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 30, 2012

A New Web Home for My Photography (Finally !)



Today there is a dizzying number of places to show your photos on the web. Flickr, Facebook, Google +, 500 Pics, and even Twitter all have their own advantages, but it has become impossible to keep up with an appropriate amount of posting and commenting and still have time to actually take pictures. The requirements of shooting and actually having a life dictate that choices have to be made regarding my commitment to social media. As I try to find a reasonable balance, it seems to me especially important to keep my web presence firmly grounded in a strong personal web site.

The Goal
It seems axiomatic that a photography site must be about the visuals. Most important is a beautiful gallery which shows my best work to maximal advantage, organized in collections that allow easy navigation and searching. But the site must be more than a simple collection of images. I want it to inform visitors about my photographic focus and goals and, beyond the usual artistic babble found in most "About" pages, I feel my story is best told in my blog. Finally a site must provide a clear path for those wishing to offer the ultimate compliment of actually purchasing my work. It is a lot to ask, but fortunately there are solutions which are comparative easy to create and surprisingly inexpensive.

Ancient History
After years I have finally update my gallery website. I started designing web sites back in 1995. Yes there was an Internet back

My Cheshire Medical Site 2005
then, but in the olden days "designing" meant coding. It was clunky, laborious work, but, at the time, I found it remarkable to see how a few lines of HTML we're transformed into text and pictures when plugged into a browser. It still seems miraculous to me that I was able to talk the trusting folks at Cheshire Medical Center into letting me design their first web site, at a time when even a single web "page" was considered revolutionary. For ten years, as Medical Center web master, I was fortunate to experience the early development of the Internet and world wide web. I went from HTML editors to Front Page and Dreamweaver, but as the web became more automated and database driven, I found the photography to be a more fulfilling and creative outlet.

 

My Recently Deceased Gallery Site
It was about this time that I designed my web gallery and it has been essentially unchanged until this month. . This was before Facebook, Flickr and the others. The site was a place to drop my favorite images into simple tables, organized by season, with additional pages for seacoast images and a "whatever is left" page for images of our travels away from New England. The site was designed with a ancient version of Microsoft Front Page and had no search engine, slide shows or shopping cart. I displayed relatively small compressed images ranging from 300-430 pixels.  It worked well for a simpler time, but, by today's standards, the site did not portray a polished, professional design and, with over 2000 images, the constantly elongating table format had become increasingly unwieldy. 


Time for a Change
I had intended to update my web presence for a few years, but never seemed to have the time to start over. I was finally pressed into action when my old web host decided to go out of the hosting business. Suddenly I had to find a new home by the first of the year and it seemed the obvious time to make a major upgrade.

I considered a number of options, but narrowed my search to two excellent choices, SmugMug and Zenfolio. Both offer professional appearing web sites with a large array of easily customizable templates, easy organization, social media sharing and commerce solutions that make purchasing images quick and painless. They both offer unlimited uploads providing the added benefit of an easy cloud-based location for my most important images. I eventually settled on Zenfolio, partially based on price, but also for ability to incorporate my blog and the ease of a self-fulfillment option. I expect that I will eventually use the affiliated Photo Labs for many orders, but for now I still like to control the printing and matting of my work. 



Migration
The migration process was surprisingly painless. Both Zenfolio and SmugMug offer free trials.  I was able to get the basics well

Part of my New Front Page
established before I actually had to repoint my domain to the new site. I moved my galleries of old low resolution images to collections on the new site. I also began to process the originals of my favorite images as high resolution jpg's for upload into a "Featured" gallery.  It is this gallery which runs as a slide show on my front page and these images will be the appropriate size and resolution for lab prints directly from the site. After filling in the contact information and the "About" stuff, I copied information from my old site such as the price list and blog index. I am still using my "Blogger" blog, but it connects seamlessly and has a matching color scheme. There is still much to do, and many features to explore, but one of the great advantages of these services is that themes and organization are easy to change without any arduous and costly reprogramming. 




