It all started in February of 1969! Freshly graduated from U. K. (the University of Kentucky ), and living at home with my mom and dad, I was flush with cash, or the promise of it! I had just been hired to a whopping five thousand dollar a year contract to teach high school and was going to get a hundred bucks more, a year, to coach football! With money in my pocket, for the first time, I had always wanted a good camera, so after much study and research, I bought a Nikkormat FTN and a 50mm f2 lens! That combo cost me $165., those were the days!!! Within a few months I had added Nikkor 24mm f 2.8 and Nikkor 105mm f 2.5!!! As they say, “the rest is history!” O.K. well, at least that’s what I say!
For the next 44 years the love affair has continued! I owned and used; Nikon Fs, F2s, F3s, F4s, F5s, I even had an F6 when I joined Nikon as the NPS Rep for the Southern U.S. By then film was gasping for air, and I shot my last three rolls of film with her! I have over 25,000 color transparencies and 10,000 black & White negatives from my film days past!
Then the new streak began with the digital age; D1s, D2s, D3s, and D4s, ( and lots of other various Nikon bodies, and dozens, and dozens, and dozens of lenses!!! ) Yes, I admit I had a few little flings, a Konica once, a Leica, a Minolta, and even a Canon G9, egads!!, but they never lasted very long, and she, (Miss Nikon), always took me back!
Millions of miles, thousands of breath taking scenes, incredible experiences, and four decades slid by, in what seemed like 15 minutes!!!! Over time we grew used to each other, we knew each others limitations, mine, far greater than hers, but some how we made it work! She was the one constant in my photographic life, the palms of my hands shaped like a Nikon! A photographic relationship made in Heaven! I was sure she and I would stroll, and then hobble into the sunset together!
A doctor’s office visit:
So many sad stories start with a visit to the doctors office. My doctor said, “Would you like some more shoulder surgery?” I responded, “would you like me to sock you in the jaw??!!” ( My doctor is also a good friend and he’s use to my, sometimes, caustic manner!) He explained that if I wanted to preserve my remaining, good shoulder, I was going to have to stop carrying a 25 + pound camera bag! No options, no excuses, just do it, or check into the hospital and go under the knife again! Not ever wanting to face shoulder surgery, and rehab again, I started a search for how to reconfigure my gear to get the weight way down, but it just wasn’t happening! No matter how much I eliminated, my bag still weighed too much, and the “I have to have its’” kept the weight too high! It seemed there was no way! I was truly worried! Was this the end of the road for me as a serious shooter??!! I started the search for a small, mirror-less, carry system, but honestly, everything I looked at was falling way short of what I wanted! Don’t get me wrong there were some interesting systems, but none met my “very” specific desires!
Then it happened …….
It was Nick’s fault, (Nick Coury, my dear friend and brother at Durys Camera in Nashville), he introduced me to her! She was much smaller and lighter, but really well built, and oh how sharp her lenses were. Nick may have introduced me to her but I was the one who decided to take her for a spin, don’t blame Nick! After a romantic afternoon of shooting the Fuji X-Pro 1, with my hands all over her, I went back and downloaded the files. There it was, starring me in the face, and as Judy Garland sang in the nineteen fifties, “You Made Me Love You!”
“You made me love you
I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it
You made me love you
And all the time you knew it
I guess you always knew it.
You made me happy sometimes, you made me glad
But there were times, Dear, you made me feel so bad.”
I told myself, you’re too old to have these kinds of feelings again, that spring in your step, that perpetual smile, waaaaay too old! But I did! The beat of “Addicted to Love” pounded in my head! Miss Fuji X had me head over heels! TIME OUT! Now fortunately we’re not talking about a marriage here, this is photography after all! Surely I can have a new photographic love, and not have to walk away from the other love of my photographic life? It’s not a sin to love them both, and thank goodness, because I can’t imagine my photographic life without either one of them!
With all the choices, why Fuji?!?! Certainly other, lighter systems exist, and some very fine ones too! It was one thing; IMAGE QUALITY, period! If a camera won’t make a killer image, I’m not interested! In the world of DSLRs, nothing, and I truly mean nothing, (as of this writing), comes close to a D800/800e, end of sentence! But, the Fuji X series comes shockingly close, and it weighs a third the weight, and costs half as much! It really doesn’t matter anyway, can you spell anesthesia?! No, no more surgery for me!
