Sunset at White Sands National Monument

Fuji X-T1 f/11 1/8 sec ISO 200 55-200mm @ 200mm

Jim Begley of WoW Photos HDR asked me to join him on a little photo scouting trip around New Mexico. We're looking for good locations in case we ever want to bring a photo workshop to New Mexico. It is such a fantastic state. We were truly blessed with some amazing sites. I'll share more as I get them edited. For this shot we walked about a mile from the parking lot to try and eliminate foot prints in the sand. A very hard prospect. I used the Fuji X-T1 with the 55-200mm lens at 200mm. 

Gear, Photography

Surf's Up


I shoot with a Fuji X-T1 as my primary camera now. I love this camera for the weight (if nothing else). I owned Canon and Nikon before this camera. I still own a lot of Nikon lenses, so I picked up a cheap Nikon to Fuji X mount adapter for it. Using this adapter, you give up auto focus. With focus peaking on the Fuji, I don't mind giving it up. I recently picked up a Nikon 300mm F/4 ED-IS lens for it. The shot above is the second shot I have even taken with this lens. I need practice, but what a lens / camera combo. On JPG high burst, I'd put this up against most set ups in this class. Would I shoot pro football with it? Not sure, but I would love to try :)  


It was daylight, so I really didn't need a tripod, but on an upcoming trip I want to pack really light. We are going for a canoe trip down the Colorado river, so I need something very versatile. I picked up a TrailPix. The TrailPix will allow me to convert my hiking poles into a small tripod. It's stable enough to work (a 2 second delay after pushing the shutter release stopped the shake) without adding a ton of weight. I was rugged enough to hold the Fuji X-T1 with the 300mm lens on it (about as much weigh as I would ever put on it). I would still use my heavier duty Induro or my Benro Travel flat tripod (great for packing in a suitcase).

You can see how far I am away from the beach. My guess is at least 100 yards.


His Light Faithful friends workshop at Shaker Village KY

This is my 3rd time at Shaker Village. A nice place to visit, but once you have been there a couple times, you kind of run out of steam.  So why did I go? The friends I have made on the various His Light Workshops all converged in that one location to just be together. I have talked about the fellowship before, but until you go on one of these trips, it's hard to understand. This is one of the most caring and giving groups of folks I have had the privilege to get to know. I love them all, like brothers and sisters. They help fill me back up, when I am feeling empty. Not everyone could attend, but I am sure glad a whole bunch of them did! A Man Named Jim Jelly-Beans-1 marbles Sad Flower wine glass

