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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Up-coming Photograpraphy and Editing Classes. Winter/Spring

Stone Arch Bridge, Keene, NH
Recently, I completed the latest session of my Introduction to Digital Photography course.  I have offered this course for Keene Community Education four times before, but each time it is my “Latest Version” because my course varies based on the needs and interests of the participants.

Shooting at the Stone Arch Bridge

This seems like a good time to present my schedule for courses in the first part of the coming year.  With so many people discovering the amazing capabilities of digital photography, and struggling with the use of the new digital cameras, the interest in my introductory course seems to be persistent.  I love introducing so many enthusiastic people to this new world of photography, and will continue to offer my course until  the interest fades, if ever.  

Lightroom Library Module
One of the key advantages to digital photography is the ease with which images can be brought to their full potential with digital editing. In my introductory course, I inevitably refer to the power of the “Digital Darkroom”, particularly Photoshop and Lightroom, and in response to the many request, I created a hands-on course covering the essentials of image organization, editing and exporting within the amazingly powerful Lightroom program.  I’ll be repeating my Introduction to Lightroom Course, but this year in a new and more convenient venue.


Introduction to Adobe Lightroom 
Tuesday Nights,
January 16th. – February 13th
Monadnock Imaging, Main Street, Keene N

Jaffrey Meeting House
I have been a dedicated Photoshop user for many years, but over the last few years, I have become increasingly impressed with the power of Lightroom, in terms of both its image management tools and its sophisticated editing capabilities.  I still bring almost all my images into Photoshop for final tweaking, especially when complicated masking is required, but I now use Lightroom for 80-90% of my global editing.  Given its power and ease of use, for the majority of digital photography enthusiasts, Lightroom is likely all they will need to get started with image management and editing.

The Big Name Juggle

New Lightroom CC
Recently Adobe has complicated all of our lives by splitting the Lightroom Program in two.  There are many good discussions of the differences between these very different programs, but simply speaking, the new Lightroom CC is an entirely new cloud based program.  With a simpler interface, but significantly pared down capabilities.  It is designed for more casual photographers, and those who work primarily through a mobile interface.  For more serious photographers who store larger image archives locally on hard drives and who want to use the full features of the old Lightroom, the new program has no significant place. 

Lightroom "Classic"
For me and most serious photographers, the new choice is called “Lightroom Classic”.  It sounds disconcertingly like the old “Coke Classic”, but Lightroom Classic is just the old Lightroom CC with all the old features and functions and a few new tricks.  This split seems to be designed to create a simpler path for mobile and other smart phone photographers, without stripping the power of the “Classic” Lightroom program.  Adobe promises to keep up with innovation on both versions of Lightroom.  We will be watching.

If you, like many, are still confused, just know that the CC and Classic versions are both included among the options in the Adobe Photography Subscription Plan, and still for $9.99/month.  My course will be covering the full power of the Lightroom Classic Program.

Lightroom Classic Course
I have developed my introductory course to cover all the essential capabilities of Lightroom.  In the last couple of years, I have offered the course four times and it has been warmly received.  I run the class as a live demonstration.  Students are encouraged to work along on their own laptops, but a computer is not necessary to benefit from the material.   I’ve had a great time with the classes.

Map Module
Without the use of PowerPoint slides, presentations are much more dynamic, and, as is always true of teaching a course,  have

learned a ton. I initially thought that four, two-hour classes would be enough to cover the program's many features, but because of my tendency to ramble and lots of great questions, I have added a fifth class to cover the Slide Show, Book and Web Modules. I probably could have used more time, but I learned that 2 hours of software complexity at a time is definitely the limit for my mature students – and their teacher.

Monadnock Imaging Hosts

Lightroom Around the Dining Room Table
I have held previous Lightroom classes at my home in Spofford NH, and had to limit the classes to the 8 people who could fit comfortably around my dining room table.  This year, the great folks at Monadnock Imaging in Keene have generously offered to host the class.  This will allow me to expand the group to around 12, and it will also make the location more easily assessable, especially during the snowy winter weeks.  There will be no more struggling over Chesterfield Hill, except for me and Robin.  We will continue to have five, two-hour, evening sessions, and of course, light snacks will be provided. The ten hour course is $195.  There are already people on the waiting list from last time, so please get in touch as soon as possible.



