About Me

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Photography of Cold




Capturing the Feel of the Frigid

It is really cold out there. Once again this morning the temperature was well below zero. Every New England winter seems to have its own special character always giving us remarkable pristine beauty to celebrate, while we simultaneously complain about the oppressive dark and bitter cold. This year's winter has been marked by unusually warm temperature early and now by near record breaking cold. Throughout we have had only a few scattered storms with far too little snow.

We photographers have a complex relationship with winter. The
harsh environment requires drastic measures to protect ourselves and our equipment from the cold and wet. Just recall last week's blog about the complex system I have developed just to keep my hands warm and functioning. At the same time, the shimmering light and the clean, stark patterns in the land provide unique opportunities to capture nature's uncomplicated grace and elegance.   A quick Google search for "cold weather photography" will yield a long list of articles discussing how to protect yourself and your equipment from the elements, but little if anything about what I was interested in:

  What makes an image "feel" cold?



What is Cold?

Winter photography is unique for many reasons, but considering all this beauty, I have one simple question, what makes an image appear cold? I have often noticed that pictures taken even in the 
most bitterly frigid conditions can fail to communicate the sense of winter's nose numbing cold. So how can we capture the feeling of this essential element of the season? The answer must be highly personal, but as I huddle from the weather, and having little else to do, I decided to scan my winter images looking for pictures that seemed to most strongly send that shiver into my soul. The goal was to search for a set of qualities that we might use to make our audience appreciate, in the warmth of their homes, how much miserable, god-awful cold we had to endure to capture those pretty snowy pictures.



As I scanned the images, I realized that my assessment of the "coldness" of each picture was unavoidably biased by how freaking frigid I remember each location to have been. I tried to separate the feel of the image from my memory of the situation, but it wasn't always easy.  After all, our personal experiences with cold must be the underlying factor which controls our sense of temperature in any image. So here are a few of my biased and completely random observations about what "says" cold to me. I would be interested in hearing what you feel is most reflective of the deep chill that we experience throughout this challenging and beautiful season.

For more images check out my website "Cold" Gallery

Franconia Sunrise
The Blues
It seems obvious that the color and quality of light will have a strong influence on the sense of temperature as well as the mood of our images, and, to me, my coldest images most often share a blue coloration. After all, we refer to the blue end of the visible spectrum as "cool". These images are most often captured in the "blue hours", before dawn and after sunset.  The feeling lingers as the first rays of the sun lie low on the horizon. The resulting
angular illumination
causes the snow's surface to take on an enhanced texture, which adds to the sense of the
Mill Freeze
 stark quality of the season. Opposing the cooling effect of the morning or evening sky is the warm colors of a breaking sunrise or sunset, and at some point this color palate becomes the controlling factor in the image.  The cool blue tones can also be seen in the shade as the white snow takes on the blue color of the sky.  On other occasions, the flat light from a low hanging, steel gray, sky can be bone chilling.  Finally, the chattering blue lips of your assistant may be the clearest reflection of the frigid temperature.
Cold Pasture
Ice Sheets, Breaking Dawn


 


















Pasture Sleep

 

Snow
Snow can be a double edged sword in winter images. A soft blanket of snow, especially when bathed in warm light can feel quite toasty. To me, the deeper the snow, the more I feel the "blanketing" sensation, and by contrast, I often feel the cold most profoundly when there is a mere dusting of white on the ground. The same double standard applies to falling snow. Large, fluffy snow flakes gently settling to the earth can give a sense of bundled warmth. This may be in part due to the fact that we all know that snow tends to form large flakes when the weather is relatively warm, just before morphing the into miserable sleet and frozen rain. In the deep cold, snow tends to fall in small, biting crystals and, especially when the image captures the snow blowing angrily across the the scene, the hard cold character of the season is clearly portrayed.

Check out my Blog on  "
Celebrating the Snow"
 



Partridge Brook Crystals


Ice Crystals in the Air
Clouds of blowing ice crystals or snow also communicate a sense of the biting cold of the season. The trick here, as with the falling snow, is to find the shutter speed which capture the movement. As I discussed in my article about photography of falling snow, an excessively rapid shutter will freeze the flakes as points of white, loosing the sense of the blowing tumult.










