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

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: THE MANISTEE CHRONICLES & THE ROAD HOME

 

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

From The Blog Archives,  I offer this post about a family trip to northern Michigan not long ago. I hope you enjoy The Manistee Chronicles: The Road home.

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 and thought it was timely feature material. The next thing I knew, I was in the news. OK. so it was a slow news day. Still, my family and friends were impressed with my 15 minutes of fame.

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.

To see more of my images of the beautiful Arcadia Bluffs course, visit my site here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of An Artist

Olga Bauer is a talented Washington, DC mixed media artist, specializing in abstract art. She is also a friend and a wonderful subject for portrait photography. Olga and I met a few years ago, when I photographed her family on a warm sunny day in May. She enjoyed that session so much that she asked to meet again in the fall and create a series of portraits of Olga, alone.

For this session, I chose a location along the Potomac River, just north and west of the city. Bordered by a broad walking trail cut through a deep dense forest, the location was perfect for the day. We met there on a bright cool morning in November. The fall colors were stunning and so was Olga, as we spent the next few hours searching for the best locations to create a series of portraits for Olga’s personal portfolio.

Olga is not only a very talented artist, but she is also a wonderful model, with qualities of elegance, poise, beauty and patience that are genuinely admired and appreciated by this photographer. Shooting in the studio allows control of every aspect of a portrait session. From the ambient temperature in the room to the color and quality of the light, the photographer is in complete charge. No guesswork there.

Move outdoors and all of that changes, dramatically.

Everything becomes a challenge. From choosing the best locations for light and background, to managing pink cheeks from the crisp fall air, creating portraits on location requires a patient, and adventurous, model. On this day, Olga brought the patience and adventurous spirit and I brought the camera. In the end, we had combined for some for some fine shots of Olga.

Many thanks to Olga for a being a good friend, a wonderful model and for helping me create this Portrait of An Artist. 

To see Olga’s artwork, please visit www.olgabauer.art

To see more of my work, visit my site here.

Washington DC Portrait Photography: Portrait Of An Artist

 

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TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY: ARCADIA BLUFFS GOLF CLUB

This post features the course at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, MI, one of the premier public golf courses in the United States. Rated the #3 course in Michigan, the #13 public course in the United States and the #68 course (public or private) in America, Arcadia Bluffs is one awesome track.

Contact Neil to purchase Fine Art Prints from this series, 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 their creative mojo disappears.

When mine went south, I went north, to Michigan. Spending quality time with friends and family was long overdue. After a long, intense period of work, with relentless deadlines, endless editing and demanding clients, time away from camera, computer and clients was sorely needed. How do I get those creative juices flowing again?

The solution…golf!

Go north, young man, to the links in a place called Arcadia, Michigan and a golf course like none I had ever played. I rediscovered my love for photography 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 Golf Club.

From Wikipedia:

Golf Digest selected Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club 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.”

To the course.

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

On this day, in this place, for a few brief moments, that happened to me; At 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 course design, and this becomes much more than  simply a round of golf.

Now, to the images of that sublime late summer day, once upon 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 you see in these images is real. Almost too real. I captured these images using the Neutral color setting on my Nikon DSLR pro body. You Nikon shooters will know that Neutral is the setting below the standard or ‘normal’ setting. SOOTC, Nikon’s Standard setting ramps up the colors far too much for my liking, so I choose Neutral as my starting point, then add color and saturation as needed. I actually had to ramp down (reduce) the color intensity in many of these shots, even at Neutral, because they were so strong that they seemed supernatural.

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The Lincoln Memorial by Neil Colton PhotographerVietnam Womens MemorialWashington DC Photography Tours-FDR Memorial

 

COVID 19 UPDATE: Your personal health and safety are of the utmost concern to Neil. Neil wears a mask during the entire session and adheres to all current CDC guidelines. He will avoid crowded areas or locations where close contact is likely and social distancing cannot be achieved. All tours are conducted entirely outdoors.

 

PRIVATE WASHINGTON DC PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR

Professional photographer Neil Colton leads private photography tours in the beautiful Capital City of Washington DC.  These private private photography tours are specifically designed for individual photographers and groups of up to four. Topics include travel photography, lifestyle photography, architectural photography and photojournalism. During the tour, you will capture images of the iconic, historic sites of this beautiful city and learn to tell the story of your visit with compelling photographic essays.

