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, June 30, 2013

Time-Lapse Time








What do you do when you are stuck in one place for four hours? Photography everything! 


Mountain Time-Lapse
A few weeks ago I decided to set up for a long time-lapse video. My plan was to capture the clouds moving across Mt Monadnock from late afternoon until dark. Assuming a standard 24 frames per

Ground Cover
second video, I would need 720 images to yield a 30 second time-lapse. Taking an image every 20 seconds, I had to record for 4 hours. I set up in Marlborough's Town Meeting House Park with a lovely view of the mountain. Time-lapse consumes a lot of clicks, so I routinely use my old Canon 5D to avoid wearing out the shutter on my Mark II. I set up my intervalometer to shoot every 20 seconds. Since I knew that the light would be fading, I adjusted the exposure to be bit bright. I made sure that the the camera was in manual mode, with both auto focus and auto exposure off. Variations in exposure, such as with a passing cloud, can be very distracting in the final video. I turned the monitor off to avoid excessive drain on the battery. Everything was set. I pushed the intervalometer button and stood back to watch the magic unfolding. 


Waiting for the Magic
Five minutes later, the magic was still unfolding, and I still had 3 hours and 55 minutes to go. So what do you do while you are waiting for a four hour time-lapse to be finished? Nellie and I could have just settled on the grass to enjoy the beautiful scene, but the black flies had other ideas and we quickly realized that we had to keep moving.


My workhouse 24-105 lens was stuck on time-lapse duty, but I still had my 5D mark II and lots of other lens choices. I started looking
around. The first shots were obvious. I took pictures of my camera setup and of the lovely mountain panorama. The old Meeting House is long gone from the park but the site does offer some very nice opportunities to frame Monadnock with lovely birches and old apple trees. The park is lined by a nice rough stone wall and is bordered by a classic tree lined dirt road. Great, I captured all of that and I still had 3 hours to go. 




Grab the Macro

Cemetery Cover


When you run out of ideas, you can always go someplace else or grab a different lens. I wasn't going anywhere so I grabbed my 100mm Macro and started thinking closer. There were patches of beautiful delicate spring wildflowers which were particularly nice where they contrasted with the cold gray of the stones in the adjoining old cemetery. Nellie looked a little confused as I lay in grass but as the growing dusk led the mosquitoes to chase away the black flies, I couldn't stay in one place for long.




 



As usual, Nellie was extremely patient, but I did have to alternate periods of photography with brisk walks up and down the road. Although it seemed unlikely that roving gangs of thugs might be cruising the local parks looking for unattended cameras, I still felt uncomfortable straying too far from my tripod. 


Infrared Magic

I was running out of options, but then I remembered that I still had my Infrared converted Canon 20D in the back of the car. As always, infrared opened a new set of opportunities. The spring foliage contrasted nicely with the Mountain peak and with the tree lined road. As I have discussed previously, Infrared requires a whole different way of seeing the world. 






 

Eventually the bugs got too aggressive and we retreated to the car for the last 30 or 40 minutes, but I was still able to shoot the half moon, framed by the branches, through my car's moon roof. In Infrared the inky sky contrasted nicely with the moon and surrounding foliage.


 




And Finally the Video
The four hours were up. I grabbed my equipment and headed for home. The time actually passed quicker than I expected. The time-lapse turned out ok, but I actually had more fun trying to figure out what to do with the four hours. Being tied to one spot can stimulate fresh ideas and vision. Although I could have done without the bugs. 


video
Windy Sunset on Mt. Monadnock


Check out the Video on YouTube


Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ashuelot River Park, Photo Album






This week my article for the New England Photography Guild celebrated Keene, New Hampshire's beautiful Ashuelot River Park.  The park is a lovely 157 acre natural oasis in the center of  Keene featuring wonderful open spaces and lovingly maintained gardens.  Radiating from the main garden are trails which wind along the Ashuelot River and into its wildlife rich wet lands.  For more detail check out my article on the New England Photography Guild Blog.

