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, October 26, 2014

Road Safety and Etiquette for Photographers





Autumn is always about being out on the road. It starts sometime in September when I head north in an effort to catch the early color. As the leaves change closer to home the trips can be shorter but often more frequent. It is not unusual for me to spend most of many days out wandering the back roads looking for new and familiar color. All this driving has reminded me of the importance of driving safety and etiquette. I used to tell people that I expected that I would die in a fiery crash when, distracted by some colorful tree, I wrap my car around a tree, but over the years, I think I have learned to be more careful when out on a shoot. I am still susceptible to distractions from the breathtaking beauty of New England, but I try to follow a few simple rules in hopes of extending years that I have to enjoy splendor.



 



Keep Your Eyes On the Road
Duh. This seems too obvious to require mentioning, but it can be

Fly by Foliage
the most difficult to control. On a shoot I am always scanning the sides of the road for photographic opportunities. I look for those sudden moments when foreground and background features snap into alignment creating a special balance, but I have to constantly reminding myself that the road ahead must be the primary focus of my attention. While looking forward, I try to anticipate oncoming features and consciously limit sideward glances to fractions of a second. If I can see an approaching opportunity, I will slowly pull off the road, but often these magic alignments fly by before I realize their passing. Here is where my most important rule comes into play.

 

Drive Past and Come Back
Drive Past
My most dangerous driving behavior was my tendency to slam on the breaks when I suddenly became aware of a beautiful scene.
This often occurred without any recognition of the condition of the roadside or who was behind me. It is amazing that I'm still here, but somehow I survived to adopt my most important driving mantra, "Drive By and Come Back". It is really very simple. When I see something that might turn out to be good opportunity, I don't dwell on it. I continue down the road until I can safely turn around and then find a safe place to pull over to study the scene. Often when I return the vista is not what I had hoped, but I've only lost a few minutes of time and I get to live to see the next spectacular view just around the corner.



 


Get Your Car Off the Road
Off the Road
Being essentially lazy my natural tendency is to try to park right next to the spectacular vista. Unfortunately this often means pulling over on a narrow shoulder with my car hanging precariously into the road. This is not only unsafe, but also incredibly rude. To avoid tarnishing the reputation of photographers everywhere I try to find a place that allows me to get out of the way of passing traffic. This may require a hike back to my goal, but what the hell, after hours in the car I can really use the exercise. If my best angle places me in the middle of the road, I try to get completely off the road well in advance of any passing car. Again, this may seem an obvious precaution, but it can take patience to find a moment when I can catch the scene without being a hazard to myself and passing traffic.

 




 Let Them Past 
Even on what would appears to be deserted back roads, it is amazing how often cars will come up behind me. It is certainly, at least in part, because I tend to amble along as I survey my surroundings. It is good manners to let these innocent folks pass and I always feel more comfortable when my frequent scans of the rear view mirror show no impediment to my slow progress and occasional stops.








Limit Distractions
The Look


Do I really have to say, "Don't text while driving!"?  On a shoot I
have many potential distractions. My GPS and iPhone are mounted at the corner of the windshield, away from my view of the road, but still crying for attention. I usually have a map on the passenger seat, coffee and a sandwich and of course Nellie clamoring to be let out to pee. I do what I can. My phone is now set up for hands free operation. I select my music before I hit the road and I usually mute the lovely voice of my GPS as she constantly tries to send me down roads that are actually unnavigable cow paths. I have no easy solution for Nellie. I just try to let her out whenever it is safe. 

Ok, I Don't Hang the Map on the Dash









Most of these "Rules of the Road" should seem self evident, but it is a valuable exercise for me to state them more formally. Hopefully it will increase the chances that I may actually follow them and perhaps survive to enjoy for a little longer the wonders of New England. Drive Safe.

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

1 comment:

  1. Great Tips. I like the "Limit Distraction" tip, this is really true, human's have approximately 3 seconds attention span. Drivers should stay away from using cellphones while driving.

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