From somewhere in the back of the auditorium, I heard a question yelled out; ” Mr. Fortney, please quantify your definition of IMAGE QUALITY?”
Happy to do so my friend, for me Image Quality is:
1. Resolution high enough to make great, sharp, large, and I mean, feet by feet, prints!
2. Accurate, attractive, richly saturated color, with boat loads of dynamic range.
3. The noise at high ISO, needs to be noiseless to at least 1600! ( the X-E1 does that coasting, very, very usable all the way to 6400!).
….and then it must have:
A. A solidly built, metal body, (check)
B. Real, old school, shutter speed, and exposure compensation knobs, (check)
C. An actual aperture ring, just like in the old days, (check).
D. Lenses that are right up there in quality and sharpness with my beloved Nikkors, yep, (check!!!!)
E. It’s got to feel like a real camera in my hands! (check, it does!)
F. …..and lastly, the images have to be jaw dropping! (Yep!!!).
Can you see how this affair happened?!
The same guy yells out, “where does that leave Miss Nikon? ” I’am so glad you asked! For over forty four years she has been with me, helping me make great images, and even greater memories, so I’m not about to leave her now!!! The D4 is still my lifetime “do everything – picture making machine”, the digital age equivalent of the old film era F5!! High praise indeed. I love the Fuji X series but they can’t do that, that speed, that weatherproofing. My D800 is my 4X5 view camera equivalent! The single “BEST Imaging” camera in the world as of today! My Nikkor glass will never leave my equipment collection! Nope, they are not going anywhere, I’m just not able to carry them any great distance!!! Remember what started all this???!!! Yes the Nikons will be a trunk system supreme, and will get plenty of use when I can work close to the vehicle!
If you do lots of kinds of work, you need a multi faceted system! No one camera or system does it all! There is no “Best Camera”, one that does everything so well that you need nothing else. All the gear I’ve invested in is “capable” of great imagery, if it’s being used right, in the right hands, that is now, and has always has been the biggest challenge in my career! And I love the challenge! I believe every great photographer wants to make the most of the equipment they shoot. I sure do, I love the craft!
So, problem solved, I’m now geared up for anything I ever want to shoot, wherever I need to go to shoot it! My shoulder should be safe from the surgeon, and I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had as a shooter with both my loves!
Here is my retirement years system below:
* As of August 2013. * keep in mind, new things always arrive so, down the road, we will see how any of this changes!
NIKON FX: For Speed / Action / HDR / Heavy Duty Build & Weather / working close to the vehicle.
Nikon D4 - Nikon D800 - Nikon D700
16-35 AF-S VR f4
24-120 AF-S VR f4
28-300 AF-S VR f3.5-5.6. (Most often paired with the 16-35)
70-300 AF-S VR f 4.5-5.6
105 Micro Nikkor f 2.8 AF-S VR & Manual Focus version
85 f 1.8 AF D lens
200mm Micro Nikkor f 4 IF-ED
* ( Full set of AI-S manual focus lenses, stretching from 24mm to 400mm, all classics!)
NIKON DX BODY? Still considering the options and what may come next, no I don’t know anything!!! Honest. I’m waiting to see just like you!
MY CARRY SYSTEM: Light weight + Exceptional IQ + very high fun factor!
Fuji X-E1 body.
Fuji X-Pro 2. or whatever they will call it! (When released)
10-24 f4 OIS ( When released)
14mm f 2.8
35mm f 1.4
18-55 f2.8-4.0 OIS
60mm Micro F 2.4
55-200 f 3.5-4.8 OIS
Looking for 90mm f 2 or 2.8 equivalent
* All camera bodies ( Nikon & Fuji) outfitted with Really Right Stuff L Brackets,
Fuji’s with wonderful integrated grips!
So, it took over two years of study, and testing, hand wringing, obsessing, and praying, but I know I’ve got the right systems for me now! What’s best for you?? That’s for you to decide! Get busy testing!