Mist

In winter mist or sea smoke forms when cold air settles over relatively warm open water. Recently, subzero temperatures have allowed a number of my colleagues to capture some amazing images of sea smoke along the New England coast, and especially when illuminated by blue light these conditions create a strong sense of the overlying cold. Sadly I haven't been able to make it to the coast, but the same effect can be seen over open water in inland streams and lakes. Of course, as beautifully reflected in Ben Williamson's spectacular image, when illuminated by the fiery early morning light the effect can be quite the opposite.
Ben Williamson's Warm Sea Smoke




Ice

Crystal Birch

Naturally, ice MUST mean cold, and this seems especially true when the crystals are brightly transilluminated, creating a sparkling specular quality to the light. This frigid effect is best felt when the ice coats branches or forms intricate pattern on windows. For me, the effect is muted when the ice forms in long icicles dangling menacingly from eaves and

Hanging On

gutters. I suspect that my understanding of the process of melting and freezing, that is essential to the formation of icicles, softens the sense of deep cold, but again, we all bring a different history of experiences of cold which filters how these situations are perceived.

 





Mill on Ice



Frosted Woods


Drifting Snow

When I began this exercise, I thought that I would discover that blown snow drifting against trees and other obstacles would strongly communicate cold, but as I reviewed my images, I found that the situation was quite the opposite. Once again the deeply piled snow seemed to create a feeling of insulated warmth. Perhaps the memory of the heat created by shoveling these massive heaps also contributes to a certain cozy glow.








Bundled Up


Abagail's Sled, First Winter '81
It is important to appreciate that the cold's only real meaning comes from how it affects we poor shivering humans, and for that matter, other creatures, who must brave the elements. Perhaps the strongest and most reliable reflection of the cold is in the blue, icicle encrusted face of someone bundled tightly against the weather, and, while you're at it, it
helps to catch exhaled clouds of freezing
Dressed for Mt. Washington
breath. Other animals can demonstrate the cold equally effectively. I especially love the way our hardy winter birds fluff up against wind and cold. Our dog Nellie loves to roll in the snow, seemingly oblivious to the temperature, as she makes her own version of snow angels, and her black face and nose contrast beautifully with the coating of ice.







Fluffed Junco
Nellie, Post Snow Angels















Frosted Tom



Thermometer
Special Green
Of course when all else fails and you really must portray how miserable you have been while capturing your art, you can always just take a picture of the damn thermometer!  The thermometer is like the Gray Card of temperature, but the measurement can be improved upon by where you place the device. I couldn't move my thermometer to a snow bank, but I tried dripping some water in a hopeless attempt to magnify the effect with a few icicles. No luck, but you get the idea.  Perhaps a more graphic way of demonstrating the physical impact of the cold would be to show how it inconveniently deflates footballs, but I have heard all I need to on that subject.








Slate Cold Morning


Again I would love to hear about what, within an image, "speaks" most strongly to you of the cold. It was an interesting exercise to scan my winter pictures for the deepest chill, but I am sure that this is a highly personal experience. So the next time you want people to appreciate how freakingly bone numbing it was when you were out capturing the winter, what will you shoot?  As for me, after all of this, I'm going settle down next to the wood stove and dream of spring.



For more frigid images check out my website's
"Cold" Gallery

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter Gloves, Getting a Grip on the Cold


Orchard to Wantastiquet

When I woke this morning to a temperature of -10, two things occurred to me. First I had to prepare myself for the science deniers to once again insist that the arctic cold proves that global warming is a liberal hoax, and second,  I realized that there was no better time to talk about winter clothing for photographers. I've discussed dressing for winter photography in the past, but this time I want to focus on gloves and specifically the array of gloves that I use to match the range of cold weather conditions that we enjoy in New England. This discussion was also triggered by my reading about a new pair of gloves that may be the ultimate in winter warmth, but more about that later.

Over recent years I have found that, along with all the other age
related crumbling, the circulation to my hands has worsen.  As a result my cold tolerance has significantly decreased, making proper gloves essential. The challenge has always been to find gloves that provide sufficient warmth while still being flexible enough to allow control of all those tiny buttons and dials on the camera. I have found that, given the broad range of temperatures in our New England climate, no single pair of gloves works best in all conditions. There are lots of options out there, so all I can do is outline my personal approach.

My Shameful Deformity

Before I begin I have to admit something embarrassing that has always complicated my ability to get the most from gloves. I have the hands of a Neanderthal.  With grotesquely meaty palms and stubby little pig fingers, I could never excel on the piano, but the more important result is that gloves that fit my palms have fingers about an inch too long. I am constantly pulling the gloves down on my fingers to get them to the end. Ok, most of my blogs include at least one spasm of pathetic whining, and I'm happy to get this one out of the way early. Now, moving on.



