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, December 14, 2014

Hanging In

 



Hancock Meeting House
This is one of those weeks when I am struggling to get two blogs ready in the same  week. Once again it is my turn to contribute an article to the New England Photography Guild Blog and of course I will also need my usual weekly "Getting It Right in the Digital Camera" article. For the guild, I'm working on an piece about one of my favorite classic New England villages, Hancock, New Hampshire, and as usual I will dedicate my personal blog to an album of additional images from Hancock that I have collected over the years. All this leaves me little time for this week's blog, so I've decided to offer a quick tip. This week it's about tools to make hanging your pictures easier and more precise, and it was triggered by a simple devise that I found at Bed Bath and Beyond, of all places, just a few days ago.

Nail-Free Hanging, Jaffrey Civic Center

The Challenge
I've have talked about the challenges of hanging images at shows as well as on the walls at home. There are new hanging systems that make this much easier, but for me, one of the biggest challenges comes when I have to pound nails into a wall and somehow try to get all the pictures to line up. I've tried various approaches usually with disappointing results. Often I will give up and purposely hang the pictures at significantly different levels to avoid the disorienting discomfort of seeing them all slightly out of alignment.


DIY Hanging
 
My best solution has been a simple home-made tool. I don't have the patience or skill to construct a complicated device, so this is perfect. Here are the instructions:

Get a strip of wood and put a screw through it at one end.

 That's it. It only took me three of four tries to get it right. Once I got over the fact that it contained no batteries or microchips, I found that it worked pretty well. I simply hang the picture on the screw, adjust to the desired height and then press on the screw to make a small hole where the nail will go. Except for the problem of the picture occasionally falling off the screw, this has worked rather well, but a few days ago I found something that should work even better. Still no batteries, but It has a level!





 
Hang and Level
Hang and Level
As I was browsing at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Keene, I saw that someone with much better engineering skills had improved on my idea. I knew it would work great because the package said, "As Seen on TV". I had to have it. The "Hang and Level" did exactly what my crummy wood slat tool did, but it had hooks to keep the picture from falling of, and, since the nails on the The back are recessed, and only poke through when pressed, the tool can be held tightly against the wall, without scratching the finish. It also offers a two hook option for heavier pictures, and it includes two levels. I already have a level in my picture hanging tool kit, but this thing was bright yellow plastic, how could I resist. It even fits in my tool box. 






The Hang and Level seems to be widely available. I found listings at Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware and on Amazon. For the sake of some free advertising, I found it at Bed Bath and Beyond and it was certainly worth the $15 price. You can check out Under the Roof Decorating's website for more information including a number of simple videos, but if the price is too steep you can always go the DIY route.  I still hate being forced to pound nails into perfectly good walls, but now I can't wait to hang a show where I can try my new, favorite tool. I'm talking to YOU, Kristin's Bakery and Cafe, I'll see you in the spring with this bad boy in hand.


Kristin's Crumbling Wall
I'd love to hear how you deal with this problem and, if you try it, how the Hang and Level works for you.

Now on to Hancock!

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Capture the Person Along With the Pixels





Last summer I quite randomly noticed a sweet little waterfall hidden in the trees across a field in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire. I generally feel uncomfortable wandering into private property, but I had to check this out. The waterfall was a lovely surprise as it cascaded into Catsbane Brook, and I knew that this little treasure would be exciting to explore in various seasons. I came away happy with the images, but uneasy about using them, or publishing the specific location, without permission from the owner. A couple of weeks ago I delivered a different framed photograph to folks living in the house across the road from the field and was able to discover that the field belonged to the people who lived in the next house down the street. They told me that the owner did not mind visitors to the falls, so, after our Thanksgiving snowstorm, I decided to return.


