Neil Colton Photographer: The Road Less Traveled » Lifestyle, Travel, Portrait & Fine Art Photography by Neil Colton

LIFESTYLE & TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: ARCADIA BLUFFS GOLF CLUB

This post features Arcadia Bluffs, one of the premier public links-style golf courses in the United States. It is rated the #3 course in the state of Michigan, #13 public course in the United States and ranked #68 of all courses, public and private, in the US.

Fine Art Prints from this series are available in the Arcadia Bluffs Collection here.

Portrait of a golfer at sunset putting as the sunsets on Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia MI.

 

 

Every photographer experiences a time of struggle, when the creative mojo disappears.

When my mojo went south, I went north. To recharge my creative batteries in beautiful northern Michigan.  Spending some quality time with friends and family was long overdue. After intense periods of work, with relentless deadlines, endless editing and demanding clients, time away from camera, computer and clients was sorely needed. But how to get those creative juices flowing again?

The solution? To the links, young man! I recpatured my mojo during a round of golf on one of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses I have ever set foot upon.

A place called Arcadia Bluffs.

From Wikipedia:

Golf Digest selected Arcadia Bluffs as one of the 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the United States in 2005. The course was ranked #10 in America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses list and #56 in the 100 Greatest Golf Courses list. In addition to the Golf Digest ranking, Golfweek magazine ranked Arcadia Bluffs at #24 in their listing of  The 100 Best Courses in United States.”

I am convinced that in the heart of every amateur golfer lies a belief, however fantastic, that one day, in one place, all those hours, days and weeks spent in toil on the practice tee and fairways will coalesce into a near perfect round.

On this day, in that place, for a few brief moments, that happened to me. At a place called Arcadia Bluffs.

Arcadia Bluffs is a links course, in the style of the early, and legendary, Irish and Scottish courses.  Carved into the bluffs on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is at once awe inspiring and intimidating.  At its highest point, the links are more than one hundred feet above Lake Michigan. The views from the elevated tee boxes are simply stunning. To play this course well is a true challenge for the average golfer. But add the pull of breath taking vistas and a dramatic and this becomes much more than a simple round of golf.

On to the images of Arcadia Bluffs and that sublime late summer day once uopn a time.

 

Portrait of Arcadia Bluffs golf course with golfers in the distance along Lake Michigan
Portrait of a golfer as he tees of at Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan.A gollfer tees of at Arcdia Bluffs Golf Coirse set against the brillaint summer Michigan sky.Silhouette portrait of a golfer teeing off toward Lake Michigan at Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course against a brilliant blue Lake Michigan.Still portrait of a golf ball on a green at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Candid portrait of a golfer putting at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of one of the majestic greens on the Arcadia Bluffs Glof Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of a lone golfer planning his approach shot on a fairway of the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan. bathed in late after Michigan summer sun.Portrait of a golfer driving his cart along the fairway as the sun sets on Lake Michigan at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Action portrait of a golfer powering his way out of a bunker on the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.
Candid portrait of a golfer chipping onto a green at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of a golfer chipping onto the green as the sun sets on Arcadia Bluffs golf course in Arcadia, MichiganSilhouette portrait of a golfer putting on the back nine of Arcsdia Bluffs with Lake Michigan in the background.Portrait of golfers on the tee at Arcadia Bluffs golf course, with Lake Michiga in the background.Portrait of the setting sun on Arcadia Bluffs Gof Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of the course at Arcadia Bluffs as the sun sets on Lake Michigan.Portrait of three golfers on the back nine of the course at Arcadia Bluffs.Night portrait of the clubhouse at Arcadia Bluffs, as viewed from the 18th fairway.

About the water color. Lake Michigan is blue like no blue I have ever seen.

That blue is real. I captured the images this day using the Neutral color setting on my Nikon DSLR pro body, as I do for all images I capture. For those of you who are Nikon shooters, you know that is the setting below standard. Out of the gate, Nikon’s Standard setting ramps up the colors far too much for my liking, so I choose the Neutral setting as a starting point and add color and saturation. I actually had to ramp down (decrease) the colors in many of these shots, even in Neutral, because they were so strong that they seemed supernatural.

 

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Washington, DC Lifestyle Photography: McKenna Farms

Lifestyle portait of Sarah and Joe at McKenna Farm

A short drive north of Washington, DC takes you to the historic City of Frederick, MD.

From the City of Frederic website:

HIP & HISTORIC

Here, museums meet martini bars, scenic landscapes provide thrill seekers with adventure, and cutting edge cuisine is served up in Civil War-era buildings alongside unique specialty shops, galleries, museums, and theaters.

