's philosophy is to be himself when exploring the world, and to print his uniqueness in every image he creates. He wants to show the viewer an image that embeds his impression and personal experience with a place. His landscape photographs all show his huge appreciation for nature's beauty. Let's have a look on his splendid sceneries and learn more about the artist behind his work.
Dear Michael, please briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
First of all, I want to say that I am truly honoured for the opportunity to be interviewed for the 1x magazine. My name is Michael Zheng. I am an amateur photographer from Dallas, Texas, and I am a proud father of two wonderful children.
My “real” job is a senior executive officer for a major U.S. money-center bank. I view photography as a hobby to relieve the stress from my busy professional life of crunching numbers, plus I really like that side of photography that keeps me both physically and intellectually challenged. Apart from photography, I am also an avid tennis player, and like most Texans, I enjoy BBQ s and outdoor gun ranges.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
I would never say I have been enthusiastic in art since I was very young, but I did receive a little bit of training in drawing and painting, though the teacher eventually gave up on me. Nevertheless, that early-childhood experience helped me understand the principle of composition and appreciate the beauty of artworks. I love watching movies, especially those with epic panoramic sceneries, and enjoy classical music and impressionism paintings. Those experiences have cumulatively influenced my style of photography using wide-angle to create visual impacts.
What first attracted you to photography?
I was attracted to photography in 2012 by purchasing my first camera (Canon 5D Mark II), simply for the purpose of taking pictures of my kids. My family liked to travel to different cities and national parks, and I soon developed a deep interest in cityscape and landscape photography, starting by taking pictures around my city.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
My philosophy is to be myself when exploring the world, and to print my uniqueness in every image I create. I want to show the viewer an image that embeds my impression and personal experience with a place.
Why are you so drawn by landscape photography?
I was drawn to landscape photography not only because it enables me to appreciate the beauty of nature, but also helps me improve the physique of my body. When I first visited Canadian Rockies in 2015, I could hardly hike 100 meters in 4 hours; but in 2018, after 3 years into landscape photography, I could hike 500 meters in just 45 minutes (of course, after losing 20 lbs of body weight).
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Technical perfection enhances the skeleton and muscles of the image, but the mood and story are the soul of the image, and often are more meaningful to me. Most of the impact of an image is created by the latter.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I usually do a lot of homework before travelling to a specific location for shooting. Fortunately, modern tools, such as Google Earth, PlanIt! and PhotoPills, etc. make the virtual scouting job relatively easier. Generally speaking, I often have a visual of the image even before travelling to the site, with the direction of sun/moon light and the best timing for each composition. As drone photography becomes more popular nowadays, I also spend time researching the local regulations and make sure I can fly my drone before the trip.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
Currently I am using the following equipment:
Canon EOS R5
Canon 5D Mark IV
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Canon 11-24mm f/4L
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L (both RF and EF)
Canon 500mm f/4L, and many more ……
Sigma 14mm f/1.4 and Sigma 20mm f/1.4 are the best lenses you can buy for night-scape photography.
When I travel, I carry all my gears with my F-Stop TILOPA 50L bag. It is a very sturdy, versatile camera bag that accommodates my 40lbs of equipment plus two tripods.
What software do you use to process your images?
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the two major software's I use for processing my images, plus a few plug-ins, i.e. Nik Collection, Raya Pro, Topaz Studio, etc.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I always shoot in raw format to preserve the flexibility for post-processing. I start by selecting and importing the images into Adobe Lightroom, and perform basic adjustments like exposure, highlight, shadow, white balance, etc., before fine-tuning them in Photoshop with Nik Collection and luminosity masks to achieve the specific colour tones, mood and details.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in landscape photography and how do you get started?Confucius once said “Walking among three people, I find my teacher among them. I choose that which is good in them and follow it, and that which is bad and change it.”
Don’t be afraid of learning from other photographers, keep practising with passion and persistence, but find ways to improve yourself over your role models. In the meantime, be open to constructive feedback and remain humble.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
As an amateur photographer, I was fortunate to have so much help from Victor Liu (victorliuphotography) who guided me in my first-ever adventure photography trip to Canadian Rockies in 2015. His philosophy and skills in landscape photography affected my style in early years.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
My most favourite photographer nowadays is for almost all his landscape shots.
I love his creativity, originality and persistence to achieve his goals. I had a chance to shoot with him in 2018 and was so impressed by his incredible mastery of light and post-processing techniques.
My another new favourite is from whom I learned a great deal on composition, colour tones, mood and post-processing.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Due to the pandemic in 2020, I had to cancel many of my photography trips, however, I started learning and improving my skills in macro photography at home. Hopefully I can continue to explore South America and Northern Europe with my camera in 2021.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I had a hard time picking my most favourite photograph as I have been happy with all my images published on 1X, though I do realize none of them is perfect. If I had to pick out one, I would like to go for this image I took in my first 10-mile winter hiking in Canadian Rockies. I was totally exhausted after 3 hours of struggle, and was greatly rewarded by the beauty of Lake McArthur.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
Some of the Earth's greatest landscapes and treasured natural areas are threatened by increased visitation and general lack of care. I believe photographers should bear increasingly more environmental responsibilities to promote minimal impact practices that help preserve nature's beautiful locations.
1X, as the world’s premier home base for many great photographers, can play a key role in helping conserve the places we all love and photograph.
Paolo Giudici PRO
Very interesting indeed, congratulations to Michael for his great pictures and to Yvette for her work.
Appreciated your support.
Larry Deng PRO
Congratulations Michael! Beautiful work and fine interview. Thanks for sharing and for your fine collaboration, my friend! Cheers, Larry Thank you dear Yvette for your efforts.
Larry, thanks very much for your compliments.
Rob Darby PRO
Great article that does justice to Mr. Zheng’s amazing photography. Thank you Yvette, and thank you Michael for sharing your work and your vision. Very impressive.