About Me

My photo
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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Preview

  Washington D.C.

Last weekend Sue and I took what seems to be becoming an annual spring trip to visit our daughter in Washington D.C. It was wonderful to spend time with Abigail and her friends and perhaps most importantly we had the importunity to get to know her new boyfriend. He checked out quite nicely.

Again this was a great time of year to visit the capital. Spring was fully in bloom and the oppressive summer heat had not yet settled on the city. The Cherry Blossoms were already gone, but the rest of the colors were a lovely foreshadowing of what is to come to us up north.

Botanic Garden

On Friday we walked the Mall, which seems in perpetual construction, and then escaped to the wonderful United States Botanic Garden at the base of the Capital Building.
The gardens were featuring a remarkable collection of Orchids. On a Friday morning
US Botanic Garden
the place was not especially crowded and we had a wonderfully peaceful and colorful stroll. The exotic flowers in the greenhouse were lovely subjects for photography. I only regretted not having my tripod to allow better control of depth of field with smaller apertures and longer exposures. As I discussed in my previous blog about cheating with greenhouse photography, enclosed settings eliminate the wind which can often limit the length of exposure in outside flower photography. Without my tripod, I did my best by cranking up the ISO and trying to suppress the jitters from my morning coffee. In these situations positioning of the narrow focus point becomes critical as I tried to place the
Get the "Business" in Focus
small zone of sharpness on the most important spots. In portrait photography that critical focus point is the eyes, for flowers it is generally the central pistil and stamen. If you get that sharp, the surrounding softness tends to serve only to draw attention to the flower’s “business" zone. All I could do was get as stable as possible, compose an interesting arrangement, and then adjust to ISO and aperture to allow a shutter speed down to around 1/40 – 1/60. With the help of my camera’s image stabilization function, this was about the limit of what I could trust myself to hand-hold. Sometimes it worked and sometimes not. I had to be careful not to trip people as I knelt next to the flowers and I quickly learned to photograph the name tags immediately after I shot each flower. I hate having to use labels such as, “Red Flower # 2”. Next time I will come better prepare, but it is silly to complain about any time spent in such a lovely refuge. 


Green Dragon

In the evening we went to the annual Gospel Concert by the National Symphony at the massive Kennedy Center.  Great concert, but sadly, not awfully photography friendly in the hall.

Kennedy Center

Northern Virginian Wines

Saturday was another beautiful warm day and

Trail-Side Dogwoods
we headed out to Northern Virginia to hike with Abby and her boyfriend Grayson in the shadow of the Blue Ridge. The Dogwoods were blooming along the trails at the Blue Ridge Center in Purcellville Virginia. It was a wonderful day for a walk and we would have lingered longer in the forest, but our primary goal for the day was wine tasting. Abby had her own favorite vineyards to sample as we worked our way through the spring colors in the
rolling Virginia hills. Susan was assigned to the job of driver so the rest of us
Abigail and Grayson,  Sampling the Wine
sampled many, “excellent vintages with a dry/sweet taste accented with a hint of smoky wood, fresh plums or citrus finish”.  I swear, vintners are even more annoying than photographers when describing their work. Despite all of the showmanship, the wine was fair, but the settings were gorgeous. I got my usual complaints whenever I wanted to stop for photographs, but I couldn’t bypass the old road-side barn that was nearly consumed by vividly colored Wisteria. The day was capped by dinner at a surprisingly good Thai restaurant located in a gas station in Leesburg.

Wisteria Barn, Purcellville Virginia

Old Town Alexandria

On Sunday, Abby and her house mates hosted about 20 of her

Doors of Old Alexandria
friends for a delicious brunch.  It was reassuring to talk to all these brilliant, committed kids who are so thoroughly engage in careers that, being in Washington, are focused on government and public service.  It is really true that our government is actually run by 20 and 30 year olds, and that's ok.  We spent the afternoon on a relaxing touring of the Old Town of Alexandria Virginia.  Although it has largely been transformed into a tourist haven, the Old Town is along the shore of the Potomac and has many historic building which recall the city’s seaport history. The challenge here was to capture the colonial charm without the intrusion of wires, neon signs and BMWs. For this, the back streets were much better than the busy main roads.

On our way home on Monday we watched as the spring color slipped away, but things here in New Hampshire are greening up as well.
Over the weekend we had a great early taste of the season,   but I know that, given our shorter growing time, our spring will be even more vibrant and exuberant. I can't wait.

Colors of Home,  Spofford New Hampshire

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Matting & Framing

Sue and I are heading to DC to visit with our daughter Abigail, so I am getting this weeks blog out a bit early.  Although the Apple Blossoms are past,  I hope to have some nice spring pictures to share next week.

