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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Prague to Budapest

Prague Castle

Over the years Susan and I have generally travelled on our own, shunning large groups. We have valued the ability to plan our own schedule, avoiding large groups. We are currently on a 17 day trip to central Europe and this time we are with an organized tour. We were attracted by the chance to spend 8 days cruising down the Danube between Linz Austria and Budapest Hungary, with an extended stay in the remarkably beautiful city of Prague before embarking. Group travel has some clear advantages, including the ease of negotiating the local language and culture with knowledgeable guides. The scheduled side trips allow efficient use of time, and perhaps most importantly, group trips provide the opportunity to meet and travel with some fascinating people from throughout the US and beyond.

Our Lady Before Tyn Church

Group travel does impose substantial challenges to photography. First the fixed schedules make it difficult to find the best light in any location. Typically tours are scheduled for the middle of the day with stark light, which always seems to be shining into your eyes. Tours tend to move rather quickly making it difficult to spend the time needed to find and capture the best angles and lighting. Too often I have found myself looking up from my camera wondering in which direction my group has disappeared. I always try to find views without gaggles of tourists blocking the scenery. Unfortunately with group tours, we bring our own gaggle whereever we go

Vltava River Sunset
Prague, Czech Republic

St Vitus Cathedral

Charles Bridge
 The most important rule I have found to help me deal with these frustrations is to accept the fact that this is not primarily a photography trip. I try to get the best images that are possible, but sanity requires the realization that I can't always control every factor affecting my pictures. When with a group it is often helpful to either stay in front of the gaggle or lag behind. Patience is also key while waiting for that split second when people finally wander away from my perfect composition. I try to anticipate shooting conditions so that I don't spend valuable time switching filters or lens as the group speeds away.It is better not to find yourself in the dark cathedral with your polarizer still stuck to your lens. Poor light is hardest to manage. Sometimes I just have to except that I am not going to capture that golden light or the dramatic misty image and will have to settle for the best bright "postcard shot" I can construct. Since we were in Prague for five days, I considered our group tours as scouting expeditions with plans to come back on free time to look for the best conditions. In particular the evening light is wonderful as it winds it way through the narrow streets of the old city.

All my complaining aside, Prague is a spectacularly photogenic place. The classic buildings which dominate the older sections are marvelously well preserved. This is due in large part to the fact that Prague survived the second world war without extensive damage. Highlights include Prague Castle, including the massive Saint Vitus Cathedral, which looms over the old city. The old city square features a medieval clock tower and the fairy-tale Our lady Before Tyn Church. There are great vistas all along the Vltava River. The classic architecture is everywhere.

Silver Tomb
St Vitus cathedral
The schedule on this trip is non-stop. It is all I can do to find time to download and back-up my images. So by the time I have finished this blog we have already started our cruise down the Danube. Salzburg was cold, foggy and rainy, but at least the inside of the Cathedral was dry. Coming up on the itinerary is Vienna, and Budapest. I will be working on these pictures for ages after I get home, and of course we will be returning to New Hampshire just in time for leaf season.

Enough. I have some eating and drinking to do. At this point I will shut up and let the picture speak.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Packing for the Danube

This weekend Sue and I are heading off to Prague, Czech Republic to begin a 17 day trip featuring a boat trip down the Danube ending in Budapest. We will be visiting Linz, Vienna and Salzburg among with other middle European locations.  We are excited to explore a new region, but Nelly is getting a bit nervous about all the luggage.  As we approach the trip I am immersed in my usual camera gear anxiety. What cameras and lens should I take? How much do I really want to lug around? How much weight can I get on the plane. How will I handle image back-up. How will I keep my gear secure? I typically start by listing the "must brings" and then agonize over all the optionals, knowing always that the one thing I leave behind will be the one thing that I will desperately wish I had. It is always my strong inclination to bring EVERYTHING.


Canon 5D MII with my workhorse 24-105 f4 l lens

A ton of CF cards (I bought two new 32 gig cards for the trip)

Canon G11 (nice small, full featured, carry around camera as a backup and to use in situation in which I don’t want to display my big DSLR). I have decided not to bring my old 5D as a backup DSLR.


Small 500 GB external drive ( have the Western Digital passport). My back-up strategy is to keep copies of images on the laptop and the HD as well as on the cards.

Various small, but necessary accessories : cable release, polarizing filters, lens cloths, batteries and chargers, power adapter, mini bunges (always), lens brush, plastic bag rain cover, and my Giotto air blower. Despite all my efforts, I will undoubtedly forget at least one critically indispensable cable and will spend half a day becoming familiar with the camera stores of Prague.


Lens are always an issue. My Canon 16-35 f2.8 seemed a no-brainer. I expect to be photographing inside lots of churches and castles, not to mention capturing grand overlooks. A wide angle lens is essential. My major questions was about bringing my beast, the Canon 100-400 f4." I would love to have it , but it weighs 3 lbs. and, since Susan refuses to be a Sherpa, I can't see myself lugging this monster all over the continent. This is supposed to be a vacation after all. But then I remembered my old Quantaray 70-300.  This is the lens that I dropped into a brook a couple of years ago. It never stopped
 working, but had a bit of haze on some of the internal elements. Just enough to justify getting the Canon 100-400. When I pulled the lens out, I discovered that the haze had largely disappeared. This lens can't be compared to Canon L glass, but it is MUCH smaller and lighter (1 lb.). I will miss the image stabilization, but It is better than nothing, and the sharpness is not bad. It will be nice to have more reach without a lot more lug. So, three lens.

