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.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Everything New England in One Place

Green River, Guilford, Vermont
Despite years of exploring the New England landscape, I am still surprised by the rich variety of photographic opportunities.  There is always something new that I had never seen before.  I know that the new stuff was always their, but the "seeing" part takes time, with differing seasons and the constantly evolving light.

Green River Timber Crib Dam and Falls
  As much as I search for new scenes and perspectives, there are a few iconic New England subjects that are too classic to ever grow old and they always seem to pop up in my photography.  For me, a partial list of these icons would have to include: waterfalls, covered bridges, white churches, babbling brooks, red barns and inviting country inns.  Wonderful examples of all of these classics are liberally scattered throughout New England, but I know of one place where they can all be seen in one place and without even shuffling your feet. That magical place is Green River in Guilford, Vermont.

The Green River tumbles its way through Guilford in the southeast corner of Vermont.  About 2.5 miles southwest of Guilford Center,  the Jacksonville Stage Road crosses the river on a classic old covered bridge.  The bridge is the focal point of Green River Village, which is quintessential New England.  I try not to use the word “quintessential” more than once or twice a year, but Green River combines all the iconic New England elements in a lovely, undeveloped setting, what other word could I use ?

From one spot overlooking the bridge you can absorb the beauty of the 1838 Green River Church, the Green River Bridge House B&B, a lovely red barn on the hill, and the Green River Falls as it tumbles over an unusual timber crib dam.  Both the bridge and the dam are on the  National Registry of Historic Sites. . And did I mention that all the roads are dirt, not a single yellow line to spoil the mood.  the village is much more than a collection of individual attractions, but each deserves a brief mention.

Green River Covered Bridge
The Green River Bridge was built in 1873 and is 104 feet long.  For more than a century the bridge has been a key part of the little community.  In the past, the village mailboxes lined the walls. They're gone now, but there is still a nice view of the falls through the trusses, and it is still a great place to steal a kiss from your honey without all the neighbors knowing.  A sign above the bridge warns that you will risk a two dollar fine if you cross faster than a walk, but don't worry, everything about Green River says "slow down and relax".

Green River Timber Crib Dam and Falls
Timber Crib Dam
The recently restored timber crib dam is a fascinatingly intricate structure.  The wooden beams can be studied through the cascading water, but there is also a place where you can pass through the falls to stand behind the tumbling water.  The falls and the pool beneath provides a lovely spot to escape the summer heat.

Under the Falls

Green River Bridge House

Green River Bridge House
The Green River Bridge is a lovely B&B.  Built in 1830, the house has always been an  integral part of the village, including having housed the local post office.   The House offers three uniquely decorated guest rooms, which complement the warm and friendly atmosphere.  The grounds parallel the Green River providing unique perspective on the bridge, just up stream.


There Must be a Red Barn

The Red Barn
Beyond the bridge and just up a hill is a lovely farm house and our necessary roadside red barn.


Green River Church

Green River Church
Of course the scene would be incomplete without a village church.  Built in 1838,  The Green River Church is a classic New England house of worship, strong, sparse and relentlessly white.  It sits on a small hill overlooking and  tirelessly  guarding the village.

It is unique to find all these New England icons clustered in one small area, but what is truly remarkable is how they all work together.  The place is a compositional playground for photographers, with endless opportunities to combine the features into perfectly balanced images that scream "New England".  No matter how many times I return to Green River, I always find new ways to mix the changing seasons, the light and the icons to capture everything from grand landscapes to fascinating details.  Come by and check it out.  It is not easy to find, but well worth a wander off the beaten path.

To reach Green River take exit 1 off of I 91 in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Travel about 1.4 miles south on US5 to Guilford then take the right toward Guilford Center for about 4.1 miles to the little Center.  Shortly after the "Center" take a right on Stage Road.  Travel 2.4 miles to the bridge.

When you finally acknowledge that you are lost, try the GPS Coordinates:
Latitude.        N 42 46.532
Longitude      W 72 40.015

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Photoshop Photography Program

Lower Doane's Falls, Royalston, Massachusetts

Such a Deal
Like many Photoshop fans, Adobe's announcement this spring of the Creative Cloud was annoying and disconcerting. Since Photoshop has been an essential part of my creative workflow, I have been upgrading my versions of the program since Photoshop 5. I have always felt that keeping up to date was part of the routine cost of doing business. What price do you put on magic that keeps getting more magical every year.

