Category: Alabama

The Garage Games | Nikon D500

Photography of Garage Games Contestant
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f4, 1/500th, ISO 140, ©Rick Lewis 2017

The Garage Games started in Woodstock, Georgia, in 2010.  Athletes from around the entire United States compete in scores of competitions around the country.  Many athletes come from a CrossFit® gym or that type of training.  I learned though that CrossFit® is not affiliated in any way with the Garage Games.  Combat on the Coosa is a Garage Games event held each year at Gold Star Memorial Park in Wetumpka, Alabama and I wanted to photography it using my Nikon D500 with it’s amazing continuous autofocus ability.  The local event is called Combat on the Coosa, with the Coosa River a stone’s through away.  This Blog post is about my efforts at editorial photography using the fairly new Nikon D500, APC-C flagship.  I used the 17-55mm f2.8G ED Nikkor lens for all the shots.

Photography of Garage Games Series Event
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f8, 1/800th, ISO 560, @Rick Lewis 2017

I shot this event last year using a Fuji X-Pro2 and had limited success trying to focus on the competitors.  They move very quickly in an up and down position and sometimes hold a position for several seconds before dropping the weights.  The continuous focus and focus tracking just could not quickly acquire, track and then hold focus about 60% of the time.  It was very frustrating.  I can’t really fault that camera because it was never intended to be able to shoot sports confidently.  That’s not what the X-Pro2 was designed for.  It is great for street photography and general travel photography but for sports; not so much.

This year I took my Nikon D500 and my hit rate for in-focus images was probably around 98%!  I’m not kidding.  I took 599 images, all using continuous focus with a variety of the focus tracking options, and I had around 12 images that were soft.  None were total losses.  That is amazing to me.

I really enjoyed shooting this event; Combat on the Coosa.  The contestants were mostly on the young side but you will see in the ensuing images that not all were in their teens or 20’s.  They all had tremendous confidence and competitive spirit.  The people not competing were all cheering them on. There were all body types and sizes as well.  The one common denominator was that they all wanted to win!  

Editorial photography is what I love to do.  And this event did not disappoint. It was difficult getting quality images that showed the individual efforts and sacrifices each contestant made.  Judges wandered in and out of frame, constantly, monitoring each contestant rep to make sure it counted for score.  In addition, those that came for moral support, to cheer them on, all had cell phones, video taping the events.  It was tough and somewhat frustrating.  I did manage to get a few good images.  If you are interested in The Garage Games Series, go to their Website Here for more information and locations for the events.  Take a look below at some of the action.  

Thanks for looking and if you wish to make a comment, please do so.  My contact information can be located at the top of the page under “Contact Rick”.

Nikon Photography of Garage Games Series
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/800th, ISO 250, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Garage Games Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/800th, ISO 320, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Photography of The Garage Games, Combat on the Coosa, 2017.
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f8, 1/800th, ISO 250, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Photography of the spectators at the Garage Games
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/800th, ISO 900, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Photography of contestant at Garage Games Combat on the Coosa
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/800th, ISO 560, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Photography of Dead Lift
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/500th, ISO 125, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Garage Games Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/500th, ISO360, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Garage Games Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/500th, ISO 500, ©Rick Lewis 2017
CrossFit Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f4, 1/500th, ISO 220, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Garage Games Nikon Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f4, 1/500th, ISO 180, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Garage Games Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f4, 1/500th, ISO 180, ©Rick Lewis 2017
Garage Games Photography
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8G ED, f5.6, 1/800th, ISO 400, ©Rick Lewis 2017

Nikon D500 – Not Just for Birding – Alabama Editorial Photography

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been meaning to do this for some time.  It seems every time I see an article about the new Nikon D500 it is about birds in flight, wildlife, or sports photography.  It almost seems as though this camera is only suited for these genres of photography.  Not so; and I’ll attempt to prove that in this post.