Photography, travel

Top 10 Photo Workshop Tips

  1. Bring plenty of memory cards and make sure they are pre formatted. There is nothing like getting someplace to find out that you still have stuff on your memory cards. Having enough memory cards will allow you to pocket them after each day or location. Every day I shoot on a new card. That way if one gets lost or ends up corrupt I don’t loose the whole trips worth of shooting.
  2. Download your cards every day & bring a back up drive. Not only do I use a new card, but I download them on to my computer every day and also on to an external hard drive. The computer stays with me on the plane and the hard drive goes in my suitcase. Call me paranoid, but I know that I have all of my shots.
  3. Keep you batteries charged! Always have a spare battery on you and charge them every day. You never want to be caught with a dead battery. It’s the worst feeling in the world when you are sitting there watching a beautiful sunset and all the other photographers shooting it because your battery is dead. Hopefully some kind soul will have your brand and a spare, but never count on it!
  4. Know your camera. I don’t mean you need to know what every function and button does, but at least know the basics about your camera. We all have a lot to learn (especially me), but at least know the basics.
  5. Learn about the weather and be prepared for it. I always pack a little something extra for cold nights. I keep a hat and a pair of long under ware packed with me. they don’t take up that much extra space and I know I have them. You would be surprised on how often I’ll don an extra layer. It sucks being cold in the field. I almost always expect the weather folks to get it wrong by 10 degrees. So I pad into my packing for that.
  6. Bring a GPS for your vehicle and know how to use it. I have one on my phone and it comes in handy more often than not.
  7. Pack snacks and stay hydrated. All to often people are surprised when they don’t have dinner at a certain time. Sunrise and Sunset are usually the best times to shoot, which are right in the middle of dinner and breakfast. It’s a photo workshop, not an eating workshop. Sure you cane expect to have a good breakfast or dinner after you are done shooting, but it might be hours between them and the next meal. Alway carry some nuts or snack bars with you. They can take the edge off. Also stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water has so many good side effects. Yeah, you might have to wander off into the woods to take a bio break, but it eats ending up in the hospital because of dehydration.
  8. Come to a workshop with a willingness to learn. Don’t be “that” person who thinks they know everything. If you are coming on a workshop in the first place it’s assumed you want to learn something. I learn LOTS of things every time I go. I learn a great deal from the attendees and love every second.
  9. Be flexible and have FUN! The instructors are doing their best with what they have. Often times thing happen that we can’t foresee. Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, the county decides that it’s the perfect time to shut down the road for maintenance or you even see something out of the corner of your eye as you drive by and think, that would be awesome to shoot in this light. Have fun with it. It’s your workshop and only you can affect your mood about it.
  10. Follow the light. Sometimes you need to know when to shoot and when not to. If the light is bad, it’s going to be a bad shot. So don’t shoot it, admire it, but don’t press it. If you see something with great light, shoot it. I have come away from many workshops with images of “Why did I shoot that again?” and “WoW, I wasn’t expecting that, but I really like it!”
  11. It’s a like a baker’s dozen, I had to add one more. Know your limits. If you don’t think you can hike up that mountain, don’t give yourself a heart attack trying. Let everyone else go ad find something else to shoot. Often times you’ll find something just as interesting. If you don’t think you can make it to a morning shoot because you need rest, then sleep in. It’s not worth killing yourself and wrecking the rest of the trip. I have CPR and First Aid training, please don’t make me use it!


500 Rule

500 Rule This week over on The Snake Tips I critiqued an image that someone sent in about photographing the stars. In that post I talked about when the stars will start appear to "move or streak" while taking night time shots. Before you take the shot you can use the 500 Rule to approximate the maximum tile you can have your shutter open. It's also known as the 600 Rule and either can be used, 500 is a little more conservative. Remember it's just a starting point. Broken down you divid 500 by the "true" focal distance of your lens. The true focal length is the length after the crop sensor (Canon crop factor is 1.6 & Nikon {and Fuji} is 1.5). So for my 8mm Rokinon fisheye on my Fuji I can keep the shutter open for a max of 42 seconds before I start to see streaking in the stars. Is there math around this? Sure there is. Do you really want to see it? If so go to Star Circle Academy.   I found it interesting, but I am a bit of a math geek.


Light Painting


I had the good fortune to hang out with Dave Black at our His Light Workshops Shaker Village workshop. Dave is funny, kind, a great educator and just a fantastic guy. I know we'll hang out more in the future.  We did a lot of light painting in this workshop. Light painting is when you take a scene, expose it so that it's almost black. Then take a flashlight or other light source and only illuminate those objects you want your viewer to focus on. I am certainly going to be doing more of this in the future!


His Light Workshops presents New Orleans 2014


This will be our first workshop without Bill. We are hoping that it will be a great success! I've been researching and have found us a great hotel deal in the French Quarter. New Orleans, Louisiana – May 7th – 11th, 2014 Limited to 12 Attendees $995. Workshop Fee Leaders: Jim Begley, Chuck Barnes and Snake Barrett

Come join us as we travel around the iconic southern port city of New Orleans. We’ll hit the streets of the French Quarter taking images of the architecture, music and street scenes. Boarding a streetcar we will head for the Garden district to make photos of antebellum mansions and pristine gardens. We’ll stand on the steps at Jackson Square, sipping Cafe Au Lait or hot chocolate, eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde as we wait for sunset.