One Page of my Autumn Gallery

Check out my new site and let me know what you think. The address is the same as always :


partridgebrookreflections.com
 
Be kind there is still much work to do. And feel free to turn off the music when it, inevitably, becomes annoying.  If you are considering developing your own web site, it has never been easier, and the results can make a significant difference in the professional appearance of your web presence.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Great Hiking in Chesterfield New Hampshire



Last Light on the Madame Sherri Beaver Pond


 When Sue and I moved to Chesterfield, New Hampshire, we were attracted by this small, uncomplicated rural New England town. Chesterfield has an abundance of rugged, undeveloped land, but from the beginning I was disappointed by what seemed to be a sad lack of good hiking trails. Happily, I found many energetic, dedicated people to join in what has been a decades long effort to develop an extensive and varied trail system in our community.




Featured Forests in Chesterfield, NH
Again this week I am contributing the featured article on the New England Photography Guild Blog. In the article, I talk about our trail construction and maintenance efforts in Chesterfield. The goal is to encourage everyone to support the efforts in your communities to protect and promote the natural treasures close to home. I also highlight a few of my favorite local forests and trails. We would love to have you drop by to explore.


As usual, I wasn't able to show all of my favorite images on the New England Photography Blog and will recruit my personal blog as a supplemental photo Album. Get started with my "No good hiking trails?"article and then return here for a expanded look at the natural beauty of Chesterfield.




Pisgah State Forest


Kilburn Pond






 

 


Round Pond, Pisgah Park


 
Madame Sherri Forest
 
 


Snowshoe Hike





 
Friedsam Town Forest



Sargent Trail




 
 


Nellie by Twin Brook

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Trail Work Tom & Steve

 
Chesterfield Gorge
 

Chesterfield Gorge Bridge

 
 

 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Escaping your Camera's Dictatorial Viewfinder


Compositional Pre-Visualization



Gulf Brook, Chesterfield, NH


The Usual Lame Apology

The holiday season is always a hectic time for photographers. For me this year has been especially challenging. In addition to the usual rush of last minute Christmas orders and the annual  struggle to get my calendar to all the places where it is needed, I have the additional strain of remaking and moving my websites. I created my primary web gallery about 6 or 7 years ago from scratch using Microsoft's Front Page editor. The site has been an easily accessible repository for over two thousand of my images, but it is embarrassingly out of date. Today services like SmugMug and Zenfolio provide easily managed photo gallery sites with beautiful designs and an amazing collection of features. I've meant to update but I never seemed to have the time. Now I have been forced from my lethergy by the fact that my web host is going out of the hosting business. I have no choice but to move by the end of the year, and I also have to find a new home for the Chesterfield Conservation Commission web site. 



My Current Front Page Design

After much research, and the advice from many of my friends at the New England Photography Guild, I decided to go with Zenfolio. It has been exciting, but laborious, to move thousands of my images to the new platform and I am also working though a long list of design decision. My old portfolio images are of fairly low resolution. They are adequate for a rough archive of my work, but won't show well given the capabilities of their new home. I have just started the process of re-editing my favorite pictures to show best on the new site and be available for on-line sales. it will take months to get all the images up to standard. My hope is to get everything reasonably presentable by the end of the month, when the lights go out at my old home.  Hopefully, within a few days, partridgebrookreflections.com will have a whole new look.

The real reason for sharing my strain is to serve as a long winded apology for what will be a short and simple blog this week. My one goal is to remind folks about the size of their viewfinder and how overly tight framing of a composition within the constraints of the viewfinder can limit how your images can be presented when it comes to printing.

Going Standard

Pocket Full of Rye, Keene, N

I do my own matting and framing and can cut my mats to fit any  picture size, but when I am producing matted images for sale in stores I usually try to adjust my composition to fit a few standard sizes. This makes it easier and less expensive for my customers to find frames for the pictures. This doesn't work for all images. Some pictures loose there impact if confined to an arbitrary framing, but for the most part images can work well within just a few standard options. For larger prints I typically will use either a 12x16 or an 12x18 print. These two sizes end up being mated to fairly standard 20"x24" or 18"x24" dimensions. I typically size my "8x10" images close to 7"x10" since this fits more evenly in a standard 11"x14" frame. Now that I have started producing my own note cards, I am also printing more in a standard 4"x6" format.

Getting the Composition Right in the Digital Camera
All of this careful sizing depends on getting an image in the camera that can eventually be cropped to a desired aspect ratio and this is the simple point of today's blog. When you use the viewfinder as your compositional frame, you may be restricting your options later to crop the image in the best way.