When the Nikon D500 was announced, I could not believe my eyes.  This camera was a long time coming and many think, too long!  (Myself included in this group.)  In 2013, after retiring from my professional career, I switched from my extensive Nikon gear (D3, D4 & a bunch of pro glass), to all Fuji APS-C gear.  I wanted to go smaller and lighter with good quality lenses and great image quality.  It seemed a no brainer.  The D500 was still just a dream.

I soon learned after investing in a Fuji X-T1, X-E2, and X-Pro2, and many lenses, that the cameras were just too small and light for me.  They produced great images but I had a very difficult time using them.  Along came the D500.  I did not want the bulk of the D810 nor did I want to spend that kind of money on a body again, so the D500 looked perfect.

I bought it, along with a used (9+) 17-55mm f2.8G ED Nikkor lens.  I later added the MB-D17 battery grip.  It’s a brick, I know, but still, a smaller brick than my beloved D4!  I paid $1995 for the D500 and only $730 for the lens off Ebay, through a trusted store.  Not a bad deal.

Most everything I was reading about the camera pertained to using long lenses, along with the incredible D5 focusing module.  These articles hit mostly on the focusing ability and really didn’t get into image quality and the real versatility of the camera.

I found the camera to be very well suited for travel, editorial and any general assignment photography a pro would come up against and certainly what any non-pro would need. From the images you’ll see it is superb at higher ISO’s and has a very wide dynamic range for an APS-C CMOS sensor.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 23mm, 1/250th, f5.6, -⅔ EV, 3200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

I was able to try out the fantastic focusing abilities of the D500 at the 2016 International Firefighters Combat Challenge.  It takes a little practice but it worked flawlessly and will make any non-pro photographing their active children quite happy, not to mention the pro that needs the speed, and reach, for sports or wildlife photography.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 55mm, 1/500th, f5.6, 100 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

I took the camera to Old Alabama Town to see how the camera would perform at a little editorial travel photography.  Even though this is an outdoor museum, most of the interesting imagery is inside and in very dark and challenging settings.  I shot for a couple of hours and doubt I got much below 2000 ISO except for a few outdoor images.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 32mm, 1/250th, f6.3, 125 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

I am really impressed with the color depth and the workability of the files in post.  I processed all of these images using Adobe Lightroom CC ®.  I use VSCO presets most of the time, as a starting point, and work from there.  I tend to like high contrast, saturated, images, as you will see.  This does tend to bring out the digital “noise” in any image but I really don’t care.  I think you will see the Nikon D500 noise pattern is exceptional and, to me, looks more like film grain.  I actually like this look on my images.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 19mm, 1/250th, f3.2, 2200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 24mm, 1/250th, f2.8, 2200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

Now, I know there is a lot of marketing hype by “Canikon” pushing the so called “full frame” cameras.  They do this because those cameras have a higher profit margin.  Can’t blame them for that, I guess.  But, don’t think for a minute you have to have one to get good quality images, even in very low light.  It just isn’t so any longer.  There are other reasons to own that full frame camera, of course.  But for my current needs, this D500 will be quite enough.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 38mm, 1/100th, f5.6, 160 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

One thing that really impressed me about this camera was the Auto ISO function.  I tend to  use this setting when not shooting in a studio.  In the early days, it was hit or miss on getting the right exposure.  Not so now.  I shoot either in manual mode, controlling both my shutter speed and aperture depending on the subject or in aperture priority, both in Auto ISO.  Shooting in RAW (NEF), I rarely have to adjust the exposure value more than a half stop.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 34mm, 1/50th, f4, 2200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 17mm, 1/50th, f5.6, 3200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

The bottom line; the D500 is not just for birding. 🙂  The only real drawback that I can see is Nikon’s pathetic DX lens line up.  They are pushing the FX concept to the point that I really don’t see a follow-up to the D500.  Maybe I’m too cynical.  This camera can be a lot of things to a lot of people with just a little more attention to producing quality, fast, DX lenses, especially on the wide end.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t turn down a Nikon D810 and a couple of pro lenses, but until someone is in a generous mood, I’ll stick with my D500 and 17-55mm f2.8G ED.

Fuji X-Pro2 | Making Me Smile

O.K., many of you know I shot Nikon, both amateur and professionally, from 1967 to 2013.  But, I made the switch to Fuji after using an X-Pro1, and retiring my photography business.  I initially wanted smaller, lighter, and cheaper camera gear for my now, casual photography.

I first bought an X-E2 and then the new X-T1.  I had only borrowed the X-Pro1 to test the waters.  I love the form factor of the X-E2, and I love the huge EVF of the X-T1.  And, I missed the size of the X-Pro1.  You often don’t hear that from all the reviewers out there, but I really liked the size.  It was kind of the “Goldilocks” size and form factor for me.

Along came the X-Pro2, (Finally)!  I read every review I could find on the pre-production model; most good, a few good but with caveats attached.  I had to have one, so, I pre-ordered one with my fingers crossed.

I don’t “review” cameras.  I’m not a techie type of guy.  This is not a review.  All I can say is that this camera, X-Pro2, just makes me smile.

My big likes are the stunning Jpegs, the “joystick” used for focus point changes, the high ISO capabilities, and the control layout.  My only dislike is the new way to adjust ISO.  I much preferred that in the Q menu.  In my older age, it is just too difficult to see in that tiny window, especially in low light.  But that’s the only negative I’ve found.

I got a chance to shoot part of the Alabama High School Rodeo held in Garrett Coliseum, Montgomery Alabama.  It was the worst light I have shot in.  It was so bad (low) I had to shoot between 8,000 and 12,800 ISO at 1/500th – 1/800th sec, using my 60mm f2.4, wide open.  There was just no way to get to an appropriate shutter speed for the action.  Most of what I shot was at 12,800 ISO with a few at 8,000 or 10,000 ISO.

For the first time ever I shot action with a Fuji.  My X-Pro2 was set to continuous zone focus and the shutter to high continuous (8fps).  I would switch back to single point for the non action shots.  It was so easy and fast with the way Fuji designed the 4-way controller. I could not believe how well it performed using the very slow to focus 60mm f2.4 lens.

The images below were shot either in Acros G, or Classic Chrome simulation, Jpegs.  I only tweaked the contrast on the images.  My settings were: NR -4, S Tone -2, H Tone 0, Color +2 (for Classic Chrome), and Sharpness +1.

One last comment.  Take these images for what they are.  I realize you would not be able to print them 30″x20″ or whatever.  They would certainly be good enough for any print newspaper and anyones photo album or website.  My take away is that the new Fuji X-Pro2, (and the new X-T2 expected soon), is an awesome camera in a very small package!  It puts a smile on my face!!  All of these images will be up on My Flickr Page within the week for larger versions.

Cowgirls Waiting to Ride
60mm, f2.4, 1/3000, 400 ISO – © 2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/200, 800 ISO - ©2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/200, 800 ISO – ©2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 12,800 ISO, +¾ EV - © 2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 12,800 ISO, +¾ EV – © 2016 Rick Lewis
Who is winning this battle?
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 8,000 ISO, +¾ EV – ©2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 12,800 ISO - © 2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 12,800 ISO – © 2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 12,800 ISO - © 2016 Rick Lewis
60mm, f2.4, 1/800, 12,800 ISO – © 2016 Rick Lewis
55-200mm f3.5-4.8 OIS, 164mm, f4.6, 1/500, 12,800 ISO - © 2016 Rick Lewis
55-200mm f3.5-4.8 OIS, 164mm, f4.6, 1/500, 12,800 ISO – © 2016 Rick Lewis
55-200mm f3.5-4.8 OIS, 164mm, f4.6, 1/500, 12,800 ISO - © 2016 Rick Lewis
55-200mm f3.5-4.8 OIS, 164mm, f4.6, 1/500, 12,800 ISO – © 2016 Rick Lewis
X-E2 - 60mm, f2.4, 1/180, 6,400 ISO - © Rick Lewis
X-E2 – 60mm, f2.4, 1/180, 6,400 ISO – © Rick Lewis



