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.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Revealed ! Rediscovering a Couple of Photographic Treasures

Change is Not Always Bad
Chesterfield Gorge
The only thing which is constant in New England Landscape is change.  The weather changes moment to moment.  The seasons are marvelously persistent in their rotation of color, mood and photographic opportunities.  This is what makes living and photographing in New England such a joy.  Just when you are becoming bored with the prevailing light and subjects, something changes.  We are going through one of those changes right now as the snow, and especially the cold!, have faded and we await the explosion of the variations of green that will trumpet the onset of our wonderful spring.

Change isn't always pleasant or productive.  You have repeatedly
Screening Jenne Farm, Reading Vermont
heard me bemoan the change that can rob us photographic opportunities.  Classic New England buildings have collapsed, or been torn down.  Centuries old trees have finally fallen to effects of time and nature, and beautiful, natural vistas have been choked with obstructing trees, bushes or new structures.  All very sad, but this week I was reminded by two examples that show how sometimes things can actually get better and, surprisingly these revelations occurred because, rather than in spite of human intervention.

Chesterfield Gorge Revealed

Last week I was revisiting some of my favorite local waterfalls to

Gorge Overgrowth, November 2012
supplement my blog article about waterfalls in Cheshire CountyChesterfield Gorge on Route 9 between Keene and Chesterfield New Hampshire is a lovely little park that includes beautiful cascades and dramatically plunging falls. The 0.7 mile loop trail descends on one side of the steep gorge and back up on the opposite side.  Along the way there are frequent excellent views of the tumbling water, but in recent years small trees and shrubs have grown up along the steep bank to obstruct the view of the most dramatic of the waterfalls.  The tumbling 75 foot drop was screened by a tangle of branches in the winter and nearly obliterate by summer foliage. The gorge has been largely ignored by the state, but in the last few years a group of dedicated volunteers have
Liberated Gorge, April 2014
formed the "Friends of Chesterfield Gorge" and have been working tirelessly to improve gorge's facilities and trails.  I recently approached one of the Friends about the overgrowth at the falls and he told me that they had already taken care of much of the problem.  On my visit last weekend I was thrilled to have my first clear view of the falls in years.  A few stray branches remain and will become more evident as they fill with foliage, but overall it is an amazing improvement.  Thanks to the Friends I actually can celebrate the return of a classic photographic site.  Take THAT entropy!

Jaffrey Meeting House View

The Jaffrey Meeting House is the focus of the Old Jaffrey Center. 
Jaffrey Meeting House
Separated from the developed hub of the town, the old center wonderfully preserves the sense of a classic New England village.  The Meeting House was raised on June 17, 1775, the day of the Battle of Bunker Hill. It was recorded that the workers could hear the distant canon fire from Charlestown over 60 miles away.  I have photographed the Meeting House from
all directions and in all seasons.  It overlooks a peaceful green and a classic stonewall bordered New England cemetery. 

Wooded Cemetery, August 2006

 In past years the cemetery featured a scattering of stately old trees shading
Cemetery Cleared
portions of the grounds and providing interesting patterns of light and shadow, but the trees created another problem.  I have seen old pictures of the Meeting House standing proudly with Mt Monadnock majestically looming in the background, but I was never able to find a angle with a clear view of the mountain.  The trees on the green and within the cemetery had grown to smother the once perfectly aligned tableau.  In the winter I could see through the web of branches to get a sense of the glorious view, but I could never find a way to avoid the screen.  Last year I was a bit annoyed to discover that the Meeting House caretakers had removed some old trees from the cemetery and green.  As a devote tree-huger, I mourned the loss, but on a visit this spring I realized what had been done.  It was with a sturdy dope slap that I turned around and saw that the vista to Mt Monadnock seems to have been restored.  The final verdict will need to wait until the leaves fill in, but, at this point it looks like the mountain will be shining through.  I can't wait to recreate my Meeting House pictures this year to include the mountain in all its majesty throughout the seasons.  My tears for the lost trees have dried.  Now if we can only get them to bury the damn wires!

