Richard Schuster
9 July 2024
Aleksander Solum
9 July 2024

Samson So

Nature photographer uses storytelling skills to promote conservation

Samson So (MJ 2008), founder and director of Eco Institute, wears different hats: eco-tour leader and organiser, writer, photographer, university lecturer and trainer for frontline environmental workers and nature lovers, among others. 

Samson decided to study journalism in 2005. It was a curious choice for someone who had a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and an MPhil in biodiversity and ecology, in addition to working as a training officer at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for over half a decade.

Samson said he was naturally drawn to study journalism after he was interviewed by different media outlets while working for WWF and realised that conservation work was not just about “scientific data and enthusiasm.” 

“Media is a powerful tool to convey the conservation message to a much larger number of people, regardless of their background,” he said.

Samson testing his camera in Sai Kung, Hong Kong, in December 2023

Samson diving with his photography gear at Raja Ampat, Indonesia, in January 2024

Samson founded Eco Institute, a company providing environmental education through workshops and ecotourism, in August 2005 — the same month he resigned from WWF and weeks before he started his MJ programme. 

“Once I knew I was admitted by the JMSC, I started to plan my resignation and a new career path,” he said.

Samson, who started as a self-taught nature photographer in 1994, regularly serves as a photo competition judge with National Geographic.

He also leads trips to remote places in Asia, Africa and South America to photograph animals in natural habitats and take stargazing pictures.

He recently returned from a week-long trip to Wallacea, an area in eastern Indonesia that is located between Asia and Australia continental regions and home to a unique and rich biodiversity. 

It was his third trip in 2024 taking a group of eco-tourists to the rainforests, wetlands and national parks in North Sulawesi and the Moluccan islands, and teaching them nature photography. 

They looked for and photographed the endemic fauna of Wallacea, such as birds of paradise, hornbills, owls, tarsiers, marsupials, black-crested macaques and various amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. 

Samson regularly posts stunning photos he took from his trips on his Facebook page and Instagram account.

Samson in a rainforest in northeastern Borneo, Malaysia, in March 2023

Samson delivering a talk on his career and work in Hong Kong in November 2023

“It is not just a picture that I take,” he said. “My pictures tell stories about how nature works.”

Samson’s knowledge of natural history and wildlife behaviour is valuable in his career as a nature photographer. But he is also grateful for the skills he learned at the JMSC. 

“Writing is not my main source of income, but I do write a lot of articles to promote eco-tourism, conservation and nature photography,” he said. “The writing style and storytelling skills I got from the JMSC are of great help.”

Samson, who has produced multiple documentaries and published many books and articles on ecology, environmental education and green tourism, said he used words, images and videos to tell stories in different projects he worked on.

“I truly have broadened my field of work in addition to my scientific training.”

Gallery of Samson's nature photography