About Me

My Photo
Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Returning to New England I

 The contrast could not have been more striking. 

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Less than a week ago I was in the tropical forests of Costa Rica. Although we had to manage with a couple of rainy days, in that Central American country's dry season, the weather was generally warm and clear, and of course the wildlife was abundantly exotic. It is the price we pay for the miracle of modern travel that, within a day, my system was shocked with the abrupt transition to the cold, dark, barren environment of our New England winter. and my winter funk was made worse by the lack of our usual soft pristine coating of snow.

The depression has been softened by my time spent reliving my warm Central American experiences as I edit the images from that lovely two weeks, but I realize that I must return to an appreciation of the special attractions of our varied seasons. Who needs constant warmth, garishly decorated birds and sinfully delicious fruits, when we can have the sharp clean air of a northern winter and the enveloping warmth of a fire in the wood stove.


My forced re-acquaintance with the charms of New England has been helped by the rapid approach of a talk I agreed to give to a local women's group. In the past I had presented stories of my trips away from our region, such as Alaska and the Galápagos Islands, but this time the request was for a discussion of some of my favorite local areas for photography. When I got home I was shocked to discover that the talk is coming up in just over a week, but it does give me chance to remind myself of what makes my home a uniquely beautiful place in which to live and photograph.

As I looked for iconic images, I decide to organize the talk around one of our most important advantages over the monotonous weather of the tropics, we have seasons. 

As I considered the range of attractions of our New England seasons, I realized that honoring all the beauty deserved at least two parts, so here is a brief examination of the photographic wonders that are found in our winter and spring.


Winter Solitude

 We can start with the current season. Winter can take the greatest effort to find photographic attractions, but in its simplicity it is the most elemental of our seasons. Without the colorful thick foliage it is possible to appreciate the intricate structure of the tress and the stark interactions between light and shadow. Unlike any other season, the winter's quiet frees us to concentrate on the visual beauty all around, but in winter all is not always calm and peaceful.

Cruel Weather
Winter provides a striking contrast between the harshness of our storms and the quiet softness which is often left behind. Stormy weather always provides excellent subjects for photography, and the elements are never as visible as they are in a winter gale with the snow angrily slanting across the landscape.

View without Foliage 

 With the leaves off the trees, broader views of the landscape become apparent, opening vistas that can be appreciated at no other time. It is this time of year that we in the Chesterfield Conservation Commission often take advantage of the longer views to plan new trails.

Bird Feeder Wildlife

Feeder Props

Winter birds are always a welcome reminder of life in the bitter winter months. In the last few years, I have become an enthusiastic feeder watcher, but happily birds are found surviving the elements throughout the region. The Snowy Owls are just one example of these vigorous and resilient creatures.

Tufted Titmouse


Holiday Lights

The holiday lights on our homes and public spaces provides a much needed sense of warmth as winter settles in.

Maple Sugaring

Sugaring is always a happy harbinger of the coming spring and every year, in Keene New Hampshire, we are treated with a look back at the old ways of sap collecting at the Stonewall Farm Sap Gathering Contests. No tubes, just red buckets and horse drawn sleds. And there is nothing better than the sweet tastes of maple syrup on ice cream or snow.



Flowing Water

One of the earliest signs of spring is the flowing water which cascades through our brooks and waterfalls as the run-off progresses. Until the time that the first buds appear, early spring is primarily a season of mud and the blessed sight and sounds flowing water.

Bursting Buds

I find the earliest buds of spring to be especially interesting and surprisingly attractive. The plants come forth with strange, almost other-worldly explosions of delicate life, often looking nothing like the mature growth that they will become. It only lasts a few days but it is a remarkable promise of the life to come.


Second Autumn  
When spring gets thoroughly established the colors present in infinite shades of green and yellow. I refer to this time as our second autumn and I find the variety of tones to be even more varied and interesting than those of our more garishly colored fall display. The added advantage of the spring color is that it is not immediately followed by the dull shriveled leaves crashing to the ground. By contrast, the spring color is the harbinger of our great explosion of life.


Spring means flowers and I'm always excited by the first blooms. I am heartened by the appearance of the Crocuses and Daffodils, but I also look forward to getting a jump on the season by visiting our local greenhouses. My favorite is at Walker Farm in Dummerston Vermont. They always have a great collection of well cultivated blooms which are easier to photograph in the soft light and calm air of the greenhouse. 

Milky Way
As it turns out spring and summer are the best seasons to view the Milky Way as the galactic center rises higher in the evening sky. As the air warms I look for areas of dark sky and greedily run out to capture the Celestial show. After all in a few billion years it will all be different.