As before, I am using my personal blog this week as an album of additional pictures of the park.  Check them out and come visit  in any season. It is easily accessible. Heading west from Keene's Central Square along West Street it is across from the Colony Mill.

Park Gardens and open spaces are home to strolling, Picnics and even Yoga Classes.  The gardens are maintained by the city and a dedicated group of volunteers.






















Yoga on the Green
Mill Dam





The Jonathan Daniels trail heads north from the gardens following the Ashuelot River
The trail honors Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a native of Keene who, at the age of 26, was, killed for his work in the American civil rights movement. The trail runs close to the river for a the round trip distance of 1.75 miles.  

Ashuelot River



Ashuelot Mist

Backwater along the Ashuelot and Daniels Trail




















Check more about Ashuelot River park, a great place to relax and recharge in the heart of Keene



Ashuelot Park New England Photography Guild Blog 


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Protecting the Equipment






From many painful misadventures, I have learned some basic rules to protect my photographic equipment when out shooting in the field.


A couple of years ago I was leading small group on a photo hike in Chesterfield's Madame Sherri Forest. I led the more dedicated and crazy photographers on a scampered down a steep embankment to a secluded waterfall. Its one of my

Madame Sherri Cascade.  The Lens eater.

favorite spots, but it is a little tight and precarious. I decided to switch to my wide angle lens. As I was struggling with my footing my Canon 24-105 L lens flew out of my hands and into the lovely brook. I was horrified and, as I lunged for the lens, my 70-300 somersaulted from my bag and plopped into the water as well. I salvaged both lens, but the 24-105 was irretrievable fried. My 70-300, which was a cheaper, non-Canon brand, actually dried out over about a year and is now functional. I still use it on occasions when I want to bring a lighter Telephoto on a trip. I had camera insurance and ended up using the disaster as an excuse to buy a much heavier Canon 100-400 (the beast). Somehow I convinced my wife that the best way to replace the 24-105 was as the kit lens on a new 5d Mark II. My reason for telling this story is not to encourage you to throw all your old glass into the lake, but to make it clear that my understanding of the care and protection of camera gear comes, not from exhaustive study, but from repeated and painful experience.




Portland Head Surf

Over the years I have dropped or dunked, one camera body, 3 lens', one cable release, and numerous lens caps and filters. Remarkably, I have never lost a memory card, but now that I have mentioned that, it is only a matter of time. It is all very tragic, but cameras are only tools, and, if instead of hiding at home, you want to go where the beauty is, accidents will happen. But there is much that you can do to reduce the risk of disaster and all it starts with two basic rules.

 




Two Rules

First, most of the best shots are seen from difficult to reach locations, where your equipment will be at risk of loss or damage. Start by assuming the worst WILL happen.

Second, a few simple precautions, faithfully followed, can substantially reduce the risk of disaster. The key is to slow down and focus on your gear. Generally, the beautiful stuff will still be there once everything is secure.



The Threats
Damage can occur at any moment, but the critical times

Table Rock, Balsoms, Dixville Notch
Disaster Awaits

include: taking the camera from the bag, attaching or detaching from the tripod, SECURING AND adjusting the tripod, changing lenses, changing filters, changing memory cards, and falling off cliffs. The falling off cliffs thing may seem obvious, but it is worth stressing that protecting your body should always be your first priority. Mostly. Self preservation aside, I’m sure that, during my plummet to oblivion, I will be thinking about how to protect the camera from damage on impact. Last autumn, while tumbling into the icy waters of Harvey Pond, my two thought were, “You idiot!” and “Keep the camera above your head !!”. I have to admit that, in all non-lethal situations, my mantra has always been, "My body can heal itself, my camera cannot".




Slow Down
The key to all of these precautions is to slow down and think before you put your equipment at risk. Before you act, take a breath and anticipate what could go wrong. Move slowly and deliberately, and focus on the task, not on the gorgeous scene that lies before you. 



 Get a Grip


When holding my camera, I try to focus on the grip and consciously squeeze tighter. As I move, I also try to watch for snares that might rip my camera from my hands. It is often a stray branch or even the tripod that can knock the camera away, and the strap seems always to wants to snag on something. Again, the key here is to move slowly and concentrate on what you are doing.






