I love second hand stores. They’re the best, because you never know what you might find, but can be pretty sure that it won’t cost you a fortune. I went in to one the other day, and happened to find a really interesting book, The New Book of Photography by John Hedgecoe for 3 euros. It was written in 1994, when film was still the most popular format for capturing images, but I figured that it really doesn’t matter, since many aspects of photography, the most important ones I would say, have not changed since those days at all. There was a very interesting chapter on choosing between color or black and white film, where he demonstrated with pictures how you can use black and white film to direct the viewer’s attention to the important parts of a picture. Or make form versus color stand out.
I was out watching the sunset one evening, and I had with me another recent acquisition, a Minolta AF 50 mm 1.4 from 1985, that I bought used through Facebook Marketplace for 70 euros (which is an absolute steal in my opinion, I have found it to be an excellent lense), together with a fairly old Sony a700 DSLR, that I really like and use as a digital back for my (steadily growing) collection of Minolta lenses. I took this picture of some swans floating around in the water, but felt it was just too noisy in color for my taste. There was too much of everything. So I decided to try out the advice of John Hedgecoe from 1994, and just get rid of everything that’s irrelevant, including color. I tried some different variations of black and white, and actually ended up using a Lightroom preset that I really liked. I got the swans to stand out nicely, and also really like the separation in tones in the background that adds depth to the image. And also the grain is really cool, adding a vintage look that I really like.
By the way, the preset adds quite a bit of grain for a vintage look, so it’s not the sensor of the camera. The Sony a700 actually takes really great images in my opinion, even though it was produced back in 2007. Really makes me think about what the point is of paying so much for new gear, when you can pick up old well-built, weather sealed and durable cameras so cheaply. This one cost me 150 euros and I’m really happy with it. Of course, this is not my only camera, I most often use a Panasonic Lumix GX80, a micro four thirds camera. But I do think I would manage with only the Sony a700 just fine image quality vise.