Walpole Sky

Animal Awakening
Spring is the time of animal enthusiasm as both wild and farm animals rush to feed on the tender fresh growth. This is no better seen than at Stonewall Farm's Annual "Dancing of the Ladies", when the cows are first released to pasture after a long claustrophobic winter in the barn. For a few minutes the cows go wild prancing, butting heads and even occasionally kicking up their heals. It all makes a great show, but quite quickly they return to their usual semi-comatose grazing state.

Dancing Lady, Stonewall Farm

Next week, Summer and Fall and, somewhere in between, I have to assemble it all into a short talk.  HOW can it be short!

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Glimpse of Tropical Warmth

White Face Monkey

We have just returned from our trip to Costa Rica. It was a wonderful twelve days exploring the natural wonders of this rich oasis of tropical plants, flowers, animals and especially birds. 

Black-Crowned Motmot

The trip was run by Road Scholar which organizes trips, mostly for more mature, adventurous, travelers, throughout the world. It was a small group of only 14 people, led by a remarkably knowledgeable guide with long experience of the amazingly diverse natural beauty of his country. 


San Gerardo Valley, Cloud Forest
Costa Rica is a small Central American country, only about the size of West Virginia, but it possesses a disproportionately wide range of habitats from tropical rain forest to Volcanic highlands. Each day brought new exciting sights and of course I came away with a massive number of images, nearly 3000. I arrived home with just a couple of days to prepare this week's blog article and, although I intend to publish the usual travelogues, I have found myself wanting to get away from writing and back to the images.



Bare-Throated Tiger Heron

 There are so many neat pictures begging to be processed that I couldn't pull myself away to write a detailed description of the trip. So here you have a rather random collection of just some of images from our lovely journey.   Just looking at them warms the cold, dark and barren view from my window.

Browse my Costa Rica Gallery for more images as I work my way through the collection. It will be a long time before I get through them all, but it is fun to keep coming back to relive the trip. I am beginning to settle back into the cold demands of my home schedule. I have a Lightroom Class coming up in March and a Basic Digital Photograph course in May. And then of course it will be time for a lovely hip replacement in June. Retirement is so relaxing. Incidentally there are still a couple of slots open for my Lightroom Class
It will be a small, relaxed group and should be a lot of fun. Get in touch with me for more information. 

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Now, in no special order, here are some of the pictures I have processed so far from warm Costa Rica.

Bananas at Doka Coffee Plantation
Red-Leged Honey Creeeper


Pooping Three-Toed Sloth

Collared Aracari


Pineapple Plantation

Spider Monkey


Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Natural Wonders of Costa Rica


There are three things that you can depend upon on a tour within the tropical rain forest of Costa Rica, lush greenery, remarkable exotic animals and little to no internet connectivity. 

Luis, our Guide
We are into our eight day of our tour of the natural wonders of this wonderful Central American country.  I usually get frustrated with the limitations of a planned tour.  It can drive me nuts trying to grab pictures while the group moves ahead and out of site, but I have learned to accept the restrictions and enjoy the experience while planning to come back another day for the carefully constructed shots that I would prefer.  In the meantime, I take what I can get.  Happily, we have a small friendly group of fellow explorers and a remarkably knowledgeable guide.  Our itinerary is packed, making it difficult to find time to describe our experiences so far,  but I didn’t want to miss a blog and thought it would be a good time to share some of the few image among the nearly 4,000 that I have shot so far.  I will have a lot of work to do when I get home.

Hanging Bridges

This morning we hiked through the tops of the tropical forest on hanging bridges and this evening we will be visiting a sugar plantation and local farm, for a traditional dinner, but just now I have a couple of free hours to try to post a small sample of images.


"Jesus Christ" Lizard, Walks on Water
This trip is mostly about the diversity and beauty of the wildlife, and especially the birds. As I always point out, I am not a birder, but it is impossible to ignore the excitement of see the wild range of winged species.  We have explored the variety of animal around the Alajuela Poas Volcano in the highlands above the capital of San Jose and visited the Doka Coffee Estate to learn about the production of one of Costa Rica’s highest quality coffees


Jacana, Tortuguero

We spent two day at a lodge in the isolated Caribbean costal village of Tortuguero.  The Tortuguero National Park includes a network of natural waterways which is home to a remarkable diversity of plants and animal life including more than 100 reptiles, 60 mammals and hundreds of bird species.


Three Toed Sloth Family
From Tortuguero we traveled by boat and bus to the Seva Verde Lodge in Sarapiqui, in Costa Rica’s Caribbean lowland.  One again we hiked through the rainforest sampling one of Central America’s richest sites for birds.  We also had a chance to white water raft down the Sarapiqui River.

