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

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



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.








A Washington, DC photographer’s view of Charleston, SC, in an ongoing series about travel and travel photography. In a recent survey by Travel & Leisure Magazine, Charleston was ranked the #1 city to visit in the United States and #2 in the world.



This was supposed to be Barcelona.

Instead, we are sitting on a rock hard wooden plank bench in the front of a weather beaten covered wagon, being pulled by two aging mules through the streets of this 350 year old southern city in North America. Yes, mules. From our smiling rotund tour guide, we learn that mules are clearly best for this sort of thing. Much better than horses. 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 independent thinker, statesman of the south 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 be two hours. This is going to be a very long ride. The oppressive heat and humidity of high summer in the deep south engulfs us. We roll on.

Through the storied historic city of Charleston, South Carolina.

Back to Barcelona. We had planned this trip 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 through scenic northwestern Spain to Andorra, where we would luxuriate. From Andorra, we would work our way 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 assignment forced us to create a new itinerary, stateside.

Making travel plans is not always easy work, if you’re not taveling alone. Paris and Barcleona had been easy for us to agree on. Where to go in North America would not be so easy.

I lobbied for the north. Quebec City had been wonderful. We fell in love with the place 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 said, we were going south, to the Carolinas.  Happy wife, happy life, I recall someone saying.

A trip south would be delightful, she said. 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. And how pleasantly surprised was I.

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

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 now, I wish we had planned more time in Charleston. As it was, this was the fourth stop on our Southern Tour, following 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 our trip.  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 beautiful,  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 that sense of a place and still keep the peace with your significant other.

  • Scout before you go. Search online for virtual tours and photo guides of your destination. Identify the areas, places 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. Include 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 that was in ship for reapir 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 is about creating a collection of images that convey a sense of the vity, town or place you are visiting. 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. Look for icons and symbols that will resonate with your viewers and connect them to your story.
  • 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 them 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.
  • Practice, practice, practce. Enough said.

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

Now, to Charleston.



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. For that, 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 great locations.

Toady, I choose Georgetown.

Located on the western edge of the city, bordered by the Potomac River and an urban hub graced 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, simply by walking a short distance. Depending on the look I want, Georgetown offers more distinct settings for photography than other location in the city.  Along the C&O Canal are the gritty remnants of its industrial past and all that comes with that. One block north, along Wisconsin Avenue, is the high energy energy of new architecture and the upscale urban life. A few short minutes away from the urban scene, the residential areas provide an elegant backdrop of classic, historic row houses on tree-lined streets.

I met Amit & Veronique at Dean and DeLuca’s on a beautiful day in late November. 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 and for me to add to my ever growing portfolio of lifestyle images.

A few of my favorite images from this 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.




Washington, DC Lifestyle Photography
Canidid portarit of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple kissing in a Washington DC art gallery.POrtrait of a couple kissing on an escalator 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 Washington DC.Washington, DC Lifestyle PhotographyPortrait of a couple in a museum on the National Mall in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple talking on a balcoony during an engagement session in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple at an art gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple kissing in an art gallery in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple on the National Mall in Washington DC.

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


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 me of a nearly identical day in January of last year, when I photographed Sarah and Jake during a lifestyle photography session.

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 professional photography career photographing architecture. Those who know me well, know that I love combining images of people with the built environment. The contrast, context and the energy that the city brings to my work are now an integral element of my photographic style. Architecture complements the visual story and provides a compositional anchor to build on.

From the moment I first became aware of his work, I have been an ardent admirer of architect 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 of this – 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, even as the number of award winning modern structures 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 in this beautiful museum. This session turned out to be one of my favorites. A delightful couple and award winning modern architecture. A wonderful combination for any photographer.



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