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, October 28, 2012

Photographing all of the New England Autumn

Keene Pumpkin Festival 2012, Disappearing Crowd, Long Exposure

 Don't Let the Leaves Get in the Way

Beginning in mid September through the early portions of November the New England climate goes through its most rapid transformation. It is our brief Mardi Gras before the long dark Lent of winter hibernation. The air becomes cool and crisp with cold nights often contrasting with surprising warm and sunny days still clinging to summer. The whole effect is to make us more aware and appreciative of our changing environment. New Englanders get
Forest Harvest
uncomfortable if the weather stays perfect for too long. It is the contrasts that keep us bright and energized. We are always excited about the first chilly nights that gives us an excuse to fire up the wood stove in the kitchen. For photographers, autumn in New England is a time of breathless pursuit of the spectacular colors that burn across our hills and valleys. It all goes so quickly that I find myself feeling guilty if I miss a moment of the amazing show, but the New England Autumn is about much more than the crazy brilliance of our trees. Visitors and natives alike miss most of the best features of the New England autumn by focusing only on the foliage. The season is also defined by the activities that are unique to our harvest time, the sounds and smells as well as the sites of this dramatic, fleeting time of climatic transition. Most of all, the fall is a time to enjoy the people of New England. We are often a quiet, guarded lot, but something about the nip in the air, and the impending winter, can bring out personal interactions that are, almost, cordial.

As photographers, it is our challenge to somehow capture all of this remarkable season into our visual medium. Let me suggest a few places to look for the a broader sense of the New England Autumn. 

Take a Hike

New Trail from Chesterfield to Keene, NH
First get out of your car and experience the trees on a personal level. You can even hung a Sugar Maple, if no one is looking. As the morning frosts sweep the pesky summer insects from the air, hikes in the forest become much more relaxed and enjoyable. It is the best time of the year to explore and photograph our trails. From within the forest the photographic perspective is much more about individual trees or small clusters, a viewpoint that I find much more interesting than when the color is smeared across broad hillsides. Also, the leaf covered trails provide strong compositional elements to draw the eye into the scenes. It is easy to find trail information and maps on the Internet or you can ask for suggestions at the ubiquitous local General Stores. If you are in my town of Chesterfield, New Hampshire, you can come to our Conservation Commission web site to the discover the mile of trails that we struggle to maintain. When you have finished your hike you will be ready for the next attraction, food. 


Petes Stand, Walpole, NH
Autumn is also harvest time in New England and the many festivals, farmer's markets and road-side farm stands provide great photographic opportunities as well as wonderful produce. I often take advantage of overcast days to capture the varied colors and patterns found in the markets of our area. Soft diffused illumination allows the colors of the fruits and vegetables to shine through, without being washed away by bright reflected light. I look for interesting arrangements of produce to place in the foreground while guarding against distracting background elements. My fast macro lens is especially helpful to keep the background muted in a soft bokeh, while focusing in on the interesting detail. The attraction of farmer's markets is as much about the people as the produce. These folks are justifiably proud of what they have drawn from the earth and it shows in their faces. Some of my favorite market photographs are those that highlight the character and strength of local farmers. 

Maple Death
Nila's Pride

Dozens of Chutney Flavors

Harvest Festivals

Morning Glow, No People!
Of all the regional harvest festivals, none can compare to the Annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene, New Hampshire. The attraction of the Festival is not just the incredible number of lit pumpkins (29,381 last weekend), but it is all those Pumpkins in a perfectly classic New England setting. The combination makes our festival a uniquely wonderful
 harvest celebration. The crowds can be daunting, but there is nothing to compare with an entire New England Main Street smelling like Pumpkin Pie. To avoid the mobs I always go downtown early in
Scaffold at Dusk
 the morning. There is almost no one there between seven and eight AM and, although the candles are not lit, the Pumpkins are often illuminated by the warm morning sun. The best time to capture the massive
Central Square Pumpkin Scaffold is at dusk when there is still a hint of light to provide a deep blue background to the complimentary orange and gold. The trick is to avoid the crowd by getting your camera as high as it will go on the tripod, while monitoring the distracted multitude as they attempt to stumble over the tripod legs. The scaffold is impressive, but don't miss shots of individual Pumpkins or small groups. Given the mass of people in the evening, you could wait for hours to get a clear shot at an attractive composition, but the crowd can be reduced by taking long exposures making passersby magically disappear. 

As October draws to a close and the last leaves surrender to the inevitable, we photographers get to extend the season as we work our way through the piles of autumn images waiting to be processed. The color was good this year, but I find that it is the other attractions of harvest time in New England, the soft light, the rich smells and the wonderful people, that linger to warm the long dark winter.

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