12x18 & 4x6 Fit the Viewfinder

The standard "full" digital sensor matches the size of 35 mm film at 36mm x24mm yeilding an aspect ratio of 1 : 1.5 in the viewfinder. That is, the long dimension is 50% longer than the short. This matches the aspect ratio of 12"x18" and 4"x6" compositions, but if you frame tightly within the viewfinder you may find you are limited when it comes to cropping to other ratios. For example, a 12"x16" is at a ratio

12x16

of 1 : 1.33. For illustration, I have included a number of frames with the different aspect ratios superimposed on a standard viewfinder, but the simple point is to consider how you might eventually display an image when you compose in the camera. Today's digital cameras have lots of resolution and broadening the initial composition is

7x10

unlikely to significantly degrade the quality of the image. Once again the best image in the digital camera may not be the one that looks the best in your camera's viewfinder. The secret is to pull back from the strict 1:1.5 ratio imposed by the viewfinder. To apply your own visual cropping and make sure that everything you need for that ideal composition is safely within the frame. The image directly from the camera may well include distracting elements, but that is what cropping is for.

Final Points
Just a couple of additional points. First the 1 : 1.5 ratio holds for most of the crop sensor cameras as well. Canon's usual 1.6 crop sensor has an aspect ratio of approximately 1 : 1.58. Finally, I should point out that my compositional limitations are often saved by the fact that, like many DSLRs, the viewfinder on my Canon D Mark II only shows 95% of the image that will be recorded by the sensor. I can always go to Live View to see the full image, but sometimes it's good to have that little bit of buffer to protect me from my natural tendency to want to see the perfect image in that nasty, dictatorial viewfinder.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Working a Photographic Site



Dummerston Covered Bridge

Getting the Most From a Photographic Location


Bridge on Another Day

You have all experienced it. You have been out looking for the perfect photographic location and suddenly a turn in the road reveals the perfect scene. Lovely light, majestic vista and interesting foreground elements. Oh Yah!. You try to catch your breath and then the practical photographic technician intrudes and you have to try to figure out how best to Work the Site. There is a strong tendency to want to grab everything all at once, but a systematic approach can make a big difference in getting the most from the opportunity. There are many good plans, but, in talks I have given over the last couple of years, I have used at shoot at the Dummerston Covered Bridge to illustrate my approach to working the scene.





The Dummerston Covered Bridge across the West River River is one of my favorite locations in Southern Vermont. On this day I discovered the bridge appearing fresh and clean after an early winter snow storm. The overcast sky muted the strong contrasts and the water flow provided foreground interest. I was excited to get shooting , but I took a breath and tried to apply a plan.



First Things First
Safety should always be first. I parked my car where it wouldn't block traffic. This is especially important when snow plows may be rumbling by. I usually start by catching an iPhone image to record my location and then a quick "shot gun" shot. The shot gun shot is a broad image featuring the whole landscape taken as if I am expecting the land owner to, at any moment, chase me away, gun in hand. Never happened, but you never know and it gives me a broad reference for all my other images.


Zooming With Your Feet
Over the years I have tended to favor the broader compositions, working to find interesting arrangements of the many elements in the scene. A location such as the Dummerston Bridge provides a wide variety of photographic opportunities. I moved around finding angles that would use the sweep of the West River to draw the eye to the bridge while framing the image with the surrounding river banks and trees. Pulling the view down to the river also helped to minimize the dull uninteresting sky. I love playing with the complex interactions of the elements of the scene. It is amazing how just slight movement can change the focus and strength of an image. Sometimes the best viewpoints are obvious from the first glance, but more often a systematic exploration is required. After I've nail the broad "postcard" images, the important thing is not to give up on the location. The real fun starts when I drop kick my eye into full "work the scene" mode and this generally means zooming with my feet.








Closer & Closer

I start looking for individual elements that would make interesting subjects on there own, and I move in. The standard rule is to compose and shoot and then move a little closer, compose and shoot and then move closer still. The only theoretical limit is when the front of the lens bumps into the subject. For me it is like forcing different compositional filters over my eyes to shift my attention from my comfortable and familiar broad views to increasingly close subjects. It takes patience and discipline, but when I go through the exercise, it is amazing how much interest and beauty can be mined from one location. 








