Johnny Fan '22
Teddy Deng ’20 felt an artistic spark during the summer of 2018 as he gazed at the night sky. Inspired by that beauty, Teddy grew into a passionate photographer, enjoying capturing the “natural world’s beauty.” With his beautiful star trail creations (a merging of images capturing the movement of stars across the night sky) and sunset skies, Teddy delights in photographing the little moments and details in nature.
How did you start getting into photography?
I’ve always been fascinated with cameras. During childhood vacations, I’d bring along my small handheld camera and take pictures of everything, like the food we ate or someone’s fancy hat. I think the shift from being a “touristy” photographer to a more serious photographer started sometime before my first year at Groton on a trip to Japan. I remember beginning to hang back further behind the tour group at times to get a better angle on some particular scenes.
Then came August 2018. I was absentmindedly scrolling through some photos of the night sky when it hit me. Could my camera take these kinds of pictures? Did it have this “Manual” mode that I keep reading about? I did some quick research, and the mysterious numbers near the bottom of the camera screen began to hold meaning. Right after dinner, I grabbed my camera, dashed outside, and twisted the dial for the first time to the “M” setting. I did not have a tripod yet, so I sat the camera against some tree branches to try and stabilize it while adjusting the settings tentatively. Then, I hit the shutter button.
I had always wanted to capture the night sky, so seeing the first pinpricks of starlight materialize on the screen took my breath away. I spent almost an hour outside, experimenting with different settings to best capture that glimmering sea of stars against the navy-blue sky.
That night jump-started my passion for photography, and since then I’ve been continually working to better my ability to capture the beauty of the natural world. I think some of my most memorable experiences happened during my “firsts” — my first time capturing the Milky Way, my first star trail, my first birds and bees — each one opened up new possibilities in the various ways that I could capture the splendor of the natural world. You do improve as you continue to gain experience, but there’s nothing quite like those firsts.
Tell us about your contributions to photography at Groton.
I think that I never would have gotten so far in photography without Groton. Although my journey into photography began after that summer in 2018, I do believe that being surrounded by so many accomplished and talented individuals here inspired me to look deeper within myself and to continually push myself to improve what I loved doing. Being surrounded by such a beautiful campus definitely doesn’t hurt either! As such, I’ve started to feel that I should give back to the community—help others to be able to better capture our world around us, and in doing so, lead them to an even greater appreciation of nature and our role in it.
That’s why I, along with fellow sports photographer Douglas Altshuler ’20, decided to create the Photography Club. Although we’ve only had one meeting thus far (thanks to a packed fall season—yay college!), we plan to host a lot more sessions this winter, centering on topics like the exposure triangle, composition, and nature and sports photography. Our next meeting will be very soon—stay posted!
What does photography mean to you?
The amber shades that saturate the trees in autumn. The brilliant crimson of a cardinal against the snow. The many bees bustling amongst the flowers during spring. The vivid golden and pink hues of the sunsets and sunrises that frequent Groton’s skies. The quiet, shimmering serenity of the stars above at night. The glow of a supermoon above the chapel.
To me, photography is a way through which I can capture these moments in nature and share them with the rest of the community. I often feel that most of us today are relatively detached from nature—which is completely fine; I don’t expect everyone to suddenly fall in love with a catbird meowing from a tree branch. I simply want to try and foster a larger awareness of the grandeur of the natural world, and in doing so, perhaps make everyone a little more mindful of how their actions might affect the environment in which we live. Our world is magnificent, and we should keep it that way.