Even though we won’t be in the city during Mardi Gras, we will get to visit the largest working warehouse for storing and creating the fantastic floats that adorn the parade routes. Taking a short ferry ride across the great Mississippi River at night, will give us the opportunity to photograph the city lights.

We’ll stay on the edge of the French Quarter at great hotel. We don’t recommend that anyone rents a car, as parking is at a premium. We can walk to the French Quarter and hop streetcars to any other locations.

Come join us and as they say “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll)


We take reservations as people contact us, usually by email or phone calls,  that they want to be included in one of our events. However a reservation is not complete until we receive the information below and a Deposit.

DEPOSITS – The deposit amount is specified with each workshop and it is due at the time of the actual booking of a workshop.  Your space in the workshop is not reserved until your deposit is received.  The full balance is due 60 days before the event.  If we do not receive the balance at that time we reserve the right to give your spot to the next person on the wait list. The deposit is $300.

You can mail a check of $300. to: Bill Fortney /His Light Workshops 160 Whirlaway Trail Corbin, KY   40701

If you cancel your workshop the following applies:

  • If cancellation is received at least 90 days prior to the start of a workshop, you will get a full refund, when we fill your space.
  • For cancellations received 31-89 days prior to the start of a workshop the deposit will be forfeited, but can be applied to a future workshop.
  • Cancellations received 0-30 days prior to the workshop, all deposits, and workshop’s fees will be forfeited.  However, 100% of forfeited funds can be applied to a future event.

If His Light has to cancel an event, all funds are completely refunded.

For space availability please reach me at: or call:  (606)-528-6119  Home Office   or   (606)-344-0455  Mobile phone


New York City


I was in New york City recently for a conference for my day job. Of course I had to bring my Fuji to see how she would perform around town. I didn't shoot as much as I would have liked. The day I picked to head over to Hoboken to photograph the NYC skyline, it rained. So everything is a little muddy. Not the camera's fault, but mine and the weather. I must say, I keep falling in love with this little beauty every time I shoot her. It does what I want in a camera. The night we arrived we hit the 9/11 memorial. I have been to Dachau concentration camp while I was stationed in Germany. It had an overcast that will never go away. Here had a similar feeling, but it also had a sense of the big New York "F" you. You can bring down a building on top of us, it'll be painful, but it won't keep us down. I could barely keep from crying as I walked around this place.



Also stopped by Grand Central Terminal (it's not a station, it's a terminal). I tried to get a grand station shot, but I just don't have anything wide enough to do it justice. NYC-3


Walked down Battery park on the way to the ferry to Hoboken. Lady Liberty was standing tall in the harbor. Thank you France for such a wonderful gift. Thank you New York state for opening her up when the yahoos in Washington couldn't come to an agreement to keep her open. NYC-4

Finally the sun set, it gets dark and is overcast and starting to drizzle. Ah yes, the best laid plans. Not to mention, some work was going on across the harbor so they had the brightest lights that washed everything out if you didn't frame it just right.NYC-5

Finally off to Wall Street where this bull stand guard over the traders. It's a crowded place with as many tourists as brokers.NYC-6

It was lunch time at the Stock Exchange. It struck me as humorous, this guy sporting a Brooklyn Cyclones hat and listening to some tunes in his thousand dollar suit. NYC-7 NYC-8

Gear, Photography, travel

Glacier and the Fuji

Shafts of Light

I just got back from a His Light Workshops to Glacier National Park in Montana. What an amazing place. We had a great group of attendees, some wonderful light and I got to see all my old photo friends. I have such a great time with these folks! Anyway, on this trip I decided not to take my Nikon gear at all. I went with just the Fuji XE-1 system with a 14mm rental lens from Borrow Lenses. I am truly in love with this system. The Fuji performed every bit as well as I expected and more so in some cases. It's a landscape photographer's dream. It's light and it helps me make great images. So much so that I have decided to sell my Nikon camera. I will keep a couple lenses (because I have an adapter that will allow them to work with the Fuji). I am waiting for a couple of lenses to come out in the Fuji line. I do wish they would add a few features (5 or 7 stop brackets rather than just 3 would be great). I am happy with the results. Take a look for yourself.

