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.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wedding Bonus for Photographers


I DON'T DO THIS

Don’t Shoot the Wedding, Shoot AT the Wedding

I always have problems getting family and friends to pose for nice candid portraits.
The Salute
My son has responded to my attempts to photograph him with his raised middle finger so many times that a few Christmas' ago he gave me a coupon book with; "10 photos without the finger".  Most often my subjects don't go to such extremes, but resort to the usual excuses; “I'm busy”, “Not in these cloths” and the standard, “Oh, I look horrible”.  Frustrating.  Now imagine a situation in which everyone is dressed beautifully, with make-up fully installed.  Place all these people on a happy occasion, in a lovely location, and enfold them all in an atmosphere in which everyone expects to be photographed. Ok, now you have a wedding, and there is no better opportunity to capture beautiful candid portraits.

"Do You Do Weddings"
Over the years I have been asked the dreaded question numerous times, “Do you do weddings”.  Each time I dutifully explain that I am primarily a landscape photographer and that brides are definitely NOT the same as trees.  I then discuss how wedding photography is a very specialized art form and that it would be insane to risk the most important remembrance of their special day on an amateur.  Usually By this point I have convinced the couple to seek professional help and I am off the hook.  If I am attending the wedding I will typically add that I will be bringing my camera and that they will be welcome to use any of my pictures they like.  And that’s my opening.

Matt & Crystal, Quietly Panicking
Emergencies

On a couple of occasions I have been approached at a wedding by a distraught bride panicked by the fact that the official photographer had been suddenly taken sick or had suffered a car break-down.  In those situations I have expanded my portfolio to help capture the event.  I agree to this only on the condition of low expectations and that no money will change hands.  For Matt and Crystal’s wedding I actually photographed decorations, and a few set group poses.  I had fun but these experiences have only served to reinforce my commitment to never take a formal wedding job.


The Wedding Advantage
No Finger
My preferred goal at weddings is to go after the intimate candid shots that are teed up for me in this magic environment.  I drift about with my 85mm fast portrait lens and often find that my usually reticent family and friends are suddenly open and, dare I say, even happy to be photographed.  All of their standard excuses seem to melt away.  I take pictures of happy groups, but my favorite shots are the simple close-up head shots.  I have always been fascinated by faces and the less distraction the better.  The key is to approach subjects with a relaxed happy attitude and they will most often respond in kind.  Again there is no easier and more natural time to move in than at a wedding.























Rules.
A wedding is a great opportunity, but I found that a few simple rules can improve the experience.

First and most importantly,  stay out of the wedding photographer’s way and don’t steal his/her set shots.  Photographers work hard to get everything right and they don’t need a bunch of leeches trying to feed off all that effort.  Often the key moment lasts only a second and,  if uncle Herb jumps in front to block the magic, the resulting homicide will be fully justifiable.

Keep things unobtrusive and fun.  Know when to back off.  A few people may not want to photographed.  Unlike the wedding photographer you don’t have to get every shot, just grab the ones you like and are welcome.

Watch your background.  Weddings can get pretty hectic making for excessively busy and distracting backgrounds.  Shooting wide open to restrict the depth of field can help, but sometimes a step or two to one side or the other can yield a much simpler background.

Game Over
Get your shots early, before the alcohol takes its toll.  There is often a fine line between relaxed and bizarre.

 And finally , don't forget to have a good time.  As you record all the joy and excitement pause, put the camera down in a safe place, and get crazy on the dance floor.





Jeffrey Newcomer


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Good-byes


 It is a constant struggle to find good places to show my photography to the community and the world, and sadly this month I am loosing two of the best.


Pocket Full of Rye 
 
Selling photography in a retail establishment is a difficult challenge. I continue to prize my representation in quality juried galleries such as Vermont Artisan Design and Sharon Arts Center, 
but commercial success is all dependent on how the work is displayed. Photography is not seen at its best when flipped past in a bin or with an occasional framed piece amongst a jumble of other work. Retail sales also involves a substantial investment in inventory. One additional problem for me has been finding a good venue in Keene New Hampshire, where my work is best known. After years of displaying my pictures in restaurants, banks, churches and public buildings, and almost a decade of publishing my New England Reflections Calendar, most locals would be hard pressed to avoid exposure to my images, but I have always wanted a Keene venue to prominently display my work. Then along came Ann Heffernon and Pocket Full of Rye.



