Neil Colton Photographer: The Blog » Lifestyle, Travel & Fine Art Photography by Neil Colton


Another offering in an occasional series about lifestyle and travel photography. This post features Arcadia Bluffs, one of the premier public links-style golf courses in the United States, rated the #3 course in the state of Michigan.

Fine Art Prints from this series are now available online on my website 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 and demanding clients, time away from the camera and clients was a well deserved and sorely needed. But how to get those creative juices flowing again?  Unlikely as it may seem, or perhaps to be expected, I got my creative mojo back 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 fairways will coalesce into a near perfect round.

On this day, in this 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 simply play this course well is a true challenge for the average golfer. But add the pull of amazing vistas and a layout second to none and this becomes much more than a simple round of golf.

But I digress. 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 kid you not. I captured all images using the Neutral setting on my Nikon DSLRs, as I do for all images I capture. For you Nikon shooters that’s a setting below standard. By below, I mean less saturated than the standard settings. Nikon’s Standard setting ramps up the colors far too much for my liking. The colors in the Standard setting seem unnatural and over saturated to me, with too much pop. Almost cartoon like. So, I choose the Neutral setting and add color and saturation as needed, in post productiion. I actually had to ramp down (decrease) the colors in many of these shots, because they were so starong and powerful they seemed supernatural.

At one point, a local resident started to explain why the lake was so blue, but he lost me at kelp.



Lifestyle Photographyof a couple on the Georgetown Waterfront in Washington, DC.


The afternoon sun bathes the Georgetown waterfront in a warm golden glow on a cool, crisp afternoon in late November.

Add a beautiful couple and the work of a Washington, DC  lifestyle photographer turns to the task of creating compelling images. To create compelling lifestyle images, location matters. Fortunately, I work in Washington, DC, one of the most photogenic and photographer-friendly cities in the US. With its broad, well lit streets, low skyline and accessible architecture, this city never lacks for good locations.

For this session, I chose Georgetown. Located on the western edge of the city, bordered by the Potomac River and laced with style, light and texture, Georgetown is consistently one of my favorite places to work. I can shoot a dozen sessions there and create a different portfolio for each session, by simply walking a short distance. Depending on the look I’m interested in, Georgetown has many faces. Along the C&O Canal are the gritty remants of its industrail past. One block north, along Wisconsin Avenue, finds the energy of new architecture and the upscale urban life.  A few short minutes away from the city center is the elegance of the historic architecture of the residential areas surrounding the street life.

I met Amit & Veronique at Dean and DeLuca’s on a beautiful late fall day. With clear skies, crisp fall air, temperatures in the high 50s and just enough chill in the air to add a touch of red to the cheeks, the day was near perfect. We spent the next two hours strolling along the Georgetown waterfront, looking for the right light and the right spots to shoot. At the end of the day, we had a wonderful collection of photographs for this couple to add to their growing portfolio of lifestyle images.

A few of my favorites from the session with Amit & Veronique.

Candid portrait of a couple strolling along the Potomac River in Washington DC.
Candid portrait of a couple walking along the Georgetown waterfront in Washington DC.Lifestyle Photographyof a couple on the Georgetown Waterfront in Washington, DC.Portrait of Amit and Veronique strolling along the Georgetwon waterfront in Washington DC.Fine Art Portrait of Amit and Veronique on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington DC.Portrait of Veronique and Amit near the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, DC.Portrait of Amit near the Key Bridge in Washington, DC.Fine Art Black and white portrait of a couple on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, DC.






The Lincoln Memorial by Neil Colton Photographer


Washington, DC Travel Photography Tours

Join me for a private photography tour of the historic city of Washington, DC. With its broad, well lit streets, low skyline and classic monumental architecture, Washington is one of the most photogenic and photographer friendly cities in the world.

My goal is to provide intimate, informative and highly enjoyable photographic tours of this beautiful capital city.  As a resident of Washington for more than two decades, I have developed a very personal relationship with the city of Washington. I began my professional photography careerhere,  as an architectural photographer.  After working as a photojournalist and commercial photographer for more than a decade, I am eager to share my knowledge of photography, and this beautiful city, with others.

I work alongside you, sharing my technical and creative knowledge of photography and the history of the iconic sites we will vsist.  I believe this hands-on approach is the most effective way to teach you the aspects of photography that cannot be learned online or in books. My personal workshops and private tours are kept small and intimate to allow me to give you personal instruction and work with you directly, throughout the day.

My most popular tours focus on the historic and iconic sights of Washington, but I also offer tours of Georgetown, Adams Morgan, DuPont Circle, Capital Hill, the exciting new Southwest Waterfront and the stunning new African American Museum of Art and Culture. All workshops and photography tours are customized especially for you or your small group of up to 4 photographers.

I can guide you on a tour that I design or one that includes just the loactions you choose. At the end of the day you will have an exciting new portfolio of images of the city of Washington, DC and its people.

From a recent tour client:

“It was truly a great experience having you personally taking me around the city of Washington and teaching me excellent photography tips and insights from your considerable personal experience.”

