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4 years, 9 months ago 4

John Shaw said, “I never met a lens I didn’t like!”  And I said, “Ditto, and I’ve bought most of them!”  Above is my collection of Nikon Legacy glass, manual focus lenses from the 70’s and 80’s. I admit it, I love lenses!!!  They are the critical part of the photographic system, image sharpness depends on a lot of factors, but without tack sharp lenses, we won’t get tack sharp images!


Let’s get one thing out of the way first, most all lenses today are sharp, some sharper than others, but very few lenses I’ve ever used have not been capable of delivering great detail.  So why pick one lens over another?  I’ll address that, but first let’s talk some about buying lenses.  Forget what you see above, for just a moment, Point (1)  Only buy the lenses you need and will use!  Point (2) How many lenses can you carry?  Point (3)  What is the value of lens you own that is at home in the photo closet while you are in Acadia National Park shooting?  Zero!!!


But what about your lenses above?  O.K. I’m and equipment collector, I plead guilty.  I do use those lenses above, but rarely, I just like to have some things that tell the story of my career.  The manual focus lenses above are very different from much of what is produced today.  They are built like a rock, solid, heavy for their size, and fully mechanical in their operation.  They are still capable of making extraordinary images, but they don’t autofocus, they don’t send EXIF data info to the camera, they are “Old School”!  They definitely require a lot more attention in their use.  I keep a D700 as my manual system digital body and these lenses perform spectacular on that body.  I have also used them with the D800 and they are still spectacular (see below)!!



So you ask;    “How should I go about purchasing lenses?”


Here are some suggestions;


First think in terms of a system.   Once you’ve determined the kind of images you will be making it’s a lot easier to sort out what lenses you will need.  Let’s take some examples:


The Sports Photographer’s bag:  If you are going to try and capture action in low light you’re going to need: Fast lenses (big apertures in the f 2.8 range), fast auto focus.  Since I’m most familiar with Nikon let me suggest a good kit for the Sports shooter:

Fast bodies; D3s or D4 cameras

14-24 f 2.8

24-70 f 2.8

70-200 f2.8 VR II

200-400 f 4 VR II

400mm f 2.8 VR  (the focal lengths will depend on the sport but 300mm to 800mm could be found in a top pro’s equipment cases.)

TC-14E teleconverter


The Wildlife Photographer’s Bag:

Much the same as the sports photographer with a special emphasis on long, fast glas

A DX body like the D7000 or D7100 is also a great addition as it will stretch your long glass by a factor of 1.5.


The Nature Photographer’s Bag:

The nature photographer will have some of the same needs in terms of focal lengths, but with today’s camera’s spectacular high ISO/low noise performance, they can save weight with slightly less fast glass!

D600 or D800 camera bodies

16-35 f4 AF-S VR

24-120 f4 AF-S VR

70-200 f4  AF-S VR

80-400 f4.5-5.6 AF-S VR

105 Micro Nikkor f 2.8


The Travel Photographer:

For the travel photographer, weight is the key factor and this can be attacked two ways:  either choose the lightest DSLR in Nikon’s case that would be the D7100. or go with a mirror-less system.

Nikon D7100

10-24 AF-S f 3.5 – 4.5

16-85 AF-S VR f 3.5-4.5

70-300 AF-S VR f 4.5-5.6

85mm Micro Nikkor f 3.5


A Mirror-less Body

28mm lens

50mm f 1.4 lens

70-200 equivalent lens

60mm micro lens or close-up devices

*Actual focal length and speeds would depend on which of many systems available.  Mirror-less is really coming of age and there is now a wide variety of surprisingly fast high quality glass for the various brands available.


The system building goes on as we mention other kinds of photographers.  The key is to cover from wide to long in three lenses, (if possible), and be sure to have a way to shoot close-ups.


But how to get the best lenses in each category.  fortunately there are plenty of websites dedicated to testing lenses.  Read at least four or five reviews to see how much they vary!  Photozone, DP Review, The Luminous Landscape, and Ken Rockwell all are good resources.  You could also ask a knowledgable friend if you are pulled between several different lenses.  You probably know someone, you trust, that has owned the lens you are considering.


What about third party lenses like; Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc.?  I’ve always made it a personal policy to only buy the lenses made by my manufacturer, I feel knows better what matches their body.  Sometimes you simply can’t get what you need from your brand and then you might consider one of the other brands.  Just check carefully the mechanical construction, and read the reviews carefully, they will point any function your camera may have, that some these lenses may not support.


Nothing robs your fun as a photographer worse than the fatigue that sets in from carrying a lot of heavy equipment all day!  Collect as much as you wish, but don’t try to carry too much and you will enjoy the process a lot more!  




the pilgrim




4 years, 10 months ago 1

Being a tech rep I often get calls from friends and customers asking what they should buy, how much they should pay for it, etc., etc.  One way to stretch your photography funds is buy used.  I have picked up a number of good deals from friends that have decided to trade up to t he next new model.  Many times the older camera or lens is still very serviceable and can make for a good deal for someone that wants to spend a little less, but still have a better camera model. I will post from time to time when I hear of a good deal that you may want to take advantage of.  My friend Larry Becker at Kelby Media told me during Photoshop World that he had a D7000 in great shape with the MB-D11 Battery Grip and Really Right Stuff L-plate, original box, cables, all manuals and an NPS Pro strap, he’s asking $925. plus shipping form Florida.  How do you now if this is a good deal?


