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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Return of a Classic : Colonial Theatre, Keene, NH

I just finished a shoot for the beautiful Colonial Theatre in Keene New Hampshire. The goal was to document the great work that has been done in recent years to restore this classic venue to its former glory. The theatre opened as the cultural hub of Keene on January 29th , 1924. Early in its service the theatre hosted many live performances as well as movies, but it had fallen into disrepair as the years past. The theatre was saved from decay and destruction by a dedicated group of community members and with $2 million dollars raised from grants and donations the necessary infrastructure renovations have return the Colonial to its original gilded grandeur. It was an inspiring experience spending several hours recording both the grand landscape of the theatre and its endless detail, but the only true representation of the Colonial's spirit is when it is packed with people enjoying one of the many live shows that have returned to its historic stage.For more images check out my Flickr set at :

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Hampshire's Great North Woods


It's great when your wife is the one going to the conference and you can spend the weekend shooting! That was the opportunity I had this spring to discover New Hampshire's North woods for the first time. Based at the classic Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch , I wandered the region though the typically variable seasonal weather. Coming that far north at the end of May was like stepping back 2-3 weeks into early spring. The colors still had the lush variations of green that make spring New England's second fall. And like the fall, the show is just as fleeting. As can be seen here and in my set on Flikr(http://www.flickr.com/photos/27036710@N05/sets/72157619544063298/),

spring in New England is also about running water and the area around Dixsville Notch has some great examples. I didn't have time to extensively explore the great system of trails around the Balsams, but if you plan to take one easy hike I would suggest the short trail to Table Rock. This shear out-cropping provides a spectacular (and a bit scary) vista from the resort below into the notch.


I spent much of my time exploring cascades and water falls knifing through the dense forest, but my best surprise was discovering the village of Stark. Stark is east of Groveton on Route 110 and is one of the neatest, uncluttered examples of the small New England village I have found. Defintely worth the trip in any season, but I hope to get back in the fall and winter.

I only had a couple days at the Balsams, but the food was great and I only scratched the surface of the photographic possibilities there. It's a long way, but I will definitely be abck


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Winter on the Top of New England



New Hampshire’s Mt Washington at 6,288 feet is the tallest peak in the Northeast and famously the home of the "World's Worst Weather". This claim originates from the fact that the Mt Washington Observatory recorded the worlds highest surface wind speed in April 1934, at 231 mph. The mountain is also at the intersection of several important storm tracks from across the country. The combination of wind, cold and precipitation make the mountain one of the most inhospitable, continuously occupied places on earth.

The Mount Washington Observatory is a privately funded, non-profit institution dedicated to education and scientific investigation of weather and climate. The observatory’s most notable achievement has been the maintenance of its summit weather station, which has reported conditions on the mountaintop 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for decades.

The observatory is generally closed to the public during the winter months, but there is the opportunity to visit the summit as part of one of their scheduled educational trips. These overnight “Edutrips” allow the experience of dealing with the incredibly harsh weather while learning about a variety of related topics such as winter mountaineering, & meteorology. On March 12-13 I had the opportunity to take part in photography based trip and had a truly unique experience. Ned Therrien, a nature photographer who has a wealth of experience in the mountains, led the workshop. Ned has guided groups to the top of Mt. Washington for over 30 years.

The trip started in the morning with a more than 7 mile ride to the top of the mountain on a snow tractor. The Bombardier tractor not only transports people and supplies but also is involved in the continuous clearing and maintenance of the narrow winding road to the summit. It was a bumpy ride with a potential tumble into oblivion always just a few feet away. In the tractor we were required be dressed for the possibility that , at any time, we might need to pop out and walk back down the mountain in a howling gale. The cabin comfortably accommodated all 8 of us, but I was luck to have the opportunity to ride in the cab with our driver Gus for the first part of the trip.

On this trip we were blessed with unusually beautiful weather, but it didn’t seem that way at first. We arrived with the summit in a cloud, more than 20 degrees below zero and winds in the mid 90’s – gusting to over 100! Of course this is the stuff we came for but it did make photography about as difficult as can be imagined. Surviving in wind chills of more than 70 degrees below zero is a challenge in itself. The Observatory insists on a very specific list of clothing – many layers and NO COTTON, which looses its insulating effect when damp. No skin can be exposed or risk almost instantaneous frostbite. Surprisingly, with proper clothing, it was possible to move outside without feeling cold, but the real challenge was to stay upright in the wind. Movement in 90 mph winds required short steps from a crouched position, and seriously spiked crampons were an absolute necessity to grip the rock hard ice sheet under foot.