Introduction to Digital Photography
Tuesday evenings 6-8pm
April 24 – May 8, 20

This spring I will again be offering my Introduction to Digital Photography Course as part of Keene Community Ed’s fall program.   The course includes 4 classes and two photo shoots. I cover a wide range of topics from understanding the difference in camera types to, image file formats, file management and archiving. Special emphasis is placed on exposure, composition and the use of different types of light.  All these topics are applied to the results of the photo shoots.

Golden Spire

The course size is limited and, if the past is any guide, it will tend to fill quickly.  Registration begins Wednesday, January 17 and can be done over the phone at 357-0088 or on-line at www.keenecommunityed.org.  Please feel free to get in touch with me for any questions.

Steadying the Camera

Waterfall Workshop
That is my list for now.  I will likely announce another Spring Waterfall Workshop for sometime in May.   I am excited how, in the last couple of years, teaching has become such an important part of my photographic activities. 

Of course, the classes and workshops have seemed a natural extension of the teaching I have been doing for years in my weekly Getting It Right in the Digital Camera Blog.  Working on the blog has greatly expanded my knowledge to the point that I feel comfortable offering my classes. I hope to get to know many more of my readers as I continue and expand my live programs.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the up-coming classes and work-shops, or if there other topics you would like to see me cover either in a class or on the blog.  Any interest in a Photoshop Class – or classes.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Making the Most of a Not So Super Moon

Last Sunday I travelled to the Maine Coast to photograph our latest Super Moon.  Things didn’t come out as I had hoped, but nature photography is all about getting the most from what nature offers.

Super Moons

Simply speaking, a Super Moon is defined as a full moon that occurs at its closest approach in its elliptical orbit around the earth,
Mount Monadnock Super Moon, November 2016
at “perigee”.  In that position the moon is about 12-14% larger in the sky and about 30% brighter than it appears when farthest away, at “apogee”.   When magnified through our photographic lenses, Super Moons are not dramatically more visually exciting than any other “ordinary” full moon. Every time they occur, however, they draw attention to the beauty of our fully illuminated partner, and I usually get caught up in all the hysteria.  This last weekend the Super Moon struck once again.

Super Moons Past
Old Saybrook Breakwater Light

I have been lucky in my previous attempts to capture the full moon at perigee.  In March of 2011 and November of 2016, I was blessed with clear skies to catch the moon rising above Mount Monadnock.  In September 2015 the moon rose into the clouds over the Old Saybrook Lighthouse, but before it faded, I was able to grab one of my favorite moonrise shots.  Each time, these images required travel and careful planning to be in the right place at the right time, but I was always rewarded with amazing shots. That was not the case this weekend.  

The Thrill of the Chase

I must remind myself that the excitement of discovering a spectacular image comes, in part, from the fact that often these explorations fail.  Without the disappointments, the successes would be less triumphant.  We study and plan, but in the end, being a landscape photographer means we often succeed or fail on the whim of nature.

Super Moon over Nubble Lighthouse
Last week I gave a talk to the South Shore Camera Club in Quincy Massachusetts.  I discussed various evening photography
Nubble Light Sunset
topics including Holiday Lighting, rising moons and even rainbows.  It was a wonderful group, with great enthusiasm and interesting questions.  They were especially excited about a shoot they had planned for Saturday to capture the Christmas Lights on Nubble Lighthouse in York Maine.   I look forward to seeing their images, but it also gave me the idea to go to the coast to capture the full moon rising over Nubble Light.  Sadly for the club, on Saturday evening, the skies were cloudy, but I was hoping for better luck on Sunday.

I pulled out my Photographer’s Ephemeris and found a spot on Long Beach, south of Nubble Light, that would give me a good angle on the rising moon from about 1.7 miles away.  I settled in on
View to Nubble Light, Photographer's Ephemeris

the beach about 30 minutes before the 4:38pm moonrise.  Happily, the winds were calm and the temperature only in the 40s, but I was a bit concerned.   Several years ago, I might have been among very few on the beach to get the long view of the moonrise.  Most would have been clustered close to light, but, since the Ephemeris has become popular, many serious photographers know exactly where to stand for the best shot.  The scary thing was that most of the other photographers on
Nubble's Lights
the beach, about 30 of them, were gathered about 200 yards further south of my preferred location.  Was I in the wrong spot?  I found some comfort after being joined by two other mutinous photographers, both from the Greater BostonNight Photographers.  After double checking the Ephemeris, and also the Photopils App, we remained convinced that we had it right.  Still, we mentally calculated how long it would take for us to sprint down the beach to join the crowd

Moon's Last Flicker
We had a nice angle on the elaborate lighting on Nubble Lighthouse, but we also saw the clouds behind the light.  We waited for the time of moonrise and hoped that there would be a magical break in the clouds to allow the spectacular moon to break through, but this time my Super Moon luck ran out.  There was a brief and tauntingly beautiful glimpse of the fire red moon screened by the low clouds.  It was just enough to tell us that we were in the right spot to see the moon skim over the lighthouse, and then it was swallowed by the clouds.  The moon only reappeared in all its “Super” glory much later and high in the pitch-black evening sky.

