About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had 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 blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Do Windows ... Is That Wrong

Whenever I can't decide where to go shooting I know I can't go wrong by heading south on Route 124 from Keene NH. I don't believe there is a stretch of road in the Monadnock Region that can match the concentration of classic New England scenes along the 12 miles from Marlborough to Jaffrey. Mt. Monadnock's dramatic profile is the major attraction, but one of my favorite stops is the old Jaffrey Center with its quintessential colonial New England meeting house. It is an amazing building with an amazing story. The Jaffrey Meetinghouse was raised on June 17, 1775, the day of the Battle of Bunker Hill. It was recorded that the workers could hear the distant canon fire from Charlestown over 60 miles away.

I have captured the meetinghouse from all angles and in all seasons. On this day I was concentrating on framing the pristine white building with the surrounding trees. As I came around to the front I was horrified to discover that the three windows along the spire had been removed and replaced with black wood panels. I assume that this is part of necessary renovations, but they COULD have checked with me first! Nothing to do but take the shots. The view looking up the road to the front provides nice framing and had the added advantage of being relatively straight on making adjustments in post a little easier.
Back at home I had to decide what to do with this image. To me there was little choice. The black panels clearly did not reflect the essence of this historic structure and since my goal was not to faithfully record the progress of the renovation, I had to move some windows. This is where purist are allowed to gasp ..... OK moving on. Happily the front of the building is full of excellent candidates for copying. I elected to select the window panes to a new layer rather than cloning since this allows the necessary rotation and scaling to make the proper fit. It wasn't too complicated. Just took a tittle time. The small features, such as getting the snow on the sill to remain in front of the glass, were the most painstaking. I believe that the result represents what you see when the meetnghouse is in its glory. The windows are identical to those that were there originally and my window replacement service is A LOT cheaper.

I hope few are offended, but this is just one of the miracles of digital photography. Ansel Adams once commented on criticism he received for spotting out graffiti that had polluted the rocks on one of his classic images; "I am not enough of a purist to perpetuate the scar and thereby destroy - for me, least - the extraordinary beauty and perfection of the scene". If I am criticized I can only respond, "Ansel made me do it".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dumb Luck and Foreshortening

Yesterday, after some errands in Keene NH, I decided to loop my way home through Gilsum, Alstead and Walpole to take advantage of the late afternoon light. On the way I stopped at the Filter Connection in Gilsum to pick up some sensor cleaning solution. A few years ago I was surprised to discover that a great on-line filter reseller was actually just down the road. I have since become friends with the owner and staff, but they were initially surprised when I informed them that I would be dropping by to pick up my order. Their building is remarkably unimpressive, but their stock, prices and knowledgeable support are first rate. Most importantly, they also welcome my dog Nellie to come in and play with the office canines. Check them out at 2filter.com and yes, the Lamas belong to the owner.

As I wandered along, the evening light was warm and clear, but I didn't find much that I found exciting to photograph. I had just about given up, but sometimes you just have to accept dumb luck. On the way home from Walpole, I thought I would check out how the sunset light was playing on the hilltop of Alyson's Orchard. Looking up I was floored by the nearly full moon positioned perfectly over the great Oak at the top of the hill. If anyone asks, I had checked the tables and planned my arrival for this convergence. I started at the bottom using my 400mm to magnify the moons appearance over the tree. Then I work my way up the hill. Each switchback provided different angles to exploit and also gave me a nice example of the phenomena of foreshortening with a long lens.

Foreshortening refers to the apparent enlargement of distant objects compared to the foreground when telephoto lens are used. It is argued that this is actually just an optical illusion and it is true that when taken from the same location images recorded with long and wide angle lens have the same perspective. When the wide angle image is enlarged to match the telephoto they appear identical with exception of the narrower depth of field with the telephoto. The power of foreshortening comes when you move. As can be seen in these two images, when I was further away from the subjects using a longer focal length the moon appeared much larger in relation to the tree. The upper image was taken from the bottom of the hill at 235mm, the lower was closer and at 160mm. I frequently back up to increase the size of background elements in a composition. The important thing is to avoid backing into the lake or off the cliff. So a day that hadn't been working out well ended up yielding a nice photo opportunity and a couple of images that I suspect will find their way into a talk sometime.

Dumb luck rules!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Plan of Attack

I often think I have a great ideas for blog posts but invariably get discouraged by the sense that I have too much to say to keep it interesting. Eventually I get frustrated and wander off to do the never finished work of editing my images. So, lets see if I can hold myself to one simple point.

A week ago I was working on photographing this classic high pasture fence at Roads End Farm in Chesterfield NH. I have shot this fence before, but never in the winter and it reminded me of a simple rule about approaching photography in the snow; you should always plan your path of attack before beginning to shoot. In the summer I was able to roam all over this hill experimenting with different angles, but in the snow each "roam" places irreversible tracks that may scar other angles of view. Before I start tromping I try to remember to think through all the possible angles that I may want to capture. I then start shooting from the farthest locations and work my way closer only after I feel I have exhausted the more distant opportunities. At times I suspect I appear rather ridiculous as I take long circuitous routes around a scene to avoid contaminating the view. I am often tempted to run right in close to catch what looks to be the best angles, but untrampled snow is a precious resource for photography and should be treated with care. It is true that homogeneous appearing snow can be one of the simplest candidates for cloning out imperfections, but avoiding the problem saves a lot of time.

Of course, as can be seen, after I'm done with a location it is unavoidably ruined for all other photographers coming by - but, hey, they should have been up earlier!