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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Plunge & Why I Will Never be a Wedding Photographer

Last Sunday I spent the day photographing Cheshire Medical Center’s "Frozen Sections" as they participated in the 12th annual New Hampshire Penguin Plunge at Hampton Beach, NH. This year over 700 volunteers raised money for the privilege of rushing insanely into the frigid Atlantic Ocean at Hampton Beach. The Plunge is a great event raising money to support the Special Olympics and our group from Keene NH has been a leader in that effort. This Sunday, for the fourth straight year, the "Frozen Sections" won the "Super Flock Award" as the group that raised the most money. In total, this year’s plunge brought in over $670,000.

Although at heart I am a landscape photographer I do enjoy recording the human drama that is seen when hundreds of otherwise normal people rush willingly into an environment incompatible with life. It is great to see their excitement as they sprint towards the frozen surf, and even more fun to see the mixture of triumph and numbed shock as they straggle back up the beach after the plunge. I have realized for a long time that I am fascinated with the human face and I enjoy working to bring out the character and individuality of each person. And that is the problem.

As was true last year I came back from the plunge with just a couple hundred images and as much as I tell myself that I am going to be brutally efficient with editing, I find that I unavoidably slip into "landscape mode" and want to fine tune each frame. I start with a quick crop, color and brightness adjustment, but then I start using masks to highlight the important subjects and cloning to deal with facial glare. Of course I occasionally have to move a head from one image to another to replace a squinting scowl with a more pleasing expression. Two minutes becomes 15 and I’m dead in the water. In two nights I have produced 45 finished images and probably have another one or two nights to go.
The fact is I love doing this kind of work especially when I’m successful at keeping the manipulations effective and transparent, but I can’t imagine how I would survive trying to edit a couple of thousand wedding photos.

This sort of event photography is not precisely the same as weddings. There are much fewer "Set Piece" shots and lighting can be more difficult to precisely control. On the other hand there are no brides to deal with in non-wedding events.

 Next year I will undoubtably return to help document what these crazy people do to support the wonderful folks in the Special Olymics.  It has the magnetic fascination of a car wreck but with a much better outcome. I will try again to do a better job with lighting.  I especially will, finally, figure out how to use my flash. I will discover the ideal places to stand to get the best angles without being trampled by crazed plungers and I will use more efficient batch processing to cut my editing time to something less than four days. But my conclusion will inevitably be the same ... NO WEDDINGS!

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The Special Olympics State Winter Games are coming up in early March at Waterville Valley.
For more information on Special Olympics and the Penguin Plunge, visit sonh.org.

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