All photos and words by David Levitz. Used with permission.
I’m David Levitz from San Francisco and I’m a hobbyist street and travel photographer. I use photography like many others as my creative outlet from my normal day to day work. I’m fascinated by cinematic scenes, night colors, poor weather conditions, and urban environments and the people within them. When I take photos I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for but often it’s silhouettes of people in interesting places or dramatic colors/moods. I try my best to capture imagery that’s unique to me.
Photography inspires me to go on adventures and when I travel, I’m often out all day and typically do not return to my hotel until late in the evening. I like to create different destinations as my waypoints and then get lost in between to see what I’ll stumble upon.
Since I’m not a professional, I have a pretty minimal kit that’s light and easy to travel with, which consists of:
- Camera: Fuji XT-3
- Lenses: 23mm f2 WR & 50mm f2 WR
- Tripod: Sirui Carbon Travel Tripod
- ND Filters: Godox
- Accessories: Peak Design wrist strap, clip, rain cover
Why did you get into photography?
Photography has been a creative outlet and a way for me to get away from my desk and venture outside. I enjoy the fact that it makes me slow down and appreciate my surroundings more and to venture into areas I may not have gone if I did not have a camera. I also like that I can do it on my own and that it helps me create unique memories of places I’ve been to.
What photographers are your biggest influences?
I’ve been a big fan of work from Christophe Jacrot as he showed me the beauty of shooting in adverse weather and the rich colors of cities during these times. I also like works from Alex Fruehmann as his use of colors and shapes of manmade structures are stunning. Finally, Zack Arias, as he got me into simplifying photography with the mirrorless Fuji system way back with the x100.
How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been shooting off an on over 10 years, but more consistently in the last three.
Why is photography and shooting so important to you?
Photography is important to me because it’s my way to express myself creatively. It’s also a way for me to explore the unknown and go on small adventures as you’ll never really know what you’ll find on the way. Lastly, it allows me to share things with people and capture moments in my life and the places I’ve been.
Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?
I feel that I’m a little bit of both. Since I do street and travel, I’m documenting things I see and not creating something in a studio. However, I like to capture things that are a bit more dramatic if possible than they would be normally. I also like to apply some post-processing to my work to fit a certain aesthetic I’m going for and this is where it tends to get a little bit more creative.
What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?
When I create images I’m typically looking for a cinematic style scene and lighting. I’m trying my hardest to avoid snapshots and be more intentional with my photos. Once I find a scene I then spend time trying to work on a better composition and for elements to fall into place. Often that’s where people are in relation to the environment and available lighting. So I may end up hanging in one place for a while to see how things come together and take a few shots.
Want to walk us through your processing techniques?
Post-processing is important to me and I focus a lot on contrast and color adjustments. I like to see how I can emphasize certain colors more than others and will dive deep into the various adjustments from hue, saturation, and lighting, to the color wheel and curves. I don’t have a set order for approaching adjustments but try to understand how they are affecting my image and then asking myself if I’ve gone too far. I don’t do much in Photoshop but like to use gradients a lot in my images to isolate subjects or reduce lights that are overpowering in a scene.
Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio.
I have been trying to build a portfolio of images that could be worthy of displaying on someone’s wall. This is what lead me to create my website in the last year as I wanted a place to display my images in a larger format for people to see. I then add new images after going out to shoot.
What made you want to get into your genre?
Simple the desire to be outdoors more and see new things. I’ve always enjoyed traveling and stepping into travel and street photography fit well into what I like to do when I’m not working.
Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.
Since I shoot street and travel, size and weight are important to me. This is why I shoot mirrorless because it’s compact and light. I use the Fuji system because of its colors and I really like the manual controls on the body. Since I occasionally go out in the rain or other poor conditions weather sealing is important which is why I went with the XT-3.
Fuji also has a lineup of weather-resistant primes and I use the 23mm and 50mm f2. These are small and light, and allow me to fit my whole kit into a small camera bag. I also gravitate to primes because of my experience with the x100 which is what I shot with for many years before going to the XT-3. Primes force me to move around to create my composition which I feel is helpful. I also like that I’m limited in lens options as I’ll have to try my best to work with what I have and I’m not overwhelmed with choices.
Lastly, because my camera system is smaller, I can bring a small pack of Godox filters with me that just screw on and they only take as much space in my bag as one of the tiny prime lenses. I also like having a few camera holding options and for this, I use the Peak Design wrist strap and bag clip. These are easy to use and the option to have both hands free with the bag clip is really helpful when hiking, navigating, or taking public transportation. Even with these few accessories, they all add up to a small and lightweight kit which allows me to be out longer without getting fatigued.
What motivates you to shoot?
I’m motivated by new locations and/or odd conditions. New locations bring with them an excitement of discovery as I don’t know what I’ll see or find on the way. This is why I like to travel as the people and places will be all new to me. Odd conditions are motivating when I’m in a familiar place as it allows me to experience something that is familiar in a new way. I feel that in odd conditions there is a sense of mystery or drama which is really fun to try and capture.
For readers interested in urban environments and the variety of imagery that can be created just by exploring and allowing yourself to get lost a little bit. Also for anyone interested in colors at night and how they can come together to create fun scenes. Lastly, for people interested in what you can do with a minimal kit as most of my images were created with just one or two lenses as I only picked up the accessories in the last year as different needs came up.
Check out David Levitz’s website and Instagram to see more of his work.