Neil Colton Photographer: The Blog » Professional Lifestyle, Portrait & Travel Photography by Neil Colton

South facade of The Lincoln Memorial

 

 

The Lincoln Memorial by Neil Colton Photographer

 

Neil Colton Launches DC Photography Workshops + Tours

After working as a professional photographer in Washington, DC for over a decade, I am excited to announce that I am now offering photography workshops and tours of the beautiful historic city of Washington, DC. My goal is to provide the most informative, educational, inspirational and enjoyable photographic learning experience available in the Washington, DC area today.

To that end, I work alongside you throughout the day, sharing my technical and creative knowledge and experience. I believe this hands-on approach is the most effective way to connect with you and to teach the aspects of photography that cannot be learned online or in books. My workshops and tours are kept small and intimate to allow me to work with you directly throughout the day.

My photography tours and workshops focus on the historic sights of Washington, but I also offer tours of Georgetown, Adams Morgan, DuPont Circle, Capital Hill and the exciting new Southwest Waterfront. All workhops and tours are customized for you and your small group of up to 4 photographers.

You select the locations and destinations and I write the itinerary, tailoring my intstruction for for you or your small group. 

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

Ian L.

Santa Monica, CA

For more Testimonials click here.

To arrange a custom workshop or tour, please contact me for availablity 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 awrad winning architecture for several of Washington, DC’s leading architecture and design firms. Neil has worked for international non-profit organizations, NGOs, newspapers and magazines. Neil is a former Professional Member of the American Photographic Artists (APA) and The American Society of Media Photographers.

sharetweetpinemail

TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY: THE MANISTEE CHRONICLES: ARCADIA BLUFFS

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

 

Portrait of golgers at sunst at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia MI.

 

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

When my mojo went south, I went north to recharge my creative batteries, spending time with friends and family in beautiful Northern Michigan. After intense periods of work, with relentless deadlines and demanding clients, time away from the camera and clients is an easy prescription to write. But how to get those creative juices flowing again?  Unlikely as it may seem, 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 Irish and Scottish courses.  Carved into the bluffs on the shore of Lake Michigan, it is at once awe inspiring and intimidating.  At its highest point, the links are sevaral hundred feet above Lake Michigan. The views from the elevated tee boxes are simply stunning. It is challenge enough to simply play this course, without the pull of amazing vistas to complicate your vision and your swing.

Now, to Arcadia Bluufs and that sublime day.

 

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 a blue like no blue I have ever seen.

That blue is real. I kid you not. I capture all images using the Neutral setting on my Nikon DSLRs. For you Nikon shooters that’s a setting below standard. By below, I mean less saturated. 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, with too much pop. So, I choose the Neutral setting and add color and saturation as needed, in post productiion. I actually had to ramp down (decrese) the colors in many of these shots, because they were so powerful they seemed supernatural. A local resident started to explain why the lake was so blue, but he lost me at kelp.

sharetweetpinemail

WASHINGTON DC PORTRAIT & LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY: OLGA & SERGIO

 

Colton-washington-dc-portrait-photographer-sergio-and-olga-georgetown

 

Lifetsyle photography has many different looks, from babies bouncing on their mother’s knee to golfers playing a challenging links course in northern Michigan to scenes of the urban life in the recently gentrified sections of Washington, DC. It is a genre that defies a simple definition. For the past few years,  I have been focused on creating images for commercial and editorial clients, through ad agencies, media companies and corporate clients. So, when Olga called to arrange a ‘lifestyle and portrait’ session, I was delighted. For years, I had photographed families and couples in the Washignton, DC area. Engaged couples, married couples, friends, lovers and the like.

I missed that.

Lifetsyle photography, with clients who are not professionals, can be a freewheeling, unscripted joy ride, with no director or creative consultant breathing down your neck. I choose the time, the place and the images I want to create. But Olga and Sergio are no ordinary couple. Either could find work in modeling, but together they make the work of photographing them seem like no work at all. As photographres say when the subjcets their lives this simple, ‘the camera loves them’.

