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HJ Yang - Photography strongly connected to nature

by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 5th of February 2024


HJ Yang is a Chinese photographer currently living in Florida.  Photography makes him humble and grateful. He quotes: Life is too short, please enjoy it fully and slowly.  Life is a journey, please take one step at time and enjoy every step. There is no need for us to hurry to the end of our life journey. His landscape photographs as well as his wildlife images are mind-blowing beautiful. HJ also is involved in philanthropic photography work, donates his images for the good cause and would like to volunteer more for photography communities and local art museums for their education programs.
As the Chinese New Year will be celebrated the 10th of February, I thought it was the perfect moment to publish this interview.


'Blue field'



'Strong family-A family of Emperor Penguins against windy snowing near Snow Hill Island'


Dear friend, first I would like to thank you 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 Huijun (HJ) Yang, born and brought up in China and I now living in Florida, USA. I was trained as a research scientist and worked at the University of Chicago for three years and at the University of South Florida for about seven years after getting my Ph.D. at the Florida State University.  After leaving the academic world, I started my own business of the real estate development and investment. Then I began the early-stage start-up investments as an angel investor, and later in several venture funds and served on their investment committee on one regional fund. I also founded a local chamber of commerce and served the leadership position in local and national charitable organizations as well as private company boards. I enjoy playing tennis and pickle ball regularly.


When and how did you start your photographic journey and how has photography influenced, affected you personally?

I started photography when my wife and I realized that our family loved travelling, but neither of us  knew how to operate a camera. My wife started taking photography lesson and I just started reading books and followed her to go to different places to take photos. We both joined local camera clubs. Photography has brought me to the places I never knew their existence before. Through photography I learned stories I did not know before and met very interesting people from all walk of life around the world. Through photography, I learned what to love, and how to be patient and persistant and to be in harmony with nature and content with my life. Through photography, I realized how little I knew and how much I had to learn from nature. Despite rapid new advanced technology, all human inventions have not been and will never be more beautiful, more simple, more direct than Nature does. Photography makes me humble and grateful to all what life provides to me. Life is too short, please enjoy it fully and slowly.  Life is a journey, please take one step at time and enjoy every step. There is no need for us to hurry to the end of our life journey.


'Alaska Diamond'


For many of us photography is either a hobby or a way of life. How would you define your relationship with photography?

To me it is definitely a way of life now.


What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?

For sure my first Antarctica trip in 2016. Before that trip I had zero knowledge of polar regions and polar expeditions, except by name. I barely mastered the basic skill in photography at that time. It turned out that that trip was specifically for the centennial celebration of Ernest Shackleton’s most famous epic expedition with his ship Endurance, the world’s greatest journey of survival. I met Frans Lanting and his lovely wife, Christine Eckstrom on the ship. I was blown away by his photography. Unfortunately, because I was just a beginner, I even did not dare to sign up for his private workshop during the trip. I also met Tim Jarvis, author, explorer and environment scientist. In 2013, using the same equipment as Shackleton, eating the same food, sailing a replica of the small, keel-less boat, Tim led a six-man crew and recreated Shackleton’s epic journey. Part of our trip traced that epic journey backward from South Georgia Island to Elephant Island. That experience opened my eyes to a completely different world I never knew its existence before.


You have your very own style. Why are you so drawn by landscape and wildlife photography?

I just love nature and natural environment. Also I grew up on the countryside and have a special attachment to the land and nature. When growing up, I raised chickens, goats, rabbits and pigs. We also fished in the river and caught fish, birds, frogs, and eel in the rice field. So I love animals and wildlife.


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

Depends, sometime it is the mood and sometime it is story, but never the technical perfection for me.

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?

Most of the time, I would like to stay on places and and immerse in it for a while to feel it directly.


Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?

Yes and no. Yes, I always have some idea where and what I would like to shoot, but once at the location, I will shoot whatever I want to.


What are the main features of a successful landscape / wildlife photographer in your opinion?

Being in harmony with nature and in contentment with life. Having patience and endurance.


Can you please tell us something more about your workflow from the idea to the final product?

I usually don't look at my images on my camera. I copy my images from the memory card to the portable hard driver. Then I import all images into Lightroom where I will first sort out the shots which are not satisfying and the best images. Then I delete all photos who are not satisfying and will start processing some of the best ones.  All landscape images will be processed in Photoshop as final work while some wildlife images may only be processed in Lightroom.


Where do you look to find inspiration and what inspires you the most?

