Western Towboat Co. – Portraits


My thanks to these great people at the Western Towboat Company, for having me around, giving me so much time, and sharing your stories.

According to the company’s founder, his fascination with tugs started at age 6 in Seattle. His family lived on Magnolia Bluff near piers 40 and 41, where a towboat company based its operations.

“As a young boy I just kept looking and gazing at the tugs; then as I got older, I started hanging around and got to know the guys, and it all just grew from there.”[+]

This is a really nice piece on how the company came to be.


If anyone is interested, there is a big gallery here. Everything was shot at about 50mm, given it was the only lens I had (and still is). I get the feeling “I could totally use a 35mm equivalent” is going to be something I will be saying a lot in the months to come….


  1. Edward Lim says:

    50mm works a treat here. Great portraits. Eager to read more of your adventures! Keep up the great work and have fun!

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks Ed :) 50mm good for portraits, but i struggled with it, shooting the boats themselves. Would have been very useful to have had something wider.

  2. Reblogged this on New England Waterman and commented:
    Top notch company, and a great photo!

  3. petaannee says:

    Excellent Charlene, the 50mm really works well with the portraits and i think you have done well capturing the boats with that lens.

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks Peta…yeah the 50 is perfect for portraits, but oh boy, I wonder when Fuji is releasing that 23mm…

  4. Brian Miller says:

    Might as well get yourself a x100s next month then, eh? ;)

    1. charlene says:

      Care to sponsor this poor gitana? ;)

  5. Ed says:

    Great series of portraits, although the third one seems slightly incongruous to me – maybe it’s because she’s outside, not on a tug, and smiling a little more widely that the fellas. At any rate the time spend with Western Towboat is turning out very well it seems.

    I like the whole series also, and would love to see the big edit suggested elsewhere of all your tug stuff!

    I’m also liking the style and tones you have been getting lately. Are the latter straight out of the Fuji? If so, any particular setting you favor. And while i hear you about the 35mm, I’ve been saving for one for over two years myself, I think you did great with the 50mm. Sometimes we need to remember that oft-quoted saying that limitations can actually be freeing if you embrace them.

    1. Brian Miller says:

      I have been curious about your processing as well, Charlene. Any particular settings you are using. Really like it.

    2. charlene says:

      Thank you Ed. The big edit is a massive job. I get tired just thinking about doing so, because it necessarily comes with editing all of past projects (if you can call them that) down. But it’s something I need to get on with sooner than later.

      And this is for Brian also – I don’t follow any particular formula with processing. It comes from my overall impression of the mood and atmosphere of the day. The only consistencies with my processing are

      1. Heavy blacks, because I love them so
      2. White balance adjustment. I shoot on AutoWB and I often find it too cold, so I normally muck around with it in Lightroom to get it the way I like it. I can’t get anymore specific than that because it’s all eyeballing and mucking around
      3. Colour. I don’t/can’t see in black and white, so I’ve given up fighting it and am going with the flow

      Camera setting: aperture priority from -2/3 EV to -2 EV when the light is easy, manual when it gets hard. The X-Pro 1’s metering is a bit too bright I find. Also, I am using the EVF a lot these days, especially for portraits. The Optical/hybrid viewfinder is great for street, but I still have a little latent distrust for this autofocus for when I need to do something a little more precise.

      Hope that has answered both your questions?

      PS: Oh and my screen is calibrated with Spyder 3.

  6. Good portraits, I do find that Lauren doesn’t work as her environment doesn’t fit the others, no tug boat stuff.

    The 28mm for the Xpro1 is really good too.

    1. charlene says:

      No, Lauren doesn’t work officially on the boats though….and to be honest when I asked to take her photo, I was just so taken by the light on her.

      Yes I do remember that 28mm (18, wasn’t it?), especially it telling me I needed to update my firmware. The cheek of that lens!

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