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, August 13, 2018

Finding My Eagles, At Long Last

Broken Snag
For the last several years I have enjoyed observing the activities in “my” eagle nest on a snag across the Connecticut River from my home town of Chesterfield New Hampshire.  With what is for me uncharacteristic patience, see : 
Temptation of One Minute More. 
I have monitored, and photographed the nest building, chick hatching and nurturing, as well as the soaring of these majestic scavengers.  Each year, the nest, had been improved and more thickly woven into the scaffold of it precarious perch.  Sadly, last winter the inevitable happened and the barren snag was toppled by a winter storm and in the process, I lost my eagles.

Over the years, I have become closely attached to “my” eagles, and I felt their loss personally. All  spring and summer, I have been searching for the 
Juvenile fly-over
eagle’s new home.  I was reassured by those who told me that deposed eagles typically re-establish a nest close to their former location, but despite frequent searches along the river, I had failed to find any evidence of my birds.  On a couple of occasions, I thought I might have caught a fleeting glimpse of an eagle high in the sky, but I could never be sure, and I wasn’t able to see where they might have been settling.

I had nearly given up hope, but then recently I had seen a reference to a sighting of a nest in a birch about 100 yards in from the Connecticut River shore. The reference was maddeningly nonspecific, but early this week I decided to go for another look. 

New Nest
  I parked at spots along the River Road, and then went on foot to explore the bank opposite to the river.  Nothing, but as is so often the case, the real break came as I talked to the folks passing by on the road.  The first car stopped to politely ask me to get my car off the edge of his lawn. With our narrow back country roads, there is always a fine line between staying out of the road and keeping off the lawn. I was quick to comply with his request, but I also learned from him that the eagles had moved to a nest a bit further south.  The driver of the next truck stopped to see what I was doing, and he was able to tell me that my eagles where in a tree on his neighbor’s land. It all goes to confirm two facts about New England nature photography.

  • First, it always pays to talk to the people who you encounter in your explorations.  This is especially true of those who gaze suspiciously out of their windows at the funny looking guy with the tripod.
  • Second, the overwhelming majority of these people are friendly, welcoming and thrilled to help.  It turns out that , at least in rural New England, most landowners are proud of there small corner of natural beauty and are excited that someone would want to photograph the scene. In return, I honor any limitations they may have and often drop off a print of the results of my work.

I was excited to go to the new location, and again, found a very friendly and helpful home owner.  Peter directed me to best spot to see the nest, which was not easy to find, high up in the branches of a spruce.  As I expected, the nest was not as large as their previous home, but I suspect that it will expand over the years.  He then suggested that I explore a spot along the river which was a frequent resting area for my birds.  

Hidden Vigil
It was there that I finally found them.  I first saw a mature Eagle hidden among the leaves and caught a couple of shots as it took wing.  On this first day I captured the birds in occasional fly-overs.  I suspect they were acclimating to this intruder camped along the brook.

Vermont Shore Landing
  The next day I was able to get good shots of both a mature and a juvenile bird perched in nearby trees, and a pair of mature eagles in a tree across the river on the distant Vermont shore.

It was a great couple of days.  The pictures were not among my best eagle images, but the wonderful thing was that I finally found “my” eagles.  Peter told me that an Audubon official identified the male as being from the old nest, but he wasn’t as certain about the female. The new location presents its own set of challenges.  Looking up at the nest, it will always be strongly backlight, but having established a good viewing spot next to the river, I hope to be able to monitor more of the eagles daily activity.

Adult Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle
It was great to relocate the eagles, but more importantly, I established a good relationship with the landowner, and was invited to return whenever I liked to photograph on his spectacular property.  Understandably, the owner did not want me to disclose the exact location of nesting site.  Being deep within private property, he feared a stampede of enthusiastic and persistent birders camping in his back yard. 

Jeffrey Newcomer

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Rye Beach and Beyond, and Just a Tiny Bit of Photoshop

Rye Beach Reflection

This last weekend was “Rye Beach Weekend”, my annual chance to mooch 
The  Timeless Cottage, From Years Past
off our friends Tom and Paula who, for four weeks, take a rustic cottage on Rye Beach, New Hampshire.  New Hampshire only has about 18 miles of frontage on the Atlantic, but Rye Beach is one of its prettiest stretches of sand.  The only problem is that the Beach is packed with overly developed Beach mansions. Our friend’s cottage is the only house that has not been torn down and replaced with a modern, four season houses.  The structure is rough, but the essential fact is that it is ON the beach and that is all that really counts.

Each year I get to visit with friends, eat great food overlooking the ocean, and look for new and interesting things to photograph at the water’s edge.

