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, March 15, 2015

Road Tunes for Photography

Hitting the Road
I am a great fan of the photographic road trip. Of course, It is interesting to carefully plan a shoot and settle in to the ideal spot
awaiting the perfect moment when the light is at its dramatic best. The results can be spectacular, but for pure photographic adventure, I still prefer to hop into the car with no specific itinerary in mind and head off on a scenic exploration to who knows were. It helps that I live in a corner of New England which is rich with visual opportunities stretching to every possible point on the compass. When I feel the urge to escape all I need to do is grab my camera bag, attach my GPS to the windshield, stick Nellie in the passenger seat and pick a direction. I'm ready to go. Well, almost ready, only one decision remains. What music will I que up?

I wasn't sure how to illustrate a blog about road tunes, so what you're getting is, what else, pictures of roads. 

A discussion of road tunes may seem out of place in a photography blog, but I have found that the choice of music for a photo shoot
can be as important as any decision regarding equipment, route or lighting. On routine, non-photographic, driving trips I enjoy listening to the spoken word. Whether it is "Books on Tape", podcasts or "All Things Considered", I find that the conversation works wonderfully to make the driving time slip away, but it all changes when I add the demands of a rolling photo shoot. On driving photo tours I am constantly scanning between the road ahead to the landscape flowing by. I'm looking for anything of interest and beauty as well as following foreground and background element as they continually shift in relation to one another. Of course, my primary focus has to be on safety along the road, but It is a complicated visual dance and the added distraction of trying to follow an involved verbal narrative is just too much to manage.I quickly learned that background music was a much better accompaniment, but what kind of music. The choice of road music will be a very individual matter, and it is worth the effort to assemble your own personal playlist. Selections will undoubtedly range across the broad range of musical genre, although I just can't imagine that anyone would pick gangster rap as an accompaniment for a cruise through New England's bucolic landscapes. Personally, I enjoy listening to rock and jazz, but these musical styles don't seem to work when I am scanning for photographic opportunities.  Perhaps they would be better if I was capturing gritty urban landscapes, but, in the country, I find that I do better with music that floats in the background and doesn't demand my active attention. At best the music should feel like a movie sound track written to match the beauty of my surroundings. The right music blends audio and visual perception to create, all around me, a strong sense of the beauty and drama. Remarkably, I have found that the sounds have a profound effect on how I am able to recognize the way aspects of the natural world interact to create special visual moments.

It never ceases to amaze my old brain that I can store most of my musical library on my iPhone, a device smaller than a pack of cards. With thousands of tracks available, the only struggle is to choose the playlist. I have found that what works best for my photography trips falls into two broad categories.

Not all classical pieces are supportive of a sense of peaceful observation of the passing splendor, but It is easy to find classical
tracks that work well. Bombastic selections, such as the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony don't leave much cognitive space for subtle visual input, but the second movement of the fifth has a perfect pastoral feel. Aaron Copland is one of my favorite "road" composers, especially his Appalachian Spring and the Theme and Variations on Simple Gifts. Other favorites include Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi and Corelli. For some reason the simple, but sweatily evocative adagio from Corelli's "Christmas Concerto" is a special love of mine.

Movie Sound Tracks
Perhaps because they were written specifically to augment visual presentations, I find many film scores to work well as road accompaniment. Again it is the purely instrumental pieces that allow me to concentrate on the landscapes. Of course John Williams is the acclaimed master of this genre, including his scores for Lincoln and Warhorse. Other favorites include Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Randy Edelman's heroic score for Gettysburg. There are many others I could mention, but I'm always looking for more scores to add to my list. Whenever I watch a new movie, I try to notice the background music in search for more road music to add.


What I DON'T Play

Once again it is all a matter of individual taste but, even though I may love certain music in other situations, my road playlist does not include jazz, rock, country, most folk and of course rap. Rap is almost as bad as new age, seriously? I want to stay awake on the road.

I have included a short slide show with just a few brief snippets of some of my favorite road tunes. The key is to understand how the right music can augment your ability to make the visual connections that will allow you to recognize and appreciate the beauty that is flowing by. So get your playlist together, saddle up and hit the road.

Jeffrey Newcomer


  1. Great article, up to the point about New Age music - for some of us, New Age is uplifting and certainly equivalent to your primary musical choices. No matter - great article - and I agree - music DOES make a huge difference!

    1. Sorry for disparaging New Age. As I said the playlist is a VERY personal choice.

  2. This is a feast for both the eyes and the ears. Thanks for a few moments of beauty Jeff!

  3. Great article Jeff. I have several playlists I use, one is entitled Autumn/Halloween and it has songs that feature Autumn sounding and inspiring vocals. Christmas I use, two country instrumentals and one New England instrumental. I do agree with you about music being background and the one I use is Jim Croce, John Denver and songs like that. I hate to say it but classical puts me to sleep as Rap does for you.

    1. Thanks Mark. Everyone's ear is different. Glad you found your playlist.