Category : The Learning Center

6 years, 6 months ago 8


I’m preparing for my first major national park workshop trip since retiring from Nikon, and I will be putting my two part, lighter systems to work!  Today I will go over the Fuji X system and later in the week the Nikon system.  Remember my goal was to reduce the in-the-field carry system to around 10 pounds.  The entire system below, excluding the tripod and mini tripod is 9 lbs!!!


 1.  Fuji X-E1 body.  16 mega-pixel, mirror-less camera.  With Really Right Stuff L Bracket and Grip set.


 2.   The standard zoom an 18-55 OIS f 2.8-f4  Remember the sensor is a APS-S size sensor making all lenses a 1.5 factor.  So it is a (27-82 equivalent.)


 3.  A 55-200 OIS f 3.5-4.8 zoom.  (80-300 equivalent)


 4.  The 60mm Macro lens f 2.4 (90mm equivalent)


5.  The 35mm f1.4 lens  (50mm equivalent)


6.  The 14mm f 2.8  (21mm equivalent)


7.  The Fuji X100s camera with a 35mm f2 equivalent lens.  With Really Right Stuff L Bracket and Grip set.


8.  Induro CT-214 carbon fiber tripod. 


9.  Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag (perfect for and extra few lenses and accessories)


10.   Pelican case with SDHC memory cards.


11.   Think Tank battery holders with 6 spare batteries for each body.


12.   Electronic release with built in intervalometer


13.   Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head


14.   Kirk table top tripod with RRS BH-30 head.



This system allows maximum versatility while producing exceptional quality images.  All this in an easy to carry and use system!!


Next?  The high res D800 and it’s support system!!!





The pilgrim


Photo Note:  Image made with the D800 and 55mm Micro Nikkor


Guess what just went live!!    





6 years, 6 months ago 7

Photography is problem solving and sometimes we get fortunate and find just the right answer to our photographic problems, here are some of my favorites!


1. The Fuji X100s.  I’ve looked for years for a camera that was easy to carry, really well made, and produced stunning images.  I’ve used a lot of cameras that I really liked, but they all were lacking one thing or another.  The other problem was even the very best ones just didn’t allow me to shoot higher than ISO 800 without pretty bad noises.  Then I discovered the Fuji X system and the X100s.  It has become my constant companion, my carry everywhere, shoot anything camera, and the images?  Stunning +++   It has also re-ignited my love for Black and White, which it does wonderfully!   I got mine at Dury’s Camera in Nashville, I enhanced it with a Wapiti  Elk skin strap, a Really Right Stuff L bracket and grip,  (all my cameras have their excellent L brackets), and a Lensmate Thumb rest, and a Lensmate bayonet lens hood.



2.  The Sennheiser MKE 400.  I don’t shoot very much video, but whenI do this is the “steal” in the portable microphone world.  At less than $300. it works very well.  I got mine at the AV house called Sweetwater.   



3.  Singh Ray Filters. My bag has a dozen of these gems.  Bob Singh is a true genius and his array of filters is amazing.  His polarizers are among the only ones that are completely neutral, so they will not leave a color cast as many do!  I have a great collection of his great creations  



4.  Delkin Memory Cards.  I’ve used Delkin cards and their other products for years and I’ve never had a bad card!  If you’ve used a bunch of brands like I have,  you know just how astounding that is!  They’re fast and reliable!  I carry them in a shockproof, waterproof, Pelican case from B&H!



5.  Zeiss Lens Wipes.  In the eyeglass department of  Walmarts you will find one of the best solutions to cleaning eyepieces, LCD screens,  and lenses.  These wipes are sealed and have just the right amount of alcohol for a perfect clean!  Not pictured bu a big part of my system are a handful of micro fiber cloths, Ilike the Tiger Cloth from Kinetronics!



6.  The Firefly blower, and Photographic Solutions cleaning supplies.  The Firefly blower is a great way to clean dust from sensor, it turns normal air into ionized air that releases dust because of static electricity.  I use the Photograp Solutions E Wipes, swabs, and E2 Sensor Cleaner.    



 7.  The Lightning Bug.  The best lightning trigger on the market from MK Controls, it’s simple, it really works, and it’s your best bet of capturting spectacular lightning!  They also have great support, which you will seldom need, well thought out product!



8.  The Champ Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox.    I wouldn’t go in the field without one, I actually own a half dozen various models.  I’ve made more than a few field repairs with a Swiss Army Knife!!



9.  Wireless Release from Yonguno (China).  It works great, looks and feels like some made for them major camera companies and cost about one fifth what you would expect.  Get used to the world of Chinese goods, they are getting much better!



10.  Raynox  Macroscopic Lens Model M-150.  These 3 element diopter magnifiers, made in Japan, are very high quality ways to shoot greater than life size close-ups.    The spring loaded filter adapter (much like your squeeze front lens caps), fits from 52mm to 67mm.



11.  Visible Dust Sensor Loupe.  This is the best way to see just where that dust is so you can clean it off effectively.Viable Dust make a great variety of cleaning supplies, all top notch!!


12.  Expert Shield.  After a few months the plastic protector that came with your camera is mess of scratches and goes in the garbage!  Save yourself the trouble and install Expert Shield on all your devices, they just work! The best I’ve seen.



13.  Camels hair small brush.  Simple, cleans all the crevasses well!   Pretty simple I got mine at Lowe’s building Supply.


14.  LED panel light.  These cool, and I mean no heat!, lights are the future, I have two of different sizes and outputs, all the images in this blog entry were made with the smaller one. You can buy them everywhere! I got mine from Midwest Photo.  Ask for Mike…


15.  My two favorite bags for the smaller Fuji system.  The Think Tank Retrospective 5 and the Streetwalker backpack  (not that kind of streetwalker!!).  I’ve been using Think Tank products for a long time now, and they are the best made I’ve found, they are simply well thought out, and work great!




16.  Think Tank Battery holders.  The perfect way to protect the one component in your camea bag that you can’t do without!. 



In fairness I must tell you that Delkin, Singh Ray, Think Tank, and Really Right Stuff are all sponsor, but the reason is I bought and used their products a long time before I ever I enjoyed a relationship with them, that’s how it works around here.  I wouldn’t recommend anything to you I haven’t proven worthwhile myself, first!




the pilgrim


6 years, 6 months ago 14

Boy did I get emails!  Most went something like this, “Wow, what a news break!   I know you love Nikon and adore the D800, but the Fuji X series comments were a shocker, I’m dying to know what images you’ve been showing were made with this camera you so excitedly described!!”


So here goes, the Fuji X-E1 and Fuji X100s are both spectacular image makers, and much smaller, lighter, and easier to carry. than a big DSLR system.  But the other shocker for me was just how wonderful the images were.  As I said in yesterdays post, I’m not comparing the D800 and Fuji X series as apples to apples, they’re not. They are sorta like a Chevy Suburban, and a BMW 3 Series, very different products for very different uses, one won’t do what the other one can do, and visa versa!


But to satisfy your curiosity, and to make a point, here are a few of my favorite images from the Fuji system.  Remember you can double click any image ans see it much larger, and you are going to want to!!



I think you will agree, this covers the bases!




the pilgrim


P.S.  And by-the-way the Black and White shot of the phone was straight out of the camera, not a conversion, these cameras make drop dead gorgeous B&W’s!  Since they will shoot several film type brackets (including Velvia, Provia, Astia, Sepia tone and several types of filtered B&W), you can have an original out of the camera, B&W for every shot you  make, super cool!!!!!

6 years, 6 months ago 19

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 X100s

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!




the pilgrim



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!