For this session, I choose the Georgetown section of Washington, DC. Georgetown is that wonderful mix of historic and modern architecture, tony shops, bustling streets and an historic canal lined with former factories that hail from the industrial period, when Georgetown was a booming manufacturing center. Because of this, Georgetown is one of the most popular spots in Washington. My biggest challenge their is isolating the subjects from the crowds of tourists and residents that regularly fill the streets and alleys.

Somehow, we did that. In the end, we came away from the session with some great images. All thanks to Olga and Sergio.

 

washingon dc portrait photography olga and sergio
washington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergio

sharetweetpinemail
  • Anna - Neil, you’ve done a great job – the photos are absolutely amazing. You are a very talented photographer. I like the framing and the light, and the couple on the photos. Georgetown is definitely a very romantic place for a photo shoot.
    Anna

  • Kvetka - Wow… What a great photo session! I love to see a couple so relaxed on the photos and so in love with each other. Georgetown is very recognizable and such a great spot for photography and at the same time the photos look as if it belonged just to Olga and Sergio! The light and the texture of the old walls, the canal with the shadows on the water and the walking path under the bridges – all looks just remarkable…

  • Irina - Beautiful photo session of one of the most beautiful couples I know!

Washington DC Travel Photography-The Marriott Ranch

 

Another offering in an occasional series about travel and travel photography.

 TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: The Marriott Ranch: Hume, VA

The History

From Wikipedia:

At the age of 19 and as a devout Mormon, J. Willard Marriott, Sr. undertook the obligatory missionary work of his church for two years, assigned to New England. On his way home after completing his mission, he passed through Washington D.C. during the sweltering summer months of 1921. While there:

“… [H]e walked from Capitol Hill to the Washington Monument, toiled up the steps to the top, walked back down again, and strolled over to the Lincoln Memorial. Everywhere he went tourists and pedestrians sweltered and sweated in the sultry, humid air. On the way back to his hotel, he just stood there in the street watching the crowds, he couldn’t get over it: a push cart peddler would come along the street selling lemonade and soda pop and ice cream, and in minutes he would be cleaned out and on his way to stock up with another cartload”.

Marriott was a brother of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at the University of Utah and of Alpha Kappa Psi. After graduating from Weber College in June 1923 and later, the University of Utah in June 1926,Marriott remembered his experience in Washington, D.C. and decided to look into a venture there.

From the Marriott Ranch website:

“In 1951, the founder of Marriott International, J. Willard Marriott Sr., discovered a beautiful piece of the Blue Ridge foothills that reminded him of his boyhood days on the family farm in Utah. After buying the property, he meticulously began to restore the primary historic buildings, their surrounding grounds and continued to purchase contiguous parcels of land including Fiery Run Ranch, creating the 4200+/- acre Marriott Ranch.

Over the following years, J. Willard would bring the farm always known as “Fairfield” back to life with a modest herd of registered Hereford cattle, a large group of black-faced sheep and through the breeding of quarter horses. J. Willard, an avid horseback rider and outdoorsman, would spend as much time as he could at his Fauquier County property and wrote in his diary, “A beautiful place, hard to leave…”

The Inn at Fairfield Farm is a historic  Virginia Bed & Breakfast located near the center of the Marriott Ranch’s 4,200 acres. Guests staying at the Inn at Fairfield Farm are welcomed with a complimentary tray of delicious cheeses (4 – 6 P.M.) along with an assortment of refreshing beverages. In the morning, a memorable  hearty country breakfast is served, generally between 8 – 10 A.M.

The seven comfortable guest rooms located in two unique buildings along with scenic views help our guests relax and enjoy what the Marriott Ranch has to offer.”

The Story

We arrived at the Inn at Fairfield late on a Saturday afternoon (also known as The Marriott Ranch in Hume, VA), as ominous deep blue-black clouds of a gathering storm swirled around the ranch as far as the eye could see. The 60 mile trip from our home in Old Towne Alexandria had taken more than 2 hours.   Although our destination, Hume, VA was new to us, the trip through Fauquier County, VA was not. We had lived near Warrenton, a sleepy southern city (once the seat of The Confederacy) on the road to Hume, for nearly 7 years, before returning to civilization in Alexandria.