The Glove Hierarchy


It Is All About the Temperature
My glove choices evolve in response to the temperature and wind.


Hot:

No gloves necessary, just a towel to wipe the sweat off my prehistoric palms.



Thin Silk Glove

Cool
As the weather cools to the point that merely sticking my hands in my pockets is no longer sufficient, I first reach for a very thin cotton or silk glove. These work mostly to cut the wind and allow easy manipulation of the camera controls.







Cold


I'm always looking for new gloves and just before our trip to Alaska this autumn, I came across an interesting pair from AquaTech, which has become my general purpose solution. The AquaTech Sensory Gloves are light weight but quite warm. They have silicone nubs on the palms to improve grip and most uniquely the thumb and index fingers can protrude through curtained openings to allow easy camera adjustments as well as manipulation of hand-held devices. When not needed the fingers can be withdrawn into the glove, protected from the elements by an layer of flexible foam and the internal flap. The AquaTechs have become by general purpose glove for most conditions, but I would note one minor negative. Although they are called "AQUA" Tech, they are not water-proof. Moisture can get in through the thumb and finger holes, but for general winter use they work quite well.
West Hill Evening


Colder

For frigid weather, especially when I expect to be out for longer periods of time, I switch to my trusty half finger mittens. These are mittens that flip away to reveal exposed fingers whenever camera manipulation is required. I have probably owned 10 or more varieties of this basic design. I always seem to loose one of each pair, so I have come to realize that a necessary basic feature is a clip to keep the gloves connected when I drop them into the sucking black hole of my glove drawer. Mittens are always warmer than fingered gloves and it is remarkable how quickly my digits warm up when I flip them back into the mitten flaps. It is helpful to have some mechanism to hold the flaps out of the way when they are open. Rather than fumbling with snaps, I prefer magnets or Velcro to keep the flaps secure.




Coldest

Inner Glove
There are a number of measures to help with the coldest days, those times when you really should be snuggled up next to a nice warm fire and when your camera will freeze up in a few minutes anyway. When I have to be out I will often add my light gloves for added finger protection when my mitten flaps are open. This second layer makes a big difference and still allows manipulation of the camera controls. Additionally, a hand warmer can be placed inside the glove, but these packets can make for a tight fit.



That covers my hierarchy of winter hand protection. This works for most of our New England weather, but I will finish with a request for advice. I recently saw advertisements for a glove system that seemed to be the ultimate in hand warmth and flexibility. It should be the ultimate, it costs $200!




Heat 3, The $200 ! Solution?

The Heat 3 Smart Glove starts as a well insulated half finger mitten, but the internal finger glove is built in, and with material on the finger tips compatible

Heat 3
with touch screen control. The glove has a long wrist cover and a straps to keep the gloves controlled when removed. I especially like the straps on the internal glove fingers which should make it easier to remove without turning the fingers inside out, a constant problem for me. Finally, for added warmth, the gloves have pouches design to fit hand warmers, but the pouches could also be a convenient place to stow a lens cloth or keys. These gloves were developed for the German and Austrian Special Forces, but, in addition to their value in shooting a assault weapon, they seem to be perfect for winter photography. This is about as positive as I can get without having actually tried the things. The reviews have all been quite glowing and, unless I get an urgent notice from someone out there about a fatal flaw, I'm ordering these guys. I'll let you know how they work out.
Monadnock, Cold & Distant

It was below zero when I started working on this article and it was below zero again when I finished, but with the the options available bitter cold is no excuse for hiding at home, with both you and your camera cowering in the corner.  It reminds me of the mantra for our rainy Alaskan trip this fall and, with only slight modification, it remains true; "There is no such thing as too cold, just inappropriate dress.

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com


Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 Highlights



It is time again for all the "Best of 2014s", as we struggle to pick 10 or 20 or 100 of our best photographs of the year. This is a great tradition and an opportunity to see some wonderful images, but for me it is always agony to pick favorites among all my precious babies. Last year I finally realized that, for me, it was the experiences of the year and not the images that are worth celebrating. The images came as a bonus from the places, the people and the adventures I was privileged to experience exploring new aspects of photography. So again, I will list some of my favorite experiences that graced my photography over the last year.


Check out last year's
 The "Best" of 2013



Going Places

Alaska

Denali Wilderness
Unquestionably our most exciting travel this year was our nearly three week exploration in Alaska. It was a trip that we had promised ourselves for years and the experience more than met our expectations.

