About Me

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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 18, 2011

Dance On - Bad Light, Great People

Slim Chance and the Gamblers


I am relieved to report that I have finally finished editing the  photographs from the Special Olympics Dance that was successfully held at the Keene New Hampshire Country Club a few weeks ago. With events such as the dance, but most significantly through the crazy Penguin Plunge held every February, our community has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the Special Olympics.   Peter Simon a photographer famous for his pictures of Martha's Vineyard and of pop music culture over the last decades was scheduled to photograph the event, but Peter was unexpectedly laid up and I was asked to fill in at the last minute.  If I am to be roped into this kind of work, I prefer to be the last minute desperate alternative because expectations are inevitably quite low.  What can they reasonably expect, there wasn't a tree in sight.  Actually I enjoyed the assignment and learned quite a bit.  I had to be at the dance anyway and the job gave me an excuse to avoid all but a token amount of dancing.  







Fortunately the band, Slim Chance and the Gamblers,  was great and, with the dance floor packed all night, few people noticed me lurking around.  The band was not only crazy talented but also very animated and energetic.  
"Brains !"
Each performer had his or her own style, and I had lots of chances to catch great moves and expressions. Photographing the folks dancing was another matter altogether.  People moving rhythmically to the music can be tolerable to watch, but when their movements are frozen in an image, well, it becomes more than a little scary.  Ok, if they didn't want their pictures taken, they should have stayed in the back ravaging the Hors d'oeuvres or, like me, hide behind a camera.  I  found my best chance to avoid "Night of the Living Dead"  images (John) was to get people to dance for the camera, holding eye contact. I still got a full share of crazy (Tom), but at least it was intentional crazy. 




My plan was to try to shoot with natural light.
I was acutely aware of how frequent blinding flash explosions could distract both the performers and the audience.  The problem was that the stage light was extremely low and composed of red spots on one side and blue on the other.  In order to stop any action I had to shoot  wide open with my f1.8 portrait lens and with ISOs in the 3200-6400 range.  Color balance was impossible with opposing red and blue color on every face.  At  post all I could do was balance for the predominant color and let the other side go crazy.  To speed processing I ended up saving red and blue adjustment profiles to apply as required although I still needed to do considerable individual adjustment on each image. Conversion to B&W is another option which I am considering for some of the images.  Half way through the second set I finally gave up and started using flash.  I wasn't sure how much I would be able to salvage from the natural light images and I wanted to make sure that I had something to fall back on.  I used a full CTO gel to balance with some of the ambient light and shot only bounce off the nice clean ceiling.  The results were reasonable without too many annoyed glances from the band.  The flash images don't have the colorful flavor of the ambient light but they are much sharper.  All together I think we ended up with a good range of images from which to choose.  
 

All in all the dance was a great success.  Everyone had a good time and we had the opportunity to remind the community about the importance of the Special Olympics.  Now I have to get geared up for the Penguin Plunge.  At least that will be held in daylight.




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