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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great Place / Great Space : Jaffrey Civic Center April Show 2011



The Jaffrey Civic Center in Jaffrey New Hampshire has some of the nicest gallery space in the region. Pristine white walls, a great hanging system and wonderful light makes the facility an impressive cultural gem for this small rural New England town. The Center is a remarkable example of community pride and energy. The Jaffrey Civic Center first opened in April 1966 as a non-profit cultural facility funded and built by Marion Mack Johnson, a Jaffrey native and teacher, to provide a community center for educational and artistic purposes.

I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to show in the first floor gallery for the month of April 2011.  It's a big space, easily accommodating 32 of my images, the most I have been able to show at one time.  In the last few years I have had solo shows over 30 times. Of the all the restaurants, banks, town halls and more, this is one of the nicest venues. I have appreciated every opportunity to show my images.  I have learned, however, that dark moody light is great for atmosphere in a restaurant but not for showing photographs.  This place is a treat.  If you get a chance come check it out through April. The opening reception is on Sunday, April 3 from 2-4pm. I would love to see you.

Check out the images on my show flickr set:
Here are the directions taken for the Center's web site : www.jaffreyciviccenter.com/

From Keene you take route 124 South from Marlborough and look for the sign on the left shortly before the traffic light in "downtown" Jaffrey.

FROM BOSTON AND POINTS EAST


Route 2 West to exit 24B to Route 140 North. Follow 9.5 miles to the end of 140. At the traffic light, continue straight onto Rt 12 North. 9/10th mile up, take first right onto Glen Allen Street to Route 202. Follow into New Hampshire to Jaffrey. At Route 124, take a left. The Jaffrey Civic Center is the second brick building on your right after the bank.


FROM NY, CT AND POINTS SOUTH AND WEST


I-91 North (in Massachusetts) to Exit 28A, Route 10 (Northfield and Bernardston). Follow signs to NH, to Winchester. Take right onto Route 119 East. Follow through Fitzwilliam and Rindge. Take a left onto Route 202 North and follow to Jaffrey. At Route 124, take a left. The Jaffrey Civic Center is the second brick building on your right after the bank.


FROM MANCHESTER, NH AND POINTS NORTH


Route 101 West into Peterborough, NH. Take left onto Route 202 South into Jaffrey. At first light, take a right. At second light, proceed straight on Route 124. The Jaffrey Civic Center is the second brick building on your right after the bank.


HOURS


Tuesday: 10 - 6 • Wednesday - Friday: 1 - 5 • Saturday: 10 - 2

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finger Cloning


Just a brief thought about photography and my personal responsibility to the environment. I recently a stopped by a familiar red barn in Keene NH.  I had never tried to shoot here before, but after passing by I decide to come back and explore for possibilities.  Although the light was blindingly strark, I found some reasonably pleasing angles looking up the hill at this imposing structure.  At home I discovered that the hillside had the usual modern archeologic collection of societal artifacts.  That is to say trash.  I thanked the gods at Adobe as I smugly cloned out the distracting garbage.  The whole process took about one minute, but then it struck me.  It probably would have taken about the same amount of time to have removed the trash from the site itself.  I believe that as photographers we sometime miss the small stuff as we scan for grand themes of  light, line and color.  
 I try to be aware of distracting elements in my images, but it is easy to become lazy about removing them when Photoshop can so seamlessly correct these small blemishes.  Often I never really see this stuff until it is flattened onto my monitor screen.  I need to be more alert, not only to improve my images, but also to pay back the limitless debt that I owe to the environment for feeding my imagination and creativity.  I appreciate that many dedicated people commit there time to removing trash along our highways and trails and I have worked with trash removal crews especially on our local trail system.  But photographers have a special opportunity to contribute to this effort as our eyes scan many of the most beautiful, and fragile vistas in our country.  So here is my simple commitment.  I will keep a trash bag in the trunk of my car and in my pack and whenever possible I will remove rather that clone the junk I find along the way. Let's think of "Finger Cloning" as simply a new, unteathered, Photoshop plugin to improve our images and maybe a small piece of the earth.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shooting the (biggest) Moon

As everyone knows this weekend's full moon was the largest in more than 18 years. The combination of a full moon within 50 minutes of its Perrigee (closest orbital point) makes it appear about 14% larger than at Apogee. The Japan earthquake aside, the world didn't come to an end as it was ripped by disastrous tidal forces, but it did lead photographers all over the earth to wonder the same thing ... where do I go to get the shot. Living in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire, I had little choice. I had to find a place to record the moon rising over the mountain profile that so dominants our corner of New England.