Located less than one hour from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Gettysburg, the city of Frederick, Maryland is surrounded by mountain views, wineries, orchards and vibrant Main Street communities. Visitors can hike on the Appalachian Trail, visit Maryland’s largest brewery, and tour a battlefield all in one day.

This is Frederick County, where hip meets historic every day.

It is there, in the rolling hills and lush countryside of Frederic County, MD that you will find McKenna Farms, the country home and rural retreat of Joe Mckenna and Sarah Brennan. My assignment was to create lifestyle and portrait photography content for the new McKenna Farms website.

After a full day of shooting on a gorgeous late summer day with the very photogenic Sarah and Joe, we had created a series of lifestyle images and casual portraits that would connect them to visitors to their website and share their vision of McKenna Farms.

 

About Sarah, Joe and McKenna Farms, in their own words:

Our Journey


“In every city dweller, there are dreams of an escape to the country. But what happens when a city couple from D.C. purchase a 220 year-old farm house to try and live out their “Downton Abbey” dreams?

Well……that’s where our story begins and we can assure you that the execution of that dream has been far more difficult than anticipated; and our confidence often outshines our abilities and resources at every turn. But we find opportunity in every crisis and we are slowly mastering our new domain. We hope you’ll settle in and follow our journey from the Capitol to the Country.

The beginning. Like most city couples, we wanted to be part of the farm-to-table movement, eat locally, support smart farming, reduce our impact on the earth, etc. However, our participation stopped at our local farmer’s market because we didn’t have the time or the know-how to bring the country into our city lives.

We toyed with the idea of buying a little country house for years and when we finally did it, we imagined great weekend escapes with afternoons of skeet shooting and evenings of dressing-for-dinner. To our surprise, we quickly replaced those activities with eight-hour days in the garden and enough manual labor to make even the biggest outdoor lovers shutter. Somehow, and to our great surprise, we both became slightly addicted to a simpler lifestyle and all of the amazing things we were learning.

We had no idea just how happy we would be playing in the dirt, learning to grow our own food, raising animals, and bringing an old house back to life.  This is our journey from Capitol to Country.”

Joe & Sarah


 

Portrait of Sarah in the garden at McKenna Farm
Lifetsyle Portrait of Joe building a stone wall at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of products at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography of Sarah at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of Joe at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography of the garden at Mckenna FarmLifestyle Photography of Sarah in the garden at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of products at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of a table setting at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography at Mckenna FarmJoe & Sarah at the main house at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography of Sarah and Joe at McKenna Farm
Mckenna Farm Lifestyle Photography Sarah

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Washington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott Ranch

 

Another offering in an occasional series about travel and travel photography. This post features The Marriott Ranch in Hume, VA.

 

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: The Marriott Ranch, Hume, VA

 

Our Story

A gift of a stay at the Marriott Ranch and dinner at the historic Inn at Little Washington took us west on a brief holiday just before Christmas Day.

We arrived at the Inn at Fairfield (aka The Marriott Ranch) in the early evening on a Friday afternoon in December, as ominous deep blue-black clouds of a gathering storm swirled around the ranch as far as the eye could see. The 65 mile trip from our home in Old Towne Alexandria had taken more than 2 hours.  Traffic in Washington, DC is never good, but on Friday afternoon it is at its very wrost. The transition from a bustling urban scene to a primitive rural setting was welcomed. We were looking forward to this respite from the city, however brief.  Although our destination, Hume, VA, was new to us, the trip through Fauquier County, VA was not. For nearly 7 years we had lived in Warrenton, VA, a sleepy southern town once The Seat of The Confederacy.

It was familiar territory.

Once voted ‘One of The 10 Best Rural Counties to Live In in America’, Fauquier County has since experienced considerable growth and development, particularly in the northern regions near the suburban counties bordering Washington, DC.  But that development has yet to reach the western areas of Fauquier County, which retains it’s simple, primitive beauty, born of rolling hills, horse farms and unobstructed views of the Blueridge Mountains.

The 4,200 acre Marriott Ranch lies at the foot of that mountain range, only 18 miles from scenic Skyline Drive.

Once inside the Inn, we were greeted by Caroline, the concierge, a pleasant young lady dressed in jeans, blue denim shirt and work boots. She checked her laptop, confirmed our reservation and checked us in. Next up was a brief tour of the Inn and that ended in our spacious room overlooking those rolling hills.  Done for the day, Caroline said good bye, left the building and left us alone. Literally. Alone. This was the Friday before Christmas. Clearly not a peak time for visitors. As odd as the timing may seem. it was perfect for us.

