About Me

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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, August 21, 2016

Protecting Your Camera from the Summer Heat

Camera Melt

Living and photographing in New England it seems that there is
Land Iguana of Cerro Dragon, Galapagos Islands : HOT
always some kind of extreme natural condition threatening to wreak havoc on our equipment.  Rain, snow, sleet, numbing cold, crashing waves and blowing sanding are just a few of the environmental challenges against which we must struggle, but it is important to remember that it is those same conditions that make New England photography endlessly varied and breathtakingly beautiful.  I have talked about ways to function in the bitter cold of our winters, but, given the recent unrelenting heat, this seems the perfect time to consider strategies for surviving the summer scorch. 

Heat Damage

Modern digital cameras are marvelously complex machines, with a combination of delicate coated glass, sensitive electronics, mechanical components, batteries and memory cards all of which can be damaged by excessive heat. The lubricants that keep the camera running smoothly can melt and migrate in high heat causing severe damage.   

How much is too much heat? Every camera has its own recommendations for acceptable temperature range. For my Canon 5D Mark II, the manual sets the working temperature range for both the camera and the battery from 32 deg F – 104 deg F.  Although I have gotten away with using the camera for short periods at temperatures substantially below zero, I would be nervous about pushing the upper limit.  As always, prevention is the key to protecting your valuable equipment, but first don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Protect Yourself

Before talking about shielding your camera equipment, it is important to remember to protect yourself from effects of the sun and high heat.  In the excitement of a great photographic opportunity, it is easy to ignore the simple measures needed to keep yourself safe and functioning at top capacity.   Light clothing, a hat and sunscreen are a start, but equally important is to keep up with your fluids.  It is hard to capture the perfect shot if you are weak and lightheaded.


The Death Mobile

Keeping your camera equipment cool can be a challenge especially when stored in your car.  Temperature inside a closed vehicle can easily rise from 120-160 degrees.  Again, if we just think about the problem, preventive measures seem obvious.  Try to imagine that your gear is a cute little puppy that you would NEVER allow to roast in your death mobile.  Parking in the shade, providing for ventilation and using reflective window screens can all reduce the internal temperature.  In the case of the reflective screens, they can also be used as reflectors and shades for your photographs.  Inside the car, keep the gear out of the direct sunlight and covered with a light colored towel or other fabric.  An insulated cooler can provide even better protection. I've never actually used a cooler, but it sounds like a great idea.  I'll give it a try - at least until Susan figures out that I stole her cooler.  The car trunk can shield gear from the direct sun, but, especially in dark colored vehicles, the temperature may still climb to excessive levels.

When outside in intense sun and heat, a light colored camera bag or cover can help, and I feel embarrassed to mention this, but it is important not to leave your camera with the lens cap off pointed into the sun – just think about the fun you monsters had frying insects with a magnifying glass.

Internal Heat
Digital cameras can be a source of their own heat.  The biggest culprits are the Live View screen and the sensor, but the rest of the electronics can contribute to the internal temperature, especially if the camera is kept on for prolong periods.  In hot weather it is advisable to limit the use of Live View and set the Auto-Off to no more than one -two minutes.

If your camera becomes excessively hot don’t use it until it has cooled completely.  Move it carefully to a spot with moderate temperature, good air flow and low humidity.  You might also place the camera and lenses in tightly sealed plastic bags (see condensation below).


The most common problem that I experience on hot humid days occurs when I go from a cool air conditioned room or car into the heat and humidity.  Condensation clouds lenses, and the moisture can gather on the internal surfaces of the camera encouraging the disastrous growth of fungus.  It is the same problem that occurs in the winter when I bring a cold camera into a warm house or car and the treatment is the same.  First, try not to go crazy with the air conditioning in the car.   If you are frequently jumping in and out, try to approximate the outdoor temp inside the vehicle.  As you would in the winter, when moving cool gear into the heat and humidity, allow the camera and lenses time to warm in a plastic bag.  It may take 20-30 minutes for the surfaces to adjust to the ambient temperature. It is frustrating to leap out of your comfortably cool car to catch the perfect shot and find that you have to wait for the moisture to clear from the lens. It should take only a few times before you learn to go easy with the air conditioning.  A soft cloth may be helpful to wipe moisture from the lens, but if you suspect internal condensation consider storing gear in air tight containers with Silica gel packets to absorb the moisture.  The packets are cheap and easy to find on the internet.  


Unless you shoot only at dawn or dusk, or even better, only at night, hot conditions are unavoidable.  The most important thing is to recognize the problem and take precautions to avoid a global warming catastrophe.  And cheer-up, this is New England and soon new problems will surface.  After all - 

“Winter is Coming!”
Mount Washington, 20 degrees Below

 Jeff Newcomer

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Exploring Photography at the Cheshire Fair

I have lived in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire for over thirty-five years, but in all that time I had never made it to the Cheshire Fair.  Most years I promise myself that I will finally make it, but it always seems that by the time I realize that fair week has started, it’s past.  Summers activities are always distracting, but his year I finally made it.  As an excuse for a photo shoot (and of course, a blog), I committed to the 78th Annual Cheshire Fair. 

The 78th Cheshire Fair
The fair has all the traditional attractions, including Four-H competitions, tractor and oxen pulls, a rodeo, and a demolition derby.  Of course, there is the full variety of terrible food, most of which involves frying things that were never intended to be fried.  Fortunately, all that deep fried dough, onion rings and (ach!) fried Snickers Bars doesn’t usually stay down long enough to migrate to the Coronary Arteries.  The fair offers a variety of vomit inducing carnival rides designed to shake, twist and flip the offending “food” from the unsuspecting victims.  Ok, I apologize for sounding terribly self-righteous. If it wasn’t for my gluten allergy, I would have eaten myself into a fried dough coma before I had made it half-way down the first line of stalls.

Protected by my food allergy and a healthy fear of the rides, I was able to concentrate on capturing the color and action of this great American tradition.  Sadly, I missed several of the more popular staged entertainments including the demolition derby, the rodeo and a variety of country music concerts.  I was only at the fair for one afternoon and evening, and therefore tried to concentrate on a few of the attractions. I started with my monopod walking stick, but in the evening I fetched my tripod from the car to capture long exposures of the colorful lights.  Surprisingly, as I wandered with my tripod and attached camera on my shoulder, I got no questioning looks from the visitors or security guards.  I just tried to carefully guard against folks tripping over the extended tripod legs.

The “Food”

Since there was almost nothing that I could eat, I was able to concentrate on the brilliant colors of the concession stands.  Everything stood out vividly in the evening light.  If you wanted one evening per year to go ballistically off your sensible diet this was the place.  The perfect “No Judgement Zone”, and I had to be satisfied with only photographing all of the glorious junk.


The Animals

The animals provided great contrasts ranging from the cute calves, the powerful unruly oxen and the stately perfection of the horses performing in the dressage. 


Tractor Pull

The tractor pull offered the opportunity to see a wide range of antique and modern machines straining against the increasing weight of the sled.  Chatting with the spectators and competitors in the stands, I learned that the “Eliminator” sled steadily increases the strain by shifting the weight forward on its long bed.  As the weight presses the front of the sled into the sand even the most powerful tractors eventually stutters to a halt as the wheels to spin in the sand.

The Rides

A county fair would not be the same without the nausea generating rides.  The goal seems to be to spin the inner ear through every possible axis, often several at a time.  I tell myself that
I am not afraid of the
The Zipper
The rides, but I have learned from sad experience that even tame kiddy roller coasters leave me dizzy and nauseated for hours.  I commented on this to the operator of the  a particularly crazy ride, and he readily admitted that he would NEVER consider getting on board.  I stood a safe distance away from the “Zipper”, and watched the victims lurch out of the cages.  Many folks love this stuff and I was surprised to see how many people staggered back into line.


For me, the greatest attraction was to use long exposures to record the abstract gyrations of the brightly lit rides.  Again this was where the tripod was essential.


The People etc

I’m not an experienced street photographer, but the fair would be a great place to learn.  Lots of interesting people and wide-eyed kids.  I generally felt safer shooting a few of the concession barkers, but avoided the more aggressive salesmen. It must be a struggle for them to stay awake, let alone maintain a positive, energetic attitude.   


Of course my easiest subjects were all the wide eyed stuff animals – no trouble holding them still for their close-ups.

