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, May 21, 2017

Conservation Photography

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Beaver Pond at Madame Sherri's - Currently a Meadow

It has been my honor to serve for more than 30 years as a member
Sargent Trail - Friedsam Town Forest
of the Conservation Commission in my small rural town of Chesterfield New Hampshire. Over the years the commission has worked with our neighbors to provide for the protection and appreciation of the magnificent beauty and heritage of our special corner of New Hampshire.  I have always believed that an enhanced public awareness of the natural treasures of Chesterfield will inevitably lead to greater commitment to their careful stewardship.  With that goal, I developed, and continue to maintain, the commission’s web site. I have tried to use my photography to capture the beauty of our forests and villages.  




The Monadnock Conservancy
In our corner of New Hampshire, we are fortunate to have the Monadnock Conservancy, which is a strong advocate for conservation.  As a land trust, the Conservancy “works with communities and landowners to conserve the natural resources, wild and working lands, rural character and scenic beauty of the Monadnock region”. Conservation Commissions and other conservation organizations have an important story to till about the social, economic and spiritual value of protecting our natural environment, and this story can often be told most powerfully with pictures.  Although the staff of these organizations are highly skilled in the details of land protection and stewardship, they are not always proficient at capturing strong images which can tell a compelling story about the crucial importance of their work.  



Conservation Photography Workshop
Earlier this week, in response to a request from one of the Monadnock Conservancy board members, I hosted a group of staff and board to discuss the special role of conservation photography.  We also covered a broad range of their general questions about photographic techniques and best practices for the recording, storing, archiving,  transmitting and printing of digital images.  There was much to cover and, in almost three hours, there was a lot that had to be left for another day.





Monadnock Conservancy Photo
Members of the Conservancy are often found deep in the woods with shovels and saws on their shoulders, and it shouldn’t be surprising that they generally choose not to add a full featured DSLR to their load.  They came to our meeting holding a variety of compact and point-and-shoot cameras with a range of capabilities.  Almost none had the ability to shoot in RAW – “Oh the Humanity!”



Pisgah State Park Trail
Of course, I never tire of talking about photography, especially when I am among people who truly care about the quality of their images, and have such a crucial need for effective visual story telling.  We had a lovely time sitting around my dining room table. They were full of excellent questions. How many pixels are necessary, how can an image be transmitted, why doesn’t my print look like the picture on my monitor, I couldn’t resist delivering a short lecture on the value of RAW images, but I don’t think I convinced anyone to run out and buy a full featured DSLR.  Increasingly, compact cameras are capable of shooting in RAW. Maybe some will consider a high end compact like my Canon G11 that has that capability.



Gentle Critique
"Gentle Critique": Step Back to Reduce Distortion
Finally, I spent some time gently critiquing some of the images that I found on the Conservancy web site.  There were also sections of the site that were dominated by pages of pure text.  The Conservancy manages hundreds of acres of some of the most beautiful and pristine fields and forests in New England.  They have an endless supply of magnificence to capture, and the story of the conservancy’s work can best be told with lots of beautiful pictures.



Before the meeting, I considered what can be accomplished by quality conservation photography, and came up with three major categories.



Celebrate the Land

Porcupine Falls

 Celebrating the properties that the Conservancy has under protection and stewardship would seem to be the easiest task.  Simply show lots of beautiful pictures, but the images should be more than pretty picture-postcards.  They should draw people in and make them feel what it is like to wander the trails, stand before the majestic vistas or feel the mist rising from a powerful waterfall.  













The Calhoun Family Forest, and its Porcupine Falls is managed by the Monadnock Conservancy and, in a recent blog about the forest, I tried to follow this “feet on the ground” approach to the story.  


 



Of course the waterfall and cascades appeared prominently in the article, but I also included pictures of the trail sign, and the carefully maintained trail leading to the falls. This included a set of stone steps that must have required hours of arduous labor to construct.  








Tom on the Edge
It is great when we have the luxury of using several images to relate a story, but it is much more difficult when the tale must be condensed into a single image.  Tom Dustin standing precariously on the prominence at Mine Ledge, overlooking the Connecticut River, tells a simple, and obvious two-part story, the vista is spectacular and he is about to die!





It all comes down to a simple, but essential, task, show the beauty of the land so that people will treasure these resources and understand the importance of their protection.  Nothing will happen without the support of the community.



