by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 27th of February 2023
Aidong Ning's photographs are amazing, outstanding and very diversified. When I asked her to describe her photographic vision, I got a unique and meaningful play on words; 'I express my inner feelings about my surroundings through my photography. I take the nouns and verbs of my compositions, and add adjectives and adverbs to it, bringing vivacity and character from my mind to the shot.' Let's wander together through Aidong's wonderful body of work and discover more about this talented charming lady.
Dear Aidong, first I would like to thank you so much for taking the time to answer this questionnaire! To begin, please introduce yourself shortly and tell us more about you, your hobbies or other projects you are involved in!
My name is Aidong Ning. I was born in China and came to the United States to study in 1995. My major was Electrical Engineering and I worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley after graduation. My family moved out of the country in 2006, so I quit my job and stayed home as a full time mom. We moved back to California seven years later and have stayed here ever since.
Photography is my major hobby and I devote a lot of time learning photography and volunteering at a photographer’s association. I also like to travel, watch movies, listen to music, read books, and enjoy all the beautiful things around me.
'The Start of a Hot Day'
When and how did you start your photographic journey?
I got my first digital camera when my first child was born. It wasn’t photography like it should be, I just used it to document memories.
I became serious about photography when we moved back to California in 2013. All the chaos that came with moving made me very stressed and I managed to take several days off and spent time alone in a very remote area. I found incredible inner peace and a deep connection with nature during that trip. It gave me the urge to capture those moments and save them to my heart. That was when my photographic journey began.
For many of us photography is either a hobby or a way of life. How would you define your relationship with photography?
Photography was a hobby to me at first, then it gradually became a way of life. The photographic journey totally changed my lifestyle, my way of seeing the world, and my connection with mother nature. Photography has become an inseparable part of my life.
What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?
Every experience on the way is valuable to me as I always try to find some takeaways from it.
I was lucky to find a great photographer community as a beginner; I learned a lot from group discussions and met many accomplished photographers. This group gave me hints and threads for further study on the web. As I became more experienced, I joined my current photographer’s association, continuing to learn from others in the group, while also volunteering a lot of my time to help others improve on their skills. During the discussions and critiques that we held, I was forced to think deeper, which made me grow in many ways.
During the COVID pandemic, I couldn’t travel like I used to. But isolating at home led me to explore other genres of photography, and take some art classes. The door to the world of art opened in front of me. I realized that photography itself is art. My works were no longer just pictures of the world; they finally expressed a fragment of ‘me’ in them.
You have your own style but your work is very diversified. I see creatively edited photography, landscape photography, nature photography etc. Can you explain why this is?
As a beginner, I always looked up to famous photographers who have their own styles. I had been wondering when I could establish my own style. But as the years passed by, I realized that a style is just a reflection of one’s personality. To have my own style is to stay true to myself and express my own feelings.
At the root, I have always connected with mother nature; to be alone in the wilderness and capture those special moments–it meant everything to me. So I started as a landscape and nature photographer.
But just observing is not enough. I want to dig deeper and create a true connection to it, to express my feelings from different angles, using different methods. My work becomes diversified as a product of my attempts to create connections with the world around me. I’m always learning, trying new things and expressing myself along the way in this journey.
'Walking in Snowy Forest'
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Definitely the story. Of course, there’s always a baseline for technical quality; it’s the fundamental requirement for any photographer, and so it’s always important. But once you’ve learned the basics, whether it’s blurring and sharpening to your desire or using certain parameters for certain effects, it’s far more important to focus on the story. Images are a medium through which I express myself, so I need to communicate that aspect of myself through the mood and stories behind my photography.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
I’m not only an observer to my subject matter. I want to touch its heart, listen to its story, and have a conversation with it. I’ll do my research on it if I’m planning a shoot, or I’ll learn about it after, if I come across it unexpectedly. And finally, describe it with my work.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
A good portion of my images that I like are from local areas and unexpected scenes while travelling. I’ve been changing from planning the detailed times and locations to just being open minded and letting my feelings direct me in the field.
Of course, I still always have a general location in mind and do my research, but I won’t design my trips to the very last detail.
'Golfer in Fog'
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I express my inner feelings about my surroundings through my photography. I take the nouns and verbs of my compositions, and add adjectives and adverbs to it, bringing vivacity and character from my mind to the shot.
Can you please tell us something more about your workflow from the idea to the final product?
When shooting on site, I look for the composition that best describes my subject matter. Afterwards, I will also take some shots around the area which have always proved useful for some of my creative editing work.
During post processing, I look through the raw images and try to recall my feelings on site and ponder on the best method to express those feelings. Sometimes it’s straightforward, like in landscape and wildlife pictures. I only need to do colour toning, brightness and contrast adjustments, etc. Some need more work, though. This usually involves some re-composition and combining multiple exposures. I do all these in Photoshop, making several versions to compare and then decide on the final product.
Where do you look to find inspiration and what inspires you the most?