The challenges of photography in these conditions were daunting. First, simply holding a camera was a struggle. Tripods are at best useless and at worst dangerous when they become wind blown missiles. A monopod would have been a real help, but all I could do was hold the camera close to my body and wait for a relative lull in the gale. High ISOs (400-800) were required to allow a shutter speeds fast enough to limit the shake. Framing and focusing was also a struggle. Even with good goggles my glasses fogged up instantly. I eventually had to go without, but still the goggles frosted over in 10-15 minutes. I had to depend completely on auto-focus, at least until the frost obscured my view of the focusing dot. The scene could only be roughly framed since the goggles allowed me to see only a portion of the view finder field at any one time. This is where a live LCD would have been a real advantage. As expected battery life was also an issue in the drastically sub-zero weather. I had two spares kept in an inside pocket for warmth, but I ran through all three batteries in about 45 minutes of shooting. Of course my poor Canon 5d was frozen solid by the time I returned to the welcome warmth of the observatory. I was excited to see what I was able to capture, especially since I couldn’t see a thing while I was outside, but I was frustrated by the necessity of bagging my camera for several hours to avoid condensation as it warmed to normal temperature.

Enough whining! This was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Bundled up as if in a space suit, walking on a landscape that appeared more like the moon than earth, it was truly like being on another planet. Of course, on the moon, the wind doesn’t blow quite as ferociously! Although we had a tough start the weather progressively improved during our time on the summit. By evening we were treated to a dramatic sunset breaking through the clouds and the next morning dawned crystal clear. During the winter the summit of Mt. Washington enjoys only a few clear days each month– getting a sunset and a sunrise on one overnight trip is almost unheard of. When it was time to leave the summit on the afternoon of the second day the wind had dropped to 40-50 mph with the temperature soaring to a balmy 5 degrees below zero! It felt like Bermuda weather!

I have included a few of the pictures from the trip here but I’m still adding images to my web site: http://www.partridgebrookreflections.com/ and to my Flickr account : http://www.flickr.com/photos/27036710@N05/. Check them out. Despite the weather, the images reflect a peace and clarity that it was hard to fully absorb at the time. To properly appreciate the experience you must view the photographs while imagining the sound of a freight train roaring past about an inch from your ears. The light on the summit had a remarkable brilliance and sparkle that made everything stand out in crisp relief. The sky was noticeably darker at that altitude, making regular unfiltered images appear as if they were shot through a polarizer.

I must talk about the friendliness and hospitality of the staff in the observatory. The weather observers stay on the summit for week-long shifts. Someone is always awake recording hourly observations regardless of the weather. Despite their hectic schedules the staff was always very approachable and excited to talk about their experiences on “the rock”. You should ask Ryan to tell you about the night he was blown across the summit by 150 mph winds. The staff and visitors live and work in a small collection of rooms cocooned within the 3 feet of reinforced concrete of the observatory building. During the summer the observatory bustles with a steady stream of visitors but in the winter the place is surprisingly cozy and peaceful. The mattresses in the shared bunkroom were rock hard, but the food was great. Volunteers, who sign up for weeklong shifts, prepare meals on the summit. On our trip, a couple from Massachusetts, provided both great food and a feeling of family warmth.

Overall this was an incredible experience as much for the struggle with the elements as for the unique photographic opportunities. I would highly recommend the observatory’s Edutrips. I hope you will be as blessed as we were with spectacular weather.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Call of the Sea