Celebrate the people

Audrey's Bench, Friedsam Town Forest
          Of course, nothing can happen to protect the land without the efforts of lots of people, and this is another essential part of the message of any conservation organization.  Showing volunteers at work is an important way to acknowledge their essential contributions. Individual close-up portraits can be powerful, but
Madame Sherri Kiosk - Anne Stokes
here again the focus should be on the story. Individuals or groups can be shifted to the side to allow the location and the activity to shine through.  Of course moving the people to the side can also strengthen the composition as they are removed from the DEAD center and closer to “Rule of Thirds” guidelines.  Sorry, I can’t write an article without mentioning the Rule of Thirds at least once.
 
Trail Opening : Moon Ledge, Black Mountain
I'm NEVER in the Picture!


Hide the Scruff
Like most such organizations, the Monadnock Conservancy has group pictures of their staff and Board of Directors. This is an excellent way to personalize the organization, but I couldn’t fail to notice that in the staff picture the hot girls were up front while hiding the scruffy men in the back.  A very smart technique.





Show the Challenges

Planned Cut - Friedsam Town Forest
Along with an appreciation of the natural beauty should come an understanding of the effort that goes into protecting and managing these environmental treasures.  The challenges can be both natural and  man-made.  Insensitive logging techniques, fire, erosion and the encroachment of invasive species can all represent important threats.  Again pictures can be crucial in demonstrating these issues and showing concrete examples of the constant work required to combat these problems.

Clearing the "Party" Trash - California Brook




Chain Saw Opportunities
Clearing the Bridge after a Storm
The Chesterfield Conservation Commission manages mile of trails that provide access to our forests. In recent years we have found help from dedicated volunteers who have agree to become trail stewards.  Each steward monitors a particular trail, managing the small problems, and letting the commission know when more serious issues arise. 



Ravine Bridge Saved!



The “more serious issue” usually means that a large tree has fallen across the trail, requiring the  help of our “chain saw” friends.
 It is often a great chanced to document the effort that is required to maintain our lovely system of trails, and everyone feels safer when I have  camera and NOT a chain saw in my hands.  When a tree fell across our beautiful ravine bridge in the Friedsam Town Forest my fellow commission members saw only, “more work”.  All I saw was a chance for More Pictures!









Madame Sherri Castle


It was great fun sharing a little of what I know about photography as it applies to the protection of our natural environment, and as always, I ended up learning as much as I taught.  The group brought up issues that I had never considered.  For example the staff was concerned about using photography to help perform more formal documentation of the extent and value of the properties that are being considered for protection. 





I was very impressed by the dedication of these individuals and there desire to learning anything that might further their mission. While reviewing the Monadnock Conservancy web site, I was especially inspired by their lyric description of the special character of our corner of New England.  I can’t imagine anyone saying it better.  You can find it on their web site, but I can’t resist repeating it here.  It may become my mantra.

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 “Vision

Rolling hills and mountain ridges, broad expanses of woods and open meadows surround a village, a meetinghouse, a stone wall, a narrow dirt road. This beautiful landscape — anchored by Mount Monadnock, bounded by the eastern hills and the Connecticut River — has working farms and forests as well as wild lands. Moose browse on spring buds and black bears forage for blueberries; the deeper lakes are home to nesting loons and native brook trout thrive in coldwater streams. There are places to hike, to hunt, to paddle and to simply enjoy the quiet outdoors. The water is clean, the air clear and the night skies dark.



The New England that has disappeared in so many other places is alive and well in the Monadnock region. The people who live, work and play here value and care for the land, embracing the connections between the landscape and the economic and social vitality of the region. There is a strong sense of community, and people work together to ensure that the region’s unique rural character will remain through the changes of today and tomorrow.” 

Well said!


Jeff Newcomer
partridgebrookreflections.com

603-363-8338

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spring Waterfall Photography Weekend


Man in the Falls, Garwin Falls
I have spent years exploring the many waterfalls in my corner of New England.  Some of these, like Chesterfield Gorge and Garwin Falls, are well known and accessible, but others are harder to find. This last weekend I had a great time sharing many of these falls with a group of enthusiastic photographers, during my first Spring Waterfall Weekend.



Shooting Garwin Falls

Early spring in New England, especially before the buds begin to explode, is a time of mud, sticks and overcast skies. It can be a depressing time for landscape photographers, but it is saved by being one of the best seasons for waterfalls. The melting snow and spring rains fill even the smaller brooks and the overcast light is perfect for capturing long exposures of falling water.  I scheduled my waterfall workshop for a time when I hoped there would still be a vigorous spring flow, but at the beginning of the week I began to fear that things were drying up.  I didn’t need to worry, since the late week rains had the exact effect that I desired.  