Nikon to Fujifilm X | One Year After the Switch

This Blog post may surprise a few of my friends and colleagues, as I have not made a big deal of switching to a completely new, (for me), camera system.  I had been a Nikon shooter since a teenager in 1967.  I started with a Nikkormat FS in 1967.  It didn’t have a light meter but it was all I could afford at 15 years of age.  Over the years I acquired a Nikkormat FTn, Nikkormat EL, Nikon F2 Photomic, Nikon D70, Nikon D200, Nikon D3, D3s, and finally the D4.

The Seeds Are Planted

During the spring and summer of 2013 I began an email conversation with a very well known commercial photographer and teacher, Will Crockett.  I read or watched a Blog post of his describing the changes he saw coming in photography.  They centered around mirrorless cameras and their ability to capture stills and video.  I was intrigued by his insights so I emailed him.  We corresponded and discussed the pros and cons of Olympus, Panasonic, and Fujifilm cameras.  I told him I was much more interested in still photography and didn’t really care about video.  He recommended I look into Fuji cameras.  He then offered to loan me one of his Fujifilm X-Pro1’s along with the “kit lens”, (18-55mm f2.8-f4, OIS) and the 60mm f2.4 macro.

©2013 Rick Lewis   X-Pro1, ISO 400, 1/900th @ f8, 18-55mm @20.5mm  Shot as Jpeg
©2013 Rick Lewis X-Pro1, ISO 400, 1/900th @ f8, 18-55mm @20.5mm Shot as Jpeg

I shot several hundred images during that week of shooting with the X-Pro1, including the one above.  I only shot jpegs, no RAW, (RAF).  At that time Lightroom 4.7 was just awful converting Fuji RAW images.  Now, I knew of Fujifilm from the wonderful jpeg machines of their early pro digital cameras, the S3 and S5 Pro.  I had no idea they made this new “X” camera.  While I was not in love with the ergonomics and quirks of handling the X-Pro, I loved the end result; and in such a small, light package.  At the end of the week, I mailed the gear back to Will.  I was still shooting with my Nikon D4 but realized I never took it with me when I left the house.  I looked back and remembered that little X-Pro went with me everywhere.  It was fun again, not hefting the brick of a camera and large glass.

The Switch

I began to, over the next several months, miss the X-Pro1 in my hand.  Even with all the faults, and believe me, there are faults.  I realized the camera made me stop and think about what I was photographing.  It was slow, but, it was more like what I remembered in my earlier days.  It was fun again.  I had always said my D3 and D4 were just outrageously expensive point and shoot cameras.  They are FAST, no doubt, and after initial set up you do just mostly point and fire off frames.  At least I did.

My needs had changed.  I moved to Montgomery, Alabama, from Tampa Florida.  My business was virtually non existent and I really did not need the big cameras and big glass that my Nikon system provided.  I was ready to downsize, and slow down.

In December of 2013 I made the switch.  I sold all of my Nikon gear and started with the Fuji X-E2 camera.  I bought all the Fujinon XF lenses I thought I would need for the new direction my business was taking me.  I bought the X-E2 because it had an updated 16MP sensor and processor and some other features that made it a little more shooter friendly than the aging X-Pro1.  And, there were rumors of a new, updated X-Pro just around the corner.

