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, July 30, 2012

Whaleback Light

 Searching for an Eddington Moment

Einstein and Eddington

On May 29, 1919, Arthur Eddington was watching a rainy, cloud filled sky on the remote island of Principe off the west coast of Africa.  He had come from England to observe the solar eclipse
Arthur Eddington
hoping to confirm or refute Albert Einstein's controversial theory of relativity. It was no small matter that, just after the carnage of the First World War, it was an Englishman who had set out to test a German theoretical physicist's theory, which, if confirmed, would overthrow the god of English science Sir Isaac Newton.  Einstein's theory predicted that light passing by a massive object like the sun, would be noticeably deflected, but the only time to measure such an effect would be when the sun's brilliance was blocked by a solar eclipse. Eddington had planned carefully for the experiment and had traveled more than 3500 miles to be in the right spot at the right time. Despite all the preparation, the observation almost never happened, as the obscuring clouds parted only briefly during the period of totality. The result was that Einstein was confirmed and most of the rest of the world was left hopelessly confused and nostalgic for the simple days of Sir Isaac. Eddington had the luck that all photographers lust for, but even such a profoundly religious man was enough of a scientist not to depend entirely on providence. He sent a second expedition to Brazil as a hedge against bad weather.

This is all a round-about way to bemoan the fact that I had no hedge against bad weather this weekend and despite all my careful planning the sky did not open at just the right moment as I tried to catch Whaleback Light against the rising sun. Since I live about 90 miles from Atlantic coast in the beautiful southwest corner of New Hampshire, I treasure every opportunity to make it to the ocean. I don't have the luxury of returning time and again until the conditions are right. I have to make the best of what nature gives me, truthfully that is a major part of the fun. 

The Rye Weekend
Every summer our good friends Tom and Paula become even better

Whaleback Lighthouse, Portsmouth Harbor
friends when they rent a cottage on the New Hampshire coast at Rye Beach. It is a great excuse to spend a weekend by the water, to eat and drink, and to sit watching the various sizes and shapes of humanity strolling along the beach. Of course I also have to photograph and this year I had a plan. Whaleback Lighthouse at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor is a classic and I wanted to try to capture the sun rising behind the tower.  Before leaving for Rye, I went to my favorite program, The Photographer's Ephemeris, and discovered that the sun could be seen rising behind the lighthouse, at 5:30 Sunday morning , from a spot on the beach at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye. I was able to find the exact location on the beach and determined
that Whaleback had to be at 63 degrees from my vantage point to be perfectly aligned. Knowing that I would be crossing the park in the dark, Tom and I scouted the location Saturday afternoon. The park is a lovely wooded oasis away from the bustle of the beaches and is crisscrossed with a web of secluded trails. Once on the beach, I was able to find the spot which placed the lighthouse at 63 degrees. Since I would be returning in the dark the next morning I built a small stone cairn to mark the location. Like Eddington, after the preparations, I could do nothing but wait for the weather.  Unlike Eddington, I could return to the cottage on the beach for a wonderful dinner and too much wine.

Tom Scouting the site
Carin Building
Photo by Tom Dustin



 You Have Fewer Friends at 4:30 in the Morning
Odiorne Point State Park, Rye NH
Less spooky in daylight
When I arrived at the park the next morning there were just a few small , hopeful, breaks in the clouds. I worked my way along the dark trails, guided by the narrow column of my headlamp. It was a bit spooky, but I figured that it was unlikely that potential muggers would decide to seek their prey from the Poison Ivy along a lonely wooded trail at 4:30 in the morning.  By the time I reached my spot on the beach the sky was completely overcast. I setup my tripod and, accompanied only by the mosquitoes, settled in to await the miracle. Sadly there was no Eddington moment.  5:30 came and went without a trace of morning gold. Once it was clear I was not going to get the perfect sunrise, I settled in to work the site for whatever I could get. 

Making Do
The cool blue light had its own attraction and the rocky shore

Odiorne Point Shore
provided some nice framing opportunities on the lighthouse, but the low light imposed its own challenges. For the lobster boat image, I framed the lighthouse through the rocks, locked down my tripod, and then took several exposures focusing on each of the foreground, middle rocks and the lighthouse (focus stacking). It was helpful to use Live View to nail the focus in the dim light and the long exposures created a nice soft appearance to the rolling waves. Then, keeping the camera in position, I waited for a boat to come by and added the final piece of puzzle. I had to boost the ISO up to 3200 for this image to freeze the moving boat, but in the end the composite brought it all together for the best representation of the lovely scene.

I spent two hours on that peaceful beach and, although I was disappointed about the lack of a spectacular sunrise, the quiet solitude was well worth the trip. I knew that, behind those clouds, the sun was rising and that it would be there for me on another day. Despite the best planning nature doesn't always cooperate, but photography would loose its excitement and challenge if every shoot was an Eddington moment. 

Angry sky over Rye Beach New Hampshire
A nice oppoertunity for a little HDR

Jeffrey Newcomer


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