Fuji-2 Fuji-4 Fuji-3


Photo gear: Garmin Nuvi 2555LMT

You don't think of your car's GPS as photo gear. Well I didn't until I realized how important it really is to me. I use to to get from shot to shot. On workshops I plug in all the coordinates to where we might go into the GPS so I have them all ready. I am getting ahead of myself. I bought a new GPS recently, knowing that I wanted a few features that my current GPS was lacking. I searched for a few, but I like the Garmin brand, so I bought one that wasn't to expensive (Garmin Nuvi 2555 LMT), but had enough of the features I wanted. What did I want? The ability to plot courses and upload them to the GPS. This has that wrapped up in spades.

Now to what I found out about this cool little unit. I can track my gas milage (with a add-in for a small fee $10), which is nice. I can download all my routes, which will help for tax time. When I take the unit off the base, it assumes I am parked and will note that location. Then I can go shopping or walking around town. When I am ready to head back to the car I turn on the GPS and tell it to take me back to the car. How cool is that? I can download the GPS tracks, convert them and upload them into Lightroom 5. Now I know where I took all my photos (or at least close enough). I live in an area with a lot of schools. The school zones are good in theory, but they aren't all the same. One school zone goes from 45 to 35 between 7:30-8:30 AM and then again form 2:45 to 3:15. A mile up the road the times are completely different. I cant keep them all straight. I was passing a school today and the GPS told me it was 45 mph. I figured, hey it's correct it's not during school session, but I can't rely on it to flip for me. What do you know, I passed the school a bit later while it was in session and the thing not only changed the speed limit indicator to 35, but it also warned me that school was in session with an audible alert and flashing on the screen for a second. It blew my mind.

With lifetime maps and traffic updates, I really am glad I made the investment.


Nashville 2013 His Light Workshop


The His Light workshop in Nashville, TN is over. I'm back home sleeping in my bed for a while, but looking forward to the next one. As usual I saw some old friends and met some new ones. I had my niece Abby on the trip for this one. She's 12 going on 20, well mannered and has a pretty good eye. She's just starting to get interested in photography. I thought this trip might be a good starter trip for her. We shot landscapes, Americana, concert, studio, candids, macro & night time. Plus we got to hang out with my friend Ricky Skaggs. Talk about a true Southern Gentleman. He has style and grace coming out of his ears. Plus he's a darn good shooter! Nashville-1 Nashville-2 Nashville-3 Nashville-4 Nashville-6 Nashville-7 Nashville-8


Blue Ridge Parkway - Decisions Decisions


While coming home from Nashville for a His Light Workshop, Carolyn and I took the Blue Ridge Parkway toward home. The above image was me stretching my legs on a little trail as Carolyn took a phone call. Since it was around 5 PM , I am happy with the way it turned out. We passed this farm off to our right and I turned to her and said, "That would make a nice photograph" in turn she replied, "Well then why don't you stop and shoot it!" So I turned the car around and stopped to shoot it. The new Fuji make shooting such a joy. I don't have to lug around a ton of heavy equipment. The colors and contrast that comes out of it are very sweet (if you like that look). I wouldn't use it for sports and I haven't figured out how to use it for night-time vistas, but for most everything else, it is almost perfect.

AS I was editing, I kept hearing myself in my head as I critiqued our participants on the workshop. Where's your focus, the eye goes to the lightest part of the image, do you need that much X to be seen. So here are two edits of the same image. Only thing different is the crop. I think I like the closer crop, but the sky is so nice. Which one do you like?