Dr. Ian L.

Santa Monica, CA

For more Testimonials click here.

To arrange a custom tour, please contact me for availability and rates.


About Neil

Neil’s professional photography experience includes architectural photography, photojournalism, travel photography, event photography, commercial lifestyle photography, editorial photography and portrait photography. Neil has created content for clients such as AirBnb, 500px and Source Media, among others. He has photographed award winning architecture for several of Washington, DC’s leading architecture and design firms. Neil has also worked for international non-profit organizations, NGOs, newspapers and magazines, honing the art and craft of visual story telling. Today, Neil’s focus is on teaching and creating fine art images for exhibition and sale. Neil is a former Professional Member of the American Photographic Artists (APA) and The American Society of Media Photographers.


POrtrait of a couple kissing on an escalator in Washington DC.

Cold weather coming? Winter in the air? No problem for a photographer in the very photogenic city of Washington, DC. Here’s a flashback to one of my favorite winter lifestyle sessions.


Washington, DC Lifestyle Photography: Sarah & Jake


The high temperature in Washington, DC may climb to a sizzling 30 degrees today.

Add winds gusting to 25mph and the real feel is near zero. For the residents of the city of Washington, this will be one very cold day. Today’s weather reminds of a nearly identical day in January last year, when I photographed Sarah and Jake during a lifestyle photography session here in the city.

Washington is a beautiful city for location photography, but when the temperatures drop and the winds start coursing through the National Mall, the location of first choice is not outdoors. Our original plan was to shoot on the National Mall, using the iconic sites and monumental architecture of Washington as a backdrop. But with high winds and brutally low temperatures, it was no place for an outdoor session, unless pink cheeks are your thing.

So indoors we went, to one of my favorite places – the East Wing of The National Gallery of Art.

I began my career as a photographer photographing architecture. Those who know me well, know that I love combining images of people with the built environment. At this point in my career, the contrast, context and the energy that the city brings to my photography are part of my photographic style. Good architecture adds an element that complements the visual story and provides a compositional anchor to build on.

So, shooting a location session in one of Pei’s creations was an absolute pleasure.

From the moment I first became aware of his work, I have been an ardent admirer of I.M. Pei. He has the unique ability to create architecture that is at once outside the box, by design, but somehow finds a way to blend into, and enhance, its surroundings. The East Wing is a perfect example – an ultra modern structure woven into the fabric of the tradtional monumental architecture that is Washington, DC and the National Mall. The East Wing is one of the first examples of iconic modern architecture in this city and it has held up well as the number of award winning modern buildings in the city has slowly increased.  Pei’s interior design, and the beautiful natural light of the East Wing, made this a perfect setting to capture images of Jake and Sarah.

Fortunately, January is not high season for tourism in Washington, DC so we had the unusual experience of being nearly alone. This session turned out to be one of my favorites. A delightful couple and award winning modern architecture. A combination hard to beat.



Canidid portarit of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.
Portrait of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.POrtrait of a couple kissing in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple kissing in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple during an engagement session in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple in a gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple talking on an escalator during an engagement session in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple on an escalator in a Washington DC gallery.POrtrait of a couple kissing on an escalator in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple kissing inside a sculpture at a Wasgington DC gallery.
Candid portrait of a couple talking on a balcoony during an engagement session in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple on an escalator in a museum in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple talking on a pedestrian bridge in a Washington DC museum.Portrait of a couple in a museum on the National Mall in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple riding an escalator in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple on an escalator during an engagement session in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple during an engagement session in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a girl kssing her fiancePortrait of a couple on the National Mall in Washington DC


A Washington, DC photographer’s view of Charleston, SC, in an ongoing series about travel and travel photography. In 2015, Charleston was the #1 city to visit in the US and #2 in the world, according to Travel & Leisure Magazine.





This was supposed to be Barcelona.

Instead, we are sitting on a rock hard plank bench in the front of a weather beaten covered wooden wagon, being pulled by two aging mules through the streets of this 350 year old southern American city. Yes, mules. From our tour guide, we learn that mules are best for this sort of thing. Less mercurial. More cooperative. Easier to manage. Who knew. As we start the tour, our resident-scholar-farm-boy-part-time-law-student-turned-tour-guide launches into a monologue about South Carolina’s glorious political heritage,  embodied in that great southern independent thinker, statesman and champion of free thought,  Strom Thurmond. Terrie and I trade concerned glances. I look at my watch. We are 10 minutes in. This tour will last an hour plus. This is going to be a very long ride. The oppressive heat and humidity of high summer in the south engulfs us. We roll on.

Through the storied city of Charleston, South Carolina.

Back to Barcelona. This trip was to start there. We would fly into El Prat Airport, in Spain, spend a few wonderful days in Barcelona, then hire a car and drive though scenic northwestern Spain to Andorra. From Andorra, we would travel along the eastern coast of France to Marseille and Monaco. Slowly, we would wind our way to Paris, reveling in the French countryside and treating ourselves to the local cuisine, washed down with the wine dujour. It was settled. Done. Reservations had been made. Only the plane tickets were left to buy. Then, at the last minute, an unexpected change in my work schedule forced us to create a new itinerary, stateside.