A Grande Finale
On the day of my visit, fireworks were scheduled for 9PM.  I searched for a place to capture the show with the lights of the fair in the foreground, but I couldn’t find a good angle.  I was getting tired and hungry and eventually set my tripod in the parking lot close to the display.  I was able to capture a number of dramatic explosions and was in a perfect spot to get out before the crowd left the fair.  In this picture, I blended three images using the lighten mode to give a grand finally appearance without having to wait to the bitter end. 

I had an enjoyable time exploring my first Cheshire Fair.  It was good to check this one off my list and a great excuse to shoot a wide variety of interesting subjects. Coming to the fair I had no set plan or expectations.  It was a perfect example of Picasso's "finding" rather than a defined "search".

This time of year there are county fairs throughout New England and it is hard to find a more varied and colorful opportunity for a self-assigned photo shoot. Remarkably, I came away from my project without being sick from either the “food” or the rides.  Perhaps i another 35 years I will be ready to go back, but It could be sooner.  The Demolition Derby is beckoning and who knows, my children may yet give me some grand-kids whose brains need to be scrambled on the Zipper.

 The Cheshire Fair can't be captured in words.  It is about the rich sounds, sites and smells.  So get to a country fair and in the meantime check out a bunch more images in my Cheshire Fair Gallery.

Jeff Newcomer

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Show in a Box

Show at the Prime Roast Coffee Company Cafe
This month I brought my “Show in a Box” to the walls of Prime Roast in Keene New Hampshire.  It is my favorite place to find coffee beans, both familiar and exotic, and a friendly venue to show my photographs, but it couldn’t have happened unless I was ready for “the call”.

Hanging Competition
There is an abundance of talented artists in the Monadnock Region.  A wide range of exciting work can be seen in many annual exhibitions including the Keene’s Art walk, Art in the Park and the Ewing Art Awards.  Over the years I have taken advantage of all of these opportunities to join others in showing my work, but I have also displayed my photographs in a long list of local galleries, restaurants, cafes, banks, churches and any other public places that might have an unguarded open wall.  As I have said many times before, it is all about “showing the work”, but it seems that the list of venues has been decreasing while the number of artists seeking places to display their work has exploded.

Some locations have grown tired of the hassle of constantly juggling rotating exhibitions.  Instead of managing a fresh set of holes hammered into their walls every month, many have opted for a fixed display of decoration.  I can’t say that I blame them.  

I probably wouldn't want the atmosphere of my elegant restaurant altered every month based on the artistic whim of my latest exhibitor.  Of course all styles have their own validity – just not all are conducive to digestion.  With the number of venues decreasing, the waiting lists are getting longer.  What is a poor artist struggling for recognition to do?  
 Consider just a few basic principals.

  • First get on the lists. Don’t be discouraged by the twelve or eighteen month waiting periods.  Time passes and, if you are on enough lists, you will eventually settle into a schedule.
  •  Be nice to your venues.  Show up as scheduled and hang and remove your work at a time that is convenient for your host, not in the middle of the dinner rush.

  • Try to be as gentle as possible to the walls.  If your venue doesn’t have a hanging system, avoid repeatedly pounding nails to re-position your work.  You won’t be invited back if you leave the walls in tatters.  I use my nifty picture hanging tool to get the height right the first time

  • Choose your art carefully to compliment the mood of the venue.  What would work well in a gallery of avant-garde art may not be appreciated in an elegant restaurant.  When displaying in hospitals or clinics, I tend to avoid my moody cemetery images.

  • Finally, you should be ready for opportunities.  I was on list for the Prime Roast in Keene New Hampshire, scheduled for sometime in 2017, but early last week I got the call.  Someone had dropped out at the last minute and Judy was looking for a replacement.  I have shown at the café on several previous occasions, Judy knew my work, and I had my “show in a box” ready to go. 

The Show in a Box
When not in a show I keep the bulk of my framed images, wrapped in corrugated, in a bin ready to load into the car.  From previous exhibitions, I knew that the front walls of the café can fit nine or ten of my images.  I looked back at the list from my last show and selected newer images that hadn’t been displayed there before.  Everything fit in a single bin.  Prime Roast has a wire hanging system which makes adjustment in spacing and height a snap.  Within a little over an hour, the show was hung, adjusted and photographed.  The next day I was able to post a list of the images.  Done!

The point here is that with all the competition for good venues, it is important to be ready to quickly accommodate the urgent requests.  It is surprising how often they come.  Owners hate bare walls, and they appreciate and remember those who are able to help them out of a bind.