I geared up with my snow pants and my waterproof  NEOS Overshoe Boots and trudged across the field. The waterfall was
magical, with the cascades framed by snow encrusted trees. As it does in the winter, the late afternoon light was fading fast leaving a lovely blue tone. I was thrilled with the results and anxious to get home to work on the images, but then I got a bonus to complete the experience. As I followed my tracks back to the car, I noticed that the apparent owner of the property was down the road on a tractor moving snow away from his driveway. It was the perfect opportunity stop and chat. Rick could not have been more friendly. He reminded me that our kids had gone to school together and told me that he had bought the field expressly to protect the brook and waterfall from development. He generously invited me to come by anytime to photograph and I promised to send any pictures that came out well. 



The experience reminded me that, no matter how great the image, it is always more fulfilling when I drive away having met and chatted with the owner of whatever property I had been shooting. When I started getting serious about my photography I had a fear of approaching landowners, but years of happy experience have taught me that the vast majority of these folks are excited and flattered by my interest. It is amazing how many times people have invited me to come back any time to photograph and they will often suggest that I go to other parts of the property to get a nicer angle. It happens all the time and is one of the greatest joys of photography in New England.

Just a few examples.

Working the Scene

Sheridan and Monadnock

A few years ago I was photographing a horse in front of a barn in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. To get a better angle, I had crept a short
way down the driveway when an elderly woman came out of the house. I was certain that I was about to shooed away, but instead the lovely lady ask me if the horse was in a good location for my photograph. Our conversation included the history of the house and the name of the horse. It all ended with her using a carrot to lure Sheridan into the best position, aligning him with the barn and Mt Monadnock in the distance. I have since been back frequently for pictures and chats and to give my friend, and her charming sister, one of my favorite prints of this classic location.

 



Property Releases
Whenever I settle in to shoot a location, I try not to shoot and run, but consciously dawdle a bit in hopes of meeting the locals. I scan
for people outside or peaking through a window to whom I can offer a friendly wave, but often there is no one in sight. Unless I hope to move more deeply into the property, I don't generally ring the doorbell, and that often leaves me with no information on the owner.  Sometimes that can be a problem. Several years ago I was photographing in the New Castle area along the coast of New Hampshire and caught an image of a classic house sitting on the edge of a lovely cove. A nice 'fine art" image, but when Red Lobster wanted to use the picture to decorate their restaurants, I suddenly needed to contact the owner. A property release is always necessary when I will be selling an image for commercial use. I told the design company to hold on the image, I made a matted print of the picture and went to knock on the door in New Castle. The owner was happy to get the print and to sign the release and he appreciated that I had the courtesy of asking permission. It turned out he had worked as a photographer in the past and understood the importance of releases. I was in business, but it is always easier when I get the chance to meet the landowners at the time of the shoot. Even if I don't get a formal release at the time, the contact information makes getting a permission much easier if I need it in the future.

Props
This autumn, I was shooting the foliage along the road to Guilford, Vermont. I found a lovely scene with a tractor in a field, backed by

Guilford Tractor
nice foliage. As I was shooting a farmer came by. He was there to take the tractor back to his farm.   I expected a quick dismissal, but instead he asked if the machine was blocking my picture. When I told him that the tractor was an essential feature, he agreed to fire it up and then sat still while I caught him on the seat with the smoke billowing from the stack. He didn't move on until I assured him that I had what I wanted. He headed down the road, but I caught up to introduce myself and get his email.  That night I sent a copy of the picture WE had produced.

Friends

The ideal situation is when initial contacts lead to long term

Roads End
relationships. One of my favorite local places to shoot is Roads End Farm in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Tom is the owner and protector of this lovely horse farm which is home to over 60 horses and a summer riding camp for girls. Tom has been a friend for years and is always welcoming to my regular visits. On one occasion he happily pulled my car out of a snow bank with his tractor. For me it has been a unique opportunity to capture the farm and it's workings through all seasons. Tom has great respect for the land and despite difficult financial times he has remained dedicated to protecting his land from development. He knows that I would be happy to support him in any way I can and that my photographs are always available to promote his efforts.





