About Me

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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, August 18, 2013

New England Farm Photography

 Pixels at the Sharon Arts Center "Paintout"

This week you must pardon any spelling or grammatical errors as I am just recovering from the 8th Annual Sharon Arts Center Paintout. Every year the arts center sponsors a week-long event during which artists are invited to practice their art with a specific theme. This year the theme was "Farms". The center identified ten farms in our region who were willing to permit painters to wander
Pasture Shade, Sawyer Farm
their property in search of the perfect scene. The event ran from Monday through Friday with a reception and show for the work on Friday evening. Some years ago I convinced the folks at Sharon Arts that the Paintout should encompass pixels as well as paint and since then I have shown up as the poor relation at the receptions. Painters generally only tolerate photographers, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to discover some new locations, often getting into areas that I would otherwise be unable to explore. 

The paintout week is always exhausting. The challenge is to find time to get out shooting. As usual, I was completely at the mercy of the weather, but in this case, if the light was bad, I generally did not have another chance. This last week I was working on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My only full day available for shooting was Tuesday and on Tuesday it rained in torrents almost the entire day. Rain isn’t always bad but it does limit photographic opportunities. As usual I tried to make the most of the time and light that I could capture. When I could find time, I shot until the last light and beyond and then spent the evenings processing the images. I spent all of Friday printing, matting and framing my favorite images. I can't really complain. I love challenges like this and, as always, it was a great opportunity to discover number of new locations and to make some new contacts. 

Let’s face it; the concept of photographing farms is not exactly new to me, so I decided to apply my own theme to this effort. My plan was to try to apply as many different styles and techniques of photography as I could, given the constraints of time and the subjects available.

Shooting Straight
With so much amazing and varied farm land I didn't have to go crazy with technique to capture classically beautiful images. The pastures, farm buildings, animals and, of course Mount Monadnock
frequently looming in the background all made for great opportunities. All I needed was the light and some gentle massaging in Photoshop to bring out the best in the scenes. The twilight picture of silos with Monadnock in the background, was taken from across the pasture with a long lens to compress the scene. Using masking, I was able to adjust the bright sky to retain detail in the foreground. In a number of images Iused blended tone mapping, a new favorite technique, to add a subtle increase in definition. For me

Blended Tone mapped Layer
these techniques are standard approaches which allow me to present the scenes as I saw it. Nothing special, but my goal for this week was to use different techniques and like the proverbial man with a hammer, everything quickly began looking like nails and I couldn't hold back.


HDR / Tone Mapping
Without a doubt, my favorite farm on the Arts Center list was the 
Sawyer Farm in Jaffrey. The place is a classic with an old farm house and a cluster of three majestic silos all surrounded by acres of beautiful rolling pastures. It also helped that the owners are incredibly friendly. On Monday I got out of work a bit early and headed straight to Sawyer. The light was still bright, so I decided to explore the barns. The inside of the cow barn was dark with brilliant light coming through the windows. A great situation for HDR. I grabbed seven bracketed images and later went to Photomatix. Since my goal was to break away from my usual approaches I decided to go full grunge and ended up with a slightly cartoonish rendition that I

Gentler HDR, Sun/Moon Farm
loved but which was far outside my usual style. As I have said many times, HDR and Tone Mapping are all a matter of taste. It was tasty to try a different cuisine and, after all, the last time I went crazy with HDR I ended up selling the image for the logo of a national brand of doggie treats. Later when I was shooting at the Sun/Moon Farm in Rindge. I came back to earth. I used HDR to produce a more natural appearing image combining the bright pasture with the shadows of the barn interior. 

Black & White

Black and white layers can effectively isolate and highlight an area of color within an image. The barn at the Sun/Moon Farm was
Black & White Layer
filled with bunches off drying garlic. The challenge was to draw the eye to a small grouping of bulbs without loosing the sense of rows of stalks filling the barn. In addition to selective focus, I also blended a black and white layer to de-emphasize the background elements. One of my favorite images from the week was farrier George Iselin's remarkable hands as he shoed one of his Mary's horses. George was remarkably patient as I crawled on the ground to shoot under the horse. I loved the color image, but thought the power of his hands might come through stronger in black and white. With black and white, I was able to enhance the exposure and contrast without concern about the impact on the color rendition. Both approaches have their attractions, but I think I prefer the B&W. 

Farrier's Touch

Farms are filled with opportunities for macro photography. In particular the flowers at Rosaly's Garden were great subjects. I went to Rosaly's on Tuesday knowing
that the soft overcast light would work well. There was enough light to ignite the colors of a glowing sunflower. I also employed focus stacking to get better depth on a pink flower. The only challenge was keeping the equipment dry in the steady rain.



Four Image Focus Stack

 In the Barn Yard

Curious Nose

The soft light was also a good time to shoot barnyard animals. Thepigs at Mayfair Farm in Harrisville were especially entertaining. The massive adults were busy growling at each other, but the young piglets were quite friendly and curious about the camera. The nearly universal rule in portrait photography is to focus on the eyes, but in this situation, it was the nose that was the obvious focus of attention. 

Night Light

Although my daylight photography was severely limited, the nights were totally mine. As I considered my options, the two questions were, where is the milky way and what can I put in front of it. The answers were easy. I used the SkySafari program to discover that the Milky Way would be prominent in the southern sky late in the night and the only appropriate foreground I could imagine was the majestic silos at Sawyer Farm. After warning the Sawyers that I would be camped out in their pasture late into  the night, I happily killed some time with ice cream at Kimball Farm. I settled into the Sawyer's back
Standing Stones
pasture at about 10 PM for more than two hours shooting the deep sky as it moved behind the silos. The process was complicated by the presence of the bright first quarter moon that didn't set until midnight, but it did add some illumination to the foreground.  The time fled by as I kept looking for different angles and perspectives.  When you have made the committment to be out there you don't want to miss a single shot.  It wasn't until about 2AM that I finally got home and to bed. Despite the fact that I had to get up for work at six, it was definitely worth the yawning to bag the prize I was hoping for.


During the paintout the sad moment always comes when you realize that you have to stop shooting and try to get some of the pictures processed, matted and framed for the Friday evening show. There is never enough time to shoot and process everything, but I found some great spots and I will most definitely be returning to these farms in the future 

The "wet" show was in the Common House at the lovely Nubanusit Farm and Neighborhood in Peterborough. Yup, just in case there was any confusion about the status of photography, they called it a "wet" show. As usual, I was the only photographer, but it is always fascinating to see how this talented group of artists interpreted the rich settings that were offered. I really don't understand why more photographers don't take advantage of these great shooting opportunities. 

On the way home from the show, it suddenly occurred to me; DAMN, I totally forgot about infrared! I did straight color images, B&W, HDR, blended tone mapping, Macro, focus stacking, star fields and pink noses, but I forgot that the luxurious green foliage of this time of year is perfect for infrared. I hope I didn't break any rules, but on Sunday I cruised by George and Mary Iselin's farm in Marlborough and grabbed some IR to complete the set. 

By Friday night I felt like this guy from Mayfair Farm, but I'll recover and will be excited to hear about next year's theme. To see more images from this year's Paintout, check out my website collection.

Nap Time, I know how he feels.

Jeffrey Newcomer

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