Well first take all the components and add up the cost.  In this case all the above would cost you around $1,150.  The next question is what condition is it in and how many shutter firings?  I saw the camera and it is  in excellent shape, and Larry said the shutter actuations is 15,530.  Since that shutter is expected to have a life of at least 150,000 firings, it is 10% into that figure.


So if a savings of over $200. on a set-up you may need, I would deem this well worth considering.  You can use this formula for looking at other gear thast comes your way.  Let me give you several suggestions that will make buying used a lot less painful;


1.  Know that you can trust the seller.  If you are buying something from someone that you’re not sure you can trust their description of the history of the product, BEWARE!


2.  Make sure it is not a grey market product, this will make future repairs a lot, lot easier.


3.  A little normal wear is normal, but heavy brassing, and marks and scratches indicates it has lived a hard life, and should make you wonder how much life it has left!!


4.  Owners that keep the box, and manuals will usually have taken better care fo their gear.


5.  Does it pass the smell test?  A camera that should se ll for a thousand dollars that is being offered for $300. is big warning signal, it could be stolen, or have hidden problems the seller is not telling you about!!!  I hate to say it but too good to be true, usually is!


So hope these ideas are helpful, oh and if you want to contact Larry Beckler about his D7000 this is his email address!




the pilgrim



4 years, 10 months ago 10

Yesterday, today and probably tomorrow I have been and will be cleaning my office, a task something like wrestling a 20 foot Python!!  It’s shocking how much you accumulate when you refuse to throw anything away for over 30 years!!!  It has also been a flood of memories of a 43 year career as a photographer!  This little is by no means exhaustive, just what I’ve uncovered under layers of stacked books, papers, and nylon, velcro and zippers!  This is not bragging, it’s and attempt to say Thank You Father for having provided me such a rich life filled with wonderful friends, great experiences and tremendous joy!  So here are some of the great memories!


1.  America From 500 Feet the single greatest photographic achievement of my career, and the best memories ever of a time for a father and son to discover America and each other over our 14 month journey!  It was also the most successful photographic venture of my life!


2.  Outdoor Photographer Magazine I wrote articles for this magazine on a number of occasions and it brought me one of my most treasured friends in photography, Rob Sheppard.  In this Annual Landscape issue I was featured as one of Masters of Landscape photography, a very appreciated honor.


3.  The Nature of AmericaMy first book done along with David Middleton, a runaway best seller, and a chance to work with the very finest nature shooters of our time.  It was an honor to be in such a project with such incredible shooters!  The biggest bonus was to become a life long friend with David!  My only regret is that I did not know Moose Peterson very well back then, if I did such a book today, he would definitely be included along with Jim Begley, Chuck Summers, Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, R.C. Concepcion and many others!!!!!


4.  Color Transparencies (slides for you youngsters) –  I have over 25,000 in my file cabinets  spanning a life time of photography from virtually every National Park, many foreign countries including Africa and the Galapagos Islands.  Sadly, now that digital has matured, none of them can even hope to match the quality of what we are producing today.  That number may seem small and it is compared to some other people’s archives, keep in mind I’ve thrown at least 35,000 away over the last 30 years!


5.  A Time It Was by Bill EppridgeOne of our greatest photojournalists and a dear friend.  If you are not steeped in photojournalism history, Bill shot the very famous, and Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a dying Bobby Kennedy.  Bill was among the finest shooters I’ve ever known, and his note to me in this book is one of my most treasured assurances of friendship with another photographer!


6.  An Original First Edition Copy of Deliverance by James DickeyA gift from Sam Garcia, one of the best photographers I’ve ever known and a man who’s work has inspired me for over three decades.  You may already know that actor Ned Beatty is my first cousin, my father’s, sister’s son.  I have since forgiven him for this role!!!


7.  Nikon World Magazine One of my most coveted covers from America From 500 Feet II done with my dear friend Mark Kettenhofen.  I’v e always been a fan of Nikon World magazine and I’m proud to have been featured as a photographer twice in between it’s covers.


8.  It’s a Jesus Thing by Scott Kelby This book is the culmination,  for me of a great friendship with Scott Kelby, the most talented person I’ve ever known.  Scott is not only a world class shooter in many fields, a runaway best selling author, exceptional presenter, but most of all has been a great brother in Christ for me!  He has opened my world up more than any other friend, and has allowed me to become a member of his great extended family of exceptionally talented people.


9.  NASA Shuttle Launch Notebook I have 5 sets of these notebooks one from each of the 5 shuttle launches I was privileged to shoot and experience along side my great friends, Bill Pekala, Ron Tanawaki, and Mark Suban!