Simple Rules, Should Be Obvious

Obviously be friendly, human and appreciative.

Seek, don't hide, from the opportunity get to know the landowners. Make sure they know how beautiful there property is and how lucky you feel they are to be there.

Don't wander deep into private property without permission. Be patient. A single violation may spoil the chance for a valuable long term relationship.


On call to capture the prize cow.
Stonewall Farm, Keene, NH


Give out your card and give back. A business card can establish your professional status, and a print or even a link to pictures on-line can do wonders for future interactions.  If a picture ends up in my calendar, I try to get a copy to the landowner. Of course it doesn't hurt that this often leads to more sales. 

 


Record your interactions. My memory being what it is, I always try to get all the contact information, including any personal details, into the image's meta data as soon as I get home. "Remembering" the name of the family cat can do wonders toward cementing a strong relationship.

And finally I will say again, don't fear interactions with landowners. In the vast majority of cases you will come away from the shoot not only with great images, but also with a burgeoning friendship that will open up future opportunities and provide a fuller appreciation of the location.


Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Calendar Time








Buy, Buy, Buy!

Lost In the Toadstool Calendar Rack
It seems like everyone is publishing a calendar these days. There are some beautiful ones out there including a few from my friends in the New England Photography Guild. A visit to any bookstore will reveal hundreds of choices with themes ranging from local and global natural wonders to the artistically posed, but profoundly disturbing naked forms of members of the local Rotary Club. Please don't expect to see the "Men of the Chesterfield Conservation Commission" any time soon.

Of course this article is an unapologetic attempt to get you to support my "New England Reflections Calendar." With all the competition it can be a struggle to command the attention of the calendar buying public. I have no magic formula, but I can relate what has seemed to work for me over the last ten years.

Find a Cause
First and foremost, I feel that it has been the cause, to which all of the profits have been dedicated, that accounts for the popularity of
my calendar.  For a number of years I struggled with the thought of producing a calendar. I felt uncomfortable with the idea of profiting by trying to market my work to all my unfortunate friends and family. Then a patient who is also a friend suggested that I sell the calendar to benefit a local charity. I knew exactly where I wanted the money to go, and over the last 10 years I've managed to send over $40k to support the work of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, New Hampshire. The money has been used to help patients who would not have been able to afford the program and has made possible special events that have added to the experience for many needy participants. Getting no financial benefit from the sales has also made me much more comfortable when I shamelessly and obnoxiously hawk the calendar throughout the community. Of course, with the money going to such a worthy local cause, it has been easier to get a long list of wonderful stores to sell the calendar.

Quality Counts

All tricks aside, the quality of the images is most important for the long term popularity of the calendar. I've talked about the struggle
November
of selecting each year's images. Throughout the year I am looking for the perfect scenes, but in the end it is impossible to predict what will capture the eye of my audience. I really like this year's November image, but I was afraid that many would not enjoy a picture of frozen ground liter.  Happily the image has been one of the most popular in the 2015 calendar.  The large monthly pictures are important, but I think it is often the little additions, the thumbnail images, the banners, the choices of holidays, and the descriptions of the images, that make the calendar more attractive and complete. And of course the cover image is always a critical marketing choice.


 


2015 Gallery

 
Image Information and Links

 















Keep it Local
Of course the content of the calendar is very important. I know my customers and, as the "New England Reflections" title implies, I
Westmoreland, NH
have images that focus on my home region, trying to reflect a mix of landscapes from the Monadnock Region and Southern Vermont. I always like to add one Seacoast image and at least one of local wildlife. It is remarkable how many calendars get sent out of the region to those who have moved away or to explain to distant friends why we choose to live in this uniquely special corner of the world. I am told that there are folks in Germany, China and throughout the world for whom my calendar has become a holiday tradition, so it is important to select images that reflect the special character and feel of our region.

Get it Out
I have mentioned before the importance of getting the calendar out
early. This has always been a problem for me, but in the last couple of years I have been able to start distribution in the late summer. The key is to get to people before they make their yearly calendar purchases and before the flood of free calendars start flowing in.