Except for the permanent staff (2) and a caretaker living in an outbuilding, we were completely alone at The Fairfield Inn.

We settled in, refreshed ourselves and confirmed our reservations for what we anticipated would be the highlight of the weekend; dinner for two at The Inn at Little Washington. Once an average dining experience at a quaint country inn, a meal at the Inn at Little Washington is now the stuff of legend. The Inn’s culinary curriculum is the province of award winning chef Patrick O’Connell, a true artiste’ with an avocado, or any perishable fit to eat. And if not fit to eat, fit to photograph. O’Connell approaches food preparation much like David Lynch approaches film making, creating things that are unique, strange and exciting all at once. At $450 a couple, to start, the experience could easily disappoint.

It does not.

Even for an ascetic  non-dairy eating, vegetarian, tree hugging type like me, this was an event to remember. It made my wife proud to see me leave my culinary comfort zone and venture into the wilds of Chef O’Connell’s world.

With dinner in the books, the 20 minute trip from Little Washington back to the Marriott Ranch was uneventful, but the gathering storm was looking ever more ominous. High winds, heavy rain and dropping temperatures meant we were in for an eventful night at The Inn at Fairfield Farm. Fortunately, we were exhausted enough to sleep through the night and miss the excitement of falling trees, flying shingles and power outages that surrounded us.

The next morning arrived all too soon.

We fully expected to be alone at breakfast, but we were surprised to find 5 new guests had joined us during the night. A family from Bakersfield, CA had come to visit Elizabeth, the resident horse trainer and keeper of the hounds. Yes, Fox hounds. So, over a traditional Southern style breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits, coffee and orange juice, they filled the time with stories of Fox chases, runaway horses and driven Hound Masters (or is it Hunt Masters…) reveling in the thrill of the hunt. So that’s why people flocked to the ranch during the hunting season. Fox hunts in the tradition of the landed gentry. ‘Full  Cry’ and all that. If Fox Hunts are your passion, this is your place.

Breakfast done (I had the juice and a wondeful bagel-like thing) and stories of The Hunt behind us, we packed our gear and set out to have a longer look around. It wuld be our first in daylight.

Experienced travelers today will know that a stay at a Marriott facility can be a rather spartan experience. Well, it all started here. Clean, simple, utilitarian. The J. Willard Marriot signatur experience. Add WiFi and a semi-soft pillow and that’s the Marriott of today. Not far removed from the Inn at Fairfield Farm. What you need, but little more. The single concession to modernity at the Inn is the Common Room, where you’ll find a few board games, magazines (notably ‘Wine’ and ‘Virginia Horseman’ ) and a flat screen connected to satellite TV. With the exception of updated appliances, much at the Inn is like it may have been when J. Willard bought the place.

We stopped on our personal tour to chat with the ‘housekeeper’. She shared that, although J. Willard loved to spend time at the ranch, he never stayed in the Inn itself. Instead, he kept a trailer on the grounds, where he would camp on his visits. Even when Ronald Reagan visited, J. Willard camped in his trailer. Clean, simple, utilitarian. It all started here.

J. Willard was clearly an admirer of photography. Family photography and images of himself abound. Framed black and white images of Marriott, alone and with his considerable family, adorn the walls of the Inn. Little else does. The first floor Library is an historical gallery of photographs taken of the Marriotts over a stretch of many years. Reagan on horseback, Marriott on horseback, everyone on horseback. The family portraits are quite well done. Traditional poses, as you might expect, but composed, lit and captured in a timeless fashion.

As we walked, I looked up. Time and light was fading.

If I was going to capture any images of this place, it would have to be now. I had packed a basic travel kit- a Nikon FX DSLR and a couple of lenses. Always have that with me. Realizing that travel photography can often be a victim of circumstance (you often shoot images of where you are, without much preparation and with guests along), I decided to turn this shoot into an exercise; a teachable moment in travel photography. I would shoot like the average traveler might. One lens. One setting. Usually Auto, right. This could be a challenge. The skies had gone Gothic and greay and the light followed. Here comes the rain.

Get to it!

Twenty minutes later I was done.