P.S. A nod to Zak Arias. I thought his wonderful review of the Fuji X100s “A Camera Walks Into a Bar” was the most clever reviews I’ve ever read, this is my attempt to, in some small way, to return the favor!
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
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Welcome to the Pilgrim’s Chronicles! I suspect you may be one of the folks that was directed here from Scott Kelby’s Photography Insider blog! It was, as it always is, an honor and pleasure to write a guest blog for him! Scott has the greatest reach of anyone I’ve ever known in the photography world, and when he invites you to appear on his blog site, the response is usually overwhelming. So if you’ve joined my other daily guests please pull up a chair and let me bring you a glass cold lemonade!
From time to time I use a stolen, (from Scott), title for my blog entries called “catch-up whatever day it happens to be!” Well I had planned a catch up entry for some day this week and I thought why not share some fun stuff on a day we may have some additional guests drop by.
So this how it works, I get lots of emails and post comments and often get questions, I save up the most relevant ones for my readers and try to answer them in a single blog post! Here goes this weeks attempt!
(1.) If I wanted to take a workshop with you, where would I find a listing of what you are offering?
I’m so glad you asked! I run a workshop company called His Light Workshops along with my brother and great shooter Jim Begley. We offer workshops tho some prime shooting locations and with added bonus of wonderful fellowship, thus His Light! Jim is one of the country’s best HDR shooters (he shoots regular images spectacularly, as well!) and we have a few workshops left this year. You can also visit www.Hislightworkshops.com and the His Light Workshops blog on this site!
September 14-22 Glacier National Park with Dr. Charles Stanley. This week long workshop will be held in one of the most spectacular fall locations in the National Park System! This workshop currently only has a single spot open!
October 10-13 Ohio’s Fall Color & Amish Country with Jack Graham. I will be the guest instructor with Jack for a great trip through the northern forests of Ohio in prime fall conditions. In addition to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park we will spend a day on a working Amish farm, a great photographic opportunity! I belive a few spots are still available, you can register with Jack at the link on this page! or this link: http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/workshop/fall-color-ne-ohio-bill-fortney-and-very-special-day-amish
October 24-27 Light Painting at Kentucky’s Shaker Village with Dave Black. Join a small group (limited to 14) with Dave Black to learn the art of light painting at Shaker Village in Scenic, Kentucky! Four spots are still available for this great workshop. Dave Black is one of the best instructors in the photo world today, don’t miss this great opportunity to study in a beautiful setting with him, Jim and myself!
November 80-12 Death Valley National Park with Jack Graham. Join Jack and I, and a small group at one of the most interesting landscape opportunities in America, the striking beauty of Death Valley. Spots are still available for this workshop limited to 12 attendees. Once again contact Jack Graham via the link on this page!
That’s it for 2013, but in 2014, (Full schedule will be announced here on August 21st!) we will have some exciting new offerings including; Americana Workshops at St. Augustine, Florida, Old Car City, Nashville, with Ricky Skaggs! Night time photography with Bill Pekala in Arches and Canyonlands! Fall in the Grand Tetons & Yellowstone and a Fall Eastern Sierras tour including Bodie Ghost Town! All these dates, (and more), will be announced on this blog August 21st!
(2.) If I can’t make a workshop, where can I see you speak or present a teaching program?
I’m thrilled to be back at Photoshop World September 3-6 in Las Vegas next month! I will also be the keynote speaker at the Black Hills Photo Shootout in Septemeber (27-29). L:ink: http://www.thephotoshootout.com/black-hills-photo-shootout/
(3.) If I returned to this blog what other photography teaching opportunities will I see?
I just retired from Nikon, July 1st and the educational efforts are just getting started on this blog and it’s associated links. In the coming months I hope to produce a number of eBooks, photography lessons posts, and a lot of equipment reviews, you are arriving at the ground floor of a soon to come Hi Rise!
If you are a regular reader thanks so much for joining me here, and if you are a new guest, please come back and have a blast with us in the coming months! Thanks for dropping by, want another glass of lemonade?!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 at 11:06 am
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I made a promise to myself about two years ago. Looking forward to retirement, I said I really want to go back to the old school way of doing things! I’m not rejecting all the great progress we’ve made with modern cameras and lenses, but I still have a great love for the humble beginnings of my love affair with the craft of photography! I loved the old manual lenses, how it felt to focus them, turning the aperture ring, and the heft of the bodies.