The real purpose of this blog is to remind everyone that it is calendar time. I, and the patients with chronic lung diseases in our community, would appreciate you considering buying one ( or ten ) New England Reflections Calendars. You can find the calendar at the Cheshire a Medical Center Gift Shop off of the main lobby or on-line at the hospital web site, and we will pay for the shipping.





Calendars are also available in many fine stores including:

Toadstool Bookstore in Keene and Peterborough, NH
Hanna Grimes, Keene, NH
Sharon Arts Center, Peterborough, NH

Harrisville General Store, Harrisville, NH
Monadnock Imaging, Keene, NH
Ingenuity Country Store, Keene, NH
Monadnock Food Co-op, Keene, NH
Heidis/Tildens Hallmark Store, Keene, NH
Nicole & Bonnie's Salon, Keene, NH
Leon's Auto Center, Keene, NH
Alyson's Orchard, Walpole, NH
J & J Discount Store, Chesterfield, NH
Westmoreland General Store, Westmoreland, NH
Gilsum General Store, Gilsum, NH
Walpole Grocery, Walpole, NH
Jingles Christmas Store, Westmoreland, NH
Harlow's Sugar House, Putney, Vt
Newfane Market, Newfane, Vt
Vermont Artisans Design, Brattleboro, Vt
South Woodstock Country Store, South Woodstock, Vt



 

This week's snow is a potent reminder that January is right around the corner, so get out there and buy calendars!

 

We thank you all for your wonderful support.


Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Exposure - The Basics Part II




Everything in Balance

In my first exposure article I discussed how aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity of the sensor work individually to affect 
proper exposure, but I 

Exposure Control with the Histogram
never explored what proper exposure actually is or how it is evaluated.  A simple definition might be that proper exposure is achieved when the recorded image matches the appearance of the original scene in brightness and tonal range. Simple enough, but no photographic media can fully reach this goal.  Pictures are always a compromise, but with the tools available in modern digital cameras, there is no longer any excuse for poor exposure. The challenge comes from the choices you make to get there.  

In previous articles I've talked about the use of the histogram to monitor  and  adjust exposure.  There is an infinite number of ways in which the three factors controlling exposure can be balanced to achieve an acceptable result, and although all can  appear the same on the histogram, the real challenge is to find the best balance among the secondary effects of these adjustments, so that the depth of field, motion control and image noise all conspire to achieve your vision.  This week I will suggest one, step by step,  approach to the balance of exposure control.


To briefly review from Part I, the camera controls of exposure include two which govern the amount of light and one which controls the sensor's sensitivity to the light which falls upon it. As the exposure triangle showed, each adjustment has a secondary effect that must be consider as the 3 factors are balanced.




Amount of Light:
1) Aperture: Effects Depth of Field
2) Shutter Speed:
Effects the Ability to Stop Motion

Sensor Sensitivity
3) ISO: Increased Sensitivity Increases Image Noise

Taken Individually, the effects of these basic controls are easy to understand, but the challenge and the real art of photography comes from how these adjustments are balanced in different situations of light, composition, action and the purpose of the image.


A Matter of Priorities
 Ok, you are standing in front of the perfect vista. A glance at the Exposure Triangle would suggest that proper exposure is achieved through the simultaneous consideration of the effects of all three factors, aperture, shutter speed and ISO, but it can be unnecessarily complicated and confusing to try to balance the three components of exposure at the same time. Happily, most photographic situations inherently dictate which of these factors is most important and the resulting prioritization can provide a more reasonable step-wise approach to finding the best compromise among the factors contributing to exposure. The first step is to decide whether the control of aperture or shutter speed is the most important for the specific photographic situation.

This is usually referred to a Aperture or Shutter "Priority".  Happily most cameras provide modes that allow you to lock in your priority.