We started with a drive from Anchorage to Denali National Park and Preserve. We spent an 18 hour day on one of the buses which travel 90 miles on the single narrow dirt road into the center of the wilderness.  We saw Caribou, Moose, Dahl Sheep and Grizzly Bears. It was awesome and so remarkable that we didn't think to be exhausted until after we got back to our cabin.

The remainder of  the trip included a jet boat ride up the wild Susitna River,  and a cruise around the dramatic Kenai Peninsula outside of Seward. The last week was spent on an amazing cruise among the islands, fjords and waterways of Alaska's Southeast tail on board the National Graphic Ship Sea Bird. There were close encounters with Sea Lions, Puffins, Sea Otters, and Grizzlies.  Well also got up close to breaching and bubble netting Humpback Whales. I ended up with over 3000 pictures which are still far from being completely edited. I've published two blogs about the early parts of the trip, but there is a lot more to tell, and I am sure there will be at least two more articles to come. 


Fishing Grizzly, Pavlov Island, Alaska


Alaska Adventure
Alaska, Talkeetna and Devil's Gorge

I am also building an Alaska Image Gallery on my web site


Martha's Vineyard

Edgartown Light
I've been in love with Martha's Vineyard since I visited there as a child during summer cruises on my parents little 26 foot boat. I have fond memories of being fogged in at Edgartown and learning to sail on a tiny dingy in Vineyard Haven. Since then I have enjoyed my occasional opportunities to return. This fall a VERY good friend offered his island house, and Susan and I could not resist. I try never to miss an opportunity to leave my beautiful, but land-locked Monadnock Region to return to the sea and it was a wonderful several days. The weather was almost summer-like, the food was great, and, to top it off, our daughter Abigail and her boyfriend Grayson were able to join us for most of the stay. The photographic opportunities were wonderful and varied, but I decided to focus on trying to shoot all five of the island's lighthouses. I had good success capturing four of the five and lamely cheated on the fifth. I still say it counted!
Menemsha Sunset





I am often envious of my friends who live near the coast and can shoot the Milky Way across the open ocean, thus avoiding the intense light pollution with which we inland folks constantly struggle. While on the island I was blessed with one clear night to catch the unsullied sky and was rewarded with a few nice shots.



 




Photographing Martha's Vineyard's Five Lighthouses (Sort Of)


Martha's Vineyard Gallery


Exploring in My Backyard

After the expense of our Alaska trip, I found it prudent this year to limit the range of my other photographic expeditions. No problem. There is still so much wonderful stuff to explore in my own territory. This is New England for peat's sake


Vermont Country Store



It been a few years since I last visited the Vermont Country Store. It was great to return to a place that has all the charm of the traditional New England country store, but is actually a country store on steroids. My challenge was to try to capture the "landscape" of this endlessly fascinating place, while not forgetting the friendly people that make it all work. This was the perfect destination for a pre-Christmas outing.


The Vermont Country Store
 

The Vermont Country Store Gallery


Hancock
As much as I would like to think that I know my home region,
when I focus a blog article on a specific town, I am always surprised by how much more there is to discover. This was certainly true of my recently exploration of the historic community of Hancock, New Hampshire. On that occasion, I was writing two articles about Hancock, one for the New England Photography Guild and a complementary photo album on my own blog. Fortunately there was more than enough to talk about, and to photograph. The town center is
Hancock's Eye on the Universe
filled with classic architecture, almost all on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has all the necessary pieces; an iconic white Meeting House with an 1825 Revere Bell, a village green with the required war memorial and gazebo, and a classic old country inn. All of this historic beauty is surrounded by wonderful rolling New England country-side. And, a ten story tall radio telescope. Yup, that was a surprise but you will need to read more about why a visit to Hancock is not only a trip back to our nations early history but also a window on the origin of the universe.

Hancock Inn


Hancock Photo Album

Hancock New Hampshire, A New England Time Machine

Hancock Image Gallery


Waterfalls

Ashuelot Gorge
This was definitely a waterfall year. I started with an article about the familiar waterfalls of Cheshire County, but, as I researched for the blog, I discovered that there were many falls that I had never visited. Actually, that I had never heard of. This could NOT be allowed to stand, so I set out to find and photograph some of the more obscure cascades. The crusade required numerous trips, a few false leads and considerable bush wracking, but I did find Fay Falls, Ashuelot Gorge and my
Catsbane Falls
favorite elusive hidden treasure, Pulpit Falls. This year was also marked by great improvements in the accessibility and visibility of the dramatic Chesterfield a Gorge, This was through the efforts of the dedicated volunteers of the Friends of the Gorge, who cleared the trail with the express purpose of opening up the best views on the cascades and thundering falls.