1x.com is always my best place to look for inspiration. The online gallery display showcases so many masterpieces from talented photographers. The curated gallery also helps me to improve my aesthetics on artwork. I also visit art exhibitions. How artists express their vision sometimes gives me inspiration on composing and post processing an image.
'Tree in Fog'
Many are of the opinion that the gear is not very important when the passion for photography is strong. However, can you please share with us what gear you use (camera, lenses, lighting, tripod, etc.)?
I usually carry two cameras in my bag. I have a Nikon D850 with 14-24mm and 24-70mm lenses, for wide angle shots. I also have a Sony a1 with 100-400mm and 200-600mm lenses for telephoto shots. I don’t use flash. My tripod is from Gitzo.
What would be your favourite photo? Please tell us the story behind it.
I took this “Flying Snowflakes” on the last day of 2022. My family was on vacation in Reno, Nevada and we were supposed to be home on New Year’s Eve. We checked out of the hotel and headed home hoping to get back safely through a very heavy snow storm. Then we were turned back because the free-way was closed due to the heavy snow and multiple accidents.
I’ve always wanted to shoot in heavy snow and it never snows where I live, so I made good use of this extra day of delay. I dropped my family to a hotel again and headed out to bury myself in this stormy white world, carrying my camera. I have never seen snowflakes this big, flying around me.
I used different shutter speeds, and captured a lot of pictures. I ended up liking this one the most. This picture was taken using intentional camera movement and slow shutter speed, it captured the movement of snowflakes flying. The effect of the many white sparkles expressed my joy of being there at that moment. This picture is also an example of accepting any challenge that life gives us and making the best out of it!
Who are your favourite photographers or mentors whose works have influenced you and your photography?
There’s plenty who have inspired me through their works and passion. The list can go very long. Here’s just a few:
Yan L, the founder of the first photographer community I joined. I always look up to her courage and artistic talents.
Marc Adamus; I joined one of his workshops and that experience opened my eyes. I am always amazed by his passion and vision on landscape photography.
Huibo Hou; the subtle feeling and mood in her images always touch the bottom of my heart. I attended her seminar and fell in love with black and white photography immediately.
Veselin Atanasov; the mood in his work is amazing and inspires me a lot.
Shenshen dou; I love the artistic expression in her images. I heard of the ICM technique for the first time from her interview with 1x a couple years ago.
'Storm over desert'
Now, since we have almost reached the end of this interview, I would kindly ask you to share with us your plans or photographic projects you would like to be involved in.
I will be empty nested later this year. My husband and I have been planning for more road trips and adventures around the world. I have always been hoping to go to places and get to know that place and its culture by living there for a longer period of time than tourists. I have no specific projects yet, but this is my dream and I hope it can come true in the near future.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I joined 1x and had my first image published in 2017. Before that, as a beginner, I could only admire the work on 1x and tried to learn from them, so it meant a lot to me when I had my first image published.
I always recommend friends to join 1x because it is a great learning platform for photographers of all levels. We can learn what pictures are good with artistic value from the work that are carefully selected by experienced curators. We can get very objective and constructive feedback, so we know how to improve our own work. 1x is also a wonderful place to display our work and create our own portfolio. And it’s a source of inspiration for us to keep growing and improving.
I am honoured to have this opportunity to share my thoughts with my fellow photographers in the 1x community. Thank you Yvette and all crew members for your hard work to provide us such a great platform.
John-Mei Zhong PRO
One of best interviews!! Thank you, Aidong, for sharing your thoughts and congratulations for your achievements. Thanks Yvette and 1x for providing such good leaning platform!
Thank you so much, John!
Yongnan Li （李永男） PRO
Nice works, read and learned, thanks.
Thank you very much, Yongnan!
Steven Zhou PRO
Congratulation Aidong, my dear friend！I have always been very fond of your breathtaking and brilliant works, and also admire your emotional inner world and creativity! Thank you for giving us so many different styles of work. Thanks also to Yvette for arranging this interview and publishing a very enlightening article.
Thank you, Steven! It was a pleasure to interview Aidong. She is such a fine lady!
Thank you for all the encouragement, my df Steven!
Yun Gong PRO
Dear Aidong, thank you so much for sharing such a impressive experience on you photography journey and stunning images. Very inspiring and touching. Also thank Yvette for the wonderful interview.
All credits go to Aidong ;-). Thanks for your appreciation, Yun Tong.
Thank you so much, dear Yun!
Leah Xu PRO
Congratulation Aidong! Like your stunning and inspiring images!
Thank you so much, dear Leah!
Calvin Feng PRO
Congratulation Aidong! Very inspirational interview!
Thank you very much, Calvin!
what a great image selection, thank you V!
Thank you, Verdon!
Miro Susta CREW
Excellent and very interesting and inspiring interview and amazing collection of photographs, accept my sincerest congratulations Aidong and also great thanks to Yvette for arranging the interview publishing it.