"Priority" Settings

Aperture & Shutter Priority
http://www.101-learn-dslr-photography-basics.com/
Most cameras have settings for aperture or shutter priority. In "Aperture Priority" the aperture is fixed and adjustments in exposure compensation affect only the shutter speed. In "Shutter Priority" it is the shutter speed which is fixed. Of course these same adjustments can be done in Manual mode, but in manual, the exposure does not automatically change when the meter detects a change in light. The Manual setting is great when you are learning about the functions on your camera, but many photographers shoot on Aperture or Shutter priority based on the requirements of the subject. On Canon cameras Aperture Priority is marked as "Av" and Shutter Priority "Tv" on Nikons it is "A" and "S".  
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Baby Steps: A Systematic Approach
Ok, we start by considering the effects that changes in the aperture and shutter have on the final image, then step one is to study the scene and :


  • 1) Decide whether aperture or shutter speed is most important to control for the desired effect.


Aperture Priority and Depth of Field

 
Broad Depth of Field
As I discussed in my first article on exposure, the camera aperture affects exposure based on the size of the opening allowing light to strike the sensor. I went into an involved discussion of why increasing aperture numbers (f/stops) resulted in smaller openings and less light. Happily, the aperture's secondary effect on depth of field follows a more intuitive progression with larger numbers resulting in larger bands of sharp focus. Small apertures with high f/stops, such as f/ 22 or f/32, lead to broad depth of field which is often preferred in landscape photography where sharp focus from
foreground to infinity is needed. With wide apertures, such as f/2 or
Shallow Depth of Field
f/4, the narrow depth of field can help to isolate and draw attention to a subject, de-emphasizing distracting elements in the foreground and/or background. Traditionally, narrow depth works well in portrait photography where the attention is usually centered on the eyes, but it can also be effective in many other situation to mute distractions such as in macro or wildlife photography. 




In these situations, control of the depth of field may be the most important factor and therefore the "priority". You can set your desired aperture in "aperture priority" mode and then achieve optimal exposure with changes in the shutter speed.  As predominately a landscape photographer I stay in aperture priority for about 90% of the time.



Stopping the Jump



Shutter Priority and Motion


Shutter speed controls exposure by governing the length of time that the sensor is exposed to the light and the shutter's secondary effect is on the ability to freeze motion. When capturing athletic events, running animals or birds in flight a fast shutter speed can keep the subject from becoming blurred, and in these situations the shutter speed adjustment may be the primary priority with the aperture allowed to drift to maintain the overall exposure. On occasions a
Slow Shutter
slow shutter speed might be preferred, such as when capturing a soft image of flowing water or when a blurring of motion can be used to imply movement. In many of these situations the specific depth of field may not be critical and setting the camera on Shutter Priority would be the best first step.






Considering the Side Effects
As we've seen
, for any ISO, the Aperture and Shutter Speed settings are locked together to generate the exposure. Once aperture is fixed there is only one shutter speed which will result in proper exposure and the same fixed relationship is true when shutter speed is set as the fixed priority. In other words, once the priority setting is fixed the other  "secondary" factor, whether aperture or shutter is strictly dependent. So step two is :

  • 2) Whether it is Aperture or Shutter that is the "Non-Priority" or dependent setting, you must decide whether the effect of that setting on the image is acceptable.


Deep Depth of Field
Consider an example that I frequently experience. I'm shooting a grand landscape and I want to get the maximum possible depth of field to record both the foreground flowers and the distant
mountains in sharp detail. I set my camera to aperture priority and stop down to a small fixed aperture of f/22.  Great, everything from foreground to background looks sharp, but when I take the picture I find that the shutter speed that was required to maintain the desired exposure for that small fixed aperture had drifted to 1/4 second and, what seemed like a gentle breeze, had been enough to smear my beautiful flowers into a messy abstract blur. I could wait for a, usually nonexistent, lull in the wind or I could consider focus stacking (beyond the scope of our current discussion), but it is at this point that an ISO adjustment could save the day.