©2014 Rick Lewis  X-E2  35mm f1.4 lens, ISO 1600 1/200th @f2.8
©2014 Rick Lewis X-E2 35mm f1.4 lens, ISO 1600 1/200th @f2.8
©2014   X-E2  18-55mm @24mm (35mm equiv), ISO 200  10sec @f8
©2014 X-E2 18-55mm @24mm (35mm equiv), ISO 200 10sec @f8

The new and improved X-Pro never made it but Fuji came out with a real winner, the X-T1. That was my next purchase and my second camera body.  It has the same sensor and processor that my X-E2 has so the images look identical.  This was important to me as a professional. The X-E2 would be my backup camera on professional jobs.  I didn’t want different looks to images if I had to switch out cameras in the middle of a shoot.

My Ending Thoughts

I have no regrets in ditching my Nikon gear for the Fuji X system.  Please understand I loved the quality of my Nikon equipment.  I shot Nikon for 47 years and was a member of Nikon Professional Service (NPS).  I would never discourage anyone from buying and using Nikon professional cameras.  I preferred them over Canon for many reasons.  But, my needs changed.

I switched because I didn’t need the fast cameras and lenses, or the bulk, any longer.  I wanted to slow my photography down a notch.  I wanted photography to be fun again.  I switched to Fuji because of the wonderful image quality, the smaller size and weight, and the lenses.  It is a total package for me.  The bonus with mirrorless, is the WYSIWYG function of the EVF.  Now I can see immediately if I need to make a White Balance adjustment before the shutter fires.  I’m getting things right in the the camera and relying less on post.  In fact, I find I use the jpegs instead of the RAW images more than half the time.

I posted more X-E2 images here to show the quality of this little camera.  It’s small and unassuming but produces spectacular images.  Give the Fuji’s a try and you’ll probably be hooked too.

©2014  X-E2  18-55mm @26.5mm (40mm equiv), ISO 6400, 1/25th @f4, handheld w/OIS
©2014 X-E2 18-55mm @26.5mm (40mm equiv), ISO 6400, 1/25th @f4, handheld w/OIS
©2014  X-T1  60mm Macro lens, ISO 400, 1/200th @f4
©2014 Rick Lewis   X-T1 60mm Macro lens (90mm equiv), ISO 400, 1/200th @f4


Montgomery Curb Market – Alabama

A couple of months ago I read a piece in the local paper, Montgomery Advertiser, that was about the oldest farmer’s market in Alabama.  Having only moved to the area one year ago, I had never heard of the place known as the Montgomery Curb Market.  My wife knew of it and had shopped there several times in the past when visiting her folks in Montgomery.  She wanted to go again so I thought I would tag along and get a couple of photographs.

Montomery Curb Market

The market is located at 1004 Madison Ave, Montgomery Alabama.  It got its start in the 1920’s, and moved to this location in 1947.  It has thrived at this location for over 65 years!

Montomery Curb Market

Inside you’ll find a few flowers, and a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Montomery Curb Market

Everyone is very friendly and if you don’t see what you want, just ask.  They’ll be sure to tell you if another vendor may have it.

Montomery Curb Market

One important thing to remember, bring cash.  Nothing else is accepted.

Montomery Curb Market

If it can be put up in jars, you will probably find it.  This booth had it all!

Montomery Curb Market

Wild honey?  Yup, they have it.

Montomery Curb Market

Clanton peaches?  They have those too, and bunches of them!

Montomery Curb Market

We enjoyed shopping there.  We went on July 5th and there were only about 20 or so vendors there.  It was nice though because it can really get crowded from what I am told.  I had a little more room to get some pictures.  We will definitely be going back.

Montomery Curb Market

Alabama Travel – Aldridge Gardens | Birmingham

I made a trip to Aldridge Gardens in Birmingham Alabama this past weekend.  I really didn’t want to go on a Saturday and I didn’t want to go in the middle of the day, for photographing it, but the opportunity came up and I went.

Aldridge Gardens has a reputation, in this area, as a photographer’s paradise, especially for family portrait photography, as well as a beautiful wedding venue.  I quickly found out why.  The gardens are so popular with photographers that management has now had to set up a system to manage the many professionals that wish to use this beautiful backdrop.  Go to their website menu under “Photo Guild Gallery”, for all the information on fees and restrictions.

