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, February 9, 2014

Galapagos Islands a Photographic Journey, Part 2

Like No Place on Earth

It is now about four years ago that Susan and I went on a dream trip, 600 mile off the coast of Ecuador,  to the magical Galapagos Islands.  It was our most unique journey and I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to finish posting about the experience.  Back last spring, I posted about the first part of the trip, and I' am only now getting back to complete the story.  I'm giving a talk next week about the Galapagos to a women's group in Keene and that finally gave me the excuse to finish part 2.


In December of 2010 we joined a photography cruise among the Galapagos Archipelago aboard the National Geographic ship the Endeavour.  This trip focused on photography with the timing and pace of our explorations arranged to meet the needs of serious photography.  The Galapagos is a paradise for wildlife and nature photographers and in this discussion of the second half of our trip I will focus on the images.  Check out my first post for more information about the trip and the Galapagos Islands.  I will only repeat my admonition from last time.  If you have a chance to go to the Galapagos, don't think, just go!

Isabela and Fernandina Islands
Cave Along the Punta Vincente Roca
On the morning of our fourth day we had traveled around the north end of Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos Archipelago and in the process  crossed the equator twice.  In the morning we boarded Zodiacs to explore the rugged lava cliffs of Punta Vincente Roca.  The western islands are
Galapagos Peguin
younger with more active vulcanism resulting in a terrain that is dominated by barren lava flows, but, because of cool, nutrient rich, up-flowing currents, the shore was teaming with wildlife. The show included Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, Sea Turtles, and the Galapagos Penguins.  Later we snorkeled among the amazing variety of ocean fauna.  I had a
Cormorant "Wings"
chance to tail a giant Sea Turtle and watch schools of fish reacting to the presence of Black Tipped Sharks.  In the afternoon, we explored Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island. The ropy lava flows provided perfect cover for the carpets of Marine Iguana, and we got a close look at the comic appearing Flightless Cormorants.  These birds improved their swimming capabilities by evolving away from winged flight.  Their useless stubby wings look ridiculous, but, since the birds have no predators that might require an airborne escape, wings no longer provided a survival advantage .

 Wing Drying

Santa Cruz (Day 5)
Puerto Ayora Fish Market with Friends
Although the Galapagos Islands are 97.5% uninhibited park land there are a few small settlements. Puerto Ayora is a town of 15,000 people on Santa Cruz Island.  It is the home of the Charles Darwin Research Station which works to understand and protect the unique qualities of
Baby Tortoise Learning a Lesson
at the Darwin Station
the Archipelago.  The station is noted for its  Giant Tortoise breeding program and, until recently, the presence of "Lonesome George".  George was the last surviving member of the subspecies of Pinta Island Tortoises.  Sadly years of attempts to crossbreed George with willing mates failed and he died, without progeny, on June 24th 2012.   He was over 100 years old.
Lonesome George, Rest in Peace

After a touch of civilization in Puerto Ayora, we traveled into the damp and surprisingly verdant highlands of Santa Cruz and had the opportunity to mingle with migrating Tortoises.  These magnificent ancient beasts travel at a glacial pace across the fields and seemed little concerned with our approach as long as we matched their slogging pace.  We discovered that the migrating Tortoises are all male.  The females  are smart enough to let the males do all the work.
 A Quick Video of Slow Tortoises

Cerrro Dragon and Sombrero Chino (Day 6)

Cerro Dragon is know for its restored population of Land Iguanas.
Land Iguana
 The color of these animals has evolved to match the arid brown soil of their surroundings.  They provide a  stark contrast with the black Marine Iguanas that bask on the lava flows by the sea.  Cerro Dragon means "Dragon Hill" and refers to a beautiful peak which dominates the island.  I was lucky to catch a Gray Pelican lounging in front of the hill during our sunrise visit to the beach.

Dragon Hill and Grey Pelican

The afternoon included more snorkling and a lovely sunset across the aptly named Sombrero Chino, or "Chinese Hat".

Sunset Over Chinese Hat

Bartolome & Santiago (Day 7)
From Bartolome Peak

 In the early morning of our last full day of the cruise, we climbed the 359 foot peak on little Bartolome Island.  To avoid erosion the trail has a wooden walkway with 372 steps.  The climb was challenging, but the view was well worth the effort.  We were treated to a stark volcanic panorama across the moon-like landscape of the eastern shore of Santiago.  Later we had time to leisurely explore two beaches populated by frolicking Sea Lions, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Sea Turtles and flocks of Frigates and other sea birds.  
Sally Lightfoot Crab

Lava Heron
Our last hike of the cruise was along the shore of Puerto Egas on the western side of Santiago.  The point overlooks Buccaneer Cove, which was once a favorite anchorage for pirates.  The hike was notable for the wide variety of sea and coastal birds wandering the shore.  These
Yellow Warbler
included Yellow Warblers, Lava Herons and American Oystercatchers.  The Sea Lions appeared to be enjoying the warm early evening light, basking on the Lava rocks and gazing at the
American Oystercatcher
surf as the swells crashed against the shore. It was a lovely evening and a fitting conclusion to an amazing trip.  We all were reluctant to board the Zodiacs for the ride back to Endeavor.

The next morning we were back in Baltra.  After the flight to Guayaquil Susan and I flew to Ecuador's mountain capital of Quito to spend a couple of days with friends who live in the city.  We then spent a few days birding at Maquipucuna in the Andean cloud forest.  It was a fascinating experience, but that will be another story, or blog.

 Our Galapagos trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Lindblad and National Geographic did a wonderful job designing a cruise with the serious photographer in mind.  And the food was great.  We will be doing another Lindblad photography cruise to Alaska this summer and I expect a fantastic experience, but it seems unlikely to match our cruise among the totally unique Galapagos Islands.

I can only repeat, if you get a chance to go to the Galapagos, Don't Think, Just GO!

Surf on James Bay

For more images of the Galapagos :

Jeffrey Newcomer

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