Yesterday the weather finally began to feel like spring. It was great to be able to open up the windows, install some screens and start airing out the winter dank. It was also a day spent trying to get a single picture in the best light. In the morning, Nelly (The dog of infinite patience) and I headed out on our usual Saturday morning rounds, visiting the Post Office, bank and dump, and then, also as usual, we did the morning rounds of some of my favorite photography sites. Living in Chesterfield, I don't have to go far to sample wonderful examples of classic New England landscapes. Yesterday my tour took me by one of my favorite local working farms. The maple sugaring season is winding down here, but this farm still had the buckets up along the road leading to the barn and house. I've explored these views before, but I found an angle that really drew my eye. The trouble was that the sky was clear, the sun was warm and the light was horrible. The scene was nothing but starkly brilliant highlights and impenetrably dark shadows. I knew I should have just walked away, but I couldn't resist exploring different angles for future use. There was an interesting shadow coming at me in the foreground to play with, but my overwhelming thought was that I had to come back when the light was better. I hoped that, if the clouds didn't take over, I could catch this scene bathed in the warm, glowing light just before sunset.
For the rest of the day I kept watching the sky for the first signs of the "Golden Hour" and prayed that the clouds would stay away. Sadly it is an axiom of New England Weather that if it is sunny in the morning it will be cloudy in the afternoon. Things were not looking good, but, shortly before 5pm, I decided that I couldn't wait any long. Since the farm sits high on a ridge, I was hoping that the sun would be poking through. The light was much softer than in the morning, but the warmth was muted by milky clouds in the west. I grabbed a few shots, but as I scanned the sky it was obvious that conditions were not going to improve. I couldn't see any hope for even a sliver of an opening to spotlight the scene. On the way home I consoled myself with the possibility of better luck on another day, although I wasn't sure how much longer the buckets would stay in place.
After I had unloaded the car and planted Nelly on the "towel" side of the couch, I took one last look outside. I noticed to my horror and excitement that the sun was brightly illuminating the church across the village. I threw my camera back in the car and flew out of the driveway. On the way back to the farm I found myself behind a plodding Mini Van. I could feel the moment slipping away and as expected by the time I slammed on the brakes and leaped out of the car the sun was drifting behind another merciless cloud. Still the light was a bit warmer and I grabbed more exposures from the same locations. But this time I wasn't leaving. I settled down on the dry grass on the bank and waited for the sun, or darkness, whichever came first. After about ten minutes the sun was approaching the horizon, but there seemed to be the possibility of a thin break in the clouds. The light began to warm, first slowly, but then it exploded. The "Golden Hour" turned out to be a "Golden" three minutes and I grabbed shots as fast as I could.
By the time the day faded I found that I had taken more than 80 exposures from the same spot during four separate visits. It is common for me to go back many times to favorite locations in the region, sampling all seasons and lighting, but seldom has the search for the right light been compressed into such a short period of time. I ended up with a nice photograph and an even nicer way to demonstrate how searching for the right light can make all the difference.
And sometimes you get a nice bonus sunset on the way home.
- Jeff Newcomer
- 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.