To Monadnock, April 2014


Over the last couple of weeks, my whining about the fading beauty of classic New England landscapes has muted a bit.  I find myself looking for other situations where man or nature has improved the view.  It just confirms that New England is about all sorts of change and that's why I think I'll hang around here for awhile.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Waterfalls of Cheshire County

Catsbane Mill Falls

Photographing the Falling Water Season

The snow is fading fast and, as we wait for the buds to explode into their exuberant range of greens, we are thoroughly into falling water season.  Waterfalls are the main attraction this time of year.  With the snow run-off and spring rains, streams that are normally a mere trickle become roaring torrents.  What better time to share some of my favorite falls in my home territory of Cheshire County, New Hampshire.  I would not pretend to know all the waterfalls in the county.  Even after exploring the region for almost 35 years there are still locations about which I have only heard stories.  Last week I talked about one waterfall that I have sought for several years.  I'm still not certain that I have found Pulpit Falls in Winchester, NH, but I plan to go back soon to confirm the location.

Chesterfield Gorge Flow
Included here are several of my favorite waterfalls that are accessible to the public.  There are other falls on private land, but to visit these you would need to establish your own relationship with the owner.

Waterfall photography is not difficult.  All you need is good boots, and a sturdy tripod to hold your camera for the long exposures that turn chaotic boiling water into the soft, cotton candy appearance that is so popular.  Another essential is a number of clean lens cloths to keep the mist from fogging your lens.  As I discussed in a previous article, getting the right exposure for your taste is always a matter of experimentation.   So gear-up and let's go exploring.

1) Beaver Brook Falls, Keene
Beaver Brook Falls is located in a secluded spot about one half mile up a abandoned road which is a section of the old route that

Beaver Brook Falls
traveled from Keene to Concord.  The falls cascade over a rocky ledge and drops about ten feet into Beaver Brook.  The flow varies a good deal depending on the season and recent rainfall.  The falls can be photographed from the road or from along the brook, but the footing along the bank is slippery.
Directions: Take Washington Street north of Keene's Central Square.  Just before the road rises to merge with Route 9, take a right on the Old Concord Road and then a quick left on the Washington Street Extension.  This road ends shortly at metal gates.  From here the falls is about a half mile walk up the gently rising abandoned road.


2) Forty Foot Falls, Surry
This water fall, which is part of Merriam Brook in Surry, NH, is one of the least well known in the region, but can be quite

40 Foot Falls
spectacular. This anonymity is probably due to a number of factors including the fact that the falls is tucked away along a neglected unmarked dirt path and is partially accessed across a decaying bridge. Unfortunately, the actual falls are at the head of a deep, narrow ravine, bordered by shear rocky cliffs. It is nearly impossible to get a full view of the falls. Probably the best angle comes from above the falls, but I have also captured views from across the bridge looking up stream. I have always felt that the best part of
40 Foot Falls, Downstream
Forty Foot Falls is actually the other, more accessible, waterfalls and cascades that are below the tallest drop. This section is accessed with a short bushwhack from a turn out on the road just below the trail to the main falls.
Directions: Take Court Street north from Central Square in Keene.  At the second traffic circle bare right onto Route 12a.  After 4.3 miles take a left on Joslyn Road. The turn off to the lower portion of the falls is on the left about 1/2 mile up Joslyn Road.  


 3) Chesterfield Gorge, Chesterfield
The Chesterfield Gorge Natural Area includes 13 acres located in

Big Drop, Chesterfield Gorge
Chesterfield, New Hampshire off Route 9. The area features a .7 mile Wilderness Loop Trail which follows Wilde Brook through the Chesterfield Gorge. It is an easy/moderate hike along the edge to the bottom of gorge.  Along the way there are various points to observe the brook as it cuts through steep rock formations and over a series of waterfalls and cascades. The hike can be easily completed in under an hour, but you will want to linger to enjoy and photograph the beauty and drama of this majestic area.
Directions: The Gorge Natural Area is located on Route 9 west of Keene, NH.  It is about 5.6 miles west of the intersection of Routes 101 and 9 in Keene. Look for the sign on the right side of the road.  The area has a parking lot which accesses the trial.  In recent years Chesterfield Gorge has been supported and maintained by a dedicated group of private citizens in the Friends of Chesterfield Gorge.  

