in vain without parental support. Especially in Singapore where 'kiasu' (overseas readers please google this colloqial Singapore term) parents are more concerned with good academic grades and going for extra curricular activities like music, swimming and so on, which would be more relevant to giving their children a leg up in the adult world's rat race. So kudos to Jonathan's mom and dad for the support that they have given to him to further his interest in this hobby.

A sample of his works are featured throughout this blog article, and one can be forgiven if one assumes that all these excellent photographs of butterflies are of the work of someone much older, using more sophisticated equipment. But no, these are Jonathan's personal efforts, using his humble entry-level Canon DSLR coupled with a Tamron 180mm macro lens.

Jonathan is also game to "rough it out" in the field, often in wild places where young urbanised kids would scream in terror at a cockroach or a lizard. But not this young talented boy. Given his age and size, there are times when I know that Jonathan wished that he were taller and sturdier when holding his heavy photographic equipment in the forests of Singapore whilst chasing after an elusive rarity! But his determination and tenacious focus often make up for these temporary physical disadvantages.

Beyond his above-average intellect, Jonathan is also a well-mannered boy with respect for those older than him.  But his other talent in art, particularly in nature paintings done in oils, stand out. When he has the time away from his books, Jonathan does amazing oil paintings of birds and butterflies that would put many of us to shame!  His remarkable skill in portraying nature subjects, particularly birds, in his oil paintings is something that not many can match.  I am quite certain that his works would have a decent commercial value amongst nature art collectors!

Given his young tender age and exceptional talent, there is definitely a bright future for this teenager. Besides his academic achievements, there is certainly hope for the future of butterfly conservation in Singapore and beyond, if there are more of our younger generation kids like Jonathan who are willing to take up the hobby of butterfly watching and conservation, and becoming a future leader in the protection of our nature and environmental heritage in Singapore.

Young Jonathan (right) at the launch of ButterflyCircle's Caterpillar book, with another young member, Brian Goh

Text by Khew SK  : Artwork pieces by Jonathan Soong ; Photos by Jonathan Soong, Sunny Chir, Anthony Wong & Khew SK