Rye Beach Roller
Photographically, this year was a bit of a challenge, the schedule was tight, and, from a photographer’s perspective, the weather was disappointingly beautiful.  The sky was mostly clear, with just a few thunder clouds in the evening, but not much of a sunset.  I prefer stacks of puffy clouds or darkly ominous overcast.  I found a good location to capture a nearly full moon rising behind the distant Isle of shoals, but a cloud bank completely blocked the show.  I did catch a nice reflection of the tall clouds on the wet sand and I waded out to capture the rollers crashing onto the beach.  In addition to freezing the waves with short exposures, I tried using my new Neutral Density Filters to cut the bright sunlight.  Despite the strong mid-day sun, I was able to flatten the surf with exposures of 15 second or more.  I could have done better if the sky was even a little overcast.

Rye Surf, 15 Second Exposure, 6 stop ND Filter

Perkin's Cove

Perkin's Cove Bloom

This year we planned to extend our coastal visit to include a visit to our friends Michele and Wally in York Maine.  We had an early dinner next to the Marginal Way in Perkin’s Cove, Ogunquit Maine.  The cove is a classic little protected harbor, mostly packed with working fishing boats and lobsterman.  The waterfront is quite touristy, but the harbor and the rocky shore along the one and one quarter mile long cliff path of the Marginal Way is a spectacular.  

Bait, Perkin's Cove

Nubble Light Refurbishing

Of course, being in York, I had to make a pilgrimage to the classic Nubble Lighthouse.  Unfortunately, this year, the lighthouse is being refurbished.  Scaffolding has been migrating around the structures contaminating the pristine appearance.  For our visit the mesh was around one of the outbuildings.  I could have tried to repair the damage in Photoshop, but, over the years, I have had many opportunities to grab clean images of the light.  This was a good time to let the repairs happen while I enjoyed the clean salt air and communed with the gulls.

Nubble Gull

The Sox
Friendly Fenway

The final leg of our trip was down to Cambridge and Boston for dinner with our daughter Abigail, and her new husband Grayson. Following dinner, we rushed off to Fenway to see the Sox drop a game to the Phillies.  Boston hasn’t been losing much this year, so why did they have to save one for us.  I always bring my little Canon SX 50HS to the games.  It is small enough to sneak in as a point and shoot, but its 1200mm zoom brings me close to the action.

Pomeranz Delivers at 1200mm

This year, our Rye Weekend extended out for five lovely days.  We didn’t get home until late Wednesday, which is why I am late with this week’s blog.  Now I have a bunch of stuff on which to catch up and the work on the studio is still inching along.  Who knows when I’ll get to my next article.

Tenders, Perkin's Cove

OK, I couldn't resist a little "quick and dirty" Photoshop
I stole the shack from another of my images

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, July 30, 2018

Photo Studio Dream

Brief Break in the Rain, Spofford NH

I have always been a great fan of photography in miserable weather.  Blizzards, dense fog or rain can all be opportunities to capture dramatic environmental landscapes.  Of all the different atmospheric conditions, I find the most difficult to manage is heavy and blowing rain.   I have the gear to handle most situations and I always argue that terrible weather is the best time for photography,  but the last couple of weeks have been soul crushing.  We have had more or less a continuous blast of showers and torrential downpours, all combined with persistent heat and humidity.

IR Works Anytime
I have done what I could.  Last week, I cut through the haze with my infrared camera.  Mid-summer is always the best time to shoot IR.  The progression of violent thunderstorms has provided the opportunity for rainbow shots, but I never seemed to be in the right spot to capture a balanced composition. 

With challenges outside it seems like a good time to discuss my big indoor summer project, the construction of my new photography studio.  It has been a long time coming.

My Household Sprawl

Studio Work Table
To begin, I should describe my current “studio” arrangement. Beginning from when I started to take my photography seriously, and to my wife’s great frustration, my studio has been scattered throughout our house.  I have taken Abigail’s former bedroom as my matting and framing workshop.  I find it a very productive space, but Susan contends that it is a chaotic trash heap – she has a point.  

Backup Clutter
The small downstairs bedroom is now my office, where I do my photo editing and printing, not to mention storing my gear and my collection of camera bags, 15 and growing.  It is a self-evident truth that a photographer can never have enough camera bags. It all combines to create another productive heap.  To maintain domestic peace, I try to keep these two rooms closed as much as possible.  It helps that they are the only two rooms in the house that are air conditioned.

So, for my photography business, I have grabbed two rooms, and if I could limit the damage to these, I think I could have slipped by.
BUT there is more! Photography seems to have the ability to gobble up space.  Susan doesn’t mind that every wall in our house displays/stores my framed photographs, but we have only so much wall space.  Especially when I am between major shows, I have at least two large bins of pictures with no place to go other than on the floor of our gallery.  The problem is that these pictures along with all my other work can’t be exposed to the heat or cold of our attic or barn. They have to be protected in the house.  In addition to the bins of framed work, I have a couple of display racks of matted images in plastic sleeves.  It occurs to me that, if more people would just buy my work, this storage problem would go away.