Total failure?
Somehow, I convinced Susan to join me on this futile expedition.  She was concerned about letting me drive the 5-6 hours by myself, especially on the long dark trip home.  But was our trip a total failure.  I believe one of the greatest challenges for photographers is when we must make the most out of bad conditions.  

At the very least Sue and I had a long and largely uninterrupted time to talk.  Something which is quite rare these days.  What to get the kids for Christmas, whether we will escape from winter for a trip to New Orleans and most importantly, when will we finally get a dog! 

But I did have a bunch of camera equipment with me, so I had to shoot whatever nature left for me to see.

A Sliver of Moon
Shrouded Rise

First, we did see a momentary sliver of moon as it first peaked above the horizon.  It was not yet in the perfect location over the lighthouse, and it was screened by clouds.  It only lasted about a minute, but I was able to capture just one image that showed parts of the fire-red disk.  When I zoomed in, the reflected sunset light made the moon appear like sunrise, with the house and the people on the rocks providing a nice sense of scale.  And then it was gone.

On Cape Neddick
By watching the moonrise from the beach, I knew that I would miss shooting the lighthouse decorations while the island was still bathed in the beautiful twilight “Blue Hour”, but I still wanted to shoot the lights.  After we dealt with a dead car battery on the shore road (thank you AAA), we headed up to the crowded parking lot across from Nubble Island.  I was surprised that, from behind the clouds, the bright super moon created its own “Blue Hour” to soften the harsh contrasts that might have been created by the bare holiday lights.  I grabbed a few shots with the clouds skittering across the moon.  Then, in response to Susan’s good natured insistence, we headed back toward home, with dinner on the way.


The Wreaths of South Street
On our way to the shore we stopped for breakfast in Concord New Hampshire.  Tuckers is a popular place for Sunday brunch, but we had to wait 45 minutes for a table.  While we waited for our little LED device to ring us back to the restaurant, we took a walk down South Street toward the center of town.  It was a great chance to focus on the variety of holiday door decorations. 

It was a great foretaste of the Christmas season as well as one rotting reminder of the Halloween past. We timed the walk perfectly, getting back just in time for a lovely breakfast, then it was on to the cloudy coast.

An Old Friend and a New Building

Of course, a trip to the coast is never just about photography.  On our way, we stopped in Portsmouth to pick up some Christmas gifts. 

After I had scouted my location for the moonrise, we visited with
Michelle,  Seacoastonline.com
our dear friend Michele.   She is the Executive Director of the York Community Services Association and just last weekend celebrated the grand opening of their wonderful new facility.  The non-profit association provides programs to assist low income individuals and families living in York, and also runs a thrift shop and food pantry to help feed people in need.  Susan and I have loved knowing Michele for years and her dynamic personality is a perfect fit for her community service organization. 

It was a long and busy Sunday with some disappointment.  Overall a good day with a reminder that, in photography, if everything always went perfectly, it would not be nearly as exciting when the magic happens. 

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, November 27, 2017

Photography of Holiday Lights

Tis the season for warm and lovely holiday lighting around our homes, stores and public buildings.  It is also a good time to discuss some of the challenges in photographing these emblems of this special time of year.

I have discussed holiday lighting photography in articles from a few years ago for the New England Photography Guild and in my own “Getting it Right in theDigital Camera” blog, but this seems like a good time to review some of the essential tips. 

Later this week I will be giving a talk to the South Shore Camera Club in Quincy Massachusetts and they requested a presentation on capturing the holiday illuminations. I didn’t think I had enough material for an hour long discussion on holiday lights, so I have been madly searching for more images and information. These are always great learning situations, so I have been out trying to shoot images that better illustrate some of the essential points.  Fortunately, I am just back from spending several days celebrating thanksgiving with my son in New York City and I had wonderful opportunities to shoot some of the elaborate decorations in Manhattan. 