Shooting the Sarapiqui

Red Eye Tree Frog 
I have now moved to Arenal Volcano National Park and hiked to a spot at the edge of one of the volocano’s most recent eruptions.  The spot had a great view of Arenal’s classic conical peak and also Arenal Lake.  This large man-made lake provides hydroelectric power and also shifted the drainage of the region from the Caribbean to the pacific.

I can only touch on the wonderful time we have enjoyed so far, and the remarkable experiences have been greatly amplified by the knowledge that all of you back in New England have been struggling through all the snow and cold.  We will be heading back to reality next Thursday.  Try to keep the storms away until after then.  The Meantime, stay warm and GO PATS!
As I get a chance, I will be adding images to my  Costa Rica Gallery

Friday, January 15, 2016

Time to Pack Again, Have I learned Nothing!

In a couple of days I'll be heading to Costa Rica and will be
Winter Lodge
shooting all over the country for nearly two weeks. This leads to several obvious challenges. First I have to dig out all my lightweight shirts and shorts, and immediately after this chore Susan will begin pointing out that I have pulled out way too much stuff. Winter trips are always stressful as we leave the house exposed to the worst weather of the year. Fortunately we have a very reliable house sitter, along with her vicious attack dogs, and her Navy Seal boyfriend. I will be publishing this article a few days early and may not be able to get next Sunday's blog on-line. Wi-fi permitting I will try to post some early images, but with any luck you will have your own vacation from my incessant babbling.

Finally, and most importantly there is the weighty matter of deciding what my camera kit should include, and weight is a major issue. On every trip I have to balance the stress on my aging back against the desire to bring everything I will need to fully capture the experience. So here is my current list, but I always tend to throw stuff in at the last minute.

Whenever traveling to a special place that I may never see again, a certain amount of camera redundancy seems in order. I will of course bring my Canon 5D Mark II, but since it doesn't add a great deal of weight I will throw my old 5D body into a different bag as a back-up. The camera body doesn't add much weight, but I will also need to add the different battery's and charger.

I usually bring a smaller "pocket camera" for when I want to go light or when I am in situations where an obviously expensive camera could be too tempting. For this my Canon SX50 HS should work well especially since it's 24-1200mm super zoom will give me all the reach I may need. And of course more batteries and charger.

  • Canon 5D Mark II
  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 5HS

The choice of lens is always a struggle, but I want to go as light as possible. On previous trips I have thrown almost everything into the bag. My argument was that a heavy pack would be uncomfortable but not as painful as missing a once in a lifetime shot. My attitude on this has evolved in recent years. Perhaps it is because my back and I are growing older or because I have experienced too my occasions when I have lugged more heavy glass than I could ever use. My choice this time is to go with just two lens. My work horse 24-105mm zoom is an obvious no brainer. It will cover most of what I need. The wide end seems adequate most of the time.  In the past when I brought my 15-35mm, it seldom seemed to leave the bag. Costa Rica is famous for its birds and I must suck it up and bring my massive 100-400mm zoom. But that's IT ... Well maybe I'll add my almost weightless 2x tele extender. 

Ok, there are lots of amazing flowers and foliage, so maybe, if there is room in the suitcase, I may throw in my 100mm Macro. Ahh, stop me before I get out of control!

  • 24-105mm
  • 100-400mm
  • 2x Tele-Extender

?? 100mm Macro

Easy, my light Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I have to remove the head to fit it in my suitcase.

Accessories: (Without which nothing works for long)

  • Chargers for IPhones, IPads,  Laptop etc
  • Card Reader and Cords
  • Lens Cloths, brush
  • Filters (At least UVs and Polarizers)
  • Extra Batteries & Chargers (Three Cameras, All Different)

I would love to go only with my iPad, but I need the computer to allow me to backup images both the computer and an external hard drive. Besides it is fun to review each day's images and if possible post some along the way.

Redundant Memory
On the road my back-up strategy includes first my memory cards. With about 130 gigs of storage, on most trips, I don't have to write over my cards. Second I upload my images to my laptop and with a separate catalog in Lightroom. At the same time I store a back-up copy to my compact portable hard drive. I firmly believe that a image doesn't really exist until it is in three places, kept in 3 different locations.

I have to find a way to carry all this stuff in a way that does not require checking any crucial pieces for flights. Anyone who read my recent blog knows that I already have way too many bags from which to choose. We will be doing a fair amount of hiking and I've decided to try to go light with my Mindshifter Panorama Rotation Bag. This may be a bit small but I can carry my camera and tele and will have easy access along the trail. I will be packing it tight for a carry-on. I have a nice new messenger bag but will be going back to my old beat-up shoulder bag to drag with me through the jungle.

I think that covers things well, but I traditionally forget at one essential item. Hopefully San Jose will have a camera store. Now back to the cloths and the well deserved Wrath of Susan.

On the Road

Jeffrey Newcomer