The Gear Jeff Davenport Uses to Keep a Low Profile Shooting the Streets of L.A.
Jeff Davenport has been pursuing his creativity all his life. As an artist who specializes in street, night, and landscape photography, he’s always looking for opportunities to challenge himself – instead of getting too comfortable with any particular subject or style.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Jeff says he developed a love for the arts. While attending college in Colorado to study film and art history, he fell into the city’s busy music scene. Although he credits his years in Denver for allowing him the space to explore his artistic side in a pressure-free environment, he eventually reached a point where he says he felt stagnant. Seeking an escape from the impending burnout, he packed up and moved to Los Angeles.
L.A. was always Jeff’s “home away from home,” a place where the feeling of anonymity inspired him to be creative in different ways. When he finally found a new rhythm in shooting street and night photos, Jeff says he needed to figure out a way to walk the city streets without calling attention to himself, with lightweight gear that fits into just one backpack.
Jeff shows us what he keeps in his camera bag to shoot the city at night, capture daytime landscapes, and create conceptual portraits.
Can you tell us how you go about deciding which gear is essential to your work?
It’s been a constant journey. I primarily shoot handheld, street-style at night, so something fairly compact with a low profile has been essential. Also, using a fixed lens with a wide aperture has been everything – I can get what I need with ambient light with a decent low shutter speed.
Overall, I try to keep it as simple as possible. I like working with limitations while constantly expanding my toolbox. I’m always wondering how I can get more out of less.
24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor, Hybrid Optical and Electronic Viewfinder, Full HD 1080p Video Recording
24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor, X-Processor Pro Engine, 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization
I’m all Fuji. They have a vibe and a feel I can’t get enough of. Also, I prefer knobs over menus – I like to work fast with my hands.
Fujifilm X100F: The Fujifilm X100 series of cameras changed my life and have been the backbone of my work. The X100T was my only camera for years, and I moved up to the F model last year, after it was released. It’s a camera I almost always have with me and always regret when I don’t. It’s incredible in low light, and is completely silent and dark when I’m shooting at night. Fuji’s sensors have a special vibe to them that comes through. That camera has challenged me to become a better photographer – one lens, no zoom, and manual controls. I love the lack of lens options; you have to use your body to frame the shot.
Fujifilm XH-1: My newest camera and fast becoming my new best friend. I wanted to work with different focal lengths for portraiture, so it was time for me to make a jump to something new. Sticking with Fuji was a no-brainer for me, since so much of the coloring work I do is related to their sensors. I was really torn between waiting for the XT-3 or getting the XH-1, and I’m really happy with my choice. The image stabilization alone was a game-changer for me. The images I get out of this camera are just stupid amazing and I can shoot log video. Done.
Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4R
Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16, 53mm (35mm Equivalent)
Fujifilm XF 16-55mm
Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22, 24-84mm (35mm Equivalent), Weather-Sealed Construction
Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4R: This lens is so good it’s almost gross. The detail I get is wild and I can really open it up in low light at night. I taught myself to shoot on an old Canon TX camera with only a 50mm lens. I had a love/hate relationship with that focal length then because it felt like a compromise – my brain either saw wider or closer when I was composing. Now, I’m really embracing it, but I’m not sure if I deserve it.
Fujifilm XF 16-55mm: Worth every penny. It holds up to my primes in a shocking way. I hadn’t used a zoom lens in around 15 years, so I actually kind of hated it at first – I had too many choices! I often prefer an 80mm focal length, atheistically, with people, but I don’t want to interrupt a shot or a moment to switch lenses. In fast-changing locations, this lens gives me the quality of multiple primes with the flexibility of all the focal lengths I need to change things up. It’s a little heavy, so it’s not something I use for my street photography.
Flashpoint Zoom Li-ion R2 TTL
Extremely Powerful Flash with GN 190ft, recycle time of less than 1.5 seconds
High Speed Sync up to 1/8000 Sec, Flash Exposure Compensation, Stand Mount
Built-In 2.4GHz X Wireless Radio System, Rotates 270°, Tilts from -7 to 90°
Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL: I used to shoot just manual flash with a Canon 580EX II. I still love it, but I wanted the flexibility of a TTL and to stop using AA batteries. I hated stopping a shoot to recalibrate my flash power when moving around a lot, and I rarely have the time to meter. Having TTL is a rad crutch in those situations. Flashpoint/Godox stuff integrates with Fuji without a hitch, and you can’t beat the price point. It’s just as powerful as the Canon and I get a crazy amount of battery life out of it.
Godox AD200: This light is great. It’s my latest acquisition. I wanted an off-camera flash, but didn’t want to deal with needing a power cord. I love the look of bare-bulb light, but it can be pricey to get there. This does it all, and I can throw it in my backpack and I don’t need an external battery. I can swap heads from fresnel to bare bulb, put barndoors on, use magnet gels and use it with a ton of diffusers. It’s the one flash to rule them all – total workhorse.
Godox TT350: I use this mini speedlight on my X100F, and it’s rad. I can keep a low-key profile and still get a powerful light. It has a fast recycle time and a lot of power for two AA batteries. It gets a lot of mileage and I can put it in my back pocket. I love on-camera flash and a 35mm lens – it’s a timeless look and feels raw.
Topo Designs Daypack: It’s not a camera bag, but this is what I grab when I go out at night and want my camera with me. I just throw in an extra shirt in with my camera for padding – and maybe a flask! It’s small and doesn’t get in the way if you’re at a bar or at a show. Plus, they’re a Colorado company, and I like to support the home team.
ONA – The Bowery: This is a street carry for my X100, where I’m moving around a lot and need to pull my camera out quick to grab something. It’s the perfect holster and doesn’t look like a camera bag. Plus, it fits a can of La Croix and sunglasses – lifestyle, it’s important.
Peak Designs Everyday Backpack 20L: I just got this, and it’s solving all my problems for location shoots. It can fit multiple cameras, lenses, and speedlights, along with all my filters and extra batteries. I can stick a small tripod in the side or attach a lighting stand on the back. It’s the ultimate compact system – I just walk with it or throw it in my car, and I have everything I need when I’m not sure what I’m getting into. I like to be over-prepared.
B+W UV Haze MRC Filter: Protects my lens and keeps out the smog. Always on, like a seatbelt.
B+W XS Pro MRC-Nano Polarizer Filter: I don’t think you should shoot California without a polarizer filter. I always use with flash, everything pops and I can squeeze an extra ounce of color out. Also, it lets me pull down a couple of stops, if I need to.
Pixel Wireless Shutter Release Timer Remote Control TW283-90: I use this for my shutter release if I’m shooting long exposures. It’s great because I can step away and keep it in my pocket.
Jeff’s distinctive shots of the Los Angeles landscape – both during daylight hours and in the middle of the night – can be seen on Instagram under the handle @jefdavenport, while his images of humans are under the handle @jefdavenportraits. A full portfolio of his work is also available at his website.