So assemble your bin of art and be ready for the call.  Remember, it is all about showing the work.

  • If you around Keene drop by the Prime Roast Coffee Company for some great coffee and, of course, inspiring New England Photography


Check out the
Prime Roast Show Gallery.

Hanging Art : Links

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Find Rather Than Search

"Finding" a Focus for Bessemer Court Fountain, Pittsburgh Pa.

 Art is not Truth
One of my favorite quotes about art comes from an interview that Picasso gave in 1923.   Translated from the original Spanish. He said;

Picasso 1923
“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

Although he was referring to painting, I think Picasso’s statement is a perfect response to those who complain when any style of photography is seen as failing to accurately record the” natural world”.  I can think of no higher goal for my photography than to convince others of the truthfulness of my lies.

Finding vs Searching

Wow start the counter on how many times I use that quote!  It should be sufficient to stop here and let Picasso’s profound reflection sink in - blog done for this week!!

But as I considered more of his interview, I came across another observation that may be of more practical importance for landscape photographers, especially in our age of technology assisted capturing of light.  It has to do with the difference between searching and finding.  He could again have been referring to photography when he said;

Didn't even move the Pumpkins

“In my opinion to search means nothing in painting. To find, is the thing. Nobody is interested in following a man who, with his eyes fixed on the ground, spends his life looking for the pocketbook that fortune should put in his path. The one who finds something no matter what it might be, even if his intention were not to search for it, at least arouses our curiosity, if not our admiration.”

Planning the Perfect Shot
Ok, no one more than I appreciates the wonders of modern digital photography - HDR, astrophotography, focus stacking, motion blur and much more.  In numerous articles I have celebrated all the ways that technology has broadened our ability to capture aspects of the world to which conventional film photography has been largely blind.  

We can use software such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris to precisely predict where to stand to capture the perfect sunrise or to place the Milky Way directly above the town hall spire.  I am constantly in awe of the ability of photographers to glory in all of the magnificent beauty that careful planning can accomplish, but, as Picasso suggested,  I worry that all that diligent “searching” can cause us to be closed to the “finding”.

Finding the Sunset
A few evenings ago, Susan called out to me about the beautiful colors in the sunset sky.  I hadn’t planned to go out shooting, but my camera bag is always ready.  I threw it into the car and took off without any plan for my search.  I first reached the spectacular summer sunset color shining above the pastures of Chesterfield.  The colors were vibrant but the foreground lacked a strong focus. Not knowing when the color would disappear, I grabbed some quick images and then got back into the car to looking for something interesting to put in front of the rapidly fading color.  Happily, just down the road, I came across a lovely red barn.  The dramatic sky and the warm light shining on the barn made a great composition.  My lack of a defined “search” opened me to “find” this wonderful moment.


The Treasure Hunt  
I enjoy the unpredictable treasure hunt that photography in the natural world can be.  Planning can lead to great results, but there is nothing like not knowing what you are looking for to open your eyes to a wealth of possibilities. I frequently head out on a shoot with nothing more than a general direction in mind, but it is amazing how often an open eye and the willingness to get lost can lead to surprising images.   


Sometimes it is a dramatic angle or shade of light.  Often it comes from being ready for the sudden appearance of a majestic bird, horses grazing along a pasture fence or just a flash of a combination of strong foreground and background elements.

The "Plan" was to get to Peacham Vt for the Sunrise.
In my rush, almost didn't stop for what turned out to be the best shot of the day.

Green River Falls

A couple of years ago on a trip to Green River Vermont, I found a family cooling off under the water fall.  It wasn’t something I was looking for but the image found its way both to my calendar and one for Vermont Life.  

Park Hill Reflection
Early this spring I dropped by Park Hill in Westmoreland New Hampshire.  The light was disappointing, but I kept shooting as I wandered around this icon New England village.  I knew that almost always something new and interesting can be found and on this evening I explored reflections of the brightly illuminated church spire in the village windows.

Don't Forget to Look Down
So many of my favorite images over the years have come from a thoughtful lack of forethought and miraculous accidents. I think Picasso would agree that a mastery of technique is essential, but don’t forget, while self-consciously “searching” for images, keep your eyes open to “find” the surprises that, especially in our remarkable New England, are always there to discover.

Thanks to Scot Borofsky and the Brattleboro Gallery Walk Archive

Jeff Newcomer