BlueRidgeParkwayFarm2Closer crop

BlueRidgeParkwayFarmA little more sky




His Light Workshops Palouse & Olympic trip

Steptoe Butte Palouse

A little more than a week ago I returned from another His Light workshop. Boy we learned some important lessons on this one.

  1. We need to be able to communicate changes out to our participants better. The weather, time, lighting conditions, etc really effect when we shoot and when we are in the classroom. We had a day where we thought we'd give folks some extra downtime, but we didn't have a good way to communicate that out other than putting a note on the door. When I got back I found a little app that will let us send a text message to everyone who gives us their cell phone number.
  2. Never leave the keys in the car. I left the keys in the van (and thought I announced it loud enough). Someone, acting in good conscious, locked the doors, thinking that they didn't want to see thousands of dollars of camera gear taken. So I spent a couple extra hours up on a freezing cold Steptoe Butte waiting for a locksmith. Lesson learned.
  3. Never try to jam two trips into one. I have learned this along time ago, but we are still learning it. We wanted to make sure folks got their money's worth out of the trip and tried to pack to much in. We need to come up with a balance between to muh travel and well worth the money spent.

Of course we learned a lot of other things from the trip, but those are my top 3. As usual, I enjoyed the fellowship and meeting some new friends and connecting with old ones. We have a small following of folks who are really good shooter and even better people to be with. I thank God every day for this blessing.

On a side note, I haven't had time to process to many images. I had surgery a few days ago and I'm still recovering. I'll try to process more as time permits.

Here's one from HoH forest. We got there and the light was pretty bad. We made the best of it and shot what you could. The glory of it was worth the trip alone.

HoH Forest fern


Jasper Imaging

My buddy Stephen Hart recently starting doing Acrylic Facemount printing over at Jasper Imaging. I had the milky way over Bodie (seen above) done as a print. Stephen advised me what the best size would be. They are perfectionists at Jasper. They do an amazing job to ensure that your image looks it's best. It's the old craftsman mentality of do a quality job and it shows. I must admit that since seeing the work that they did on Bill  & Jim's prints, as I'm shooting I look for things that would be good enough quality to put on these acrylic facemounts. I'll admit, it's not cheap, but it's worth every penny. Now I just need to save up those pennies to reprint everything I have with Jasper Imaging.


Lions with Topaz Clarity

I picked up the new Topaz Plugin called Clarity. I mainly use the Ex-Nik (now Google) plugins. I love them. I also use (on occasion) the OnOne plugins. The Topaz set hasn't thrilled me (I'm not a fan of the interface, it seems so dated to me). Hoever, I have found a few effects from them, that I am really enamored with. Clarity has made that list. I started fiddling with using LAB color correction in Photoshop, with ok results, but finding out the nice effect that Clarity has, I'll stop that. This is the before image of a couple of lions at dawn in the San Diego Zoo. I cropped it and added a small vignette in Lightroom. Lions with Clarity Before

This image adds Topaz Clarity with the Fur and Feather II preset.

Lions with Clarity After




Toms Creek Waterfall

Toms Creek Falls

Toms Creek Waterfalls is located just outside Asheville, NC. From the trail head it's an easy 1 mile hike up a short path to get to the waterfall. Even though it was raining, it seems to be a popular spot to visit. We were doing a volunteer job for an upcoming festival transporting some gear from Raleigh to Asheville. We tried heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the fog was so dense we had to bail on that attempt. We literally couldn't see a car length ahead of us. I really wanted to try out my new Fuji X-E1, so we started looking for something to shoot. I picked up a map with waterfalls of North Carolina on it. We found one on our way home and Carolyn braved a pending thunderstorm to head out with me to find the falls. As you can tell from some of my earlier stuff, I don't mind standing out in the rain for a good shot. The water was flowing and snapped away.