I toyed with not bringing my tripod. I don't expect to carry it around for most of our walking tours, and, although my carbon fiber Gitzo is not terribly heavy, by the time I add the Kirk ball head, it does add some significant weight and bulk. Then I thought about the wonderful low light opportunities, the lights at night and the chance to try HDR on the classic old world architecture. I'm bringing the tripod.

I still haven't decided about bringing a Speedlite and I may decide only when we do our final weight assessment. A compromise might be to take my lighter 430EX instead of the 580EX II. I doubt I will need the extra power and I will not be triggering any slaves.

Well of course, with all this stuff, I had to get a new bag. Photographers can never have too many bags, but seriously all mine seem either too small to carry what I would need on tours or are too bulky. I don't want to be knocking over precious shrines throughout Europe. I finally found a nice compromise National Geographic shoulder bag which I hope will work well.
  It has reasonable padding, a comfortable strap and is compressible for packing. I can fit my 5D and two lens in quite easly with room other necessaries and with reasonably easy access.  I must confess that carrying a "National Geographic" bag seems a bit cheezy to me, but the thing has a nice feel and does what I need it to do.  I may look for a patch to cover-up the logo.

That's about it. We haven't done the final weighing, so things may change. We are excited about the trip and I will try to post when I can along the way.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Art in the Park : Show the Work!

So I have a tent and a couple display racks, but that does not make me a summer art fair professional. I say this as I am sitting in my Easy-Up 10 x 10 toward the end of the first day of this weekend's "Art in the Park" show in Keene New Hampshire. It is hot and humid, but as long as it isn't raining, I am not allowed to complain. This is the third year that I have done the Keene event. This year there were over 80 artists displaying their work during the two day event.  It is a hassle to haul all the work to the Ashuelot River Park along with the tent, tables, display racks, chairs and a cooler full of empty calories to keep me functioning. If you have not done one of these shows,

I want Mike's tall chair
it is difficult to appreciate how exhausting it can be to spend a day meeting and greeting, but I have met many people here who thrive on these shows. They spend most summer weekends traveling from town to town like artistic migrant workers. I assume that they are much more social than I can ever expect to be. I enjoy meeting people especially when they express appreciation for my work, but there are many other lovely thing to do in the summer. 

Why do I do it?  First this particular show is a community affair sponsored by my Monadnock Area Artist Association and filled with wonderful local artists. It is a great chance to catch up with friends and to meet visitors from throughout the region. Of course it is pleasant to have folks tell me how wonderful my "paintings" are, even though this typically occurs just before they move on to the next tent. I generally sell enough work to make it financially viable, but the primary reason for doing this comes down to the most important marketing technique that I have applied ever since I began trying to establish myself as a regional landscape photographer, SHOW THE WORK. I believe that for a new photographer there is nothing more important than to show your work as often as possible and in every available venue. Of course I have worked to get my work accepted at a number of regional art stores, but in the course of the last 4 years I have also participated in about 15 group shows and over 30 solo exhibitions. I have displayed my work in town halls, civic centers, churches, stores, banks, hospital hallways, and almost every restaurant in the region that happens to have a wall. Sometimes these shows have resulted in sales, but the primary goal is to show the work. I also try to keep my web presence up to date and fresh on my personal site as well as on Flickr and more recently 500 pixels. I have collected a surprising amount of private and commercial business from people who found my work as a result of a simple Google search.  Over the last few years my New England Reflections Calendar has raised over $40 thousand dollars for the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center, but it has also been an effective tool for making my images of the region more generally know. What could be better than displaying a fresh example of my work on a monthly basis to hundreds of local families?  Increasingly I have been receiving requests for donations of images for inclusion in local charity auctions. These opportunities are valuable on a number of levels. Most importantly it is wonderful to feel that my work can, in a small way, assist in fulfilling the needs and aspirations of my community at a time when support is required more than ever. Of secondary importance is that charity auctions introduce my work to groups of people who might not frequent exhibitions or art stores. I find it remarkable that so many artists view charitable donations as a opportunity to unload unpopular pieces that have been languishing in the old photo bin. The value of your donation to your business is, once again, the opportunity to SHOW THE WORK. It costs me the same to produce an average image as it does for one of my "hero" shots. By only giving my best work both the charity and my business get the most from the donation.

Shows like Art in the Park are just another opportunity to show the work. Sure I sold some pieces and collected some orders, but the real value was that hundreds of local people got to see my photographs. In the future when they are trying to think of a birthday gift for gramma or a going away present for a co-worker, and they want something that reflects the essence of our region, they may just remember me. 

How many times did I say "show the work"? Not enough.

More about the Monadnock Area Artists Association