When I went to work for Nikon 11 years ago this month, I had a vast collection of classic AI-S Nikkor manual focus lenses that I had collected over my 30+ year career. I was advised to sell everything while they still had value as digital and auto-foucs were clearly the way of the future. So I sold two F5′s, an F100, and Nikon FM-T Titanium and about 20 lenses ranging from 16mm to 400mm. I eventually got used to the new cameras, and lenses, but from time to time, I really missed my old little Nikkor jewels!
Since I was the Nikon rep for the South I was always finding great deals on some of the very lenses I had let go, so I started collecting them again, and now I have all the lenses I sold back then, and a few more!!! Now you may be wondering if this means the old lenses are better than the new glass, no, but they do have a very special charm all there own! I’ve always believed that every manufacturer makes some lenses that are extra special, what I call the “legendary glass”! Every camera maker has a few lenses that are acknowledged as being among the best ever made in that focal length. That was the Nikon lenses I sold, and now own again. While they may not be the best, most highly sought after modern lenses, the “legendary” ones can certainly hold their own!
I now use a modern camera body, the Nikon D800, with some of these classic lenses, and it is not only great fun, but the combination yields drop dead gorgeous results! I really love the classic legendary glass when shooting nature and airplane images, see the two examples below!
I recently have purchased a complete Fuji X system for when weight is an issue in the field. I love these smaller mirror less cameras and their wonderful glass as well! They have old school controls and are built really well. The first three images in this blog post were with the Fuji X-E1 and Fujinon lenses. With these two systems, I’m having a blast, and more fun than ever being a photographer!
One thing is for sure, we certainly have some of the best gear to enjoy making photographs with, in the history of the craft!!!
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 at 12:18 am
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The end of a wonderful and exhausting week! I got a really interesting email from a friend saying it had been great to hear about my perfect family gathering. Oooops, I hope I didn’t say that! Family is a wonderful, complex, mysterious, and ever moving target! I suspect my family is no different than every one else’s. The only difference is they are “my” family, and for each of us that makes all the difference. This morning as we gathered for our last big family breakfast a number of things happened that altered my view of family! Before I share those things, let me say that families are made up of human beings and as a group (the human race), we are pretty diverse and different people!
I think it is normal to have things we love about others and things we don’t. That doesn’t make anyone good or bad, it just means we have to work harder in relationships, because of the differences. I’m certain if you asked Sherelene if that is true, she could give you a long laundry list of things about me that can be, or are, down right challenging!
Before everyone parted this morning we had our traditional prayer in a circle where we asked God to bless and protect each family especially those that would be traveling. I asked God to help each of us look for the good in one another. After the prayer Abigail, my youngest grand daughter insisted in a loud voice “family hug!” The little ones like to get in the center of the circle as we all do a big bear hug and squeeze them in the middle, it always produces squeals of joy! Lesson One; the joy of being loved and knowing you have a place in the world. Abigail knows she has a loving mother and father, brother and this whole collection of cousins, aunts and uncles, and grand parents that love her, she can’t keep from showing it! We need to embrace the love of those that are our family.
There were some tears shed all around as it hit home that our week was over. Our family only gets together as a group once a year. Scott and Diane live in St. Augustine, Florida so getting them with the rest of the family, is difficult with so much distance, between us. My grand son Cade gets pretty shaken up when the cars are about to pull out, and he taught me the greatest lesson of the week. Lesson Two: No relationship is worth much if we don’t pour our hearts into it. If we try to protect ourselves, or our turf. If we allow ourselves to be too self absorbed, we simply miss the joy of pure love for others. Cade demonstrated that when he shed a tear about his cousins going home. Lesson Three: Life is about others not our selves. This is a really tough one, it’s hard to let go of self, but if we are going to enjoy life, and family, we have to loosen the grip on our needs, wants, desires, and fears. Trust me it is worth it!
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own interests, but it is a wall that keeps us from experiencing the joy of unconditional, non judgmental love. Lesson Four; Children love from the heart, not the head, it might be time for me to learn to do the same…….