Having grown up spending my summers in on the water in Gloucester Ma, I have always loved the sea coast. Much of my early photographic experiences focused on the ocean during the long summer cruises taken along the New England coast in my parent’s little 26’ boat. The Monadnock Region and Southern Vermont have been great places to center my photography but the Atlantic Coast is the one thing that I miss about living in central New England. In recent years I’ve tried to reconnect with the sea on a number of photo shoots, but I never explored the area in the winter. Over the last several weeks renovations have left us without a kitchen and that provided the perfect excuse to get out of town for a long weekend. Sue and I visited old friends in Portland Maine (one of my favorite New England cities) for 3 days and I got a couple of sunrises at the edge of the Atlantic. I also had a chance to meet and go out shooting with another “Flickr Friend”. I have admired Peter Urbanski’s images for some time. Peter lives near Portland and when I decided to go over for a winter shoot I had to give him a call. He was incredible welcoming and generous with his knowledge of the region, but I was surprised to discover that Peter is not a big fan of seacoast images. As you can see on his flickr stream (http://www.flickr.com/photos/31258799@N08/), he focuses on beautifully composed images of classic New England farms and country-side. He apparently envies my proximity to the “Currier & Ives” region of New England. I guess proximity does breed contempt or at least ambivalence. Although the weather wasn’t perfect (I had hoped for some good fog or at least a blizzard), we still had a great time shooting the sunrise off Wolfe’s Neck in Freeport. Most enjoyable was the several hours of conversation while we struggle to stay warm. Although the morning was mostly cloudy we did get a glimpse of sun just as it rose above the horizon. To tame the contrast I used a gentle touch of HDR on the image here. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park is a beautiful 233 acre wooded seaside refuge close to Portland and miles away from the consumer craziness in nearby downtown Freeport. I will definitely try to get back in other seasons.

I also couldn’t resist returning to Portland Head Light for a sunrise. There is a reason why the Cape Elizabeth lighthouse is the most photographed in the country – it is THE classic Maine coast lighthouse, sitting defiantly on its rocky promontory begging to be captured. The challenge at Portland Head is to try to find perspectives that have not been done thousands of times before. On this morning the lighthouse was bathed in the warm crystal-clear light that has a special sparkle in winter, The resulting iamges belied the blustery cold that swirled around me. After I grabbed the unavoidable grand vistas, I focused more closely on the way the light played on the lighthouse and surrounding buildings. The problem with getting in close is the keystone effect as you angle up to the top of the tower. I would like to be able to afford a $2000+ tilt-shift lens to correct for the distortion, but for the foreseeable future I do quite nicely with skew transformations in Photoshop. The keys to this poor man’s tilt-shift are to get the camera as high as possible to reduce the key-stoning and then pull back a bit on the focal length to leave room around the edges of your composition. This will help avoid loosing something important as you perform the necessary cropping.

All-in–all it was a great weekend of friends and photography. I hope I won’t have to wait for another new kitchen before I get back to the Maine coast in winter. I been having trouble finding time to add to my blog, but it seems that when I start it is hard to shut up. Sorry, but I am comforted by the fact that few people read this stuff anyway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flying Solo ?


A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to go out shooting with Larry through Hancock and Harrisville, NH on a crystal clear sub-zero morning. I had admired Larry’s work on Flickr and when I asked him where a particularly beautiful image was taken, he generously offered to show me around some of his favorite locations. My usual approach to photo exploration is go out on my own, or perhaps accompanied by our dog Nelly (she of infinite patience). I fire up my GPS and PhotoTracker, plug in the iPod and start wandering. There are advantages to going solo. My schedules and routes are my own and I only have to worry about getting one person out of bed before dawn. In the past I’ve found that larger photo workshops can get a bit hectic as personal preferences become subservient to the needs of the group and the magic of quiet pristine locations are trampled by many feet and voices. Shooting with Larry however reminded me that there is a lot to be gained by learning from someone else’s vision. Traveling through the classic New England mill town of Harrisville, NH, I was focusing on the light and lines created by the red brick structures, but Larry pointed out the shadow created by one of the towers. I would have cruised right by that remarkable image. One of the central excitements of photography is how two people looking at the same scene can come back with entirely different visions. Seeing through someone else’s eye is one of the best ways of expanding your own ability to see all the potential in a location. Of course it is also interesting to share experiences about technique, equipment and marketing strategy with friends, but I believe the advantages of four eyes and two different sensibilities is most valuable.


I expect that I will continue to fly solo on many of my photographic explorations, but I will also seek out more opportunities to expand my vision with others. Larry has my open invitation to come to my corner of New England to share SOME of my best locations.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter Photography in New England


One of the joys of photography during our long New England winters, besides the crystal clear air and remarkable light, is the fact that dawn comes so late in the morning. I had a couple of chances to go out shooting this weekend and it was much nicer to get up at 6am to catch the “golden hour” rather than of 4am, as I must in the summer. We are all recovering from the spectacular show that our December ice storm provided, but the so far this winter we have enjoyed a number of storms to keep the snow clean and sparkling.

On Friday I had to bring a picture to Sharon Arts Center in Peterborough, NH and took a meandering route through Marlborough and Hancock. Hancock has an attractive town center with the classic white meeting house and great buildings along the main street. Photography is a challenge in Hancock primarily because of the web of wires that seem to contaminate every angle. I’m still exploring for locations however and the whole area is full of classic New England landscapes. “Snow Plows” was taken from a area of conservation land above Hancock Village that provides one of the better afternoon vistas of the town below. I’ll be showing some of work at The Fiddlehead Café in Hancock beginning on February 23rd.

Saturday I got back across the river to Vermont for the early light. The temperature was below zero at dawn but got up to a toasty 10 degrees by later in the morning. . Shown here are a couple of Saturday’s images from the back roads of Dummerston Vermont, one of my favorite nearby locations for exploration. I still have a lot of work to do.

Photography in the cold weather imposes many challenges, but I’m always glad that I made the effort. The light has a sparkle that you don’t see other times of the year. Here are a few observations about coping with winter shooting. This is not news to many of you ,but it helps me to organize my strategies this time of year.

1) Digital Freeze. Digital camera batteries do not like the cold and loose there charge more quickly. Keeping the camera warm inside your coat will extend battery life as well as help avoid sticking shutters and blowing snow, but watch out for condensation when you place that frigid piece of metal and glass into the warm moist microenvironment next to your body. I generally deal with the battery issue by keeping a replacement battery warm in a pocket. Of course it’s always important that the batteries start out fully charged.

2) Back to the condensation issue. Bringing a cold camera into a warm moist environment unavoidably lead to condensation. This will fog your lenses and potentially cause damage as liquid gets into the mechanical and electronic components. I try to keep the inside of my car comfortable cool to avoid drastic changes in temperature as I cruise for opportunities. When going inside my cozy house I place the camera in a plastic bag and allow it to warm slowly, without exposure to the moisture.

3) Keep yourself warm & dry: This seems an obvious recommendation, but not so easy when you are standing in the middle of a frigid, wind blown field, knee deep in snow waiting for the morning light to fall on that line of trees in the distance. A warm jacket & boots are a must, but my greatest discovery this year has been gloves with the fingers cut off to allow manipulation of your camera. The gloves have a mitten flap that you can pull over your fingers. when not in use. I wear a light pair of gloves underneath that adds warmth while still allowing control. My wife will tell you that these gloves are my constant topic of conversation!

4) Finally the whole approach to composition can be different in the winter. Your eye has to adjust to a nearly black & white perspective as color is subdued by form and line. Colors tend to be more subtle and vibrant tones may be most effective in small amounts to provide contrast to the quieter elements.

Wow. I know when I start talking about “color subdued by form and line” it is time to stop. I hope everyone is doing well and look forward to what you are doing to capture this great season.

For more images see my winter section at
or




Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome








I have been considering starting a blog for some time with the intention of sharing my photographic experiences focusing on the Monadnock region and Southern Vermont. My reluctance has come from a number of sources including: 1) I have a general resistance to the process of describing a visual art. The usual vocabulary often seems pretentious and inflated. Although I think I have come to understand a few aspects of good composition, my reasons for being drawn to a particular scene are not always clear to me and I feel self-conscious trying to express them. My usual approach is to try to find good light shining on an interesting scene and then start looking for the solution to the multi-faceted puzzle which will eventually yield the best image. 2) I question whether I will have the time or inclinations to keep up with a blog. I’m always falling behind in processing my images, do I really need one more thing to do! 3) I’m not a big reader of Blogs. Why would anyone want to read mine?

Ok, why am I doing it. First from a personal perspective, I hope the Blog will help me keep track of my work and force a more objective perspective on what I am trying to do. I hope that the process will improve my ability to talk about my photography. Writing is an important part of what a photographer must do and I need to find a style which will allow me to communicate my vision without feeling too “pretentious and inflated”. In talks I have given about my work I have enjoyed telling the stories that are connected to many of my favorite images. For me the details about the photo shoot “Treasure Hunt” are as exciting as the actual images. The locations I have discovered, the history I’ve learned and the people I have met constitute some of the greatest rewards of landscape photography. Hopeful I can share some of that excitement. Ideally this Blog will also serve as a forum to share information about this special and often under-appreciated corner of New England. Tips for new locations and new perspectives can help us all.

I think I’ve said enough. This Blog will become what it will become and it will probably have very little to do with what I say at the beginning. And it would appear that I am already becoming pretentious and inflated.

You can view some of my work on my web site:

Or a bit less formally on my F'ickr account at: