Photographer Spotlight - Kate and Deon Jonker
I am excited to introduce my June Underwater Photographers - Kate and Deon Jonker. They own a dive shop in Gordon's Bay, South Africa and teach scuba diving, underwater photography, swimming, and more! They both take incredible photos of Nudibranchs and have decades of scuba diving experience. You can follow them on Instagram at @katejonkerphotography, @kate_underwaterphotocoach, and @deon_jonker - Keep reading to find out more about Kate and Deon and their journey with SCUBA & Underwater Photography!
We are Kate and Deon Jonker, two passionate underwater photographers based in Gordon’s Bay, a beautiful seaside town just a 40-minute drive from Cape Town, South Africa. We met while learning to scuba dive over 20 years ago and have since turned our love for the ocean into a business, Indigo Scuba. Deon is a scuba diving instructor and dive boat skipper, while I (Kate) teach underwater photography, serve as a judge in photography competitions, and write for magazines like X-Ray Dive Mag, EZDive, and UWPMag. We both enjoy guiding underwater photographers and sharing our love for the ocean.
When and why did you start diving?
We started snorkeling many years ago and soon became fascinated with the ocean's hidden depths. In 1999, we decided to take our love for the ocean to the next level and learned to scuba dive. We have been diving ever since and have never looked back.
How and why did you get started with photography?
Deon started taking underwater photos in 2002 with a film camera, which was exciting but sometimes disappointing when the photos didn't turn out as expected. He bought his first digital camera in 2005 and has been hooked ever since. When we started Indigo Scuba in 2008, I took over the camera to capture the underwater journey of Deon's students and promote the beauty of Gordon’s Bay.
Tell the community a little about your photography setup! Dive gear and photography must haves.
Deon uses a Nikon D850 in an Isotta housing and two Sea&Sea YS-D3 strobes. He loves his Nikkor 60mm macro lens with a +15 diopter from AOI. I am a Marelux Ambassador and use a Canon R5 in a Marelux Housing. I use two Supe D-Pro strobes and an Inon Z240 when I use my Marelux SOFT Pro snoot, which I absolutely love. My favourite lens is my Canon 100mm macro, with a +12.5 diopter from AOI.
What is your favorite Nudibranch and where can you find them?
Deon's favourite nudibranch is the Gasflame nudibranch, Bonisa nakaza, which comes in a number of different and striking colour variations. They are beautiful to photograph. My favourite nudibranch is the cute candy nudibranch, Cuthona speciosa, as it has these tiny little eye spots which are so adorable. Both nudibranchs are endemic to Southern Africa and therefore very special to us.
Your go-to resource for identifying nudibranchs or other creatures you see underwater?
We both use two local books - A Field Guide to the Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula by Georgina Jones, and Nudibranchs of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay by Guido Zsilavecz. I'm also contributing to a new nudibranch book for Southern Africa with Terry Gosliner and Georgina Jones, which will be an excellent resource for the entire coastline of South Africa and southern Mozambique. I can’t wait for it to be published!
Where is your favorite place to dive or explore the ocean? Also where are a few places at the top of your bucket list?
Our favourite place to dive and explore the ocean is right here in False Bay. The marine life is so colourful and diverse, and there are so many beautiful nudibranchs right here on our doorstep. However, we also love to travel, and we lead dive trips to some of the most incredible diving destinations around the world, both for wide-angle and macro photography. This year, we're heading to Romblon in the Philippines. At the top of our bucket lists? I would love to go to Raja Ampat, Bali, and Japan, while Deon would love to go to Galapagos.
Your goals for underwater photography or diving.
My goals are to get all my underwater photography courses online and to grow my YouTube Channel so that I can inspire and help other underwater photographers capture the beauty beneath the waves. Deon's goal is to learn how to use a snoot, which he is really looking forward to using in the Philippines.
Cape dorid, Hypselodoris capensis, at Steenbras River Mouth dive site in Gordon’s Bay. Photo by Deon Jonker.
Lastly, some tips and tricks for other underwater photographers who are just getting started.
If you're just starting out with underwater photography, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. As someone who had to start from the bottom, I would like to share a few tips and tricks that have helped me along the way.
First and foremost, it's crucial to choose the right camera that suits your needs and goals. Do your research and resist the urge to jump into buying a camera just because it's popular with your friends. Think about your long-term goals and invest in a camera that will allow you to grow and develop your skills if that is what you want to do.
Once you have your camera, it's essential to invest in a strobe, even if it's just one. Strobes are a fantastic tool for lighting your subject, capturing sharp images, and freezing motion.
When you're out there in the water, focus on the important bits of your subject, such as the rhinophores, to ensure that they are tack sharp. It may take some practice to get it right, but it's worth the effort.
Don't be afraid to experiment and push your boundaries. The more you try new techniques, the more you will learn and develop your own unique style.
Lastly, it's crucial to remember that we are guests in the underwater world. As tempting as it may be to move a nudibranch to get the perfect shot, it's never worth it. We must respect the creatures we encounter and always prioritize their safety.
If you're looking for more quick and easy tips and tricks to help you progress in your underwater photography journey, be sure to follow Kate on Instagram at @Kate_underwaterphotocoach. And be sure to contact Kate and Deon and Indigo Scuba if a dive trip to Cape Town is on your cards – they will show you the very best diving in False Bay!