 

When Ann Heffernon offered to sell my work in her lovely gift shop on Main Street in Keene, I was thrilled about the location but also worried that my photography might seem out of place in Ann's world of jewelry, cards and gift items. Ann had no such concerns. She embraced my work, showing it prominently and continuously in her windows and within the store. More importantly she was an enthusiastic advocate, often directing customers to my photographs, and encouraging me to try creating different pieces, such as mini panoramas and note cards. The results have been great for both of us, but, more importantly, it has also been a joy to become friends with Ann.

It was a shock and a disappointment when Ann told me that she
would be closing her shop. Retail is hard and she is off to do other exciting things. I am sure that her cheerful, honest and enthusiastic attitude will continue to server her well in her new endeavors, but for me she will be greatly missed. I'll start again to look for my perfect venue in Keene, but I know the opportunities that Ann provided at Pocket Full of Rye can never be fully replaced. It is completely typical of Ann's kindness that, even while she has been busy liquidating her store, she has also taken time to look for new opportunities to show my work in the community. That's just Ann. Pocket Full of Rye will be open for a few more days. Drop by to wish Ann well and take advantage of some great deals.


New Hampshire ToDo Magazine

 
Sadly, I must also say goodbye to New Hampshire ToDo Magazine, 
which will be ceasing publication with the July 2013 issue. For 11 years NH To Do has been an important source of information about the attractions and activities in the Granite State. Over the last couple of years the magazine's senior editor, Cam Mirisola, has been kind to my photography, using my images to decorate various articles and announcements, as well as four covers. Cam was even foolish enough to ask me to do an article about historic preservation in Harrisville, New Hampshire.

 












































 I always get a bit anxious when I send my pictures off for magazine publication, not knowing how they might be manipulated and how they will appear in a different color space, but I was never disappointed with my images in New Hampshire ToDo. The magazine was produced with consistent high quality. On my first cover, the designer flipped my image of the horse drawn sap gathering to accommodate the text, but It looked fine and I learned a lesson about the types of images that work best for covers. I have never met Cam, but it has been a pleasure to work with her. Of course, as with all magazine editors, Cam’s deadline were always “yesterday” and I was amazed that, even when I uploaded a image at 1 AM she always seemed to be there to comment. Cam needs a rest and I wish her well in her future endeavors. 




 


My best gallery and my best magazine both gone in a month. It will not be easy to replace these excellent venues for showing my work, but I’ll keep looking. You never know when the next opportunity will surface. I’m excited about an image which will be published in an upcoming issue of the nationally distributed Backpacker Magazine and there will always be the phone book covers. You can check out some of my work in August at the Bagel Mill in Peterborough, New Hampshire.


Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Natures Accompaniment for Your Images


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But First An Apology
Let me start by apologizing for missing last weeks blog.  I was absolutely flattened by a miserable virus and, although my "Sounds" article was essentially done, for most of the week, I couldn't get my head off the pillow.  Over the last Two and one-half years I haven't missed a week and on some weeks I did two articles, so I figure I deserve some slack.  Some of you may have been happy for the break, but, I am beginning to feel human, so it's back to work!
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Natural Sound 

One of the most endangered things on our earth is not an obscure beetle or delicate bird, but quietude.

Quietude does not mean the total lack of sound but rather places where natural sounds can be heard without the intrusion of man-made, technological noise. We have become so accustom to our own din that we hardly notice it, until we start listening for quiet.


Do the experiment yourself.  Think of a nearby place that you recall to have been peaceful and quiet.  Now go there and listen carefully for a few minutes.  Give it several minutes. If you don't hear the intrusion of man in the background, bless yourself and tell no one but me.

Recently I have been trying to record natural sounds to include as background for some of my web site slide shows. I had initially tried music, but I found that nature provides a more appropriate








Walpole Ridge, Then Late Mowing
background for my landscape images. I went out searching for pure sound and quickly discovered that even in our comparatively undeveloped corner of New England human noise is almost impossible to avoid. Automobile engines, chain saws, trains, even barking dogs all contribute to the unnatural symphony and it is amazing how far these sounds travel. Route 91 sits on the west side of my town of Chesterfield, New Hampshire and can be heard as a low rumble throughout the town, even 10 or more miles away. Frequently I will find what would appear to be the perfectly isolated spot, but as I settle in to capture pristine nature, I will start noticing the persistent background rumble. Our ears tend to filter out subtle noise, but when we really focus on the sound it becomes obvious and the recorder doesn't miss a note.

