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Leah Xu : Photographer of the week

by Yvette Depaepe 
Published the 3rd of January 2022


Leah Xu has a beautiful and various portfolio.  You can see landscapes as well as wildlife and bird photography. She strives for technical perfection, wants to know all about her gear and editing programs to make high quality images.  But adding story and mood in all of her works is also essential. To her, it will turn good images into great images.  Her main advice is to have an artistic vision and a strong passion for photography.  Leah has both, in my humble opinion.

Enjoy and listen what Leah reveals to us about her photography.


'EPIC sunrising'


Dear Leah, briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.

I was born and raised in Suzhou, China, a city that is widely recognized as “Paradise on Earth”. Our family moved to the US in early 90’s, where afterwards, I found a job as an IT software engineer. Photography is my main hobby, but I also like travelling and cooking.


'Sunrising on Lake Bled'


How has your history and life experiences affected your photography and what first attracted you to photography?
I think that the place where I grew up had the biggest impact on my life. Suzhou, the city where I grew up, is very beautiful and surrounded by wetlands. It has the delicate beauty of its gardens and also its romantic water towns, very much like Venice in Italy.  It is synonymous with high culture and elegance.  All of these built my initial photography vision in my soul.   Since we moved to the Unites States, our family travelled in the US and abroad a lot.  During our travels, I always took some pictures for memories with a point-and-shoot camera and cell phones.  I wanted to record all the happy and exciting moments in our trips.  After our kids went to colleges, I bought myself the first DSLR camera, Nikon D810, and started to learn Photography seriously in 2016.


'The Light'

Describe your overall photographic vision.

Having photographic vision means you know why you’re taking pictures. You know what you want to accomplish. It is essential to be a successful photographer. When taking pictures, composition, perspective, etc., are all decided by your photography vision. To improve my photographic vision, I read a lot of photography books to find the essence of my photography personality. Practising a lot of photography in my local area improved my photography skills.  I was also inspired by a lot of great photographs on The learning process takes a long time, but I had a lot of joy.


'Stunning Ice Line'


You have your very own style but your work is very diversified.  I see nature photographs, landscapes and aerial shots.  Can you explain why this large range of styles?

Since I have visited many beautiful and amazing places, I fell in love with landscape photography immediately right after I had my first camera.  There is so much to love about landscape photography — the high mountains and seas, the sunrise and sunset, it gets me out into nature, to see new places, and to see old places in new ways.


'Frost Flower'



'Sunset Out of Window'

Then I travelled to Kenya.  We had a chance to closely watch a Lion’s family life, elephant families walk under mountain Kilimanjaro, and zebras, giraffes and vast herds of elephant roam free amongst the expansive plains. I immediately fell in love with wildlife photography.


'The fight in the night'


In Kenya, we had a chance to shoot flamingos flying over Lake Magadi by a jet air-plane.


'Crossing the wave'



'exotic Pattern'

Since then, I started to shoot birds. You can observe and record lots of the animal stories.


'Angry Bird'



'Look at Me'


What is more important to you, the mood, story behind your images or the technical perfection?

The technical perfection is important. If you know your camera and Photoshop well, you can make high quality images.  Adding story and mood in photos is more important. It will turn a good image into a great image.


'Morning Light'

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 have always had a great love for nature and animals.  To take a wildlife picture, I will spend a lot of time researching the animal’s behaviour. Knowing your subject helps a lot in wildlife photography. If I am going to a photography journey, first I will look weather forecast. I will spend a lot of time to find the photography spot GPS coordinates and the parking lots around the place.  Then, I will decide the time go to the place for photography. When I arrive at the place, I will scout the area during the daytime, then I will take pictures of the location at sunrise or sunset.  Chasing the light is always a high priority in my photography.


'EPIC Sunrise'


What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?

I used to use Nikon cameras, like D810 and D850.  Recently, I just switched my cameras from Nikon to Sony.  I just got my Sony Alpha1 camera a couple of weeks ago.  It is very good for wildlife photography.  Also, I have a DJI drone for aerial shots.

The lenses I use:

sony 12-24mm f2.8

sony 24-70 mm f/2.8

sony 70-200mm f/2.8

sony 100-400mm

sony 200-600mm


What software do you use to process your images? Can you tell us something more about your work flow?

I always taken raw pictures.  After taking pictures, I import them into a lightroom for file management. I usually start post-processing with ACR. After making some basic adjusts, I would send the image files into Photoshop to make further adjustments locally.  I use Topaz DeNoise AI to reduce the picture’s noise. For wildlife pictures, I will use Topaz Sharpen AI to make the subject sharper.  Sometimes I will use Nik Correction to add more atmosphere in pictures to enhance their mood.


'Falls in night'



'Lines and Curves'


What is your most important advice to a beginner in nature or landscape photography and how do you get started?

It is important to have an artistic vision and a strong passion for photography. It is also important to know how to use your camera, and the general composition “rules”. I also learning other excellent photographers’ photos in 1X. The critique section on 1x is an excellent learning channel. Feedback from other photographers is one of the best ways to improve.


'Mono Lake Morning Light'


Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography? 

I like to study photos from other talented photographers on 1x. They have their own style and taste. It inspires me to learn how to make such great photos. I want to particularly mention that John Fan (johnfan) has affected my work a lot.  I read his photography books, his blogs about photography, and listened to his photography lectures.  He gave me a lot of knowledges about how to taking a great photo.  He also taught me how to make a good photo in post photo processing.  I really appreciate all his helps!


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?

Recently I started to be interested in black and white photography.  Sometimes, B&W photography can eliminate colour distractions, and can focus on the more fundamental aspect of photography: tone and light. This helps me to see the world differently and can add more of my own emotion into the photos.


'We are not lonely'


Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?

1X is the world's biggest curated photo gallery website and a wonderful learning platform. I have been a 1x members for years.  When I have my photos published on 1X, I am very happy, and feel like I have made an achievement. 


Many thanks for your answers and for letting us know more about you, dear Leah!


Very impressive images. Congrats!
Impressive images. Congrats dear Leah!!
Amazing images! Congrats Leah!
txules PRO
Such a great portfolio¡¡¡ congrats
Beautiful images!Congratulations.
Just one word: mesmerizing !
Fabulous photographs. Thank you for sharing.
Amazing photos
Excellent works! Congratulations!
Congratulations on beautiful photos!
Astonishing and beautiful pictures. Congratulations!
Mei Xu PRO
Beautiful images!
Great composition, color and mood of your images. Congrats
Congratulations! Well deserved!
Congratulations! Love the stories and mood behind your images.
Wonderful pictures, Congratulations! Inspiring creativity!
Obrigado Yvette por mais uma entrevista fantástica que nos apresentou o maravilhoso trabalho da entrevistada, bem como sua percepção de fotografia.
Nice collection of fine works. Congratulations!
Congratulations! Inspiring creativity!
Beautiful work. congrats.
Beautiful variety of images—Congratulations!
Spectacular collection of images 😍 Awesome use of light. Nice interview.
Congratulations! Well deserved!
Lovely interview, excellent photography, helped me relate a lot to your perspective and style..
Thank you very much for most interesting interview Yvette and for the wonderful photos Leah Xu. Excellent work.
Congratulations, dear Leah !!! It was a real pleasure to interview you and to know you a little better ;-) Cheers, Yvette
Excellent work with great artistic feeling ! Congrats!
Wonderful photos, excellent post processing. Congratulations