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, 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.



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.



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!

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