Wilde Brook Cascade


4) Ashuelot Falls, Keene
Ashuelot Falls
Ashuelot Heron
Ashuelot River Park is a lovely 157 acre oasis in the center of Keene, New Hampshire.  The park includes a mill dam waterfall dating back to 1775.  The mill pond to provided water power for the manufacturing of theday.  Now the pond  supports a diversified population of wildlife which is accessible from a number of well maintained trails. Just above the waterfall is a beautiful suspension foot bridge spanning the Ashuelot River.  The falls can be viewed from either side of the river and on the east side you can stop by Starbucks to get overpriced coffee before settling on a bench to watch the flow.
Directions:  Heading west from Keene’s Central Square along West Street the River Park is across from the Colony Mill. Just pull into the parking lot and, in the summer,  you can grab some ice cream from the truck stationed at the entrance.

River Park Bridge

5) Mt Wantastiquet Falls, Hinsdale

Wantastiquet Falls
Mt Wantastiquet sits on the Connecticut River between Chesterfield and Hinsdale, across the River from Brattleboro, Vermont.  The
1335 foot summit is accessed by a switchback trail which begins across the bridge from Brattleboro behind the former Walmart building at the end of Mountain Road.  At the beginning of the trail, just above the small parking lot, there is nice waterfall cascading down the long the corridor cut to provide electrical access to the summit.  The falls can be viewed from the trail, but a closer approach involves negotiation of a very steep and often wet path along the edge.  The waterfall varies in intensity depending on run-off and rainfall.  Naming it Wantastiquet Falls is totally my own invention.  You can call it whatever you like.


 6) Catsbane Brook, Chesterfield
Catsbane Cascade
The Catsbane Brook flows through West Chesterfield to the Connecticut River.  As the brook tumbles through the village it shoots through a number of nice cascades and over a couple of dramatic old mill falls.  Much of this activity is not apparent as you drive through the village and requires some exploration, owner permitting.  One nice cascade is easily seen from the Farr Road as it crosses the brook between the village and the flat section that leads to the  Connecticut.
Directions:  From Keene take a right on Brook Road which becomes River road in the village.  Just watch for the Bridge on the left as you head northwest from the village.

Catsbane Falls


Perkins Pond Falls, Troy
The view of Mt Monadnock from across Perkins Pond on Route 124 in Troy, New Hampshire is one of my favorites and perhaps the

Perkins Pond Falls
most famous perspectives on the mountain.  It is less know that Perkins Pond drains from its western end through a gorge that includes a series of cascades and over a lovely secluded waterfall.  The falls can be seen from the edge of he gorge, but approaching its base is difficult.  The brook bed must be reached from down stream and the scramble back up to the falls can be tricky, especially when the brook is running high.
Directions :  Take Route 124 south from Marlborough, New Hampshire.  Turn right on Monadnock Street just after passing across Perkins Pond and then left onto a dirt road in 0.2 miles.  This road ends quickly at a steel gate and just before a path to the left leads across a bridge and then along the stream to the falls.

This is a short list of only a few of my favorite local waterfalls.  I plan to take advantage of  this year’s falling water season to find some of the other cascades and falls in the region.  I hope to see you out there.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Finding Pulpit Falls, Possibly

 This week's blog is a short discussion of my search for a back woods waterfall.  Nothing very special, but it is these quests that make photography in the wild a constant adventure.  It is all about the thrill of the quest.

With the end of winter (hopefully) New England photographers
Catsbane Tributary Chesterfield, NH
turn there attention to waterfalls.  Falling water is the one thing that helps us survive the early spring season until the foliage begins to explode.  I have been planning a blog to highlight my favorite falls in Cheshire County, much like my article last year about the cluster of waterfalls in Hillsborough County.  My favorites list includes many great nearby locations that I visit on a regular basis, but then I made the mistake of Googling "Waterfalls in Cheshire County".  A number of nice lists came up in the search and I was horrified to realize how many of the falls I had never explored or even heard of. There is no way I could find all these falls for my article, but one popped out from the list.  Pulpit Falls in Winchester, NH 

Pulpit Falls
The Wrong Falls
Pulpit falls has been a bit of a torment to me for several years.  I have seen a few picture of the falls in Flickr and have found a
couple of descriptions with directions that seemed rather vague.  I had tried to find the falls a few years ago but went up stream instead of down from the road.  I ended up finding a nice cascade, but it was definitely NOT pulpit Falls.  Every so often since,  I have looked for clearer directions to the falls and finally decided that an article about the waterfalls of Cheshire County was a reasonable excuse to give it another try.  The Wicked Dark Photography Blog had a nice story about finding the falls and armed with this description and others I headed  south to Winchester to try my luck again.


Looking West on Route 10, Winchester, NH
Pulpit Falls is located on Pauchaug  Brook, off of  Route 10 in Winchester, New Hampshire.  Coming from Chesterfield, I headed down Route 63 toward Northfield Massachusetts and turned east on Route 10.  The standard descriptions instruct visitors to look for  a rather sharp curve to the left a few miles down the road.  Toward the beginning of the curve  there is a jeep road on the right with a broad should on the left to allow parking.  I had to drive by twice before I caught sight of the road.  The point on the map was set by my GPS coordinates of:  
 42 43' 52"
-72 24' 31"
   It lies about 2.4 miles east of the intersection of Route 63 and Route 10.

Nellie and I descended the rough unplowed road and quickly found
Pauchaug Brook
Pauchaug Brook.  From that point all the directions advised to bushwhack up the stream until you find the falls.  On my visit last Saturday, the weather had warmed, but the stream was north facing and there was still a foot or more of snow in the gorge.  Sadly I did not bring my snowshoes and it was a struggle slogging through the cover.  I frequently sank to my knees and the snow snatched away the basket on my one walking pole.  I found two sturdy sticks that
Lower Cascade with a touch of Toning
worked better to keep me above the deep snow and pressed on. After a short distance I heard the welcome sound of falling water and I soon came upon two levels of cascades. Unfortunately both falls we're encased in ice and it was impossible to get a clear view to confirm that I had actually found the elusive Pulpit Falls.  The terrain beyond this point appeared flat and uninteresting and without sight or sound of other falls, but until I can get back to explore when the snow has cleared, all I can say is that I was sure I had found the right starting point and I may have found Pulpit Falls.  

Upper Cascade

The Falls One Week Later

 The descriptions of Pulpit Falls always portray a modest cascade, but modest as it may be, the search has become something of a quest, and questing is one of the great attractions of natural photography.  Hopefully my description will make it a bit easier for others to find this spot.  I'll be back to confirm the location of the falls, and then it will be on to Frye Falls in Walpole.  There is NO excuse for me not knowing all the major falls in my backyard.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bagging My Snowy


The Magic of the Snowy Owl
I resisted it for as long as I could. All winter I have enjoyed watching the flood of dramatic pictures on Facebook of the Snowy Owls that have invaded our New England coast in record numbers. These beautiful birds are usually a rarity this far south, but every 4-5 years there is an “irruption” as the supply of Lemmings, their staple food, rises in its normal cyclic pattern. This year the Snowies have launched a full scale invasion. It is estimated that this is the biggest irruption in the last 50 years. Facebook in general and the New England Photography Guild FB site in particular have been overflowing with fantastic images of Snowy Owls. It seemed that every other picture on the site was of an adorable white raptor fluffed up against the cold. I haven’t seen any Snowies in the Monadnock region, but it became apparent to me that I can’t call myself a New England photographer unless I have a Snowy in my portfolio. So I finally surrendered and headed to the coast last Monday to try to catch a Snowy before they made their springtime retreat to the northern tundra.

Failed Search

Two years ago I had made a similar attempt, but came up empty. I had taken the two hour trek to the New Hampshire coast on a cold February morning and searched the coast for several hours before I
Hampton Beach Sunrise
had to give up. I had to fulfill my responsibility to photograph the Cheshire Medical Center's participation in the "Penguin Plunge". The plunge is an annual fund raiser to Benefit the Special Olympics in which otherwise sane individuals pointlessly dive into the ocean at Hampton Beach. For several years I came along to record my friends in various shades of blue as they emerged from the frigid Atlantic. The Plunge was a great success and everyone survived, but I saw zero snow owls. I did get some nice images of a clear and frigid coastal sunrise.

This year I decided to improve my odds. Several of my fellow New England Photography Guild members are world class bird photographers and I sent out a general email looking for recommendations about where I would have the best chance to bag a Snowy. John Vose got back to me with two suggestions which turned out to be perfect. It helped that the birds seemed to have settled into favorite locations and were not wandering a great deal. Also Snowy Owls are easier to find since, unlike most other owls, they tend to be active during daylight hours.