Recently I had one of those hectic transition periods. Last Thursday night I had to take down my show at the Works Cafe in Brattleboro Vermont and then hang the pictures at the Colonial Theater in Keene, New Hampshire the next morning. The overlap doesn't always work this perfectly but this time I didn't even have to take
Bad Name for the Show
the pictures out of the car. From the time I started taking my photography seriously, I have been both a photographer and a print maker. My first attempts at showing and promoting my work were all through the hanging of physical prints in shows and galleries. Today I sell many more images electronically than in the form of fine art prints. With so many electronic avenues to display and market my work, physical or "dead tree" prints seem almost an anachronistic luxury, but I still believe that there is something uniquely magical about being able to hold an image in my hands. It is exciting to see my pictures on magazine covers and on web sites, but these are always secondary renderings of my work. They are altered by the limited gamut and color balance of the specific printing process or by the color balance and resolution of each individual monitor on the web. The only time that I feel that I can show the full expression of my vision (I know, I promised I would never talk like this!) is when I have complete control of the image from camera through to the final print. The problem is that framed prints can be prohibitively expensive to produce. I tend to keep my
Colonial Theatre Gallery
pictures rotating between my home, two offices, three galleries and various shows. I never seem to be able to do a complete inventory but I have well over 60 framed prints scattered throughout the region. This all got me thinking about the difficulties of producing a sufficient collection of framed prints for public display. If you have ever investigated the cost of custom framing you know that it is a significant investment that can limit the number pictures that photographers can afford to show. There are various approaches to this problem, but my solution has been to do almost all of the printing, matting and framing myself. This requires a significant commitment of time, but it has provided me the greatest possible flexibility and control over the my work. It has allowed me to build a inventory of pictures that are much less costly to produce and sell, and It also allows me to respond quickly to special orders.

So, how do you produce a collection of your best images suitable for display without flirting with bankruptcy? It all comes down to a perfect print, neatly matted with archival materials and framed to compliment the image.

The Print

There are many inexpensive photo labs that can handle the printing of your images with excellent quality and consistency. Recently I have been very happy with the work of White House Custom Color for my over-sized prints, but, I still prefer to use my Epson R3000, 13 inch printer, to maintain full control over the print. I have always been happy with Epson's profiles, which, when combined with a calibrated monitor, allow reliable and reproducible color management.


When I started out I investigated the cost of having my work matted and framed at our wonderful local art store, I quickly determined that I could not afford to produce the number of pictures that I would need for even a modest showing. I had to figure out how to do it myself. I first tried cutting mats using a small hand-held device but quickly became frustrated with the impossibility making clean, straight and consistent cuts. Once I made the commitment and bought a good mat cutter the rest was relatively easy. My Logan 450 Mat Cutter
Mat Measurement Calculator
still only costs about $150 which is probably less than what it would cost to have one picture framed at a shop. With just a little practice it is possible to create mats with a clean and consistant bevel. I routinely cut double mats with a black undermat below a cream white top. The result is a neat finished look that accents any image. Measuring the mats requires a small amount of lower order math,
Mat Board
but I have created a simple spread sheet tool that does all of the calculations flawlessly. I'll try to share the program on a future blog. You will find that there are lots of great places to buy bulk mat board and foam core backing. I have used framingsupplies.com for most of my materials. I am at a point now where I buy full boxes of 25, 32x40" sheets. It isn't cheap, but you can pay for the whole box with the sale of one or two pieces. If you want to dip your toe into the market, many companies sell pre-cut mats in standard sizes. 


For most of my pictures I use brush black aluminum frames that can be bought in lengths online. I will occasionally use wood frames, but I like the clean look of the black metal. 
The metal frames can to bought in pre-cut lengths online and are easy to assemble. They are also easy to disassemble when you want to rotate your display images or clean out that fleck of dust that invariable shows after the piece has been displayed for awhile. I would recommend using UV blocking glass, but, unless specifically requested, I avoid the "anti-glare" glass that tends to dull the image. 

On the Wall

Matting and framing your own work is certainly not for everyone. It requires careful attention to detail and a significant time commitment. Framing also requires space to do the work, and store the materials. When my daughter left home for school and work, I kept her room untouched as a shrine to my lost little girl, but I recovered from that in about 3 months. Now her room has been completely transformed into my hopelessly cluttered studio and Abby will just have to sleep on the couch.

Many photographers will tell you that they would rather spend their time out shooting, and I am completely sympathetic with that feeling. Someday I may be able to charge enough to be able to have my pictures framed by others, but I think I will always enjoy having the ability to control my work from the field to the final physical piece of "art".

