Shooting Stars

Photographer of the Week: Leo Resplandor

By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

An interest in art and music, coupled with a drive to keep learning new things led Leo Resplandor to photography.

Blue Hour at Palace of Fine Arts (Leo Resplandor)

“I will try something and when I get better at it, I move on to the next one. Photography was something that I always wanted to try and I never thought it would take me this far,” he explains. “When I was younger, I couldn’t afford a camera. My dad gave me my first DSLR, a Nikon D40 which I still own. At that time, I just used it to take picture of family gatherings and on vacation. This was around early 2010,” Leo shares.

Plantation Bay Lagoon, Cebu
Point Reyes Shipwreck
Light at the End of the Tunnel (Leo Resplandor)

He started as a landscape photographer, taking mostly nature photos and cityscapes, then broadened his scope and takes photos of everything. He says he can’t pin his specialization on one field but his favorite will always be astrophotography.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

“There’s just something about it that’s fascinating for me about capturing something out of reach. There’s nothing better than watching the night sky. At one point, I was out pretty much each single night that I can to shoot stars. It got to the point where I was called the Milk Man on Instagram because of it,” he smiles.

Golden Gate Bride Under Low Fog
Lombard Street Sunrise (Leo Resplandor)

Leo, who was born in Manila and migrated with his family in the Bayview district, San Francisco, U.S.A. in the mid ‘90s, took up an animation course at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The artist says the three elements of photography (proper lighting, subject, and good composition) are important in a good picture.

“Mood is very important, too. In most photographs, it shows the emotion of the photographer. You want people to see and feel what you were feeling while you’re shooting an epic sunset or while you’re under the stars, or if you’re shooting an event or a wedding. If you don’t feel like being there, you will miss all that memorable candid moments because you’re not looking for it,” says Leo.

While not affiliated with a photography group, he is active in his community. Leo has been named SFGuide photographer of the week and had work published in National Geographic. He also received recognition from Fiona Ma, vice chairman of California State Board of Equalization, in recognition of Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Community as a photographer. “I’ve been featured numerous times on local news outlet in the Bay Area such as SFGate, ABC7 Bay Area, KTVU, and NBC Bay Area. I worked with brands like Bang Energy & Zeiss to promote Zeiss Batis lenses. One of my goals is to go home and shoot the Sinulog one day and I’ve been invited as one of the official judges of its photography contest.”

Sutro Bath SF

Through event photography, he has met his idols: Bill Nye the Science Guy, whom he used to watch as a kid and Paul Nicklen who shared a few photography techniques. “I would say the experience I will never forget, though, will be the night of December 26 and the morning of the 27th in 2016. That’s where I learned how to shoot at night and the time that I finally have the courage to shoot manual, with a Canon 70D that I bought off a thrift store. I always wondered how photographers take pictures at night especially without a flash and I finally gave it a try. I got so excited that I got the shot. I woke up really early to capture more photos of the Golden Gate Bridge where I spent over two hours trying to get different angles. If it wasn’t for that night and morning, I wouldn’t be able to have what I have right now and I wouldn’t be who I am right now. The photo from that shoot is the only photo I have hanging in our room, on top of our bed.”

He poignantly reveals that he suffered from depression a few years back. “Photography became my outlet. A lot of people ask, if Instagram is gone tomorrow, would I continue taking photos? My answer is yes. I didn’t pick up a camera because of Instagram. I did it because I wanted to. All the love and support that I get in social media are a huge bonus. And I appreciate the love that I received from everyone. My wife once told me, that after everything – aside from my family and friends -- photography is the best thing that ever happened to me.”