Costa Rica - Day 5 - Hanging Bridges & Night walk

We took two tours today.The first was to hanging bridges with our guide named Oscar. This was another walk through the rain forest (a different kind of rain forest). We had several folks on the tour with us, not enough to make it uncomfortable, but enough to make a lot of noise and color commentary. *rant* I'm not sure why people need to provide their own color commentary on everything they see. Do they really think yelling at the wild monkey will actually cause them to come closer and pose for them? *end of rant* we saw howler monkeys, screech owl, a snake, two different mot mot birds (there are six different kinds) and several other birds (I'm not much of a birder). The guide warned us not to stick our fingers in any holes. I'm not exactly sure who he said that for, but I make it a practice not to stick any part of my body in any strange hole.

Later that day, we decided to take a last minute night walk tour with Gerald. I really wanted to see some frogs and the place we went, people on Trip Advisor called it "Froggy-palooza". A side note, Positive comments and Trip Advisor are really valued here in Costa Rica. Most places asked that if we liked it, to post a comment on the site. It hasn't rained at all since we have been in Costa Rica, it looked like it was going to, but dry as a bone. I say that because when we arrived at the tour, the first thing Gerald said was "since we haven't had rain for a while, I don't think we'll see any frogs." My heart deflated a bit. We walked along, avoiding the bats and keeping a watch out for frogs, bugs, bats but most importantly, vipers. Along the walk, they had a couple of "cages" with some critters in them. I say hat in quotes, because they weren't captive, really. They only stayed long enough to be rehabilitated, then released. The folks who ran this preserve / nature trail, were very environmentally aware. I am impressed by the environmental awareness of the Tico population. Americans could learn a few things from them. The first thing we saw, Carolyn spotted, was an armadillo. It was standing on the path while half the group walked passed it. We also saw leaf cutter ants. These little guys are very cool. The workers are all female. They are sightless and can travel up to a kilometer by following a trail of pheromones. Leave cutter ants are actually farmers. The colony has a queen who says in the colony, males who mate and die and the rest are females. Workers who ferry the leaves from place to place, soldiers who guard them as they do it and tittle inspector ants. These are the most impressive. They inspect every leaf for mold or spores that could kill the crop. If they find one they will stand on it and make the worker discard it. The leaves are taken back to the colony as a base for growing tiny mushrooms, which he ants feed on, they don't actually eat the leaf. We also saw army ants, these are as big as my thumb. All along the forest are balsa wood trees, which are hollow. The army ants live inside and protect the tree. If the tree is attacked, they will swarm the attacker. One bite from one of these could put you in the hospital for a week or worse, you could die. We did start to see some toads along the path and a few bats. Finally Gerald looked up and spotted a red eyed tree frog (gaudy leaf frog) way up in the trees, asleep. It looked like a wad of chewing gum stuck to a leaf. He said if we didn't see any more he would come back and wake him up. Lucky for that little guy we did see more, only 2. One up in a leaf then one right by the water. I waited patiently as everyone else got their shot, then he closed his eyes due to all the flashlights. We waited a bit and he honored us by opening his eyes again. What a wonderful creature. I tried a couple using flash, but they came out way to bright. Finally I side lit him with a flashlight and snapped off a few shots. I am very happy with what I got. These are straight out of camera, with a minor crop.




Costa Rica - Royal Corin Hotel in La Fortuna

We arrived at The Royal Corin hotel on Tuesday at noon. The hidden canopy treehouse is a bed & breakfast. This is a regular hotel. The busy season ended about 2 weeks ago, so it's not crowded at all. All 75 rooms have an excellent view of the Arenal Volcano and there are hot springs which feed the swimming pool & jacuzzis... All of which are a warm 104 degrees... A bit hot for the daytime but very nice & relaxing in the evenings.

View from our balcony



As we sat on the balcony enjoying the view and complimentary wine & cheese plate, little pieces of black ash started falling from the sky! At first we thought the volcano (dormant for the past 3 years) was having some activity. Turns out that a sugarcane plantation nearby was burning some cane and wind blew the ashes our way.