A trip to Paris and Barcleona had been easy for us to agree on. Where to go in North America would not be so easy.

I lobbied to go north. Quebec City had been wonderful. We fell in love with the city and vowed to return, soon. That was nearly 10 years ago. My vote was Quebec. No contest. Quebec City with a Montreal chaser. Let’s book the flight. Terrie loved Quebec, right? Yes, she did, but not for this trip. This time, she decided, we were going south, to the Carolinas.  Happy wife, happy life, right. She prevailed. We would travel south, with day trips into the deep south, where we could enjoy “southern hospitality”, experience the “beauty of the old south” and “travel to places we had never been before”. Reluctantly, I was IN.

Next stop, Charleston, South Carolina.

Consistently ranked as one of the 10 Best Cities to visit in the US, Charleston knows how to take care of tourists and travelers.

From Wikipedia:

‘Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people, Charleston has received numerous accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly City” by Travel + Leisure in 2011, and 2013 and 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler and “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.’

Charleston is all that and more.

Looking back, I wish we had planned more time in Charleston. As it was, this was the third/fourth stop on our Southern Tour, after stops along the Carolina coast and a trip to Savannah, Georgia. By the time we arrived in Charleston, I had one eye on the road north, heading home to Washington, DC. This would be the last leg of this trip and we had clearly saved the best for last. In the end, we only allowed for a few days in Charleston. It deserved more.

Back on the covered wagon.

The tour picked up pace, politics made way for historic architecture and stories of the history of this charming city. A cool evening breeze moved in, clearing away the heat and humidity of the day. Our tour guide even taught us how to make southern fried cheese. Really.


For Travelers and Photographers

Charleston is a very photogenic city, as you can see. Lots of good eye candy there. I was drawn to the French Quarter on this trip. My interest in architecture and history led me there. The French Quarter, alone, could keep a traveling photographer busy for days. I had an hour and a half, over two days. I tried to use it wisely.

The images I have included for this post were captured on two separate days over a combined period of about three hours. That’s not a lot of photography, at least not for me. On an assignment, or traveling alone, I’ve been known to shoot from dawn to dusk, grab some food for fuel, then head out again after dark. Depending on the place and the assignment, that could go on for days or weeks.

Like most vacations, I was not alone.  I shot this more like a tourist might. A snapshot of the city, but not the whole story. Not compelling content, but rather a collection of photographs that convey a sense of place.

Most of us don’t travel to beautiful cities, alone, simply to photograph them. We are traveling with friends and/or family. The challenge for photographers on vacation, and vacation travelers with cameras, is how to capture a place with memorable images, without straining relationships with friends and family. Here are a few tips that can help you capture the sense of a place and still keep the peace with your significant other.

  • Scout before you go. Take a virtual tour of the city or place you’ll be visiting. Identify the areas, and things, that will help you tell the story of your visit. Have a plan for your photography, before you arrive.
  • Work your photography into the flow of the vacation. Wedge an hour of photography into a shopping trip or the like. Take a stroll, together, through parts of the city you want to photograph, with a shared event, like lunch or dinner at a special place, as the end reward for patience.
  • Travel light. I carry one camera body and 2/3 lenses, max. In Charleston, I used my Nikon D4 and 2 lenses to capture all of the images here. The 24-70 f/2.8 is my workhorse for travel photography. For details and tight shots, I use the 70-200 f/2.8. I prefer the VR II version. On this trip, the 70-200 wasn’t with me, so I used a 20 year old 80-200 f/2.8 AFS as my long lens. No VR, but still a great lens. You don’t need the latest and greatest gear to create good images. What matters more is good technique and a good eye for your subjects.
  • Know your gear. This seems like common sense, right. Funny, though, how people (photographers included) often wait until the moment they are about to press the shutter release (or after…) to learn their way around the gear they have in their hands. Know before you go. Your pictures will be better for it.
  • Keep it simple. Visual story telling, for travel photography, is about creating  a collection of images that convey a sense of place. Trying to capture that singular image that your friends, family (or editor somewhere) will swoon over, will take valuable time away from the rest of the story. Odds are that a completely unscripted, unintended, brilliant scene will come along and you’ll be there to capture it.
  • Be conservative, but be good. This is not a political suggestion, even though this is Charleston. No, this is about doing the best you can to capture images quickly and well, then moving on to the next image. If you’re a professional photographer, you know this. Enough said. Working with amateur photographers in workshops and tutoring sessions, I often see a need to overshoot. Dozens of images of the same scene, hoping that at least one of them is a keeper. Control this and your work, and life, will be better for it. Think quality, not quantity.

Neil offers private photography tours in the beautiful city of Washington, DC. Contact Neil to arrange a tour.

Now, to Charleston.