With its broad well lit streets, low skyline and easy access to monuments, memorials and museums, Washington, DC is one of the most photogenic and photographer-friendly cities in the world.

Tours are 4 hours long and open to any level of photographer. Tours can include:

  • The Icons of Washington, including the White House, The Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial and other iconic sites on The National Mall
  • Capitol Hill
  • DuPont Circle
  • Georgetown
  • Adams Morgan
  • Your Custom Itinerary

Neil will lead you to the popular places in Washington to create compelling pictures of this historic Capital City. He will also take you to sites off the beaten path, where tourists and visitors rarely go. As a longtime resident and former lead instructor for one of Washington’s most popular photography tour companies, Neil knows the city well.

Unlike fast-paced, heavily scripted tours, your itinerary is flexible and can be changed on the fly. Throughout the day, Neil works alongside you, at your pace and without pressure, to make sure you see the city as you want to see it and that you capture wonderful images of the city of Washington, DC. At the end of the tour, you wil have a compelling new portfolio of images of this beautiful Capital City!

Tours are offered through all seasons of the year and during iconic events, such as the Cherry Blossom Festival. Sunrise and sunset tours are a popular option and yield some of the most dramatic images of this photogenic city!

About Neil

Neil began his photography career as an architectural photographer, creating images of award winning projects for architects and design firms. He has worked as a photojournalist, a commercial lifestyle photographer and as a contract photographer for a media company in New York, creating portraits of CEOs and CFOs in the financial world. His travel photography has been featured in regional publications and travel magazines. His commercial clients have included ad agencies representing Airbnb, American Express, AT&T and Anheuser Busch. His documentary portraits of The People of Haiti were used as the stage backdrop for high profile benefit concerts in the US, following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010. They have also been used by several international non-profit organizations and NGOs for worldwide promotional campaigns.

His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Professional Photographer, Elan’ Magazine and Hilton Head Magazine, among others. To see more of Neil’s Travel Photography, visit his site here

Rates

  • For solo photographers, the rate is $325.
  • For 2 photographers, the rate is $285 per photographer.
  • For groups of 3- 4 photographers, the tour rate is $275 per photographer.

To schedule a private photography tour, or for more information, contact Neil here.

Testimonials

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

Dr. Ian L., Santa Monica, CA


I was heading to Europe, ready to take great pictures of the cities and sights in England, Spain, France and Italy. My new camera was all that I expected, but my pictures were not. They were more like snapshots: flat and boring. A friend recommended that I take a travel photography workshop with Neil before the trip. I am so glad that I did! In a few short hours Neil showed me how to compose a photograph and ‘see’ the picture, before I snapped the shutter. He also showed me how ‘tell a story’ with my pictures. Working with Neil has given me the confidence to take on Europe with my camera!

I can’t wait for the plane to take off!

Steven S., Bethesda, MD


I have taken many workshops and tours, but Neil’s private tour in DC has been the best of them all. I learned more in 3 hours with Neil than I did in the 3 years I have owned my DSLR. His instruction is clear and simple and he takes the time to work with you individually. I definitely recommend Neil to anyone who wants to improve their photography and create great images.

Linda C., Washington, DC

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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.

 

LIFESTYLE & TRAVEL: CHARLESTON, SC

Colton-washington-dc-photographer-charleston-101

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 rated 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 D Series pro body and 2 lenses to capture the images shown here. The 24-70 f/2.8 is my workhorse for travel photography. It is the best ‘story telling’ lens I own. For details and tight shots, I use the 70-200 f/2.8. On this trip, my current model of the 70-200 was in the shop for repair so I used my trusted, 20 year old, 80-200 f/2.8 AFS in its place. No VR, but still a great lens. You don’t need the latest and greatest gear to create good images. What you do need is good technique and a good eye for choosing 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 city, town or place you are visiting. Trying to capture images 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 eventually come along and you’ll be there to capture it. So, be patient. Look for icons and symbols of your setting or location 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. But working with amateur photographers in workshops and teaching 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 your life, will be better for it. Think quality, not quantity.
  • Practice, practice, practce. Rinse and repeat.

Neil offers private photography tours and workshops , year round, in the beautiful city of Washington, DC. Contact Neil to arrange a private session. To see more of Neils photography, visit his site here.

Now, to Charleston.

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