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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving's Visual Feast

Stephanie and Melissa

This Thanksgiving we celebrated, and ate, with a large contingent of
Susan's family all gathered at her nieces' 
house west of Boston. The decision to assemble at Rachel and Michael's home was largely logistical, since they have the two young children. It was a chance to see how fast our great nieces have grown. 
It was also a precious opportunity to visit 
with our children, together, at the same time;
Abigail from Washington DC and Jeremy
from Somerville, outside Boston.  On arrival I had every intention to avoid the family photo assignment. There were a number of excellent photographers in attendance with  more recent experience in family photography, especially Stephanie and Melissa's grandfather who strives to record every noteworthy and mundane event of their young lives. Also I have a mass of editing to do and no need for added work.

 I did admirably for the first half of the afternoon, but I became increasingly aware that I was surrounded by numerous attractive, neatly dressed models. The kids were irresistibly cute, Abigail was gorgeous, and my son found himself in a social environment which
made him less inclined to give me the finger whenever I
tried to take his picture. I couldn't resist.  I grabbed my 85 mm f 1.8
Aunt Deborah
portrait lens, cranked up the ISO and began
trying to record incessantly moving children in low light. Shooting at ISOs ranging from 1600-6400 I still needed to use all the light gathering capabilities of my fast lens. The young kids were probably less camera shy than my adult children, but they had absolutely no conception of what posing for a shot entails. Since the worst expressions always followed instructions to "smile", all I could do was follow them around and try to anticipate fleeting moments of spontaneous joy. My own children have learned over years of painful experience that I will not get out of their faces until they give me a reasonable shot.   Happily, I discovered that, after dinner, as the Tryptophan induced coma settled in, everyone became much more open to my efforts.

Approaching Coma

The biggest challenge of photography in low light without flash is controlling the paper thin depth of field. Shooting wide open creates beautiful soft Bokeh, but it is a constant struggle to keep the focus point on eyes, where it belongs. This becomes almost impossible when photographing fidgety little children. You often have to shoot bursts and hope that their eyes will randomly wander into focus in at least one of the images. Often when trying to photograph two or more people together 
your only option is to decide whose eyes are most important to the image 
 and let the others drift off.  Despite the difficulties, it is almost magic that a largely fuzzy image can seem sharp as long as the eyes are in focus..   As a landscape photographer my goal is usually to get the maximum depth of field, but in these situations I just have to let it go. It is remarkable how much selective focus can add clarity and impact to the right subjects.

Stephanie Blurry Eyed Uncropped

Despite my complaining I couldn't wait to get home to start working on these images.  In general there was little manipulation required. Camera RAW did a nice job suppressing the high ISO noise. A quick tungsten adjustment got me close to natural looking color balance. I removed a few zits and softened the occasional harsh shadows. I spotlighted the key subjects, cropped and I was done. One interesting challenge came with an adorable picture of 3 year old Stephanie sitting pensively on her grandmother's lap. I only caught one good expression and in that image it was her 
Stephanie's Mouth
mouth rather than the eyes that was in focus. It was too cute to throw away, so I decided to go with the mouth. I cropped to skewer her mouth on one of the "Rule of Thirds" points and put my spotlight on the same location. The difference is subtle and the eyes are still a blur, but overall I think the image has much better flow.   Hopefully viewers will think I shot intentionally to draw attention to Steph's expressive mouth.

With each opportunity to shoot events I find that I increasingly zoom in on the faces. I have to stop this before my fascination with candid portraiture entirely replaces my long term commitment to rocks and trees.


  1. Stephanie and Melissa both are awesome. Lovely pictures and nice photography.

  2. I have super cute nieces and an uncle who is an excellent photographer :-)

  3. Gorgeous little fellow & I love this Post!!!So incredible Cute & Color Full Posts....
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  4. Love the article! Great pictures & lovely blog color combination.

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