Lester V. Ledesma has written and photographed Asia for over 15 years. His work appears in international publications like Hemispheres, Asian Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, and CNN Traveler. A native of the Philippines, he shoots the Asian region with the familiarity of home, and connects with his subjects on a deeply personal level.
A noted photography lecturer, Lester also runs regular photography workshop-tours to different countries in Asia. Check out his website at http://www.skylightimages.info/.
DOMINIQUE JAMES: How did you get started in photography?
LESTER V. LEDESMA: I’ve always been interested in photography, long before I even held my first camera. When I was in grade school I would borrow photography books from the library and spend hours at home staring at the pictures. During my high school years, I would borrow my mother's rangefinder camera and her old Kodak photography manual and would try to take pictures whenever I could. I seriously got into this hobby in my college years. I went on a holiday trip to New York carrying some money to buy a laptop. I ended up using the cash to buy a Minolta 300si SLR. From that day onward, me and my camera became inseparable.
DJ: What kind of pictures do you like to take?
LVL: I love shooting people and cultures. I am a very curious person and I like to know more about other people's lives. My favorite places to shoot would be bustling areas that offer lots of opportunities to interact with the locals. Places like downtown Yangon or Hanoi, or culturally rich spots like Bhutan or Angkor. I feel lucky to live in Southeast Asia because over here I see things I want to photograph every single day.
DJ: Who or what would you consider as influential to your photography?
LVL: Photos I studied most were those of the National Geographic photographers. People like Jim Stanfield, Sam Abell or William Albert Allard—these guys had noses for good stories. The work of R. Ian Lloyd was also influential to me—he uses color very well and this was something I tried to integrate into my own work.
DJ: What’s your favorite camera and lens?
LVL: Let's just say I use the right tool for the job, so when it comes to work I don't have a favorite camera and lens. When I'm shooting for play, however, I bring out my old rangefinder cameras. I have a worn out Voigtlander Bessa R that has a cracked viewfinder glass—I pair this with LTM lenses. This is the gear I bring out when the job is done and its time to play.
DJ: Any other particular piece of photo gear that you like using?
LVL: Yes—a smile and an inquisitive nature. Good think I have them with me all the time. :)
DJ: Do you edit and enhance your pictures before showing them?
LVL: It depends—for individual, personal pictures, maybe just some color and exposure corrections. For paid creative jobs—say, magazine covers or billboards—it's anything goes. I'll edit them as much as my client wants me to.
DJ: How do you share your pictures and to whom?
LVL: Facebook, Instagram, my website, and my personal blog (apps.skylightimages.info/blog). Occasionally I do photography exhibits also, the last one being a showcase of travel images from Bhutan. However, there is a secret stash of photos that I show only to my wife—she also takes photos, and she can honestly give her opinion on whether my photos suck or not.
DJ: How do you store or archive your pictures?
LVL: I burn everything in DVD's and then backup the photos on three mirror hard disks. The photos are arranged according to geographical location, which is the most practical for my work as a travel writer-photographer.
DJ: What advice can you share with others?
LVL: Make photography part of your lifestyle. Be a photographer even if nobody's paying to do a job. That way your eyes are always peeled, and your photography senses are always sharp. And you get into a state of constant improvement.
Notes: All photographs on this page, used with permission, by Lester V. Ledesma. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. For the complete set of all the amazing featured photographers on this blog’s exclusive Q&A, click here.