Gallery Storage

Mat Board on the Bannister
Wait!  There’s more.  In addition to storage of the finished photographs, I must find places for my other materials.  I have the standing racks for cards, and the tent and display system for my annual Keene Art in the Park Show.  Much of this can tolerate temperature extremes and ends up in the barn, but my boxes of stock mat board must be protected and ends up leaning on the banister at the top of the stairs. 

Over the years, Susan has not been shy about letting me know how annoyed she has become with my photographic clutter scattered throughout the house.  My response has always been, “Where else can I put all the stuff”, and then, one day to my surprise, she responded,  “Why don’t you build your own studio/ workshop in the barn.”  Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate she was to get me out of the house.

I have dreamed of having my own dedicated photography space, not only to do my matting and framing, but also to work on image editing, to have a quiet space to write and an area I could dedicate to studio lighting.  This year, a number of factors came together to make it all possible.

Coming Together

Spousal Support

First and most miraculously, I found that my wife was enthusiastically behind the project, at least until I announced that I was planning to add a screened porch to the back of the studio.   Of course, Susan was excited that I would have a space to enjoy my photographic pursuits, but she was also thrilled that she would be getting back an upstairs bedroom and uncluttered floors throughout the house.  I prefer to believe that the fact that I would be out of the house for large portions of time had nothing to do with her support.

Attached to our house is a beautiful and well preserved 1870s barn.  We have tried to avoid filling the barn with trash, and with the exception of the downstairs workshop have generally succeeded.  The workshop has suffered from a slow accumulation of “stuff”.  Tools, packing materials, an old Franklin Stove and assorted broken furniture had filled the space to the point that the room was too cluttered to be functional.  It didn’t require much thought to realize that that this was the obvious space for my new workshop. 

It took work to get rid of all the junk and litter, but after the purge we found 
Workshop Door, Not exactly Plumb
a space that was in remarkably good shape and ready for the major renovation.  Of course, we have learned that with old barns, as is true for old barns, nothing goes completely smoothly.  As we opened the wall for a door in the back, we discovered an area of rotting sill and, of course nothing was plumb.  We decided to just refinish the original irregular floor boards, but a few were eaten by carpenter ants and required replacement.  All of these problems added to the time and expense of the project, but I prefer to believe that my studio permitted us to find these issues before they became more severe and the barn fell off the bank into Partridge Brook.
Open Space - Looks Simple

The Builder

Jason and Floor Boards to Replace
The final piece for our project was getting a talented builder with whom we felt comfortable.  This was not a problem.  For some time we have considered Jason as a member of our personal staff and a trusted friend.  Jason has handled all of our recent projects and has always been available whenever he is needed, whether it is watching our house when we are away, helping with shoveling snow from our roof or bringing a ladder to help a friend who was locked out get into a second floor window.   He is experienced, easy to communicate with and, what is most important for a general contractor, he does what he says he will do.  From the beginning, Jason has been enthusiastic about this project, as he is whenever it comes to spending our money.

Jason Measuring the Sill Rot

With these key pieces in place, or project is proceeding.  At this point, Jason is completing the basic rectangular box which will be tightly insulated with foam and paneled with simple, rustic ship lap.  My job has been to anticipate everything I might need in the room, specifically all the lighting, electrical service, and cable.  I am only beginning to decide about the layout of the space.  It is all about what I want to be able to do in my studio.  I have a list, but that can be a discussion for another time as the project proceeds.  Let me just say that, in addition to all the photo stuff, the phrase “man cave” has also been mentioned.

Obviously a project like this can cut into my photography, but I am sure it will all be worth distractions.  Stay tuned for more up-dates.


Thinking about the design.  Fills up quickly!

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Infrared Season 2018

Infrared Photography yields interesting and often bizarre results, and summer is prime infrared season.

Ashuelot Color
Some years ago, I converted my old Canon 20D to infrared and since then I go through stages of shooting with this camera which is modified to see into a spectrum of light which is invisible to our eyes.  In previous articles, I have discussed the qualities of infrared images and the various approaches which can be used to take advantage of the special capacity of these pictures to create dramatic images.  

Ashuelot Infrared

Ashuelot River
Infrared images are most striking for their ability to capture the light reflected off green foliage, creating a scene which has a winter quality.  It is this electric effect on greenery that make summer the perfect time to shoot with infrared.  

As the summer deepens, the foliage settles into a monotonous shade of green.  There is still plenty of interesting stuff to shoot, especially around the Golden Hours, but infrared works well in all light from the bright midday sun to heavy overcast and rain. All I look for is dark areas, such as water, rocks or barns to provide contrast with the bright foliage.

Central Spire

Spofford Lake
Enough said.  I have been out this week looking for new images to add to my Infrared Gallery.  My eyes have adjusted to this new way of seeing.  I have included some of the reasons why summer is definitely Infrared Season.  I trust the pictures will tell the story best. 

Infrared Munch

Jeffrey Newcomer