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, February 26, 2012

Gone to the Vermont Dogs.

Perfect Face
New Hampshire Snow

After two weeks of fairly geeky photoshop blogs I am thrilled to indulge myself with something far less intense. It is important not to get obsessed with the technical aspects of photography and to remember that the most essential element of a great image is a great subject. Fully embracing this concept, this week’s blog is, of course, about my dog Nellie.

Retreat Farm, Brattleboro Vermont
A week ago I was contacted by a client in Vermont to see if I had any dog photographs to use in a planned calendar. The theme is to be "Dogs of Vermont". Of course, I happen to share my life with a dog who is generally acknowledged as the best canine in all of New England, but as I searched my archives, I was amazed to discover that I could find only one picture of Nellie actually taken in Vermont. 

Faced with the perfect subject but unacceptable backgrounds, I had no choice but to throw Nell in the car and head across the Connecticut River. My plan was to photograph Nellie around as many of my favorite, authentically Vermont, locations as I could manage?  Calendar pictures are generally supposed to look like classic representations of seasons they depict. My problem was that, on Friday, I was saddled with "Winter Without Snow Season". Given the uninspiring surroundings my solution was to zoom in on Nellie’s soulful face and include just enough softly focused background to establish location and to provide framing. 

West River, Dummerston Covered Bridge

Newfane Country Store

Nellie is a great model for this kind of work. She almost always
accompanies me on shoots and has learned the importance of staying when told to "stay". Usually the "stay" is intended to keep her out of the shot, but in this case the goal was to fix her to a location while I clicked away. The trick was finding ways to get her to look at me without inducing her to run in my direction, tail wagging, for a touch or a treat. 

More Treats
Newfane Country Store
Nellie’s hair is beautifully soft, but it definitely has a mind of its own. I brought along her favorite brush, but I soon realized that any attempt to impose order on the unruly coat would rob Nell of one of her most endearing qualities. Over a period of a couple of hours I plopped her in front of Stickney Brook Falls, the animals at the Retreat Farm in Brattleboro, the West River and The Dummerston Covered Bridge. We also visited the nice folks at the Country Store in Newfane, which is a warm and pleasantly dog friendly place. 

Nellie did great. She was remarkably patient and irresistibly cute,
Callie Needs a Home, Windham County Humane Society

but it can be difficult to appreciate her superior qualities without photographs of other, "lesser", dogs for comparison. On the way back we stopped at the Windham County Humane Society in Brattleboro. The folks there were happy to have some of their guests photographed and I have to admit the dogs were almost as beguiling as Nellie. Photographing dogs who are anxiously awaiting new homes is a challenge. These animals are generally
Chase is very friendly

thrilled to get out for more human contact. The trick is to get them settled long enough to grab a couple of pictures. They seemed alternately scared of the big intimidating camera eye and insistent on licking it. In the end I got a few nice images which I hope might help support the Societies efforts to find families for these wonderful creatures. I especially want to thank Anna Mefford of the Society who was a great help and showed remarkable patience as I tried to capture these frenetic fuzzy balls of energy. 


I think Nellie had a good time on her photo shoot. I don’t think the experience has spoiled her. Although she nearly emptied my bag of doggy treat rewards, she seems just as excited as ever to root around in the garbage at home. 

Dusting Addendum

Thursday night our latest fizzled snow storm left a dusting of white on the hills of southern Vermont. I couldn't resist dragging poor Nellie out for another shoot.  The early sap run provided an additional opportunity for nice backgrounds.  Now I have more work to do.

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