Another situation when moving from broad to more intimate compositions is particularly important is when shooting in the snow. As I discussed in my previous "Winter Plan of Attack "article, the key is to avoid tromping all over the pristine white foreground until you have captured all the broader compositions. 


Working the Snow
 

So the next time you you stop to capture the perfect majestic landscape move beyond the postcard and work the scene. Turn on that continuously looping recording in your brain that repeats, "closer, closer, CLOSER ....






Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pilgrimage to Photography's Commercial Mecca





Ever since my son moved to New York City last summer, I had two major concerns. The first was that Jeremy might get swallowed up by the big impersonal metropolis. The second was figuring out when I could use the excuse of his new home to make my first trip the commercial Mecca for all photographers.

Jeremy is doing great in the city. He appears to be thriving on the

Jeremy Mixing at the Penrose
excitement and opportunities.  New York City is terribly expensive, but It turns out an experienced bartender has no problems getting work in the city that never sleeps, or stops drinking. I have no idea what his long term future holds, but for now he is young, happy and making more money than my daughter who is a social policy analyst in Washington, DC.  Stop by to say hi to Jer at the Penrose on 1590 Second Ave.

Given that our family is now spread across the Eastern seaboard,
we decided that for Thanksgiving this year we would split the

Jeremy & Abigail
difference and gather at Susan’s sister’s house in New Jersey. Joannie and Allen were spared any damage from Hurricane Sandy and they, at least, gave the appearance of being excited to learn that we had decide to descend upon them for the holiday. We had a lovely time.  In addition to a traditional holiday dinner, we went to see “Lincoln” on Friday and a Broadway Show Saturday and of course we never stopped feeding our children.

Sunday morning the kids slept in and I finally had my opportunity go to the Mecca. I have been ordering photographic equipment and electronics from B & H Photo for decades, but this was my first chance to visit their superstore at 9th Ave. at 34th St. All the stories are true. The Store is massive. It is the world’s largest retailer of imaging products, occupying 70,000 square feet of retail space

Over-Head Trolly: B&H Photo Image
holding over 170,000 products. The store is a marvel of commercial efficiency and is worth visiting just to see the over-head trolley system that transports your purchases to the front checkout area.   Needless to say I was overwhelmed. Susan found a bench and gave me about 2 hours to explore while she did crossword puzzles. Seriously? Just two Hours? I needed a plan and decided to focus on the photography section on the second floor. 


Only Part of the Photography Section

After the initial shock, I had to devise a plan of attack on the impossible. B&H has a dizzying number of opportunities to (waste) consume money, but the practical part of my brain knew that everything in the store could be bought online, probably cheaper and without New York City's nearly 9% sales tax. The true advantage of being at B&H is the opportunity to see, touch, and yes, drool over, everything.  Also the remarkably attentive and knowledgeable sales staff are amazing.  During my limited time, I focused on camera bags and flash brackets, both of which needed to be seen, manipulated and hefted to judge what might work best

Stroboframe
for me. I could use a bigger main bag and a medium sized back pack, somewhere between my compact Kata and my behemoth Tamrac Expedition Bag.   Photographers can never have too many bags and it was great fun being able to examine a plethora of options.
 In the end, I didn't pull the trigger on a bag but I did come away with a better feel for what might work in the future. I did get the simple flash bracket that I have been looking for. The problem has always been to find a bracket that would accommodate my Arca Swiss L Bracket, but one of the great sales people took the time to find a reasonably priced Arca Swiss Receiver that works nicely with the Stroboframe Bracket.   I never could have figured that out on line.

Remarkably, even with the addition of a 3TB external Hard Drive, I came away from my first immersion in photographic excess for only a little more that $200.  Susan was shocked and thrilled, but she knows that, with Jeremy living in the city, I will be back.

I am one of the first to insist that photography is about the vision and not the equipment, but we must acknowledge that, at our core, we all love GEAR. So, when you get to New York, you must drop by the Mecca.  Just remember that B & H is owned by Hasidic Jews and is closed from 1 PM Friday through Saturday and on all Jewish holidays.  Plan accordingly and try to allow more than two hours to play.




Check Out

B&H Photo