Two Points of Control
From the moment I reach into my camera bag, I try to keep at least two points of control on my camera. Two hands are not always practical, but the neck strap is often the best insurance you can add. Although at times it can feel awkward, while setting up a shot and adjusting lenses and filters, I keep the strap around my neck for as much as is practical. If I can't keep the strap around my neck, I often wrap it around my arm. Once the camera is firmly attached to tripod, and before I focus on the landcape, my attention shifts toward the security my Gitzo.  Whenever possible, and especially in risky locations, I will still keep myself tethered to the camera.



False Security, the Tripod

Trust me; I know from painful experience, even the most
substantial tripod is not secure. All it takes is a gust of wind or a patch of slippery ground, and your tripod, along with your, firmly attached, camera, will be shattered at the bottom of the ravine. Never leave your camera unattended on a tripod. Once I have set up for a shot, my next routine is to check the balance and security of the position. Next, I re tighten the camera attachment and all the leg segments. I try to follow this routine regardless of the weather or location. These things need to be practiced continually to become automatic. With all these precautions, I still avoid leaving the tripod unattended. A few years ago, I was shooting along a stream in Harrisville, New Hampshire. I turned away for a second to find a filter in my bag and PLOP. A leg slipped on the damp leaves and my camera was soaked. Now when I move away, even for a second, I take the tripod down and lay it gently in a secure area. A pain, but well worth the effort.


Changing Lens
es and Filters
It seems a rule of physics that when I am removing a filter the thing always let's go when I release my hand between turns. All
I can do is focus on the flight of the precious little disk and try to see where it eventually comes to rest. Too often that resting place is somewhere down stream. I've learned not to lunge since I am usually strapped to my camera and tripod at the time. Again, in this situation, the two points of contact can be a life-saver. When changing a filter or a lens I first assumes that there will be an accident and orient the camera over safer ground. With filters, I place my hand or the filter case under the filter as I unscrew. I actually prefer to use the case because I can keep the new filter in the other side, making the exchange quicker. Polarizing filters provide an additional challenge, since, based on the direction of the light, we are constantly adjusting their orientation to get the desired amount of effect. Even if the filter is initially firmly attached, it can easily come loose with continued rotations. More than once, I have had a polarizer come off unexpectedly as I was adjusting the filter. The solution is simple. Make a habit of only adjusting the polarizer by rotating in the clockwise direction. If you go too far, keep going around, rather than making any but very small, fine tuning, adjusts counterclockwise.

Lens changes are a little trickier. I'm ashamed to admit that I often find myself removing a lens with the new lens resting precariously in the crook of my arm. BAD PHOTOGRAPHER! We all hate to expose the delicate underbellies of our precious
Bad Katie
lenses to the elements, but, especially in dangerous locations, it is best to take the lens off, put it away and then take out the new glass. Ok, but in the real world, I start by pressing the lens release button and applying a tiny turn. I don't want to be searching for the button while juggling two lenses. I can then concentrate on firmly gripping both lenses as I make the change. I keep the camera under control on a tripod or with the strap around my neck.  I try to keep the camera aimed down to avoid getting dust on the sensor.  Again, I assume that I will drop one or both and position the camera accordingly. After the old lens is safely stored, I will often remove the new lens and blow out any dust that might have been sucked in during the transfer. My little Pocket Rocket blower is always in my bag.


Angry Sea, Kennebunkport, Maine


All of these precautions may seem self-evident, but unless they are followed as an unvarying routine, they will certainly be forgotten in the face of the next spectacular photographic opportunity. Spectacular opportunities are almost always at the edge of a cliff or next to a roaring brook, so take it slow, think about what you are doing and squeeze that precious camera.