Friday Night, Meet & Greet, and Eat

Pond Brook Falls to the Catsbane
I had a full crew of participants, with 9 being the maximum that I can comfortably fit around my dining room table for discussion, critiques and, of course, snacks.  We first gathered Friday evening for a chance to meet everyone,  and I was able to discuss key elements of the photography of flowing water.  We reviewed the importance of a sturdy tripod, a cable release and, of course, a polarizing filter.  I had sent an email listing the important equipment and most of the class was ready to go.  There were a few cheap shaky tripods, but, if the workshop accomplished nothing else, I am confident that there will be some substantial tripod purchases coming soon.  







 
Cheap Protection


The weather was threatening with intermittent rain showers predicted. I spent time discussing the importance of proper rain gear and protection for their equipment, and measures to assure safety on steep slippery slopes.  The mantra, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing”, seemed well ingrained.  Happily, I didn’t loose anyone.




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Saturday 

Hillsborough County

Saturday, I led the group on a drive to Wilton NH, to explore the rich collection of waterfalls in Hillsborough County.  With so much to see, the challenge was to allow enough time at each falls, while still having time to sample a variety of locations.  We were able to visit, Garwin Falls, Frye’s Measure Mill, Lower Purgatory Falls, and Senter Falls.  With time restrictions, we had to let Tucker Brook Falls wait for another day.  I guess it is always good to leave them wanting more.



The weather was great for waterfall photography, with overcast skies, occasional fog, and some of the strongest flows that I have seen in this area.  The light, intermittent rain required shielding of the equipment, but I heard no complaints from my intrepid team.  



Garwin Falls

Twin Falls, Part of Garwin Falls
It was perhaps a mistake to start off with the dramatic Garwin Falls.  I was concerned that, after Garwin’s  powerful and multi-level cascades, other falls might seem tame, but everyone quickly appreciated that each waterfall has its own unique character and opportunities for image making.  They learned that the best waterfalls are not always the strongest.  The recent rain also overflowed the reservoir above Garwin Falls providing misty views of the veiled waterfall and underlying cascades.  


I spent much of my time chasing after people as they scattered around the locations. Prime topics of discussion included, exposure (exposing to the right but avoiding blowing out the highlights in the water), the use of the polarizer (many seemed to have trouble
Below the Reservoir
adjusting the filter for maximum effect) and the critical effect of shutter speed (finding the speed that captures soft water without loosing a touch of texture).  A particular challenge was trying to keep water droplets off of the lens.  I tried to stress the importance of keeping the lens cap on until ready to shoot and, when exposed, keeping the camera pointed down.  Despite the best precautions, drops will form and must be checked before beginning to shoot.



Frye’s Measure Mill

Frye's Measure Mill
My next goal was Lower Purgatory Falls, but before we descended to Purgatory, I made a last minute addition of the Frye’s Measure Mill.  Just a few miles from Garwin, the mill provided a nice waterfall all framed with the interesting architectural feature of a classic old mill. One of my group found a perfect tableau, with a rustic shack,  old barrel and a watering can filled with greenery.  All this with the mill and falls in the background.  It must have been arranged with photographers in mind.




Mill Tableau





Purgatory Falls

Purgatory, Falls and Froath
As always, Lower Purgatory Falls was impressive, but I think we all agreed that the flow was actually a bit too strong, drowning some of the interesting rocks.  The Falls did provide an excellent backdrop for a soggy portrait of our group.  After Purgatory I decided to skip Tucker Brook Falls and instead lead the group to the isolated Senter Falls.  Tucker is a lovely falls, but I felt that the multiple falls and steep cascade of Senter could provide more variety.






Senter Falls
Just Part of Senter Falls
Senter Falls can be challenging to find.  It is distant from the other Hillsbough falls, the trail head is along a narrow road and is not well marked.  It seems I always run by the entrance before I finally get back to find it.  The falls are only a short stroll from the road, before a climb up the steep trail passes multiple interesting drops and cascades.  We could have easily spent the afternoon at this one rich location, but everyone was getting hungry and several had other desperate bodily needs.  We headed out for Peterborough and a late lunch.







Harrisville and Monadnock

Harrisville Race
After lunch at Twelve Pines we worked our way home, stopping at Harrisville to shoot the brook cascading through the beautifully preserved red brick mill structures.  By this time the sun was going in and out, providing opportunity to work on capturing wide contrasts of light.  It was a great opportunity to demonstrate my variable Neutral Density filter.  By this time everyone was ready for a break from flowing water and this was happily provided by the Bernese Mountain Dog, that was carefully watching all our activity.  The Route home took us to a ridge in Marlborough NH which features one of my favorite grand views of Mount Monadnock.  No major waterfalls in view, but we had to stop for the vista. 