Annie Keizer PRO
Wonderful interview and pictures. Very inspiring. 👍👍
Thank you very much, Annie!
Wonderful article and stunning images Aidong, encouraging for those of us still on the learning curve. Kim
Thank you so much, Kim!
Anita Singh PRO
Absolutely stunning and inspiring images , thanks Aidong for sharing your journey and thanks Yvette for publishing this lovely article
wei lian PRO
Congrats! You totally deserve it, best wishes for the future
Thank you so much for the encouragement, Wei!
Kevin Xu PRO
Thank you so much, Kevin!
Pang Teng Lin PRO
Grateful to your inspiring sharing. Thank you Aidong. Thank you Yvette for an excellent interview.
Heike Willers PRO
What a wonderful interview, thanks, dear Yvette. My very best compliments, Aidong! Thank you for sharing your story, your thoughts and beautiful work.
Thank you so much, Heike!
Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Heike ;-)
Congrats Aidong! I am really touched by your words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wonderful works!
Thank you so much for your warm words and encouragement , dear Jasmine!
Irene Wu PRO
Congratulation Aidong！Thanks to Yvette and 1x for another great interview which is very inspirational.
Wanghan Li PRO
Appreciate very much your wonderful interview and the beautiful and artistic collects! Learning! Thanks to Yvette to make it happen!
Thank you so much for your warm words and encouragement, Wanghan!
Thank you for your appreciation, dear Wanghan Li !
Lucie Gagnon CREW
Congratulations Aidong! Your pictures and your vision are inspirational.
Thank you so much for your encouragement, Lucie!
Congratulations! Very inspirational interview!
Thank you so much, Jinghua!
Kenneth Zeng PRO
Congratulations Aidong! Thanks to Yvette and 1x for another great interview!
Jun Zuo PRO
Thank you so much for the encouragement, Jun!
Fan Lin PRO
Congratulation Aidong! Talented charming lady!
Thank you so much for your warm words and encouragement, dear Fan!
Larry Deng PRO
Amazing article and gallery. Very inspiring . Congrats df Aidong and thanks Yvette for putting another excellent photographer in the spotlights.
Thank you, dear Larry! You are always my teacher, my friend, and my source of inspiration!
Thanks, Larry ;-)
Linda Lu PRO
Congratulations Aidong! Always impressed by your pictures taken from a unique perspective and expressed in a subtle and artistic way. Thanks to Yvette and 1x for another great interview which is very inspirational.
Thank you so much, dear Linda! I am so grateful to have friends like you who are so supportive and encouraging!
Many thanks for your appreciation, Linda ;-)
Jian Xu PRO
Congratulations! Very impressive works and thank you for sharing your own story and feelings about photography.
Thank you so much for your warm words and encouragement, Jian!
Xiaolin Ni PRO
Congratulations my dear friend! Thanks for sharing your straight from heart story and an amazing portfolio of great work! You are an inspiration for a lot of us! Thanks Yvette for putting together another great article!!
My pleasure, dear friend. It is so great to put excellent photographers in the spotlights.
Thank you, dear Xiaolin! I am so grateful to have such supportive and encouraging friends like you!
Catherine W. PRO
Congratulations Aidong on your exceptional photography work! The images you create capture the beauty and essence of your subjects in a way that is both authentic and artful! great job, congrats!
Thank you, dear Catherine! I always admire your work, so beautiful and artistic. Thank you for your encouragement and support as always!
Louie Luo PRO
Congratulations my dear friend Aidong !!! You have a great eye and always try something new to express your inner feelings. Your favourite photo "Flying Snowflakes" is an excellent example how you achieve this goal, Love your wonderful work. Yvette, thank you so much for the great presentation!
Thanks Louie Luo !!! All credits go to Aidong of course ;-)
Thank you so much, Louie! Your work is inspirational to me too! Great to have you together on this journey!
Molly Fu PRO
Such a high performance portfolio, congrats my dear friends Aidong, you deserve it!
Thank you so much, dear Molly! You are always so supportive and encouraging! It’s been great pleasure to have you on this journey together!
Yanyan Gong PRO
Congratulations dear Aidong! All your pieces are high quality to perfection! I highly appreciated your artistic interpretation in your work and you are a humble, loving, selfless fine human being!
Thank you so much, dear Yanyan! You have always been so encouraging! Great to have friends like you on this journey together!
Rob Li CREW
Congratulations, Aidong! truly inspiring!
Thank you so much, Rob!
Thank you so much for your fine collaboration, Aidong. Proud to have you in the magazine, dear friend.
Dear Yvette, thank you so much for your hard work to put this together. I am honored to share my thoughts with all friends on this great platform. Thank you!
John Fan CREW
Thank you, John!
Ruiqing P. PRO
Congrats Aidong for such a great collection and accomplishments! I like your artistic vision, very inspiring! 走更远的路， 看更美的风景！
Thank you, dear Ruiqing! Your work is also inspirational to me! Great to have friends like you walking together on this journey!