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A New Conservation Web Site (Finally)

 
Today I am proud to share our new Chesterfield Conservation Commission web site, and it is about time!
Madame Sherri "Castle"
I have been a member of the commission in my home town for over 25 years and for much of that time I have managed our web site. The site has included the basic information that you would expect, including the members, meeting times, and links to our minutes. In addition, I added information about our many wonderful natural lands including descriptions, directions and trail maps. The site has been essential to developing an appreciation of our natural treasures and has encourage an understanding of the importance of their preservation. Although the site was innovative at the time of its origin, over the years it had become a bit musty. It was a constant struggle to keep up with events and almost impossible to get Commission members to contribute to keep the content fresh.





 

For years our site was run on less than a shoe string, and recently, after years of generous support from the Keene Sentinel, we found ourselves looking for a new host. It seemed the proper time to completely redo our web presence. I had recently redone my photography portfolio web site, using the Zenfoilio service. I was happy with the results and wondered whether a site designed primarily to highlight a photographer’s images could be modified to the needs of our commission. It seemed worth a try. The price was right, and Zenfolio solved both our design and hosting requirements. I already had experience with the program and the service offered a two week free trial. Zenfolio had many built in features including, a blog, contact and guestbook pages, and, as would be expected, a robust photo gallery system. Most importantly, for our needs, it provided the capability to design custom pages that I was able to use to shift the site from a portfolio to a full featured organization web site. I created over 15 custom pages that covered information from forest and trail guides to news about activities and events. It was easy to organized access to the site through a series of drop-down tabs that made navigation quick and logical.


A key requirement for our new web site was that it be easily
Blog
assessable to the commission members, allowing them to add and update content in a simple and intuitive way. After demonstrating the program to the commission and providing step-by-step instructions, some of our members are already adding material, although I still have to work on them to maintain a consistent style. Commission member input is most easily accomplished through the site's blog. Using a simple template simple they can publish announcements of upcoming events as well as general information about our activities. Although a polished and graphically attractive site is great, I have long understood that a web site will live or die based on the interest and freshness of its content.


 

The new web site provides much of the same information as in the previous version, but I took the opportunity to add a number of additional features. New Resources and Documents pages provide information on principals of conservation and regulatory rules. There are also links to other resources, such as the Nature Conservancy and the state Department of Environmental Services (DES). We have a new page to recruit and to celebrate our volunteers who are an important part of the effort to monitor and maintain our trails. Of course my favorite part is the photographs, and here Zenfolio's native purpose shines. Galleries of images are organized by forest and can be viewed individually or in slide shows. Included within the galleries are trail maps which are easy to download and print. It is all designed to encourage folks to come and enjoy our beautiful public lands. Finally, I was able to add an audio track to the site's front page. While watching the introductory slide show you will be listening to the riotous sound of Madame Sherri's Pond on a spring evening - and without the Black Flies.




Spofford Lake Gazebo


All-in -all, I found the process of creating two web sites with
Zenfolio to be straight forward and enjoyable. Certainly a lot easier than when I coded the Cheshire Medical Center's site in raw HTML nearly twenty years ago. Given the ease of creating professional web sites with services such as Zenfolio and SmugMug, there is no excuse for photographers or, for that matter, conservations commissions to miss the opportunity to shine on the web.




 


So check out our site. We hope that it will be an enjoyable and informative introduction to the wonders that are to be found in the forest and trails of our special corner of New England.

Zenfolio Web Site

SmugMug Web Site ( Another excellent solution )



Chesterfield Conservation Commission Web Site

Partridge Brook Reflections
( My Zenfolio photography site )


Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tangible Art, Showing Prints of Your Photographs



My Window on the Art Walk
 Celebrating Art in Keene and Beyond




Making prints of your best images is a great way to take full control over how your photographs are viewed.  Finding good locations to show the work is often a challenge, but sometimes you may have more opportunities than you can handle.

I was reviewing the pictures that are posted on my web site and counted nearly 3000 images, mostly of New England, but also beyond. A lot of pictures, but only a tiny fraction of all the images



Keene's Central Square
that I have captured over the years. This ridiculous abundance of imagery could only be practical in the digital age, but I still love the print. Today photographers have many ways to show their work. On line galleries, email, Facebook, Google +, 500 pics and many more, but there is still something special about holding a physical print in your hands. Print making is a whole separate art, requiring time and attention to an often confusing array of details. Ink and paper choices, color space, and soft proofing are just a few of the challenges, but for me the opportunity to bring my work to printed form is well worth the demands. It is only with a physical print that I can be sure that my work will be presented precisely as I had visualized. Online images are always seen through the filter of someone else's monitor and color space, and magazine and ad publications are always a compromise. So I have worked to make printing a part of my process.  Great, now that I have all these prints, where can I show them? My work can often be seen on my walls at home or littering my office and exam rooms, but this weekend offered a special opportunity set my babies free. It was nearly too much of a good thing.





The Art Walk
 Keene, New Hampshire's Annual Art walk began this weekend.


Keene's Wide Main Street
Keene has a famously beautiful main street, and is recognized as one of the widest in the country. The tree-line boulevard is home to interesting stores, cafes and restaurants and is capped by its, beyond classic, commons. Our Central Square is actually a circle which features stately trees, a fountain, a lovely Gazebo and, of course, the ubiquitous Civil War statue. The spot is so perfectly New England that it was chosen as the set for the idealic town in Robin William's movie Jumangi. Don't worry, the rampaging monkeys are gone.




Pocket Full of Rye
 On any day, Keene's Main Street is a treasure, but for one week every spring the downtown turns into an expansive strolling art gallery. For this week the local businesses surrender their windows to local artists. The range of art is always amazing, including, painting, sculpture, wood working, weaving and of course, marvelous photography (me). What better way to spend a warm evening than to stroll among the art and then settle in to an outdoor table for a relaxing dinner at one of the many downtown restaurants. Not surprisingly I will be displaying my photographs at the Pocket Full of Rye. I am lucky to be a regular at this great shop, but the Art Walk gives me a chance to display some new work in a featured location. Come by and check it out. 






Ann At Pocket Full of Rye

Prime Roast Show

Actually the Art Walk is just part of a very busy weekend for me. Friday morning I had to take down a show at Kristen's Bakery in the morning and then set up my window at Pocket Full of Rye in the afternoon. Early Saturday morning I hung a month long show in Prime Roast Cafe on the other side of main street. Close to Central Square, Prime Roast is a peaceful and inviting refuge from the bustle of downtown Keene. The display walls are equipped with an easy hanging system and are nicely illuminated. It's great to have two wonderful places to hang. It is always about showing the work, but times like this can get a bit crazy. The big challenge was to find the work to display. I produced 8 new prints to show at the Art Walk, but with 16 pictures there and 10 at Prime Roast, I felt a bit stretched. Oh, and on Saturday afternoon, I brought 10 coastal pictures to a new gallery in Salem, MA. 



One wall at Prime Roast Cafe




Four Corners of New England Gallery
The Four Corners of New England Gallery has been created by



Setting Up at the Four Corners of New England Gallery
fellow New England Photography Guild member Jeff Folger. Jeff and his wife Lisa have taken the commercial leap with a small gallery which will feature the photography of the members of the New England Photography
Guild. Many of the Guild members have already contributed some amazing work and
Jeff Folger in Front of One of My Pictures
the place is distended to become THE place for classic New England photography.  I thought it would be the perfect place to show some of my Atlantic Coast images.   Although there is still some work to be done, the gallery opened on Saturday. It should be an essential stop on any tour of historic Salem. 









Historic Salem
 



The friendship of Salem, Massachusetts


Sun Through the Rigging
The gallery is nicely located along the Salem waterfront, near the Old Custom House and close to the Friendship of Salem, a faithfully reconstructed 3 masted East Indiaman originally built in 1791. On Saturday, the light was harsh, but I love shooting images of the tangle of rigging in old sailing ships, and this was a great opportunity.


 It takes great faith and considerable guts to commit to a "bricks and Mortar" gallery, but if anybody can make it work, it will be Jeff and Lisa. I'm just grateful for another wonderful place to show my tangible work. 






 



Customs House Eagle, Salem, Ma.



Check out the work: