Some things I’ve learned…….

4 months, 1 week ago 16
Posted in: blog


For what it’s worth, I started my serious quest to become a good photographer in 1969, that was 53 years ago!  I’m not sure how close I’ve come to that goal, but in the process of trying to get better everyday, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons. with your permission, I would like to share some the most important ones:


Technique beats equipment, everytime.  I first heard this spoken by Rod Planck, still, one of the best shooters I’ve ever had the honor of working with.  Rod was, and is, one of the consummate technicians and artists in the field today.  Please believe me he is dead on, get your techniques perfected and you can make killer images all day long!



You can own too much gear.  Sadly I know this from experience.  I’ve only really shot two systems for the vast majority of my career, Nikon and Fujifilm.  I did have a brief affair with Konica, that sure was a mistake!  When I left Nikon to start shootng with Fujifilm’s X Series of cameras I had over 35 Nikon lenses and a multiple of camera bodies.  I currently own 5 Fujifilm bodies and 19 lenses, seems I never learn!  Don’t be me!



Spend more time searching for the shot than taking it!  From years of teaching with David Middleton I learned this from the repeated urging from David to our students.  He was right and it has vastly improved my work to just take the time to truly look, see and understand what in a scene is moving me to want to  capture it!



Likes are useless, in fact can be destructive. I know that lots of younger shooters today are addicted to social media and get a thrill out of piling up Likes.  The problem is likes don’t really tell you much and they may lead to an over appreciation of your own work, which can stunt your growth.  No offense, but the general public may like something but that does not mean it’s good!  If you allow compliments on your work to make you feel you have arrived, your progress towards your goals may get stalled or even stopped.  Appreciate kind words,  but stay focused on working on always getting better!



There is no such thing as a “famous photographer”  The best we can hope for in our field is to be respected and appreciated for our work and our lives.  Elvis was famous, Sinatra was famous, Billy Graham was famous. At the best we will be known by our peers.  If the most well known photographer in the Landscape or nature field were to go to the local mall and stand in the middle of the walkway it may take hours or days before anyone would recognize them and know what they did or who they were.  Let’s get over becomng famous, you woudn’t want it anyway, if you ever experienced it!  Plenty of truly famous people have told me it is a burden!



The greatest reward from photography is relationships!  I’ve made a good living as a photographer, but I am not rich in financial terms, I am however very wealthy with friends and associates that mean the world to me!  Here are just a few of the great people God and Photography have blessed my life with!  Not pictured but at the top of my list of dearest friends/brothers are Jack Graham, Jim Haverstock, Bryan Jolley and Carl Turner. That is true wealth!!!



The worst statement that can be spoken; “Do you have any Idea who I am!?’  Some years ago I was trying to help a very well known photographer with a  camera problem, when I worked for Nikon, he was getting very frustrated as we stumbled around trying to fix his issue.  He finally blurted out that dreaded statement.  It didn’t help his issue and though we finally were successful in helping him, he was less highly regarded as he once had been. It’s not worth it!



When trying to help others learn never forget where you started!  Some times the same old questions may seem irritating, but before you react poorly, remember how little you knew when you first started and how eager you were to learn, it will do worlds of good to your understanding, patient, teaching skills!



Don’t display your awards, trophies and plaques.  The more we celebrate our victories the less time we will spend getting better!  All of my awards are in boxes somewhere, mostly forgotten, where they belong, in the past.  I’m more concerned about today and tomorrow!



The greatest term in photography is SIMPLIFY!  This is the constant mantra of Jack Graham and he is right, Simplify everything;  your gear, your plans and your compositions, brilliant and true!!!!  Trust me, it works!



The second greatest term is SLOW DOWN!  Take time and watch your work infinitely better!  Thanks Jack, right again!



Camera brands don’t matter.  If you are using any camera system made in the last five years and you are not getting spectacular results, it’s not the camera!  Everything made today is more than capable of helping you get wonderful images! remember number 1, Technique beats equipment everytime!



Welcome constructive advise from people with more skills than you have, if you do you will be able to do the same some day.  Swallow your pride and really learn!  It may be hard, but worth it!



SFT. See – Feel – Trust   Do you want to have a great life, success that matters, peace and real joy?  It’s Simple:  See God’s Face, Feel His presence and Trust His Love!

He loves you more than you could ever know or understand, accept His love and live your best life here and be with Him in Eternity!


Let today be the first day of the rest of your life and live it to the fullest!!

From Jerry McQuire:  To be honest I’ve failed more than I have succeed in life, but I love my wife and I love my life and I wish you my kind of success!




the pilgrim

16 Responses

  1. James Haverstock says:

    Your wisdom is exceeded only by your love and kindness. Thank you for all three.

  2. Bill Fortney says:

    Same to you my dear friend!

  3. Carl says:

    Wisdom is wise knowledge and how to apply it. This is some of the best photographic wisdom in capsule form I have seen recently. A whole day session could be spent on just these few verses to glean the truthfulness in them.
    Some of my favorite images of yours. I especially like the one above and below you and Chester! Outstanding IMHO! Both wall hangers – large wall hangers!

  4. Bill Fortney says:

    Thank you Carl, encourage Doc to read this!

  5. Jack Graham says:

    I’ll keep it simple and slow down as I type this…..
    Love ya brother!

  6. Bill
    I have followed your blog for years and have always enjoyed your wisdom and attention to detail. That is why I invested in your class in Nashville. It was one of the most rewarding weeks in my life.

    This post is brilliant and there were several points you made that slapped me in the face. I have written them down and posted them in my office.

    Thank you for all you do and your never ending quest to teach your profession and more importantly the love of God and Jesus. Proud to have met you and learned from you.

  7. Craig Coupland says:

    Thanks Bill,
    Wonderful wisdom. We watched Seven Days in Utopia again a month or two ago. SFT. See – Feel – Trust. I have always remembered this from my time with you at Old Car City years ago.
    Thanks Craig

  8. Augie Stark says:

    Thank you for being a witness to the really important things in life. I appreciate your kindness and wisdom and thank you for reminding me about God and what is important. Bless you.

  9. Great points Bill…I have a young photographer friend besides myself who can use them! You’ve learned quite well to not only share God’s Glory in your work, but in your shared wisdom. Thanks be to God for your talent and friendship to all.

  10. Bill Fortney says:

    I thank Him everyday for the privilege of being His servant!

  11. Dick Ginkowski says:

    Many excellent points — especially about relationships. Over the years they seem to have diminished along with the camaraderie and a little bit of fun, too. I hope when and if Covid gets in the rear view mirror we can rekindle some of this.

    Oh, I miss many of the people you mentioned and learned a lot from them! And you, Bill, helped make a lot of that possible for so many people.

    None of us are getting younger but I challenge you to inspire a new generation of photographers who may not have had the same encouragement and mentorship that we did. The technology has changed but the basics remain the same.

  12. admin says:

    I agree we need tp pass on what we have learned!

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