  • 3) Apply the ISO Fudge Factor if Needed

As in my example, it often happens that the optimal adjustment of your priority setting leads to unacceptable side effects from the resulting secondary or dependent factor. In my landscape scenario I might be able to get by with a wider aperture, perhaps f/16 or f/18, which would allow a faster shutter, but these "compromises" too often yield unsatisfactory results in both DOF and shutter. A change in ISO is often a better solution. Adjustments in sensor sensitivity or "ISO" shift rather than break the aperture/shutter connection. In my example an increase of ISO from 100 to 800 (3 stops) will allow an increase of shutter speed to 1/30th of a second which may be fast enough to freeze the flowers without affecting my exposure, aperture or depth of field.


Adjustments in ISO is the new third control on exposure which digital photography has made practical. ISO has no effect on the
amount of light hitting the sensor, but by managing the chip's sensitivity it can make possible a selection of aperture and shutter that does not force a compromise in either depth of field or control of motion. Of course the magic of ISO Adjustment is balanced by the effect of increasing ISO on the amount of digital noise in the image. As I discussed in Part One, digital noise can be muted in post processing, but in the end it must be balanced against all the factors that contribute to the quality of the final image.


Consider one more example. Assume you are set up to capture a

Pick-Off
baseball player streaking down the line to beat out a base hit. You set a fast shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second, in shutter priority, to freeze the motion. Your ISO is set to 100 and the resulting f/stop is at f/4. This wide aperture and resultant narrow DOF works well to isolate the runner against the blurred grandstands. A great choice, but if you want to see the faces of the screaming fans in the background you could increase the ISO to 1600 causing the f/stop to shift 4 stops to f/16. Both the runner and the fans would then be in dramatically sharp focus. The only question would be whether the increased image noise at ISO 1600 is acceptable.

I would love to show you an picture to fully illustrate this scenario, but, give me a break!, I'm a landscape photographer. Use your imagination! The best thing I could do was to show Youk (Kevin Youkilis, for non-Red Sox or, ick, Yankee fans) diving for first.

Light Modification


There are many schemes and techniques which work to control exposure by modifying the light.  Natural changes in light happen all the time, just wait for the sun to come out from behind that cloud, move from bright sunlight to the shadow of a tree or just come back when the light is better.  Natural light can also be modified with  filters, diffusers or reflectors and artificial light can be added with flash. These can all be effective, but the basic relationships between aperture, shutter and sensor sensitivity are always there and a system for balancing these fundamental adjustments makes achieving the perfect exposure much easier and sensible.


So to summarize this approach:

No triangle, but maybe a flow a diagram will help

1) Decide whether aperture or shutter speed is most important 
to control for the desired visual effect. It is usually easiest to use the Aperture or Shutter Priority setting on your camera to fix your desired priority.

2) Whether it is Aperture or Shutter that is the "Non-Priority" or dependent setting, your next step is to decide whether the effect of that setting on the image is acceptable.

3) If the resulting depth of field or motion effect is not what you want, it is time to consider applying the ISO Fudge Factor to shift the Aperture/Shutter relationship into a range that controls all of the important issues. Hopefully without an unacceptable level of noise in the image.


Simple !?

There are many other systemic approaches to achieving perfect exposure. The important thing is to pick one and start using it regularly. Happily
with digital photography we get immediate feedback on the LCD screen, making the learning much easier. I hope that you will, quite quickly, find that the considerations, that I have so painfully presented, will become second nature.  Your camera will feel comfortable in your hands, like a familiar hammer. So go out and pound some nails.



Other Articles About Exposure



Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com


Sunday, November 16, 2014

One Tree



 



After last week's exhaustive and exhausting article about exposure, I through it would nice for me, and a relief for my readers, to write about something simple. For a landscape photographer there may be few things as simple as a single tree, but even with that narrow focus there is much to explore and this is especially true amidst the restless changes of a New England Autumn.