I chose the my Nikkor 50mm 1.4G for this exercise. Great all around lens and perfect for low light. Nikon pro bodies, like my D4, don’t have an Auto setting, so I shifted into Program mode, which is professional jargon for Auto. Program just sounds better. Shooting in Program mode is a lot like listening to elevator music. All the highs and lows are compressed into an average mid tone that offends no one, but neither does it excite. The camera decides what’s best for the image. Usually f/5.6 and a shutter speed that will render the image with 18% grey as the target tone. Safe, but bland. But I pressed on. I tried to recall the last time I shot in Program mode. I could not. My first choice is Manual mode, then Aperture, then Shutter for action (AV and TV for Canon shooters), but for this exercise Program mode it would be.

Final tour and vacation photos done, we packed our gear and headed home, as the skies grew darker, the winds rose and the rain began to fall heavily.

Travel Photography: The Marriott Ranch in Hume, VA

 

Washington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott Ranch
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Washington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott RanchWashington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott Ranch

 

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A blast from the past as the cold winter temperatures decend on Washington, DC.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: THE MANISTEE CHRONICLES: THE ROAD HOME

 

Portrait of a small town scene outside a movie theater in Frankfort, Michigan.

 

The long cold winter rolls on here in Washington, DC.

If ever I was on the fence about the colder months of the year, this Washington winter has closed the deal. I’m not a cold weather hater, honest. I love the change of seasons here in the Mid Atlantic, but it is the change that I look forward to.  Winter has it’s place in my heart and in my running log (yes, I have a running log). I have been known to knock out a 10 miler in sub freezing temperatures and slog through ice and snow to get my workout in. A few years back, I ended up in The Washington Post for braving a winter blizzard just to get a 5 mile run in, when the entire city was shut down. My snow bound neighbor, a reporter for the Post, saw me running, thought it was timely feature material. The next thing I knew, I was in the news.

Some of the greatest distance runners in history lived, and trained, in the brutally cold Northeast. Think Bill Rodgers (Boston) and Joan Benoit-Samuelson (Maine). Two of the best distance runners the US has ever called its own. Rodgers once said that he welcomed the long northern winters. They forced him to slow down. Prevented injuries. Allowed him to recover and prepare for the grueling running season ahead. Benoit-Samuelson credited her amazing stamina and perseverance to consistently training in the the toughest conditions possible. And was she ever tough. She had a hard won reputation for never dropping out of a race, never taking a short cut and never,ever, cutting a training run short. Even when no one was watching. Even if she was injured or running in monsoon-like rains or freezing temps.

But I’m no Olympian.

The days of ultra long sub 6 minute mile runs are long gone for me. No more road races. I’m just happy to be here, logging a few miles on the tree covered trails that wrap around a nearby lake on a warm spring day. That’s enough for me. On that freezing winter day when I made the news, I was running to get the briefest of breaks from my beautiful wife (she really is!) and our 4 incredibly active young children, all crammed into a small suburban townhouse for days and days on end.

So what does this have to with travel photography, you ask. Excellent question! Here it comes.

This very long winter (8 more inches of snow and steady sub-zero temperatures last week!) has given me the gift of time. Time to organize and edit images and do tasks that would normally be left undone. Not a gift I expected, but one with unexpected benefits.

Like rediscovering these images.

I was about to move this series into the archives, but as I sorted through them I realized there was a story there. Not a long or compelling story but a good story, nonetheless. With images from a time and place that lifted me, however briefly, from this bone chilling air. Did I mention golf? No. Then get ready, because if  you play the game, whatever your level, you’ll enjoy these shots.  If not, you’ll enjoy them as travel photography images of a unique and beautiful golf course.

Shot at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, this particular round of golf improves in my memory with each day that passes. The camera was also with me as we traveled to and from our lodgings in the beautiful quaint city of Manistee.

So, what of the title Travel Photography: The Manistee Chronicles: The Road Home. I’ll explain.

After a week in late summer in northern Michigan, our car was loaded and ready for the long trek back to the suburbs of Washington, DC, our home. I grabbed a full frame Nikon DSLR pro body, popped on the ever faithful  24-70 f/2.8, set shutter at 1/500, took a few test shots, adjusted the aperture, checked the shots again and crawled into the passenger seat. Terrie, my (beautiful!) wife, drove  first, as I snapped pictures of the Midwest countryside. We’d been warned by our Michigan hosts that the landscape home may not change for hours. Farmaland and barns they said. They were oh so right.

So, after a few hundred miles of flat farmland, and a few dozen shots of the road ahead of and around us, Terrie and I changed places and we headed home, knowing nothing of the long cold winter that would come. I hope you enjoy these images from our time in northern Michigan and The Road Home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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