So just a couple of recommendations.

First it is best to keep your matted work in standard sizes. If people are planning to frame the picture themselves it is helpful to have pieces that will fit standard frames. As I prepare images to print I start adjusting the composition to fit within 11x14", 16x20" , 18x24" or 20x24" mats. I can usually, but not always, fine a crop that works and doesn't compromise the image.

I quickly abandoned the use of colored mats. It is impractical to
have enough choices to work with different images. I now stick exclusively to a cream white mat with a black under-mat. I think this creates a clean, professionally finished look. If you are planning on selling your images it is important to use all archival, acid free materials. They are more expensive, but nothing suggests unprofessional work like seeing the white in the bevel cut turn to brown after a few months. No one will respect your work until you respect it yourself.

So, if you are interested, get out there and get your hands dirty (and occasionally cut). Build that inventory. You can't show the work until you have the work to show. Beyond all the challenges and practical benefits of matting and framing, you may discover that the control of the full process provides a sense of validation as a practitioner, not only in photography, but also in the craft of print making.

Check out the images in Colonial Theatre Show on my Flickr Set.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fresh Sap

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire

Finding New Images in an Old Location

What do you do to find fresh subjects for photography when you are shooting in familiar locations?

Last week I returned for the fourth year in a row to photograph the Sap Gathering Contest at Stonewall Farm in Keene New Hampshire.

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
Don't Distract the Teams
Stonewall is a working farm which is run as an educational resource for the community. For some years it has been my privilege to support the farm by photographing some of the many public events offered every year. In return, I have been allowed special access to the farms activities. The Sap Gathering Contest is a chance to see maple sap collecting using traditional techniques. Horse drawn sleds wind through a forest trail collecting sap from buckets. Teams are judged based on their efficiency and control as well as there speed, but the real winners are the folks who line portions of the course for the opportunity to step back to a time when sap gathering was closer to the land, when the forest wasn't entangled in a web of plastic tubes and the air was free of tractor exhaust. It is a unique experience and I had the advantage of being one of a very few photographers and videographers who were allowed to escape the public viewing areas and follow the sleds through the forest trail.

Over the years I have been able to capture great images of the teams
Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
When There Was Snow
expertly working their way through the course. Most of best images came from a few years ago when we were blessed with a idyllic coating of fresh snow. This year our dry, snowless winter provided a rather gray and dull background for any new "sled in the forest" shots and, anyway, it occurred to me that I had about as many pictures of horses and sleds as I will ever need. Of course I had to get the team shots, after all that is what the event is supposed to be about, but in the last couple of years I have also been trying to expand my view. I am working at doing a more complete job of telling the story, and that is what event photography must be about.  So where to start?

Go for the Detail

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,When caught in a rut like this my first approach is usually to start zooming in on the details. It is interesting that I have to literally flip my cognitive "detail" switch to kick myself out of my usual "broad landscape composition mode" and start seeing this stuff. There Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,was a wealth of detail to celebrate at the sap gathering. The expressions on the horses faces, their ornate and gleaming tack, brightly colored buckets and rusting antique farm machinery all made great subjects. Last year I focused on the misty interior of the sugar shack, but it all makes the point that the specifics often tell a more compelling story than the broad "establishing" shots.


It's All About the People

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
Shootin the "Sap"

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,Of course an event like this is really about the people. The drivers and assistants, the volunteers and the specters all have their roles to play in the story, and this year again I Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,tried to focus on the faces. The participants often travel from all across New England for the event and I have come to appreciate that they are attracted as much for the comradery as for the competition.  The small army of community volunteers fill many roles that are critical to the smooth operation of the contest, including staffing the gift shop, filling the buckets and keeping the evaporator running.   I particular enjoyed learning from Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,my interactions with my fellow photographers. Many of these folks concentrate on horse photography and actually know what they're doing out there! In the woods we had great fun jumping in an out of each others shot while trying to avoid disturbing the massive teams that were passing by.

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
Stay Out of My Shot!

There MUST be an Angle I Haven't Shot Before !

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
By Grimes Brook
Finally, You can't shoot the sap gathering without getting the mandatory pictures of the magnificent horse teams. The goal every year is to try to fine different foregrounds and backgrounds that help to tell more than the simple facts of "horses, sled, driver. It has become increasingly difficult to find an angle that I haven't used many times before. This year I tried to incorporate the little stream that parallels a portion of the route. The angles were not easy, but at least it is something different.

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
Happy Feet

Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,
The Long Pour
As hard as it can be to find freshness in an event like this, I will continue to come back. It is always a unique opportunity and never quite the same. Over the years I have learned a great deal about event photography and I think I have finally assembled the range of photographs needed to be able to tell a full and coherent story about this great contest. And, of course, I have to come back every year for my wonderful Maple Syrup Sundae.

