I'm not sure if this is worthy of a blog post and it may be just ramblings in the end, however I am trying to record more of my photography related thoughts so here goes.
The story of me taking the below image which went on to win 'Urban View' category of the LPOTY competition, or at least the story of how I might not have taken it. Sounds exciting huh ?
I start the story with my purchase of some second hand camera equipment. I noticed via twitter that a fellow landscape photographer had decided to give up their DSLR (Canon EOS 5d Mkii) and switch to medium format film cameras. In order to make a quick sale and to avoid selling through eBay and the like they offers their camera, 3 lenses etc for a very good price. At the time I was using a Sony NEX 7 and was keen to try out the EOS 5D which I had seen as the equipment behind so many of my favourite photos.
Digressing slightly, I'd dabbled with a full frame Canon EOS 5D mk1 in the past and didn't get on with it but I thought that was partly down to never quite investing in the right lenses and not enjoying the bulk of the setup. I subsequently sold that and replaced it with the NEX 7 which is a camera I can't bring myself to part with. I realise it's weird to say this but when I first picked one up it just felt the perfect fit and has been used for some of my favourite photos.
At this stage I knew Sony were bringing out a full frame camera of a similar nature to the NEX 7, the A7 but comparing the price of that camera, the lenses available etc the option of a second hand EOS 5D Mkii seemed so much better value. I went ahead and made the deal on the Canon, received the equipment etc and set out using it............
I'm a Sony fan boy.
I tried taking the Cannon out on several occasions but I was stuck with the same feeling as having owned the Mk1. I found the camera wasn't intuitive for me to use, seemed too big and bulky to be my go to camera for 'nipping out' to take photos and I found myself still taking the NEX 7 as an alternative, defeating the point of my investment.
I owned the EOS 5D for around a month and as I read more and more of the Sony A7 it either became clear or I convinced myself that it was going to be worth the investment to combine my desire for a full frame camera, but one that felt liked I'd owned and used it before, easy for me to use, compact and light etc. I also still had some Sony E Mount lenses to start me off with it and knew I could perhaps go down the route of using some vintage lenses to save money.
I decided that rather than try to sell the equipment on eBay which felt like I would have been trying to profit on the good deal I'd gotten from the fellow photographer so close after purchasing, I would at least use the Canon gear as a trade in at a local independent camera shop, Harrison Cameras. It was also ultimately an easier way of getting hold of the Sony, I figured they would be reasonable and I'd at least get back what I had paid for the equipment having got hold of it for a good price.
(From here on I show off my impulsive side which often ends up costing me money but had I not followed it through I wouldn't have take my Arts Tower photo.)
It was Christmas eve, I finished work at around 2pm, (slightly hungover) and had decided I would go to buy the Sony from Harrisons.
In short i didn't get offered what I felt was a good value from Harrison Cameras for the Cannon equipment. They informed me that the equipment was not in good condition, needed to be sent away for repair before they could sell it on etc etc. Not knowing the Canon equipment too well I didn't feel I could challenge their comments particularly as I hadn't really used the equipment enough to suggest otherwise.
I therefore left the shop disappointed, I was hoping to be able to play with the new gear over Christmas and was also now worried I had bought some fault equipment that wasn't worth what I had paid for it.
I managed to drive about 10 mins away from the shop when I decided my disappointment was an indicator I should go ahead with the purchase anyway. What good was having equipment I didn't enjoy using and would (in my mind) prevent me from getting out taking images ? Also what good was having equipment in poor condition which I myself might have to send off for repair ?
I turned the car around, went back to Harrisons and made a deal, walked away with the A7 & kit lens. I probably confined myself in my head I'd only lost a small amount on the Canon equipment and it could well have been in need of some service. I spent several days over christmas getting used to the camera. I took this photo on Boxing Day in Nottinghamshire ...........
Had I took the Canon with me around Christmas I probably wouldn't have gone out to take photos, instead staying in to enjoy a bit more food & drink it just didn't make me want to pick it up and explore.
Then on the 28th December when back in Sheffield I decided in similar fashion to go out and use my new camera to get some photos of Weston Park in winter.
I can confidently say, had I not turned my car around on christmas eve and purchased the Sony I would not have gone out that day with the camera to take the Arts Tower photo.
It is therefore a story of a few key decisions which led to me taking this image and most of them equipment related. I tell friend & family asking for equipment advise that it doesn't matter and to some extent that is true, but....
If you have equipment you don't get on with or for a particular reason (weight, size etc) you don't take with you more often then equipment is very important. I think to put it more accurately when people talk about not focusing on equipment it should be said 'if you are happy with your camera system, don't chase the next thing to come along'.
'If however your camera equipment 'prevents' you from getting the most out of photography then try everything you can to find the equipment that suits you best.'
It is difficult to resist the marketing hype sometimes. Many manufacturers would have you believe every new model will make you a better photographer and that is far from true, most camera upgrades are small or gimmicks. I felt the Sony A7 was a genuine fit for my photography style/needs and think it was a good choice.
That's pretty much the end of my ramblings however there has been a longer term outcome from my experience.
I checked the Harrison Cameras website shortly after they re-opened from Christmas and I was disappointed to see my 'faulty' Canon equipment in 'poor' condition listed for sale & described as 'in excellent or good condition'. They were selling it for a fair uplift and had clearly not had to send it away for service or repair.
I honestly felt cheated out of some value for the equipment I had traded in. We live in a capitalist world, people & businesses who make the most money are celebrated and people reading this might think Harrison's are perfectly in the right, they need to make a profit to compete and trading used equipment you are never going to get what you expect etc etc. Tough crap for me being so impulsive! I can fully understand that view, and had they offered me the same value without saying anything misleading on the condition of the equipment there is a good chance I'd have still done the same deal. So it's a matter of principle (i sound like my dad now).
Putting it very plainly they misled me about the condition of my equipment (or they lied to the person buying it when listed as good condition ?). Specifically they informed me they would have to send the equipment off for repair which then listing it for sale only 2-3 days later over the xmas period as 'good condition' they clearly did not need to do.
I don't make snap decisions & try to avoid making decision that are based on old fashioned principles, but I feel with this dishonesty I had been taken advantage of and nobody likes that and worse still why would you return somewhere that has taken advantage of you.
I still recommend them to others if buying equipment as there isn't much other choice in Sheffield aside from Jessops (and i dislike Peter Jones even more). Before this purchase I had previously spent well over £2,000 probably £3,000 with Harrison Cameras and always felt they were a genuine independent business giving out sound advice from experts. I would have chosen them any day over the horrible experience of going to Jessops, but now I tend to purchase online only. I'm sure my comments here and my decision can be criticised but as I say I don't often boycott things or hold up mighty principles I just feel slightly ripped off and therefore I am exercising the choice of where to spend my money.
Thanks for reading,
Dan is a landscape & nature photographer from Sheffield in the UK.
Catch my latest travels on Instagram here.