Nature, just going out to feel united with nature.


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.)?

While a painter only needs a brush, nature photographers use the camera to capture the images. Technology has always been part of nature photographer’s lives. As technology advances, so are our images. Just look at the astrophysical images. How much the images have been improved with new technologies. Passion alone will not make you a good nature photographer. A nature photographer definitely needs gear which is good enough to do its work. I always try to find the best gear possible, not necessary the very best. Right now, I use Nikon Z8 with mostly 14-24mm lens for landscape and Nikon Z9 with 400mm lens for wildlife. I used to use Nikon D810 for landscape and Nikon D5 for wildlife.


What would be your favourite photo? Please tell us the story behind it.

One of my favourite photos is Evening in Chile Fjord- two dolphins jump toward the three sister mountain peaks.


'Evening in Patagonia Fjord – Two dolphins jump toward the three sisters peaks in evening hours'


It was taken during my 22-day special Patagonia expedition in April-May of 2022, led by Marc Adams. After three days camping near the end of Andrew Fjord, we took a small boat back to our mom boat in evening. We saw the calm water with reflections of snow mountain peaks and dolphins jumping up from water. Kneeling down on the bottom of the small boat, I took this photo. It captured the essence of this place, calm deep water, high mountain peaks, and warm evening light with wildlife at the perfect place and moment. What a harmony with nature! At this place and moment, you forget every thing in the world, just enjoy what nature brings to you in total appreciation and gratitude. You just wish that time stops there and keeps everything frozen at that moment. What a life! My creativity and artistically skills are definitely far from enough to capture the totality of the moment and express my emotions. No artist could do that unfortunately. That is the reality of our artist’s life. Time like that, all we artists could do is enjoying the moment and forgetting your work.


'Magic view through iceberg'


Who are your favourite photographers or mentors whose works have influenced you and your photography?

Two photographers greatly influenced my photography. The first is Frans Lanting who I met during my first trip to Antarctica. His work and devotion really impressed and motivated me. The second is Marc Adamus  whose landscape photos, editing techniques, wilderness experience, and life philosophy helped me to shape my experience and photographic philosophy. Of course, my  photography friends locally and those I have met during my travels and online all influenced and helped me too. The Last, but not least, my wife, love of my life, Liwen Tao, who is also en excellent nature photographer, helped me to start this journey. Together we form a great team, travelling and photographing, as well as in life. I am truly grateful for that.


What are your future plans or photographic projects you would like to be involved in?

I would like to continue my philanthropic photography work, donating my images for good cause. I also would like to volunteer more for photography communities and at local art museums for their education programs.


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 best in its class as photography community. My very first image was published on 1X  with the help of Phillip Chang, head curator. My work has been published almost exclusively on 1X. I have met many friends here, including our long time crew member and head curator John Fan.  I am glad to be part of this great community. I would like to thank all the crew members for their contribution and involvement to maintain the high quality of the 1x community.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful images and fascinating story with us, dear HJ.
Respect for your philanthropic work.
I wish you happy Chinese New Year and are looking forward to more of your fantastic photographs.

'Alaska morning glory'


'Alaska high-way Glacier field in Alaska'








'Catch two'



'Catch two'



'Big catch'



'Wrong direction-King Penguins walking on shore on South Georgia Island'



'Let me see'



'Bear Fight-Two bears fighting in Alaska river'



'In-love Albatrosses courting each other on Falkland Island'



'We are family-Mom polar bear with twin cubs in Wapusk National Park'







L.sir PRO
Wonderful Portfolio dear Ti Wang, Gratulaation!
Exceptional works, Congratulations!
Amazing photos ! Congratulations !
Amazing portfolio!
Magnifiques photos qui dégagent beaucoup de sensibilité.
Wonderful photographs congratulations HJ Yang, many thanks Yvette for interesting interview
My pleasure, dear Miro!
Great images and inspiring work, congrats.
Extremely wonderfull nature photography. My compliments!!
Great work! Congratulations and welcome!!
So cute!
Excellent work - congratulations!
Wou, wow, wow! Splendid pictures and a very good text too! Congratulations!
wonderful works. congrats.
Excellent works!
Amazing photographic and emotional journey, splendid images that reveal the magic of nature.Thank you also for the thoughts you shared, dear HJ, and thank you dear Yvette for this article!❤️
My pleasusre, Gabriela ;-)
Wonderful works!
Excellent and inspiring interview with the beautiful works! Congratulations!