by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 3rd of April 2023
To Kenneth Zeng, photography has become an important part of his live, especially since his wife picked up photography a few years ago. During their spare time, they take their cameras to capture whatever interests them on their trips as well as at home. Photography has become one of their true passions and has provided them with a lifetime of enjoyment and fulfilment. Kenneth believes that photography reflects one’s individual perspective of the world. It is a lifelong learning process.
Learn more about the man behind his images through this interview and enjoy!
Dear Kenneth, 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 Kenneth Zeng. I grew up in Xian, China and came to the U.S. to pursue my graduate degree in physics. After graduating, I worked as a statistical analysis programmer for pharmaceutical companies and was involved in developing many new drugs. I’m retired now and have more time to enjoy many of my hobbies. Photography is a long-time hobby for me. Besides photography, I also enjoy drawing, karaoke, playing accordion and violin, skiing, cooking, and travelling.
'Peaceful' – Faroe Islands
When and how did you start your photographic journey?
I started taking photos when I was in middle school because of drawing. At that time, I was learning drawing and would usually spend 5-6 hours to complete one still-life pencil sketch. One day, I found that taking a still life photo would use much less effort and yielded better results than drawing. The problem was that photography was a luxury in China at the time; an entry-level domestic camera was worth two months of salary for a factory worker. Fortunately, my father, a chief engineer, had a very old German 135 film folding camera. It then became my first camera in my lifelong photographic journey. After I got the camera, I started to learn basic photography skills from my father and from any photography books I could get my hands on. I also gradually applied the lessons about composition and lighting I learned from drawing to my photography.
To mitigate expenses, I learned how to develop films through a soapbox and how to develop B/W photos through a self-made enlarger. I still remember locking myself in a tiny dark room illuminated by a dim red bulb more than 40 years ago, working on film and photo development for many hours without break. Although there were no digital cameras, colour photos, Lightroom, or Photoshop back then, my introduction to photography is still one of the best memories in my journey.
For many of us photography is either a hobby or a way of life. How would you define your relationship with photography?
It started as a casual hobby. But after many years, photography has become an important part of our lives, especially since my wife picked up photography a few years ago. During our spare time, we often read articles, watch YouTube tutorials, and take our cameras to capture whatever interests us on our trips and at home. Photography has become one of our true passions and has provided us with a lifetime of enjoyment and fulfilment.
'Somewhere In Time'
What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?
Aside from my childhood experiences, my three most significant milestones were when I received my first digital camera, when I became a 1x member, and when my wife became interested in photography.
· I purchased my first digital camera, Minolta DiMAGE 7i, in 2002. Back then, traditional film rolls would have capacity of 24-36 shots. However, this camera allowed me to take hundreds – even thousands – of photos on a small memory card. It also allowed me to see the images I just captured, so I can check for proper focus, exposure, and composition on site. It was also the first time I started using my camera to capture landscape and wildlife scenes beyond family activities.
· I have been viewing photos on 1x website for many years, which inspired me to publish my first 1x photo in Feb 2021. On 1x, I found a wide collection of photography styles, from landscape to wildlife to street photography, submitted by outstanding photographers from around the world.
· In 2018, my wife also picked up photography as a hobby. Since then, we embarked on many photography trips together, which involved site selection, itinerary planning, photo shooting, and final image editing. Sharing the same photography hobby has brought us a new level of understanding and appreciation for each other’s perspectives and creativity.
You have your own style but your work is very diversified. I see creatively edited photography, world landscape photography, street photography, people, animals etc. Can you explain why this is?
The world around us is filled with a vast array of subjects to photograph, from stunning landscapes to fascinating people and animals, giving photographers endless opportunities to express their creativities. Both my wife and I love nature and travelling to various countries. The landscapes I have published are mostly from these journeys. In the meantime, we also like shooting wild animals in their natural habitats and interesting events happening on the streets.
The evolution of new photo editing software has greatly impacted the field of creative photo editing. I am fascinated to see many of these outstanding creatively edited photography works on 1x. I have spent a lot of time studying the techniques used in these works to innovate my own photos and create my own artistic visions.