On this day I was there as a tourist.  In late June not much is in bloom so there was some disappointment there.  Also, on this particular day the gardens were hosting their annual art festival.  That wasn’t good for me either as there were people wandering around everywhere!  Photo ops were hard to come by.

One big plus was I met Maurice Cook, a very talented artist.  His art could be described as “Black Americana”.  What ever you call it, it was mesmerizing.  I think like most, I don’t know much about art, except, I know what I like and don’t like.  Maurice Cook’s work definitely had an impact on me.  He is only locally known.  He has no website nor email address.  He told me up until two weeks previous, he didn’t even have a cell phone.  You can see some of his work by Googling “Maurice Cook Artist”, then go to “Images”.  It’s not much but worth the look.  I was able to make two quick portraits of him.

Maurice Cook  ©Rick Lewis
Maurice Cook ©Rick Lewis


Maurice can be contacted my snail mailing him at:

Odd Job Art by Maurice Cook, 224 Mill Run Circle, Birmingham Alabama, 35226 or you can reach him at (205) 823-3191.

Maurice Cook, "Artist"  ©Rick Lewis
Maurice Cook, “Artist” ©Rick Lewis

After chatting with Maurice for a good while, I took a stroll through the gardens.

Summer meadow held back by split rail.
© Rick Lewis

The gardens are very diverse with numerous different elements.  This is truly a photographers paradise!

Calming waterfall.
© Rick Lewis

You will find tranquil streams and small waterfalls an, in the Spring, beautiful flowers everywhere.  There is even a small lake for a backdrop.  I found these beautiful blue hydrangeas blooming on this June day.

Blue Hydrangea
© Rick Lewis

If you find yourself in the Birmingham area, take a little side trip to Aldridge Gardens.  The admission is free, (donations appreciated), and in this case, you get much more than you pay for.

For larger versions of each of these images, please go to my Flickr page.  To contact me directly, email me at:



Alabama Travel Photography

There is a small town, about 30 or so miles south of Montgomery, Alabama, called Fort Deposit.  It sits just a few miles west of I-65.  It’s a little off the beaten path; not much going on.  That’s where I met Kenneth.

Kenneth the Care Taker

I was photographing the exterior of the Fort Deposit United Methodist Church when Kenneth drove up.  His small red pick up truck looked as weathered as Kenneth.  In a rather discernible southern accent, Kenneth asked if I would like to tour the inside of the church.  My first thought, when he drove up, was that I would be told to leave.  I guess I’m used to that.  People seem rather sensitive to photographers these days.

Turn of the century church
Fort Deposit United Methodist Church

Kenneth repeated his question and I said I’d love to.  The church is striking from outside, not anything like one would expect to find in a small poor county in Alabama.  The interior was just as beautiful.  Kenneth gave a brief history of the church stating it was originally built prior to the Civil War but subsequently burned down.  The new church, the one we were standing in, was completed in 1899.  I could only get a photograph of the stained glass.  It was just too dark for anything else.  I wish I could share more with you.

Church Stained Glass
Fort Deposit United Methodist Church

Kenneth pointed out the beautiful alter and the magnificent wood clad ceilings.  He spoke very lovingly of his church and his community.  Kenneth lamented that church attendance was now very low.  He said since the interstate highway was built, Fort Deposit had declined.

Gone but not forgotten.
Abandoned downtown Fort Deposit, Alabama, buildings.

I left the beautiful church and drove just one block east and saw what Kenneth was talking about.  A small downtown core that was mostly gone; buildings falling down, abandoned and or empty.

As I left Fort Deposit, I thought of Kenneth, and the pride in his eyes when he was showing me around his community’s church, talking of what once was.  I’m a newcomer to the deep South.  If Kenneth is an example of the human spirit I will find on my travels then I am  looking forward to more miles on the road.