Roof Top Snowy

My first location was at the State Park on the northern side of Rye Harbor. I pulled in at about 9am and a quick tour revealed no owls
Up On the Roof
in sight. A park Ranger, who was parked in the lot, told me that a female Snowy had been hanging out around the Park for several weeks, but he had not seen her for the last few days. My hopes fell, but then he mentioned that she occasionally perched on the roof of a white house on the opposite side of the road from the Park. Again I saw nothing, but then, as I scanned further up the road, I spied a white smudge on the roof of a pink house. A glance through my telephoto revealed that I had found my Snowy! I approached the house slowly and in stages. I didn't want to spook her and even a distant picture would make the trip worthwhile. I was eventually able to approach close enough to capture close-up images of this magnificent bird. It was clear that she had become used to seeing crazy photographers and John had told me that she was quite imperturbable. I was able to capture sharp images with my Canon 100-400 zoom and a 2x tele extender. Fully extended I had 800mm to work with. The extender meant that I had to focus manually and was limited to an aperture no wider that f11, but it was a bright day and careful manual focusing was necessary anyway to deal with the shallow depth of field of the long lens. Of course my position on the side of the road with a ridiculously long lens drew passersby. I initially felt sorry for those who only had a cell phone to capture the scene, but then I realized that no photograph was necessary to capture the majesty of these birds. I felt incredibly lucky. I finally had a chance to experience a Snowy. I could have returned home happy, but I had one more of John’s locations to try and I wanted to see if I could catch a bird in a more natural environment. Roof shingles were not the most dramatic backdrop for my images. 

Salisbury Beach

I headed south to Salisbury Beach and the entry road turned out to be a bonanza of Snowies. I saw at least 3 different owls, including one in a tree, another in the grass of an adjacent marsh and one that seemed attached to a telephone pole just outside the park entrance. On weekends this road tends to be packed with cars, but on his cool Monday morning I shared the owls with only a few birders. I have read that the males tend to be mostly white while he females have more dark spots. The owls were easy to find. All I needed to do was notice where the other photographers were pointing their cameras. It was all too easy and, given how hard I worked last time, I felt a bit guilty. The one thing that I missed was good pictures of the birds in flight. They mostly seemed comfortable on their perches. I kept my camera trained on the birds, leaving room to the side toward which I expected them to take flight. Invariably I was glancing away at the moment they took wing and only caught one just as it was flying out of the frame.

Taking Flight

How can I complain? The 4 hours of driving to and from the coast was well worth the effort. I not only bagged my Snowy, but I got to see these magnificent birds in a variety of locales and activities. I now feel that I can hold my head up among my fellow New England photographers and settle back into my usual role of shooting trees, rocks and streams. 

Passing Seagull

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Madame Sherri’s Album

If you live in Chesterfield, New Hampshire you have most likely heard of Madame Sherri and her mysterious "Castle" in the woods along the Gulf Road. Madame Antoinette Sherri was an extravagant Broadway costume designer during the era of magnificently staged reviews such as the Ziegfeld Follies. The Madame had a varied and mysterious life which I outline in my article this week for the New England Photography Guild Blog (To be Published 3/24/14). Today, she is mostly remembered for the summer retreat that she built in 1931 to entertain her friends from the city. All that remains of her "Castle" is the foundation and a marvelous native stone spiral staircase, which now rises sadly to the sky.



Recently Madame Sherri’s colorful life history has been exhaustively explored by fellow Chesterfield Conservation Commission Member Lynne Borofsky.  I partnership with the Chesterfield Historical Society, Lynne has been able to answer many of the questions surrounding the Madame’s history, especially as related to her time in Chesterfield, but many mysteries remain.  Lynne has  also been fortunate to gain access to many photographs from Madame Sherri’s original photograph albums and it has been my privilege to work on the restoration of these images.  They provide a wonderfully personal window on the Madame’s life.  I have included some of the pictures in this week’s NEPG Blog, but since space was limited I decide to arrange more in this separate album.  

Young Madame

Andre & Madame

Madame & Andre Puerto Rico Wedding

Madame and Pigeons 
Chain Smoker

Charles Lamaire

Primrose Path

Furlone Farm, Madame's Home
Main Stairway

Rare Castle Interior Image

After the fire

The Ruins


Mystery of Madame Sherri NEPG Article
  (to be published 3/24/14)