By the beginning of last week I had largely given up on brilliant autumn color for this year. I knew that I had to be satisfied with the dull, but persistent orange of the oaks and the occasional splashes of yellow from the obstinate Beech trees, but then I stepped out of my door and saw our Japanese Maple.



 


Over the years I have planted many trees around our house. A Red Maple, and a Norway Maple along our stone wall, 9 Apple and two Pear Trees in the field across the street and a Birch that never really took off, but the little Japanese Maple was there when we moved in. Over 35 years it has thrived despite our general neglect and the fact that it is located in a shady north corner of our property which has been otherwise fit only for moss, moles and rotting firewood. The tree has survived these insults remarkably well, but I swear it hasn't grown an inch in over three decades. 


 
I assume that it is a dwarf variety, still standing only about 10 feet high, but this week, despite the general November devastation, the tree was aflame with color ranging from brilliant crimson to electric yellow. Obviously, I took a picture, but then I decided to capture the tree in more detail. Over this last week I tried to explore this brave little tree in a variety of ways. I followed the Maple's fantastically colorful show through to its remarkably sudden and inevitable surrender to the elements. What follows is a brief album celebrating that journey.




Full Color
At the beginning of the week the Japanese Maple was in full color and, despite the bare branches of trees all around, it was tenaciously
clinging to its leaves. Seeing the brilliance of the reds in these images, it would be reasonable to think that I had leaned heavily on the saturation slider in Photoshop, but in most situations I actually reduced the red saturation to bring the color into a manageable gamut. The color was really that bright. As I mentioned this tree is tucked away in a back corner of our property and it was a challenge to find angles that would show the tree's full glory. Most view points had backgrounds complicated by our house to the side or the gazebo in front. To get a clear view, I had to take down our cloth lines and found a side view which showed how the tree was leaning to the south in a desperate attempt to get more light.




Variation in Leaves
 
As I moved in closer I was struck by the wide variation in color and pattern of the leaves. This was probably related to the differences in the amount of light that struck various branches. Colors ranged from deep dark reds to bright yellows and some leaves had a stippled pattern of light and dark.

 


Variations in Light
  
Over the next few days I had the opportunity to catch the tree in a range intensities and angles of light. In the bright light the transilluminated  leaves became electric, while with soft overcast the full intensity of the color could be seen without being muted by reflections. As always, my polarizing filter help to bring out the colors even in softly diffused light.


 


Camera Motion
 The leaves were remarkable, but as I began to feel that my leaf exploration was coming to a close, I knew that it was time to put the vegetation in motion. I experimented with sweeps, circles and jiggles, but my favorite was zooming. I liked the effect created when I started with a pause for a fraction of a second and then zoomed out. By using ISO 100, a small aperture and the polarizer, the shutter was slow enough to create the exploding color effect. It all comes down to experimentation and the willingness to take enough pictures for luck to kick in.
  


 
Infrared
 
Whenever I think about looking at things with different eyes infrared immediately comes to mind. Whether the leaves are deep red, yellow or mid-summer green, in the infrared spectrum they all come out ghostly white.






Leaf Drop 
 The late season color of our Japanese Maple was remarkable, but what was the most surprising was how suddenly the leaves all crashed to the ground. Essentially overnight the tree went from full bloom to nearly bare and without any unusual twist in the weather. No big storm or blustery winds to force the leaves to the ground. Apparently the tree just decided it was time. I was left with a few stragglers and a luxurious red carpet. 







Spending a week studying a single tree in its autumn glory and
inevitable surrender provided a couple of important lessons. First, that with proper focus, even the largely barren November environment can still offer surprising splashes of autumn color and that color can be even more striking when contrasted with the somber melancholy of our "stick season". Secondly, given my tendency to frantically jump from one scene to another, it was good to be reminded that the exercise of restricting attention to one limited subject can refresh the eye and allow us to see in many new and surprising ways. 


 
Jeffrey Newcomer
partridgebrookreflections.com
603-363-8338