November 10, 2014 1:33 PM EST

When he’s not shooting for publications around the world, photographer Brian Finke makes the time to work on long personal documentary projects. His most recent one, called U.S. Marshals, takes an intimate look into the lives of those serving in the U.S. Marshal service, the oldest law enforcement agency in the country.

Finke’s interest in the U.S. Marshals came from re-connecting in 2010 with Cameron Welch, a current Marshal and friend from high school. The encounter led him to spend the following three years on regular embeds with the U.S. Marshals in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

“It’s pretty amazing watching them do what they do,” says Finke. “It was kind of like my own version of the TV show ‘Cops,’ putting a bulletproof vest on and running in behind them as they go catch the bad guys.”

As part of a law enforcement agency, the Marshals are responsible for transporting criminals, protecting judges and witnesses, as well as tracking down some of the most dangerous fugitives in the country.

“I never felt like my life was in danger,” says Finke, despite the often-precarious situations he and his assistant found themselves in – his very first ride-along with the Marshals included a 120-MPH pursuit of an escaped convict in Texas.

Finke started his photographic career as a black-and-white shooter. Today, it is easy to spot the documentary photographer’s bright, saturated work in his color images, which he developed using an off-camera flash. “Flash exaggerates the color and makes it all come together for me,” he says.

Finke will continue to use his off-camera flash technique in his next in-depth project, which focuses on the women who star in hip hop music videos, he calls this body of work “Hip Hop Honeys.”

“I love the process of photography,” Fink says. “Being out in the world and experiencing things, I feel very fortunate to be able to do this.”

Brian Finke is documentary photographer based in N.Y. and his book US Marshals is published by powerHouse Books

Adam Glanzman is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @glanzpiece

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