It was familiar territory.

Once voted ‘One of The 10 Best Rural Counties to Live In in America’, Fauquier County has experienced considerable growth and development since then, particularly in the northern regions, nearer the suburban counties bordering Washington, DC. 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 woman dressed in jeans, a blue denim shirt and work boots. She checked her laptop, checked us in, showed us to our room and gave us the 10 minute tour.  She then left the building and us alone. Literally. This was the Friday before Christmas. Clearly not a peak time for visitors. We were there as a gift. As odd as the timing may seem. it was perfect for us.

Except for the permanent staff (2) and a caretaker, 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 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.

The 20 minute trip from Little Washington back to the Marriott Ranch was uneventful. But the gathering storm was getting serious. 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.

We fully expected to be alone at breakfast, but a family from Bakersfield, CA arrived during the night. They had come to visit Elizabeth, the resident horse trainer and keeper of the hounds. Fox hounds. 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 landed gentry. ‘Full  Cry’ and all that. If Fox Hunts are your passion, this is your place.

Breakfast done, with time to spare before checkout, we packed our gear and set out to have a look around.

Experienced travelers will know that a stay at a Marriott today is a rather spartan experience. It all started here. Clean, simple, utilitarian. Add WiFi and a soft pillow and that’s the Marriott of today. Not too far removed, in style, 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. 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. 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 over a stretch of many years. Reagan on horseback, Marriott on horseback, everyone on horseback. The family portraits are well done. Traditional poses, as you might expect, but composed, lit and captured in a timeless fashion.

I looked up. Time and light was fading.

If I was going to capture any images of this place and this visit, it would have to be now. I had a Nikon camera and a couple of lenses packed. Always do. Realizing that travel photography can often be a victim of circumstance, 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, as had the look of the day. Rain, wind, grey skies.

Go for it.

Twenty minutes later I was done.

I chose the 50mm 1.4G. Great all around lens and perfect for low light. Nikon pro bodies, like the one I was using, don’t have an Auto setting, so I shifted into Program mode, which is professional jargon for Auto. It just sounds better. Shooting in Program mode is 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.

Vacation shots and final tour done, we packed our gear and headed home, as the winds rose and the rain began to fall again.

Travel Photography: The Marriott Ranch in Hume, VA

 

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

 

sharetweetpinemail

A Washington, DC travel photographer’s view of Charleston, SC, in an ongoing series about travel and travel photography.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE, CHARLESTON, SC

Colton-washington-dc-photographer-charleston-101

 

We were supposed to be in Barcelona.

Instead, we are sitting on a hard plank bench at the front of a weather beaten covered wooden wagon, being pulled by two aging mules through the streets of this 350 year old southern 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 our 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 into an hour long tour. This is going to be a very long ride. The heat and humidity of high summer in the south is oppressive. We roll on.

Through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina.

Back to Barcelona. That is where this trip was to start. We would fly into El Prat Airport, in Spain, spend a few wonderful days in Barcelona, then hire a car and drive though 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 of the day. It was settled. Done. Reservations had been made. Only the plane tickets were left to buy. Then, at the last minute, an unexpected change for us to come up with 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.

I lobbied to go north. Quebec 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 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.  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 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 background as an architectural photographer, and history buff, led me there. The French Quarter, alone, could keep a photographer busy for days. I had an hour and a half. 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 for fuel, then out again after dark. Depending on the place and the assignment, that could on for days or longer.

Like most vacations, I was not alone.  I shot this more like a vacationer 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 alone 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 get there.
  • 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 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 technique.
  • 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. What I often find, working with amateur photographers in workshops, is a need to overshoot. Dozens of images of the same scene. Control this and your work, and life, will be better for it. Think quality, not quantity.

To join Neil for travel photography workshops in Washington, DC, visit DC Photography Workshops.

Now, to Charleston.

 

sharetweetpinemail