 
I started with a few simple requirements for my observation point. First I needed to be in an unobstructed position to catch the moon rising directly above Mt. Monadnock. Second I wanted to be far enough away to allow my 400mm telephoto to do its work magnifying the moon against the mountain's silhouette. Finally I was hoping that, after the shot, I wouldn't have to hike miles in the dark to get to my car. Thank heavens for the wonderful program "Photographer's Ephemeris" (http://stephentrainor.com/tools). This remarkable freeware program not only shows the time of rising and setting of the sun and moon, it also shows on a Google Map the precise location of the objects at any time and from any location. I was able to find a line along which the rising moon would appear from behind the mountain. By following the line westward I could then scan for potential view points that would meet my criteria. As seen on the screen capture, I eventually settled on a spot on Pinnacle Springs Road overlooking Spofford Lake in Chesterfield. From this location I could see that the moon would rise above the northern shoulder of the mountain (blue line) and then move south across the peak. This placed me about 20 miles from Monadnock which worked well with my long lens. I set up my tripod, experimented with framing and then settled in to wait for the show. Remarkably the moon peeked from behind the mountain in exactly the spot Ephemeris predicted. Then the challenging stuff started.


The night was clear and the moon was spectacularly large as it appeared above the mountain. Because of an optical illusion the moon always looks larger next to the horizon, but this was amazing. The problem of course was the contrast. Unfortunately the moonrise on Saturday was at 7:22pm, and it was actually a few minutes later before the moon crept up over the mountain ridge. Sunset was at 7:02pm making the dwindling twilight quite dim on Monadnock. It is important to realize that at night the moon is still bathed in brilliant full daylight and to properly see the detail on the surface you must use daylight exposures. I found that, even with
a moderately underexposured foreground, there was still an 8 stop difference between moon and mountain. Obviously this was a job for multiple exposures. With the two images included here you can see the range of exposure required for the final picture. You can also see that, yes, the moon was REALLY that big! Both exposures were at f8, ISO 400. The trick was to jump quickly between the 1/60 exposure for the moon and 4 seconds for the mountain, all before the moon moved out of line. I ended up taking about 40 images including some pulled back to see the lake in the foreground. I then packed up and ran to the annual dinner in Keene for which I was already 2 hours late. I think my priorities were precisely in the right place. So what if my dinner was cold.


Of course I couldn't wait to get home to start working on these images. It took some painstaking PS work to get the moon selection just right and to balance the lighting and color, but I think the result is a good representation of magnificent display that met my eye last evening. It was also a good example of how careful planning and a shameful neglect of social responsibilities can lead to some nice results.


 
If you missed the record moon last night, don't despair. A full moon comes along every month or so and you don't have to wait another 20 years to get spectacular results.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crushing the Future of Photography


In the last few years I have done my share of hanging my ego out to dry by submitting my work to various competitions and juried shows. Much more than my successes, my failures have made me wonder about the process of judging photography. Frequently rejections are softened by reminders that the jury procedure is inevitably a subjective matter of individual taste. With this realization, before I submit to a show, I will often try to look at the jurors images. I may reconsider a submission if I find nothing but abstract B&W photographs in my inquisitioner's portfolio - Hey, I know what I do! Following this kind of research, I recently added one B&W image to a group of my usual color photos submitted to a juried show. It was the B&W that was accepted. I don't fault the jurors. They produce and appreciate work that they like.

With this in mind I just finished seeing the process from the other side. I was honored to be asked to judge a very prestigious photography contest. Ok ... it was actually the New Hampshire Regional 4H Competition and the photographers ranged from 8 - 18 years old, but still it was interesting and a bit scary to be given the responsibility of judging all those kids who are just beginning to grasp the magic of photography.

So, the process went like this. I was given boxes with over 70 framed pictures to review. Actually I started with half of the images and then swapped with the other juror in the competition. We were given a form to fill out with 20 criteria to rate. It was difficult to place numerical values on these criteria.  I guess I rebelled a little against the idea that these expressions of art could be reduced to columns of numbers, so it was in the comment section that I tried to focus my real evaluation. Perhaps because of some unpleasantness in the past, we were told to start out with positive comments before ripping the kids apart. As a frequent Flickr poster I had the positive comment thing solid. The constructive comments were a much tougher issue.  It was clear in most of the images that these kids had great investment and pride in their work. Unfortunately I can't show any examples here, but there were some really nice images. As you might expect from a 4H group, many of the strongest pictures were of animals, but there were also many landscapes and a few macros. From the start It was important to understand that most of the pictures went straight from the camera to Walgreens for printing. With a few exceptions the pictures did not benefit from cropping, color correction or any of the adjustments that we, in the digital world, consider a necessity. Allowing for this there were still many marvelous images and many learning opportunities.  I tried to keep my suggestions in very positive, constructive terms. I used phrases such as "Next time you might try ...", "This might be a bit stronger if you ..." and "Very cute, but you might ...".  I certainly did not want to crush the enthusiasm of the next Ansel Adams!


It was interesting that many of my comments fell into just a few recurrent themes. These included :

"The composition might be stronger if the subject was moved away from dead center". This was far, far and away the most common issue. It shouldn't be surprising that kids (and adults) tend to aim the camera directly at the subject, but it seemed that the center of most of the pictures contained a black hole sucking in everything of importance. Often I tried describing how the frame might be cropped and in some situations I actually drew a picture showing how the composition might be improved. As I was approaching the end, I suggested in a couple cases that the kid might try Googling "Rule of Thirds".


"Beautiful donkey, but it might have been better if you didn't cut off his nose". Cropping or framing was also a common issue. For each image in which the framing was too tight there was another in which the tiny horse was lost in a sea of unnecessary background.


"Next time you might try exposing to get more detail in the shadows". Exposure was a frequent issue both over and under. I believe all of the images were digital so there is hope that as the kids learn to use their LCDs and histograms this will become less of a problem.

As might be expected, other issues included sharpness of focus,  leaning horizon lines and busy distracting backgrounds, really all the usual suspects.

Overall, this was a valuable experience.  I saw an impressive collection of interesting work reflecting great enthusiasm and potential, and I had the opportunity to relearn many of the fundemental tenets of good photography. I found myself envious of all the great discoveries that lie ahead for these kids as they develop their skills in a digital world that makes experimentation and learning a much easier endevour.  That is assuming I didn't destroy their willingness to ever pick up a camera again.

If you would like to see the kids work, they will be on display in Morrison Hall at Keene State College begining on March 27th.
 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Canadian Rockies and Image Management Workflow

Two Jacks Lake, Alberta
I love photography in the winter, but enough is enough. I have been taking so many moody achromatic images that I think my sensor has lost its ability to see red. This week however I have escaped the icy grip by going back though my images of the spectacular Canadian Rockies taken in the spring of 2008. It has been great to discover with fresh eyes images that I never got to process. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that there were some keepers still hidden in the pile. I did come back from the trip with over 3000 pictures. As I've been working on these images I have been reminded of two important lessons.


First, although our most recent pictures often seem to have the greatest attraction, it is always good to visit the archives from time to time.


Silverton Falls, Alberta

Sunwapta Falls, Alberta
The second lesson is about the importance of a careful image management workflow. In 2008 my approach was to import the raw images and back them up. (Period) In those days I didn't take the time to input metadata detailing identifying information. Somewhere there is undoubtedly a notebook or slips of paper on which I recorded the locations of images from this trip, but as I worked through them, now nearly three years later, I realized that I was at lost to identify locations. The Canadian Rockies are resplendent with gorgeous mountains and waterfalls, but which is which? Thank god for the internet and guide books helping me solve the mysteries, but this experience, has reinforced the importance of rigorously following my current approach to image management.

The most important thing about image management is to DO IT. Come up with a workflow and follow it faithfully. I little bit of effort now can save a world of aggravation in the years to come. When I come home after shoot I still can't wait to start working on the images, I struggle to resist the temptation to dive right in and first go through my workflow steps. There are as many workflows as there are photographer, but here is my approach - today - I'll probably change it tomorrow:

 
* First I download my RAW images and then immediately convert them to Adobe DNG. Although DNG probably has an archival advantage over proprietary file formats, my primary reason for converting is that DNG files incorporate the metadata within the image file itself. There are no pesky little sidecar files to try to keep track of and invariably loose. After converting to DNG I move the original RAW files to a separate disk as a backup.


*Next I rename the files using my own numbering format. I simply name each file with the date taken and a number. The date and number format is yymmddxxx. With this convention the files can be ordered chronologically by a simple alphabetical sort. The first image from today would be; 110305001. I presume I will never take more than 1000 images in a day, but who knows. Many photographers include a description of the project in their naming format, but my projects always seems to be "pretty pictures". To each their own.

 
*At this point I typically GPS label my images. I have a GPS logger that I usually carry with me. I match coordinates with images using GeoSetter (Windows Freeware at http://www.geosetter.de/en/). The program employs Google Maps which can be used to fix locations without a logger. I suspect this step will be done automatically in the camera of the near future.

*Finally I dive into the metadata. I use Adobe Camera RAW to edit the information. I start by placing a copyright announcement and then applying simple titles which include subject and location. I populate the key word section with important search terms. This will always include town, state and season, but I'll also throw in other identifiers such as the names of models, time of day and descriptors of the subject matter (eg barn, road, waterfall, naked lady). I will occasionally add other information in the Description Box, eg contact information, thoughts about the best time of day to come back to reshoot or other critical information such as "poison ivy in the field". This step tends be time consuming, but can be streamlined by batching information entry for similar images.


Thats it.


My trip back to the Rockies has reinforced for me value of careful image management.  There are many solutions to this problem.  I would be interested in hearing about how you deal with the challenge.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wrong Place - Right Time

What does a photographer do when he has just one day to capture one of the most spectacularly beautiful spots on the planet. Of course he prays for great or at least interesting weather. He does his research, talks to the locals and THEN he goes to the wrong place for his one and only sunrise on Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies


Recently I was reminded by a comment from a "Flickr Friend" of our amazing trip to British Columbia and Alberta in the spring of 2008. That also reminded me of an image of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Hotel at dawn that I had never processed. Perhaps I have avoided the image because it was not the one I was supposed to get - but maybe it didn't work out so badly after all.


Susan And I arrived at the historic Fairmont Chateaux Hotel on Lake Louise in the evening after a long, breathtaking drive from Jasper along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). The Hotel is a classic and classically expensive but we were treating ourselves that night. We were heading to Banff the next day so I knew I had only one shot at sunrise on Lake Louise. The weather sounded iffy, but I had no choice but to set my alarm to get up before dawn. After my research and conferring with our waiter at dinner, I decided that in the predawn I would climb to a ridge overlooking the lake and hope for the best.




As I ascended in the dark the next morning it seemed that my anemic flashlight only served to illuminate me for all the hungry bears coming out from hibernation. Somehow I survived the climb unmauled and found a nice overlook. With a little awkward leaning I was able to set the tripod for a good angle and I felt a certain smug satisfaction that I got the best spot before the crowd of photographers arrived. As the eastern sky behind the hotel began to lighten with nice color, I started experimenting to find the best exposure to manage the contrast of the scene. I wasn't doing much HDR at the time. It was then that it occurred to me that I was STILL the only person at this overlook - where were the crowds. As I pondered this question, I began noticing distant voices and the sickening sound of dozens of shutters clicking furiously several hundred feet below. As dawn broke over both Lake Louise and my sleepy cranium the conclusion was obvious - I was at the wrong location. As it turns out the classic - once in a lifetime - spot for sunrise on Lake Louise is traditionally from in front of the hotel looking up the lake as the morning sun illuminates the glacier. I packed up and ran down the trail, bears be damned. Fortunately I didn't miss all of the show. The sunrise light on the lake and mountains changes minute by minute and, although it wasn't the best weather, I was able to grab some nice shots. I also had the reassuring company of about twenty other photographers all wondering why I was out of breath.


Tonight, as I finally went back to the image from above the lake, I realized that I was actually lucky to get two perspectives from my one sunrise at Lake Louise. And amazingly, I think I prefer the "wrong" one .

 You can check out some of my other images from the Canadian Rockies on my web site: partridgebrookreflections.com
or in my flickr set at: http://bit.ly/ezlVVA