Pulpit Falls


Waterfalls of Cheshire County
 
Fay Falls and Ashuelot Gorge

Pulpit Falls, Finally


Noone Falls and My Sad Camera Bag

Gleason Falls and Fox Forest


Chesterfield Gorge Resurrected (NEPG Article)
 

Chesterfield Gorge Album


Bagging My Snowy
This was the year of the Snowy Owl eruption in New England.
During the early winter, I first enjoyed, and then was a touch annoyed by the endless avalanche of Snowy pictures. Wonderful shots and none of them were mine! I finally knew that I could not let the season pass without bagging my Snowy. I contacted John Vos, a great bird photographer, and received advice about where to look. I headed for the coast and was luckier than I deserved. The Snowys were right were John had suggested. They are truly magnificent birds, and the trip gave me a chance to try out my new 2x Tele-Extender on my 400 mm lens.  I'm still not a birder at heart, but I hope to see them again this winter.

The Magic of the Snowy Owl


Madame Sherri's Photo Album

Stairway to Nowhere
As a member of the Chesterfield Conservation Commission I have been involved with the development and preservation of the Madame Sherri Forest. The legend of the French costume designer who came up from New York to build her summer retreat in the woods of Chesterfield is a local tradition. This year, through the efforts of fellow Conservation Commission member Lynn Borofsky, we learned more about the Madame's fascinating history and in the process dispelled a number of the more scandalous
Madame Sherri
rumors which have colored her story. All that is left of the Madame's "Castle" in the woods is a burned out foundation and a spiral staircase that still beckons to the sky. I have summarized some of the history of the site and the Madame in a blog for the New England Photography Guild, but I was most excited by the special opportunity to work on restoring photographs from Madame Sherri's personal photo albums. It offered a magical look into moments of her remarkable life.
Restoring the Fantasy, The Madame Could Rock a Hat

The Mystery of Madame Sherri's Castle (NEPG Article)

Madame Sherri's Album

Antique Photo Restoration



Landmarks

2015 was notable for several landmark events which are worth mentioning

200 Blogs

Anybody Listening?

Somehow I have managed to keep to a schedule of weekly blogs about photography and more specifically photography in New England. It it is a mystery to me how I have been able to come up with things to write about every week. I'm just not that chatty in real life. I fully expect that some Sunday my blog will read simply:

"I got nothing."


But on the occasion of my 200th blog I was able to reflect a bit on
the process and why I keep going. First it is because there does seem to be a few people out there who appear to be interested or at least entertained by what I have to say. But the truth is that I do it mostly for myself. The process of blogging has forced me to explore new directions in my photography. It has made me more rigorous in my approach to the craft and has taught me much more about photography, especially in the digital world, than I have been able to teach in my weekly ramblings.




200 Bogs and Counting


Basics of Digital Photography
One thing that I have learned from blogging and from lecturing is that I enjoy sharing my understanding of photography with others. A future goal is to start doing more formal teaching to hopefully include classes and workshops. The problem is were to start. I have received lots of requests to do courses on topics such as basic photography, composition or Photoshop, but I need to get some of that stuff "in the can", ready for presentation. I realize that my blog could be a ready source of material, but, with that in mind, I decided to start supplementing my often overly technical and obscure discussions with a series of more basic articles for beginners in digital photography. This year I started with articles about selecting a camera and then added a two part discussion on exposure. Again, I apologize for my thoroughly unnecessary discussion of the origin of f/stop numbers. Just recently I wadded awkwardly into white balance. I plan to do more basic articles in the coming year, but I have discovered that "simple" topics are often the most difficult to present. It is a challenge to formally describe how to do things that I have done largely without thinking for years, but, here too, the process always seems to force me to perfect my approach to my own photography.


Check That Histogram

Digital Photography Basics




Retirement

I expected that when I retired from 35 years of medical practice about 6 month ago, that I would have a nearly infinite amount of time to devote to my love of photography and the resulting business. I should have known better. My patients have always told me, "Since I've retired I have no time what-so-ever", and they were right. I will not go into the details, but I must say that it is amazing how even the simplest tasks seem to expand to fill the time available. Upon my retirement, I discussed my goals and resolutions and I can only say that those goals and resolutions remain pristinely intact. I vow to do better in 2015.
Retirement


I will add one additional goal to my list. I swear not to drone on for so long in my blogs. Yah, like that's going to happen.  Now, on to 2015!



Done! Retirement and Discipline



Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com