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

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 PHOTOGRAPHY: PORTRAIT OF AN ARCHITECT

 

Washington, DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of an Architect

Portrait of an Architect

 

THE MAKING OF A PORTRAIT OF AN ARCHITECT

When the call came in.I was set up on the front porch, enjoying a rare quiet moment.  I love porches. I spend as much time on ours as I can. Looking back, it was likely the reason we built the house.

Framed  in crisp white trim boards, with a grey flagstone floor, it is a simple porch, spanning nearly the entire width of our Arts + Crafts style home.  Defined by white pyramidal columns, a white Shaker style railing and set against the pale yellow clapboard that wraps the house, it provides a warm and inviting entry into our home. With wide open views of the 280 acres of protected wetlands that border our land, it offers a quiet retreat. I retreat there as often I can.

Back to the call.

It was Mark Yoo, an architect in Alexandria, a city that borders Washington, DC. He was referred to me by a fellow architect. Mark told me he liked my portrait photography style, particularly my environmental portraits. He thought I could be the right portrait photographer for his new project. Mark was building a new website and creating a new brand. He needed a new portrait, a new image, a new look: a portrait that would match his vision of him and his work and complement his new brand. He was not a fan of the ‘typical’ portrait experience. He was hoping my approach to portrait photography would be different. His last portrait session had been “brutal”, according to Mark.

That portrait was ‘professionally’ done in a local studio by a well known photographer. That session checked all the usual boxes:  studio setting, studio lighting, black backdrop, bathroom to the right, you get the point. The result was a generic looking headshot: brightly lit, sharp from front to back, ear to ear awkward smile and lacking any connection to the viewer.  It had all the charm of a marketing promo for a 3rd tier wedding DJ. Mark hated it.

For the next 20 minutes, Mark talked about architecture and his work, passionately. He spoke of his vision, of his new brand and the look he wanted me to bring to this new portrait.  I was ‘In’.

Finally, he asked “Are you interested in this project”
I didn’t hesitate.  “Absolutely. Now, let’s talk about how to do this.”

Many portrait photographers are wary of working with architects. They occupy a unique place in the portrait universe.  Architects are often perfectionists, highly critical, consumed with detail and self absorbed. Traits that may lead them to success in the highly competitive world of architecture, but qualities than can be daunting for a portrait photographer.

I wasn’t concerned.

I spent years working for and with some of the top design firms and architects in the Washington, DC area. My career as a professional photographer began with architectural photography. I enjoyed working with architects, whether it was on a construction site, behind a graphics monitor in an office cubicle or, now, from behind a camera.

We made a plan.

Mark had recently designed a new dance studio at an arts center an hour south of the city. It was nearly finished. We would meet there and choose a location inside the studio for the portrait session.  A week later we met there to scout the site. I chose a spacious corner studio, with beautiful northern light falling into the room from the tall windows that lined the outside walls. The exposed brick walls, aged hardwood floors and barrs (ballet rails) added just the right touch of texture and an understated elegance to the setting.

We were set. This would be the environmental portrait Mark wanted, set in one of his projects, with beautiful backdrops.

We agreed on a date and time and to sort out the details, soon.  Before I left, I scouted the studio and the grounds outside the studio, looking for alternate locations as a backup.  After years of location photography I have learned, the hard way, to have a Plan B (and even a Plan C and D) ready to go on session day.

The day of Mark’s session arrived. It was summer in the in city of Washington, DC. Outside temperatures were hovering in the upper 90s, with high humidity. Typical DC summer weather. No problem. We would be working in the dance studio, in a beautiful room with soft northern light, right?

Not so fast.

The studio had just opened for business and the afternoon students were rolling into our chosen studio, now. Really? I thought we had booked it. Nope. As these well planned events often go, the studio administrator had never received Mark’s message to the studio owner about our portrait session. They were using our studio.  It was booked for the rest of the day! No other suitable space in the entire studio was available. Everything was booked. Remember Plan B? No problem. We’ll just move outdoors, right? We were on the move.

The locations I had scouted on the grounds were suitable, in a pinch, but they were not great. First, shade was a problem. There was none. Next, the best I could find had a background with such strong background that it would be entrirely blown out.  I would have to overpower that strong backlight it with even stronger light on Mark. I was not in love with that option. So, before we headed into the great, hot unknown of the outdoors, I looked intently for any indoor option, as we were exiting the studio.

And there it was.

As we were nearly at the end of the entry hallway, I spotted a small room to the right.  It was cluttered and looked to be in use, but it had high ceilings, brick walls painted white, a killer tall window and a view of the buildings outside. Daylight was streaming in the windows, but fading oh so quickly. And so was our time. The entire studio was filling up fast. We had one hour, maybe less, to clean the room (full of furniture and staff gear), set up for the shoot and get our shots of Mark.

No problem. We were in!

Mark was a great subject. It started slow, with Mark quite nervous, until my assistant decided that he was a Bradley Cooper look alike. Marked beamed!  He was was now relaxed and confident. Once I was able to calm my assistant down (be still my beating heart), things went well.

Less than hour later, the shoot done, we wrapped up, packed up and were on our way to our next adventure.

 

 

 

 

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!

LIFESTYLE  PHOTOGRAPHY: MCKENNA FARM

Lifestyle portait of Sarah and Joe at McKenna Farm

Just a brief trip north of Washington, DC lies the historic City of Frederick, MD.

From the City of Frederic website:

HIP & HISTORIC

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

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

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

It is there, in the beautiful rolling hills and lush countryside of Frederic County, MD that you will find McKenna Farm, the country home and rural retreat of Joe Mckenna and Sarah Brennan. I spent the day there, recently, creating lifestyle and portrait photography content for the new McKenna Farms website.

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

Our Journey


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

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

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

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

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

Joe & Sarah


 

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

sharetweetpinemail