A Love Letter!

7 months ago 14
Posted in: blog


I have just gotten back home from a wonderful week in the Great Smokies with the fantastic team and attendees of the Out Of Chicago’s Great Smokies Event.  You may be wondering why I am about to go on a rant about how much I enjoyed someone elses’s event when I teach my own workshops with Jack Graham and help run events like the Fall Smokies Summit?  If you were under the mistaken impression that I teach only for money, then yes, you would be absolutley right, why one earth would I laude someone’s else’s  event!!??  The point is I love photography and more importantly the people of photography.  I love the fellowhship, the fun and banter of being in the field together, no matter who profits and in fact when things are this fantastic…..everyone profits!


Please let me explain:  the photography world that I’ve known, mostly the nature, landscape, close-up markets has been under assault.  Camera sales are fraction of what they were a decade and half or so ago.  The accessories market is struggling to stay afloat, camera bag makers, tripod makers, filter companies are all struggling to find their sustaninable share of the shrinking market.  I used to subscribe to Popular Photography, Modern Photography, Peterson’s Photographic, American Photography and Outdoor Photography, now all those except for Outdoor are gone and they are half the size, in pages per issue!  Today’s young photographers have mostly gone to their smart phones as their camera of choice!  So in the midst of all this down turn I just spent four days with 80 something excited photographers and a team of extremely talented leaders!  So why am I pumped?  I see some small light at the end of the tunnel!  The pressing question is why?


First, hunger and thirst to learn.  This group of students though mostly in their sixities and seventies and a few in their eighties were still learning the craft and they were excited to learn!  I meet a lot of photographers today that think they have arrived, and that’s a mistake, at 53 years of doing this seriously, I’m not even close to arriving!  When the wonder and joy of learning and growing is gone, so are you!


Second, a killer team of dedicated instructors.  I’ve been doing this a long, long time and let me remind you, in some ways,  I started the big outdoor event when we founded the Great American Photography Weekends over thirty years ago!  We featured the best of the best photographers/teachers then and this group did for now!  I don’t want to leave anyone out, because they were all outstanding, but I was exposed to some new Master’s of the Craft at this event.  Ian Plant, Mark Denny, Joseph Rossbach, Colleen Miniuk, Sarah Marino, Anne Belmont, Chrissy Donadi, Kurt Budliger and Steve Gettle stood out as wonderfully talented fresh new faces for me!  Old Guard shooters that I have known for a long time, Tony Sweet and David Akoubian were an added bonus and made this old goat feel right at home!  The youngsters Dusty Doddridge and David Johnston made me confident that our craft is in good hands for the future!


Thirdly, great organization is key to something like this succeeding!  Chris Smith and his dedicted team of people simply took on the complex and daunting task of keeping the train on the rails with ablaum!  The event was well planned and executed and like all great leaders when anything started to swerve in the curves, Chris and his staff gently moved it back into place!  I’ve done this and I can tell you it is a monumental task, my hats off to Chris, Bob, Lesley, Sarah, Jennifer and Anne, you guys did a supurb job!  I’ve never been to any of the other field events of Out of Chicago, but they must be equally well done as I met many attendees that were on their 5th and 6th events with Chris and his team!  On my drive home, I was moved to tears thinking about what a wonderful time I had!


So in closing, like the Great American Photography Weekends and the Great Smokies Nature Photography Summit in Townsend, the Out of Chicago Event has to join the Hall of Fame of events that further, nurture and keep our outdoor photography dreams alive!  I can’t wait to add another ground breaking event to this list when Jack Graham and I bring the Masters of Nature and Landscape Photography Symposium to life in the fall of 2023 in the Great Smokies, stay tuned for more on that in the next few weeks!


For now, move over and make a place for Chris Smith and his great team and organization in the Outdoor Photography Hall of Fame!


Blessings, Say Grace and Give Thanks,


the pilgrim

14 Responses

  1. A wonderful post Bill. That is the reason I have followed all these years because you truly do care so much about Photography and people getting the most out of it.


  2. admin says:

    Thank you Dave, I really do love being with great people like you!

  3. Mike E says:

    It makes me very happy to hear you confirm that the future of “nature photography” is in such great hands!!!!

  4. Bill Fortney says:

    Makes me happy that it is!!!!

  5. Hey Bill! So good to finally meet and enjoy springtime the mountains together! Really enjoyed your presentation, full of inspiration. You are so right, although I’ve been photographing for nearly 25 years now, it feels like I’m just getting started. So much to learn, so much growing to do. You are a big inspiration and paved the way for us (nearly) 60 year old youngsters…! Enjoying your book, such an amazing project. Thanks for doing and thanks for sharing…!

    • Bill Fortney says:

      You defy your age with a youthful appearance and enthusiasm!!!! I genuinely appreciated the points you made during your talk, spot on and so is your work!! We need more thoughtful and insightful shooters like you in our profession! I truly enjoyed getting to know you better. I hope our paths cross again soon!

  6. Mark Denney says:

    Having the opportunity to spend some time with you Bill before the conference was one of the many highlights for me and something I’ll never forget. This was truly an incredible week and I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to surround myself with so many talented photographers in one of the most picturesque locations in America. I’m looking forward to the next time our paths cross again Bill. Take care – Mark D.

    • admin says:

      When you did your Friday morning program I was in shock to learn you’ve only been at this since 2017 You’ve made incredible progress in that much time and I consider you one of the best photographers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting!!!! The honesty in your presentation about how you were starting to transition from the grand landscape with big skies to the more intimate landscape was a a breath of fresh air! I am certain that we are going to be teaching together again somewhere in the future, congatulations on your meteoric rise as a photographer! I can’t wait to see what you do next! The fact that you’re truly a nice guy just adds to the joy of knowing you!

  7. Bill, it was an honor to spend time with you before the conference commenced. There is nothing quite like the energy of bringing together so many who share the same passion for photography. I am thankful each and every day to share friendships with people who are not only inspiring photographers but also generous, kind, wonderful humans. Thank you for your dedication to the craft, sharing your continuous journey, and delivering it all with laughs along the way. It was such a memorable week to share, and I look forward to the day our paths cross again. All my best!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Chrissy, I feel the same, and look forward to meeting up down the road!

  8. Carl says:

    Has to go near the top of all posts!!! Great writing and a great read!!!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Carl, big news coming for 2023 The Mater of Nature & Landscape Photography Symposium in the Smokies!!!!!

  9. Nick Gale says:

    Hi Bill, i attended this workshop! it was my first workshop and a dream come true for me. And it seems the bar was set high! Meeting and getting up close and personal with so many amazing and diverse pros in such a spectacular place and time was fantastic. I was amazed by how approachable you were and how you made a personal connection with all of us. You are an inspiration as a photographer and a person. i came to your site here to see if i could purchase your book with photos from your ultra-light, America from 500 feet. All the best and keep up the great work! Nick

  10. Bill Fortney says:

    You can buy the eBook version of both! Thanks for joining us in the Smokies!