Watchful Bernese

View to Monadnock





 Miniwawa Brook and Gardens
We finished up with a stop in Keene for roaring Miniwawa Brook, and lingered by some beautiful nearby gardens.
Miniwawa Surge















Critique and Pizza

Frye's Measure Mill
Lindsay Freese
By the time everyone got back to my house, we were tired but generally dry.  We were excited to review our images while supping on Pizza.  There were many great shots, and some opportunities for learning.  On some I was able to demonstrate how a few simple edits in Lightroom could bring out their full potential.




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Sunday


Catsbane Brook

Shooting Across the Catsbane
Sunday was a half day, but still filled with great opportunities. We started by touring some of the lesser known falls and cascades along the Catsbane Brook as it flows through the little village of West Chesterfield. Since we were in the area, I had to show my group the eagles nest on its snag across the Connecticut River. One eagle was guarding the nest.  The other would eventually return, but we had a schedule to keep and the group wanted to see Porcupine Falls in Gilsum.







Porcupine Falls 

Porcupine Falls and Cascades
Porcupine Falls is a lovely spot that I had just recently discovered, and is the subject of a recent blog.  The falls shoot out of the rocks on a small cliff.  It is not especially dramatic, but it does feed an interesting series of cascades which flow into a lovely pool.  Swimming Hole?  Above the pool is a sturdy bridge, or at least it is sturdy enough to hold all my workshop. The tenth guy on the bridge is talented photographer, Steve Hooper, who joined us on Sunday. Porcupine Falls is part of the John and Rosemarie Calhoun Family Forest and is now managed by the Monadnock Conservancy.








Forty Foot Falls

Swirls at Forty Foot
A few of the group had to head home after Porcupine Falls, but the remainder made one last stop at Forty Foot Falls.  This is one of my favorite local falls.  It is next to Joslin Road in Surry NH, but I am often told that it is difficult to find.  By this time my group knew exactly what to do and immediately scattered to find their muses. I have photographed these grand cascades many times so on this occasion, I was abandoned to concentrate on detail, include capturing the swirling leaves in one of the many eddies. 




 
Can’t Wait Until Next Year

Workshop at Porcupine Falls

It was an exciting weekend and the group reported that they enjoyed discovering the many local waterfalls and learning more about there cameras.  It was especially rewarding to spend time with a group of people who are so excited to learn about the amazing potential of digital photography.   I can’t wait to see their favorite images.  I will be showing the best in a Spring Waterfall Workshop Gallery on my website.  

Now I can focus on a photography workshop that I will be running for members of the Monadnock Conservancy and then getting myself ready for my Introduction to Lightroom  Course starting on the 1st of June.  I love sharing all this fantastic stuff!




Monday, May 8, 2017

Bellows Walpole Inn Show









I’m excited to be showing nearly 30 of my New a England photographs this May at the historic Bellows Walpole Inn in Walpole New Hampshire.  The Inn has been beautifully restored and combines modern amenities with the feel of a traditional old New England inn.  The restaurant offers varied fare and a relaxed atmosphere.  The inn has a long history.  As described on the Inn’s web site:


 
“Construction of the Bellows Walpole Inn was started in 1752 as the original homestead of Col Benjamin Bellows.  Colonel Bellows was one of the founders of Walpole and a colorful, persuasive character in the early development of this artistic and beautiful region.  Now renamed to recognize that history, this 14,000 square foot mansion has been extensively remodeled and updated with the exquisite decor and amenities suitable to a boutique, luxury hotel and event center.”

 


Bobby at the Bar

Susan and I have known the Inn’s manager, Bobby Hall, for years and I was excited when he welcomed my photographs in the restaurant and pub for the month of May.  It is a great opportunity to show many of my images and a happy excuse to print several new works.  


Key West Sunset

These include recent images ranging from fiery autumn color along the road to Roads End Farm in Chesterfield NH, all the way south to Key West and a glorious sunset seen through the rigging of the schooner Appledore.  It is always exciting to find visual treasures lurking in my image archives and for this show I discovered a forgotten image of the restless waters of Keene’s Miniwawa Brook cascading through winter ice.  







Miniwawa Brook

There are many more than I can show here of my favorite glimpses of New England light.  You can check them out in my show gallery, or far better, browse the work while enjoying a meal or just a drink at the Bellows Walpole Inn.



Let me know what you think.  Maybe I’ll see you there for diner.