10.  A Year in the Cumberland Gap by Chuck Summers A book does not have to be big to have impact, and Chuck’s book on Cumberland Gap, one of our lesser known National Parks, is an extraordinary volume.  Chuck as you read yesterday is a wonderful friend, and his work is truly stunning.


11.  One of a handful of clip on credentials from NASA These credentials are not only hard to get, I treasure them for the memories!


12.   Great Photography Workshop  When I pitched this book to Northword press the working tittle was Getting Serious About Nature Photography, they changed the title to Bill Fortney’s Great Photography Workshop. I’ve always loved the book, and hated that tittle!!!  It was the Editors Choice Winner the year it was published.


13.  The Datebook that accompanied America From 500 FeetWhat a thrill it was to spend one year re-living Wes’ and my great adventure in our own datebook!!!


14.  A Touch of His Joy by Dr. Charles Stanley  Charles is one of my closest friends and I admire his work for our Lord more than I can express.  He has been one of my spirituyal hero’s. You can imagine the shock and joy when he sent me this book and I read the Dedication; “To Bill Fortney, one of my favorite photographers whose friendship has brought me a great deal of joy.” Wow, still can’t believer that one…..


15.  Nikon and You – Employee ManualReminds me of the almost 11 great years of working  with  the greatest professional support team in the world of photography!


16.  Cover of Ultra Flight Magazine I’ve been featured flyinfg my ultralights twice on the covers of Ultra Flight magazine.  I wrote numerous articles about flying light aircraft, and have made two great firends in Jim Byers and Roy Beisswenger!


17.  My favorite zoom, the Nikkor 50-135 f 3.5 manual focus zoomThis has been one of my favorite zoom lenses through out much of my career, many of my America From 500 Feet images were made with it!  It still is tack sharp today even on the D800!!!


18.  A couple of strips of negatives  – I have shot thousands upon thousands of black and white rolls of film.  Processed and made thousands of prints in my own darkrooms.  I find myself now in the digital era drawn back to this lovely way of making images!


19.  Batteries (the power)  Nothing happens without power, and as much as I’ve depended on hundreds of these little guys,  I’ve been completley dependent on the power from my Heavenly Father!


20.  Home My favorite destination after these last incredible 43 years.  I’ve driven well over 1,000,000. miles, flown at least half that many, and been gone over 200 nights a year for the last 25 years.  This is most beautiful thing I ever see, my drive way at the end of yet another long trip!!!


Once again, thank you Father for giving me such a blessed life!


Blessings to all of you,


the pilgrim


4 years, 10 months ago 7

I read a great article from a photographer nameed Patrick La Rogue and he made some very valid points about single focal length and zoom lenses.  Here is part of his article wheich I found very interesting!!


“I’ll put my cards on the table right away: I’ve developed a slightly tumultuous relationship with zooms. They’re very useful tools but I’ve come to realize they also tend to drive me into what I’d call visual laziness. When I decided to jump to the X system as my one and only kit, I also embraced the fact that I’d be shooting with nothing but primes. In fact much of that decision was coloured by my experience with the X100’s fixed focal length and the way it affected my shooting reflexes. Not that this was anything new: I used Nikon primes as well. But committing to a single focal length for extended periods of time wasn’t something I’d really done before. When I shoot a prime I need to move — Obviously; I need to walk in order to alter my distance to the subject; and while I walk my brain works, and when my brain works it notices its surroundings and finds details or angles I often would’ve overlooked otherwise. But with a zoom… No matter how much I try, it’s always much too easy to fall back to those old reflexes. Twist in, twist out. Maybe if we stopped calling them zooms in the first place. That word doesn’t do justice to what’s going on optically. Maybe instead we could describe them as multi-focal lenses. There’s definitely something pretty fantastic about having the equivalent of 8 primes on a single lens… IF you use it as such. IF you understand how to use each individual focal length in the right context, and how each one changes the entire aspect of an image way beyond making things look nearer or closer. Compression, distortion, spatial perception. Of course you can also use it to get a closer shot of that mountain way out there; but perhaps if you actually GO to the mountain, something amazing will happen along the way. Right, so where was I? Ah yes: no zooms for me. Huh…”  He goes on to talk about a zoom he really likes but still plans to use  it  as a series of single focal length lenses!


His point is dead on.  We can in fact get “visual laziness”!  I think making ourselves use either single focal length lenses or at least pick just one focal length on our zooms,  and move to try and make it work will improve our photographs and our vision as well!  Another thing we need to be very careful about is think that the effect of cropping factors making lenses something they are not.  Example a 6omm lens is a 60mm lens, but when used on a 1.5 crop factor sensor it “crops” to the size of an image made with a 90mm (60 X 1.5 = 90), However it is still a 60mm lens!!!  The reason I say this is that traditionally 85mm to 105 mm are considered the best portrait lenses, because of the perspective with which they show the human face.  So even thought a 60mm lens on a 1.5 crop sensor crops like a 90, it does not have the perspective of a 90!  This is why to be an effective photographer you need to learn what the perspective is at various focal lengths even if you use zooms!


Food for thought!  And thanks Patrick, for a good point we all need to think about!




the pilgrim