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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.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Westmoreland, After
With the maple sugaring season winding down, this is my last opportunity to formally rant about tubes. After enjoying Stonewall Farms traditional Sap Gathering Contest, my nostalgia gene is working hard, but let me say from the beginning that I understand the attraction of using tubing through maple stands to efficiently collect sap. Maple sugaring is under the best conditions a marginally profitable effort fueled much more by love than avarice. Given the increasing cost of fuel, sugarers have to look for every efficiency just to survive. For generations the basic piece of equipment for maple sugaring was the sap bucket. The farmer would drill a small hole in the tree and then insert a spout from which the covered bucket was hung. During the sap run, buckets would need to be emptied at least once per day making for an almost continuous effort on big farms. Horse drawn sleds weaving there way through the woods to collect sap provides a wonderfully colorful image, but it is really hard work. I’m sure that if I was involved in commercial maple syrup production I would out there entangling my forest with a web of blue tubes. But I'm not a maple sugerer, I'm a photographer, and I hate tubes.

Westmoreland, Before
The use of plastic tubing to collect maple sap has increased in popularity since its introduction in the 1960's. Today it can be difficult in the late winter to find a beautiful stand of stately maples that isn't slashed through with ugly blue tubing. One of my favorite stands is in Westmoreland NH, but I have learned that I must capture it early in the winter before the blue invasion. It is somewhat like our constant struggle with the ubiquitous electrical and phone wires, but with wires you can often find an angle that minimizes their impact or remove them, arduously, in post. As can be seen, the tubes are usually so completely imbedded in the scene that the only thing you can do is walk away, praying that they will be removed when the season ends.  Happily, I can report that I descovered today that my Westmoreland stand has broken free once again.

Stonewall Farm Sap Gathering Contest
I don't see any solution to the tube problem - no photographic technique to evade their impact. I can appreciate that the use of tubes avoids the necessity of digging up and compacting the ground with the machinery needed to repeatedly collect sap from buckets and that this can actually protect the health and beauty of the forest. In the end the effect of tubing is to make the remaining pristine stands of maples a more precious photographic resource and events such as Stonewall Farm's Sap Gathering a wonderful gift. And, of course, whether from a tube or a bucket, I would not want a world without the sweat complex taste of maple syrup.

Check out my Sap Gathering Contest Flickr Set

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you, we tap our own maples here and use glass mason jars because we have them and they're convenient. I hate seeing the ugly tubing around when we go out for hikes/drives.