I have just started on my search for quietude. As I drive the back roads I can often be seen pulled over just listening. It can be a frustrating quest, but I have already learned a few tricks along the way.

 

 Go Low

Deep in the Valley

Noise is muted by the hills. On my searches I tend to look for valleys or gorges within the forest. The problem is that people also tend to congregate in the valleys. I seek out low lying back roads where the houses are few are far apart and the dogs don't bark at passersby. Isolated forest trail offer even great chances to escape the rumble.

 


The Quiet Times
Noise is less when people are snug in their beds and snoring is the only issue. I try to get out early in the morning and late at night. Happily this is also the time when nature tends to be its most vocal.


 
video 
Evening on Madame Sherri Pond








Listen on YouTube

Signal to Noise.
It seems obvious that noise will be less apparent when the target
sounds are louder and more continuous. Directional microphones can help isolate the sound, but even the most enthusiastic bird has to take a breath now and then that is when highway rumble becomes painfully evident. Continuous sounds such as babbling brooks, surf, or rain can cover a multitude of sins and I have mixed brook sounds with more delicate tracks to cover the technological rumble. Check out the track on my website’s front page (note this Flash and won't player on your Apple devices).  What can be more relaxing than the sound of birds twittering next to a lovely babbling brook? I have to pee already!


video
Spring Pasture with a Small Brook
No Flash? Listen on YouTube 





Patience and Editing.
It is an unwritten rule that as soon as I turn on the recorder a car drives by or a plane flies over. Even the quietest location is not quiet all the time. The important thing is to be patient and continue recording. One of the most common sources of human contamination of natural sounds comes from the person recording the sound. Foot steps, sneezes or even a nose scratch can be picked up surprisingly easily. I usually set up my recorder and then retreat at least several yards away.  Despite my best efforts transient noise always seem to intrude, but the nice thing about natural sounds is that interruptions are generally easy to edit out without obvious discontinuities. 



Simple Tools
What you will need: a Recorder, Editing Software and Patience.

Field Recorder
As with photography, it is easy to spend a lot of money recording








Zoom H4n with "dead cat"
natural sounds, but you can get started quite economically. There are many field recorders on the market. A few years ago I found the Zoom H4n field recorder on sale. The H4n is an excellent, compact stereo recorder with two, built in, condenser mics and 4 channel capability. I was thinking of using it for interviews, but it is also a very a very capable field recorder. It comes with a foam cover to reduce wind noise, but I also made my own "dead cat" cover from a piece of artificial fur. The dead cat does a nice job muting the pounding from the wind and I just love telling people that I have a dead cat on my recorder. I can also connect my Rode video mic for more directional recording. The Zoom H4n is a great recorder. It is available for around $270, which is a bargain 





IPhone Recording, No dead cat, yet


It is commonly stated that your best camera is the one you have with you and that is also true of sound recorders. I have found that my iPhone does an acceptable job in many situations, especially when I am only planning to use the sounds on the web. I see an “i”Dead Cat in my future.







 

video



iPhone Recording of Chesterfield Gorge


 Sound Editor
Sound needs to be edited and I could have spent several hundred dollars for a program that I probably wouldn’t understand. I ended up with Audacity, a very capable and FREE editor that does everything I need. I can adjust levels, edit out distractions and mix tracks. The program has a set of filters which among other thing allows a degree of muting of background noise.









Storm Over Harrisville

I am just starting with field recording and perhaps, when I really know what I’m doing, I will post another article, but I’m having such a good time capturing the sounds of nature that I couldn’t resist sharing my early experiences. Now get out there and listen and let me know if you find the quietude.




video
Thunderstorm over Spofford, NH (edited to 7minutes)
 
 For those without Flash, Listen on YouTube

Addendum
Here is a 30 minute trip to the New Hampshire seacoast at dawn from my recent weekend at Rye Beach. I captured this audio while shooting the sunrise behind Whaleback Lighthouse in Portsmouth Harbor. If you can't do Flash, you can go to my YouTube site:





Jeff Newcomer
partridgebrookreflections.com