Ok, since my talk is on Tuesday and I have my last “Introduction to Digital Photography” class on Thursday, this will be a brief list tips for your holiday photography.  For more details, check out my articles from a few years ago.  With the exception of the increasingly prevalent use of LED lighting,  little has changed (see below)

Floating Lights
1) Expose to reveal the detail of the context of the image.
It is important to show that your lights are hanging on something, and not merely appearing to float in the air.  Whether the lights are strung on a house, a church, or trees in a park, it is the context that tells the story of each image.  Just be careful to avoid washing out the lights.  It is always an important to maintain balance in the exposures.

2) Put the Flash Away
Direct Flash
There are very few situations in which is flash can be helpful in capturing holiday lights. In general, a flash will merely wash out the lights nearby while inducing shorter shutter speeds that will underexpose the more distant bulbs. 

Slow Sync Flash
More even capture of the lights may be obtain by using the slow sync flash option which is available on many cameras.  This feature combines the flash with a slower shutter speed to record more of the background detail.

Almost always you will get better images by turning off the flash, attaching your camera to a tripod, and using a long exposure.

No Flash

3) Choosing White Balance  

Daylight Color Balance
For years, most holiday lights used tungsten bulbs which create a yellow tint when shot with a daylight setting.  Switching to the tungsten setting corrects the tint, making white bulbs appear white, but, in mixed lighting situations, surrounding areas may take on a blue tint.  The color balance can be a matter of taste, although in Photoshops two images can be blended with a mask to combine the white lights with the un-tinted background. 

Tungsten Color Balance
The choice of color temperature is especially important when shooting in the restrictive color environment of JPGs.  When shooting RAW the color setting is not important, since it can be easily changed in post-processing, but JPGs are much less capable of color adjustments. 

Highlight Mask

LED lighting imposes another level of complexity since they can produce a wide range of colors.  Experimentation with various color settings can help, but I usually shoot in RAW with the AWB (Automatic White Balance) and then do my experimentation during post-processing.

Blended Light Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA
4) Move in for Detail I tend to love wide views of Christmas illuminations, but it is important to remember to move in to capture some of the interesting detail.  Compositions created by just a few bulbs or details of greenery can provide refreshing variety.  After shooting my grandly lighted landscapes, I try to force myself to keep stepping deeper and deeper into the scene.

5) Finally, Don’t forget to check my other tips about capturing the “Holy Grail” of holiday light photography Including, shooting in the blue hour, capturing the lights in fresh snow, catching the twinkle in the lights and finding strong context in the images.

Christmas Light Photography (NEPG Article)

Perfect Christmas Tree – ASquirrel Saga

Now go out and catch some great holiday lights.  Maybe I’ll see you at the South Shore Camera Club this week

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Negative Space in Photography, The Power of Nothingness

Negative space is the area around the key element(s) of an image. When used effectively it can complement and draw attention to the subject of the composition, which is often referred to a “Positive Space”.  

Eagle's Watch

Negative space has applications throughout many genre of art, painting, sculpture, even music, and of course photography.  It is the process of highlighting the subject of a piece by surrounding it with areas that are of less visual interest.

Sometimes, this includes areas that are essentially blank, but it may also be regions that show softer focus or lower contrast, anything with less visual interest that might draw the eye from the primary subject of the piece.  

All too often I tend to pack my images, corner to corner, with as much detail as possible.  I paid good money for all those pixels, why not jam them with as much information as possible?  But it is a healthy exercise to look for compositions in which negative space can strengthen the message of the image. 

Nose Space

Pavlov Island, Alaska

My most frequent use of negative space is when I add nose or motion room.  

Nose room is the amount of open space left in the direction of a subject’s gaze, or direction of motion.  Flowers, trees and other inanimate elements may still have a sense of direction that can also be enhanced with negative space.

Corn Gazing Left

Flower Gazing Left


Rule of Thirds

Negative space may also strengthen a subject and draw the eye by surrounding it with areas of lower interest or it can allow the positive space to be moved away from the “dead” center of the frame to a visually stronger location, such as at the intersection of the lines of the rule of thirds.

Not Purely Negative Space, but It all works to draw the eye and tell the story

Frigate Silhouette, Galapagos Islands

There are many uses for negative space, and the best way to understand the power of nothingness is to study a few examples and then look for opportunities in your own shooting.  The important thing is to understand that your frame does not need to be filled with detail, corner to corner.  Visual impact can be enhanced by simplifying with a little negative space.

Jeffrey Newcomer