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.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lessons from the Stream

"Snowliage" Canon 5D 16-35mm Lens

Canon G11
I am happy to report that I am now photographically whole after several weeks with my beloved Canon 5D Mark II and the workhorse 24-105 lens away at the Canon Service Center in New Jersey.  My friend and talented newspaper photographer Steve Hooper reassured me that accidents are bound to happen as a necessary price of getting out there for the shot, but I do seem to have a pathological tendency to regularly dunk my equipment in the beautiful streams and lakes of New England. This time I relearned the important rule that one should NEVER leave your tripod unattended. I swear I turned my back for a split second to adjust a branch and the tripod maliciously tipped my camera into the stream. The camera was only partially doused for a second, but it was enough to freeze the shutter button and for water to get on the front element of the lens.   

After it became evident that no amount of drying would restore reliable function, I sent the camera and lens off to New Jersey. The service center did a prompt and professional job. I got the camera back in about two weeks in "factory condition" which means that, in addition to the repairs, the camera and lens were cleaned and calibrated. It was of some consolation to discover that my first images had absolutely no dust on the sensor. That won't last.

Canon G11
The whole process provided an expensive lesson in the importance

of scrupulous care of the equipment. The fact that this disaster struck at the best moment of this year's fall foliage only magnified the impact. The late October snow spotlighted the previously dull color and provided a spectacular conclusion to the season that I was afraid I would miss in my crippled state. If there was one positive aspect of the experience, it was the fact that I was evicted from my usual comfort zone and forced to use back-up equipment. The great lesson turned out to be that it is refreshing to work within different restraints imposed by more limited resources and to be reminded that it is the light and not the equipment that is always most important. Of course I was not terribly impoverished when it came to equipment options. I didn't have to dig out my old Kodak Instamatic. 

Harvey Pond, Westmoreland, NH
Canon 5D, 16-35 mmm
My back-up Canon 5D is an incredibly capable camera that I have been recently using only for time-lapse.  Not a bad fall-back option, but with the loss of my 24-105mm lens, I had a large gap in my focal length range.  Everything from 35mm to 100mm was a dead zone.  The happy result was that I becaming more comfortable seeing through the perspective of my 16-35mm wide angle lens. Too often I get lazy about changing lenses and routinely accept 24mm as my widest view. It is always surprising what a big difference just a few millimeter can make in the structure of an wide angle image. At the other extreme of focal length, I had no trouble when I could use the reach of my 100-400mm telephoto lens to capture scenes such as the horses in the pastures of Roads End Farm. It turned out to be a creative jolt to be forced to visualize scenes only from the extremes of focal length, but I did have another option

Roads End Farm Pasture
Canon 5D, 400mm


Canon G11
.For more complete coverage, my other camera choice was my Canon G11. I got this camera as a relatively small "carry around" that I could keep with me whenever I didn't want to lug my trailer load of equipment.  The G11 is a surprisingly versatile camera with a full range of manual controls and raw capability. The image quality is also excellent especially in good light. During the last few weeks I have become more comfortable with the camera's occasionally confusing menus and buttons and found it liberating to have all that power in such a small package nestled in my hand. The G11 does not have the fine focus control, resolution, or low light capability of the Mark II, but I was surprised to find myself a little disappointed when I finally gave up the camera's easy portability for my massive, neck straining DSLR.

Multi image depth of field with the Canon G11

Canon G11
So the end result of giving my camera a chilly autumn bath was first that, thankfully, I was able to get my primary camera back freshly cleaned and fully functional.  I was also forced to approach photographic opportunities in fresh ways and the experience was eye opening.   I would not recommend drowning your camera to achieve these in-sights. Instead you might try going out on a shoot with self imposed, not disaster related, restrictions. Use only your wide angle lens or use a smaller camera in situations where your clumsy DSLR may be encumbering. You will be surprised how quickly you start seeing and working in creatively different ways.

Of course I am thrilled to have my camera back, but I should mention one final lesson from this episode. It was in fact a good thing that I bought camera insurance!

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