  And A final Tip. If you want gobs of Maple syrup on your sundae, just tell the server that you are a "Professional Photographer" and you need a couple more shots to fully document the generosity of the pour.

Check out more of my images from the Sap Gathering Contest over the years at my Sap Gathering Flickr Set

Also a previous blog article about last year's contest:

You can find out about Stonewall Farms many programs on there web site .You'll find that the farm is about a lot more than just horses and sleds

Goat, Sap Gathering Contest, Keene, New Hampshire, Stonewall Farm,

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monadnock's Most Beautiful Road (More Photographs)

Mount Monadnock sunset
Monadnock "The Mountain That Stands Alone"
 This week's blog is actually a photo album with favorite pictures I couldn't fit in my "real" blog on the New England Photography Guild web site.  Read on to learn more, but, if you prefer, you can jump right to the article on the Guild site.  But you will miss some nice pictures from Monadnock's beautiful Route 124.

Mount Monadnock winter, Marlborough, New Hampshire
Frost Hill Road View Marlborough NH (2)
A few weeks ago I started what I plan to be a series of articles celebrating some of the best photographic locations in my region of central New England. I started with a posting about the attractions of Harrisville New Hampshire. From that blog I have been asked by New Hampshire To Do Magazine to write an article about the history of Harrisville's mill village and how a group of dedicated citizens have joined together to protect this unique treasure. The article is scheduled for the May edition.

Mount Monadnock Moonrise, Marlborough, New Hampshire
Moonrise Old Meeting House Site Marlborough (2)

Mount Monadnock through Birches, Marlborough, New Hampshire
Through Birches Old Meeting House Site
Marlborough NH (2)

This week, I want to take you to another of my favorite locations in the Monadnock region, but this time it is actually a twelve mile stretch of what I think is one of the prettiest roads around our iconic Mount Monadnock. I don't believe there is a stretch of road in this corner of New Hampshire that can match the concentration of classic New England scenes that can be found along the 12 miles of Route 124 from Marlborough to Jaffrey.
Route 124 Treasure Map
Locations Numbered on the Map
Mt. Monadnock's dramatic profile is the major attraction along the route, but the road is rich in classic historic New England architecture and pristine farmland.

Mount Monadnock Perkins Pond, East Hill Farm, Troy, New Hampshire
Monadnock Across Perkins Pond
East Hill Farm Troy NH (4)
(Not a public view)


Mount Monadnock,  East Hill Farm, Troy, New Hampshire
Last Cow Returns to the Barn East Hill Farm
Troy, NH (4)

The difference this week is that my travelogue about Route 124 is not here, but can be found on the New Hampshire Photography Guild blog. I have recently had the honor of being accepted into the Guild which is a small group of talented photographers who are dedicated to promoting the
Shridan's pasture, Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey New Hampshire, spring, apple blosoms
Sheridan's Pasture In Bloom
Jaffrey, NH (7)

special beauty of New England and presenting that beauty photographically in ways only artists who are part of New England can do. The members of the Guild come from all over the region and have a wide variety of photographic interests, but they all share a commitment to communication. Not surprisingly, the strongest feature of Guild's web site is the weekly blog about photography in New England.

Shridan's pasture,Jaffrey New Hampshire, spring, apple blosoms
Sheridan's Spring  Jaffrey NH (7)

Jaffrey Center Meeting House, Old Burying Ground,  New Hampshire
Jaffrey Meeting House Spire (9)
This is my turn to contribute and since I am the only member from the Monadnock region, I couldn't think of a better way to introduce myself and my region than by featuring one of the best roads that can be explored to appreciate our signature landmark, Mount Monadnock, the "Mountain that Stands Alone".


Old Burying Ground Jaffrey Center NH (9)

My article is titled, unashamedly, Mount Monadnock's Most Photogenic Road, and while you are there check out the long list of fascinating contributions from other Guild members.

pasture to Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey, New Hampshire

The number of images I could use on this post was limited so Guild member Liz Mackney suggested that I should use my personal blog to show a few more angles on this great route.   You can also see more images on my Route 124 Flickr Set.  I have been exploring Route 124 for years. It is one of my favorite "Go To" places and it never disappoints. So check out the article, but more importantly, check out the road. I can't wait to find out what new perspectives you discover along the way.

Jaffrey Civic Center Gallery (11)
My April 2011 Show

Back to : Mount Monadnock's Most Photogenic Road

New England Photography Guild Link
New England Photography Guild

Jeffrey Newcomer