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, February 22, 2015

The Problem with Wires, Part I


Cutting the Cables
White Church, Keene, NH
Sadly, one of the first lessons that a landscape photographer learns is that there are many extraneous interlopers that can sneak into our images to contaminate our lofty photographic vision. The list is long; cigarette packs, road signs, airplane contrails, and of course people, to name just a few. Each can challenge our attempts to arrange the perfect composition, but, for me, it is wires that are the most ubiquitous and insidious contaminators of my photographs. It is an unavoidable consequence of modern society that wires are everywhere, but they are so common that our eyes tend to filter them out. I often don't recognize the problem until I'm home studying the image in Photoshop. It is then that the question always arises, "Where did those &%$# wires come from!

 


I was reminded of this issue last week while shooting one of my favorite barns in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. The barn was
Wired Westmoreland Barn
beautifully buried in the pristine snow, but when I returned home I found that I had to spend over an hour meticulously cloning out all the wires that slashed across the scene. Telephone and electric cables which are glaringly obvious in our photographs never seem to intrude on our recollections of beautiful scenes and it is for that reason that I never feel guilty about removing them from the final image. It's not cheating, but a more accurate reflection of what we "saw",  and felt at the moment that the shutter was clicked. So how can we deal with this persistent problem? The first step is to appreciate that it exists and then try to eliminate or reduce the unwanted intrusion.

Seeing the Wires

Wireless Hancock Meeting House

When I come across a spectacular scene, my first inclination is to start scanning for the best angles and compositions, but the very next move is, or at least should be, to take a mental step back and study the scene for the inevitable visual intruders. Included in this exercise is to notice where the wires slash across the view. They are not always there and some communities such as Hancock New Hampshire have made efforts to bury the wires in areas of special beauty or historical significance. Of course the entire problem can be avoided by shooting in the middle of nowhere where no wires exist, but the problem is that "the middle of nowhere" is becoming harder to find.

 

Changing the View
I'll talk about methods to remove the wires in post next week, but
much can be done in the field to reduce their impact.  Once they are recognized even slight changes in position and perspective may be enough to remove the wires from the image, but often the wires cannot be entirely removed without severe compromises to the composition. My favorite angle on the factory steeple in Harrisville New Hampshire, included quite a few wires that required a long and arduous process of removal in post. This was especially challenging where a cable cut across the intricate weathervane. By approaching closer to the tower, I was able to slip under the wires for a clean look, but the resulting view of the factory and the perspective change was not exactly what I was looking for. Even when changes in angle fail to entirely remove the

A Few Steps Forward
them, subtle alterations in position may allow you to move the wire into a location on the image that makes them technically easier to remove in post. When the background includes more intricate patterns, such as created by the clapboards, brick or window sashes of a house, the process of accurately cloning the detail can be a time-consuming nightmare, It is much simpler to erase cables which cross the sky or the irregular background of a forested hill. Yesterday evening, I captured the snow falling on the Village Hall in Spofford, NH. With a small change in location I was able to move the distracting wires away from the building and onto the snowy sky, where they were much simplier to clone away. The resulting key-stoning of the buildings lines was easily corrected with Photoshop's skew tool. Again the process starts with recognizing that the wires are there and then finding a position that either removes or repositions them for the best solution.
Spofford Village Hall


Loving the Wires?

Of course wires are not always bad. Sometimes they can add strength and direction to an image. They may even be the primary focus of a composition. I know I have used wires in this way, but to be honest I had trouble finding many examples in my Lightroom archives. I guess I'm better at removing the wires than celebrating them. The string of wires and poles added a strong
sense of depth to my image of the cow-jam at Stonewall Farm and I liked the way the cables framed the Snowy Owl perched at Salisbury Beach.  I went out the other day looking for more examples of the "lovely" wires. 





It was a difficult exercise to so fundamentally shift my focus as I was simultaneously looking for cases of strong composition, as well as examples of cable contamination. On a hill above Keene, New Hampshire, I found a 
spot where high voltage lines crossed the road creating an interesting pattern of crisscrossing lines leading to a distant tower. Not bad. As I was congratulating myself for finding something vaguely positive to display, I turned around and noticed with horror that, in the opposite direction, the same wires were callously entangling the iconic profile of our beloved Mount Monadnock. You Do Not mess with our mountain! I was quickly  back to hating the wires.
The Desecration

Next week I'll try to outline some Photoshop techniques to remove those wires that can not be avoided in the field. New and refined tools within more recent versions of the program have made the process much easier. It still requires practice and a considerable investment in time, but your artistic vision deserves no less.






Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

4 comments:

  1. I know where you are coming from Jeff, I shot October Mountain in the Berkshires a couple of years ago in the fall at early morning, wires running aright across it. I wasn't pleased to say the least. It's a good thing that families weren't around as they might have heard some "questionable" words from me. ;)

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  2. I spent 2 hours this weekend removing wires on a photo and I'm not done yet.
    The wires are going through many branches, some are tiny, it takes a lot of patience...
    I used the clone stamp tool. I'll look at your next article to see if there is another method,
    maybe more effective. I'm a big fan of your work, all of your images are really beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing your tips and magnificent photos.
    Jocelyne from Quebec, Canada.

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