Personally, I think the mood and story drive an image more so than the technical perfection. A technically perfect image may be visually pleasing, but if it does not convey a mood or tell a story properly, it will not be as impactful or memorable. On the other hand, an image with a strong mood or story can be more powerful even it is not technically perfect. In the end, it all depends on the intent of the photographer, and the message they are trying to convey.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
As the photographer, the relationship to the subject matter can vary. In some cases, the photographer may be simply an observer, capturing a scene or event without any direct interaction with the subject. In other cases, the photographer may have a more personal or emotional connection to the subject, such as taking photographs of family or friends. Additionally, some photographers may develop a relationship with their subjects over time, such as when one works on a photojournalism or documentary project. Ultimately, the relationship between a photographer and their subject matter is shaped by the photographer’s intentions, the context in which the photography is being taken, and the nature of the subject itself.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
It depends. For a landscape photography trip, I will carefully plan out the itinerary and details, as mentioned previously. But for a casual street photograph, I would just grab my camera and go.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I believe that photography reflects one’s individual perspective of the world. It is a lifelong learning process.
Can you please tell us something more about your workflow from the idea to the final product?
In general, my workflow is comprised of five steps: research and planning, preparation, shooting, post-processing, and final review. I will use landscape photography as an example:
· Research and Planning - Research the location and study the weather patterns, lighting conditions, and optimal times to shoot. Then, plan the equipment and permits necessary for the trip.
· Preparation - Gather all necessary equipment and supplies, including camera, lenses, tripod, filters and drone.
· Shooting - Arrive early to find the best shooting location. When setting up my equipment, I would pay attention to subjects, lighting, and weather conditions and adjust my settings accordingly. Then, I would take multiple shots of the scenery with different camera settings to ensure the best results and to have a wide array of options available for post-processing.
· Post-processing - Edit photos with appropriate software, apply any necessary filters to enhance the scene’s mood and atmosphere, and crop/resize images as needed.
· Final review - Review all edited photos to identify areas of improvement for future projects.
This workflow serves as a basic guideline to ensure a better outcome in landscape photography trip.
Where do you look to find inspiration and what inspires you the most?
Definitely 1x. 1x provides a wealth of inspiration by showcasing a diverse collection of excellent images with creativity and vision from many outstanding photographers from around the world.
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.)?
The gear I use now are as follows: Canon EOS R5, Canon 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-300mm, 85mm f1.8 100mm macro and Sigma 150-600mm.
The previous cameras I have used includes Canon AE1, Canon EOS 630, Miniolta DiMAGE 7i, Canon EOS Rebel Xti/T3i and Canon EOS 6D/5D4.
Personally, gear is important for an experienced photographer. For example, when I am trying to take a photo of a bird far away with an 11mm lens, it does not matter how good my technique is, it is almost impossible to obtain a sharp image featuring all the vital details.
What would be your favourite photo? Please tell us the story behind it.
My favourite photo is the one my wife and I took at Mulafossur waterfall on the island of Vagar in Faroe Islands, seen below. It is known for its picturesque views and powerful flow of rushing water. To us, it is one of the most important scenes we planned to shoot during our trip to Faroe Islands.
On our way to Vagar Island, clouds matted the skies and began to drizzle. By the time we arrived at the falls, there were only a handful of people there – we guessed that most left because of the rain. We felt disappointed and were afraid that we would not get the best photos, still decided to wait anyway. A half-hour later, a miracle happened! The rain abruptly stopped and gave way to a beautiful sunset. It was one of the best views we have ever witnessed along our photographic journey. I am glad we decided to stay at the falls – patience really paid off that day.
Who are your favourite photographers or mentors whose works have influenced you and your photography?
Phillip Chang, John Fan, and Rob Li are my favourite photographers on 1x. We have been friends for many years from other photography forums. Other photographers I follow on 1x include Larry Deng, Jorge Ruiz Dueso, Hua Zhu, Marc Adamus and I am also influenced by individual photographers such as Kai Hornung, Michael Shainblue, Cath Simard and Sean Bagshaw.
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.
We just returned from the Galapagos Islands, our first photography trip this year, where we captured photos of exotic wildlife. We are planning to take 2-3 more landscape photography trips this year. Since we are close to New York City, we are also planning day-trips to the “Melting Pot of America” to shoot street scenes featuring rich cultures and diverse nationalities. At home, I focus on improving my photo processing skills through various photo editing tools, especially the techniques to create B/W photos.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I want to thank Yvette for giving me this opportunity to share my experience. I also want to express my gratitude to the 1x team for providing me a platform to share my photography journey with everyone. I am grateful to be a part of the 1x community.
Thanks to you too, dear Kenneth … It was a pleasure to interview you and to publish it in the 1x magazine.
‘Back in Time’
‘The Path to Heaven Runs Through Miles of Clouded Hill’
‘The Beauty of Bruarfoss’
'Traces of Time'
‘Lady On the Street’
‘TRAM 28 at Night’
‘Blowing in the Icelandic Wind’
Davvero una bella storia contornata da ottime fotografie
Annie Keizer PRO
What a wonderful photo collection. And very nice to read this interview. Congrats👍👍
Streiff Marcel PRO
Excellent exhibition out of your wonderful Portfolio dear Kenneth ! Many thanks also to Yvette to makes it possible !
John-Mei Zhong PRO
Thanks, Ken, for sharing your beautiful photos and journey. I really enjoyed reading it. Congrats on your great work. Thanks Yvette for this wonderful interview and amazing magazine.
Many thanks my friend John-Mei.
Leah Xu PRO
Impressive collection of great work, congratulations!
Many thanks my friend Leah.
Ruiqing P. PRO
Congratulations Ken! Your images are artistic and original!
Many thanks my friend Ruiqing.
great story, enjoyed reading it! Great work! creative success!
Many thanks my friend Igor.
Phillip Chang CREW
I really love your gorgeous image and great interview! Congratulations to my friend . Many thanks Yvette for your nice work!
Many thanks my friend Phillip.
Dianne Mao PRO
Congratulations! Great collection Ken.
Many thanks my friend Dianne.
Wonderful collection Kenneth. Thanks Yvette for this beautiful interview!
Many thanks my friend joanaduenas.
Yongqi Luo PRO
Excellent professional works! congratulations!
Many thanks my friend Yongqi.
Aidong Ning PRO
Great collection of work, Ken! I enjoyed reading the interview too! Congratulations! Thank you Yvette for another wonderful interview!
Many thanks my friend Aidong.
Louie Luo PRO
Very impressive collection of wonderful work Congrats Kenneth ! Thank you, Yvette, for sharing another inspiring story with us .
Many thanks my friend Louie.
I am impressed by the beauty and originality of this photo gallery! I confess I was not aware of your work, Ken! Such talent and attention to detail! Love your work! Thank you, Yvette, for introducing Ken's photography!
Miro Susta CREW
Very interesting interview, wonderful photo collection, congratulations and thank you Kenneth and Yvette
Larry Deng PRO
Excellent collections. Congrats df Kenneth. Thank you dear Yvette Depaepe for your hard work.
No problem, Larry ... I love to work on the 1x magazine ;-)
Many thanks my friend Larry.
Heike Willers PRO
Congratulations on your interview, and thank you for sharing your story and stunning work with us.
Many thanks my friend Heike.
Yanyan Gong PRO
Excellent work and great achievements, congratulations dear Ken!
Many thanks my friend Yanyan.
Yuan Su PRO
Many thanks my friend Yuan.
Awesome work! Congrats!!!
Many thanks my friend Montserrat.
John Fan CREW
Many thanks my friend John.
Mei Xu PRO
Beautiful works. Congratulations!
Many thanks my friend Mei.
Brendon Yun PRO
I only can say 1 word 'awesome!'.
Many thanks my friend Brendon.
Molly Fu PRO
Excellent profile Ken, well done! Congrats my friend!
Many thanks my friend Molly.
Jian Xu PRO
Amazing works, Congratulations!
Many thanks my friend Jian.
Great gallery Kenneth, congrats on the interview!
Many thanks my friend Patrick.
Jenny Qiu PRO
Congratulations Ken! Wonderful images and big achievements.
Many thanks my friend Jenny.
William Trainor PRO
Well done! Wonderful images and an insightful interview.
Many thanks my friend William.
Dennis Zhang PRO
Congratulation my Friend! Great job and fantastic story.
Many thanks my friend Dennis.
Wanghan Li PRO
Excellent interview and wonderful works! My best compliments!
Many thanks my friend Wanghan.
Shobhit Chawla PRO
Mesmerising portfolio Kenneth Zeng, A treat to the mind and soul
Many thanks my friend Shobhit.
Anita Singh PRO
Absolutely stunning images, congratulations Kenneth Zeng, it was a treat watching them
Many thanks my friend Anita.
Congratulations! Stunning works
Many thanks my friend Thomas.