Subscription Shock
Adobe's switch to a subscription model was a shock. We were told that former users of the program could subscribe to Photoshop CC for the first year at a monthly rate of $9.95. Not too painful, but after the first year the cost would go up to the regular, one

Standard One Application "Deal"
application, price of 19.99. At $240/ year, things were getting pricey and then there was the problem that if I canceled the subscription, I would have nothing but my, increasingly obsolete, last purchased version, CS 6. It seemed like Adobe was attempting to enslave us to be part of their guaranteed cash flow. I felt trapped and betrayed by an old friend. I had just bought Lightroom 5, primarily for the data base, but I was considering using that as my RAW editor and my CS6 whenever I wanted to push pixels. After much agonizing, I finally decided to go with Photoshop CC for the first year and then decide if it was worth paying the price to continue.

The Uproar
There were legions of loyal customers out there in the same dilemma and Adobe heard the screams. We are all willing to pay for powerful tools to perfect our images, but we don't want to feel abused and taken for granite. To their credit Adobe listened and, recognizing the special needs of photographers, came up with a much more reasonable deal.

The Photographers Creative Cloud
In early September, the Photoshop Photography Program was 
announced. It not only includes Photoshop CC, but also Lightroom 5, 20 GB of cloud storage, a Behance ProSite, and ongoing upgrades and updates,  all for $9.99/month. That is what I was paying for Photoshop CC alone and is cheaper than what It used to cost to purchase the regular updates of these programs. Seems to be a no-brainer, but there must be a catch.

There is Always a Catch
The first catch is that the program is only available to those with a registered copy of Photoshop CS3 or later and you must "join the
cloud" by December 31, 2013 The 
Lightroom 5
Plan requires an annual commitment with monthly billing. There is no automatic doubling of the cost after the first year, but the fine print makes it clear that Adobe reserves the right to increase the price after that. In my chats with the folks at Adobe Support, I was told that there is no current plan for an increase, but who knows. I find it difficult to believe that Adobe would create this program only to enrage everyone again after the first year, but at some point, it is inevitable that the price will increase. Of course Adobe will always have the power to adjust the price of their products, but for the time being, I prefer to believe that this a good faith effort to meet the needs of their loyal customers. For years Photoshop has held a unique position in the market, but there are lots of competitors out there who would love to scoop up flocks of disgruntled photographers. Photographers have a low threshold for "disguntaltude".  It is now a word - feel free to use it!

Biting the Bullet
So last week I finally made the switch to the Photographer's Plan. It
was a bit confusing for the Adobe folks since I had to cancel myPhotoshop CC subscription and then sign up for the new plan, 
Photoshop CC
but everything seems to be working fine. I updated my Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC and now all I have to do is wait to see if I get charged twice. For me it seems like a good deal, especially as I have altered my workflow to use Lightroom 5 as my importer and RAW developer. I will talk another time about how excited I am to finally get into Lightroom, but who else should snap up this deal from Adobe.

The Photographer Plan seems made for those of us who update Photoshop regularly. This appears especially true for those who use
Lightroom as well, but for Photographers who rely on Photoshop
Upper Doane's Falls
alone, it is great chance to try this powerful image management software. Who knows what other deals Adobe might eventually offer, but, at least for now, if you don't have a licensed copy of CS3 or later, or if you miss the December 31st deadline, your photoshop updates will come through the cloud at the $240 per year price. For now Adobe is planning to continue to sell and update licensed copies of Lightroom. Many people are happy using Lightroom for photo management and editing, but Lightroom alone will not qualify you for the Photographer's Plan.

Overall I think photographers have been happy with Adobe's special deal. It give us what we need without charging for a lot we don't. I can live with it at least until the next announcement from my Adobe overlords.  I would love to hear what you think of this new offering.

For more info:

Photoshop Photography Program

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, October 14, 2013

Camden and the Middle Coast of Maine

Marshall Point Light
A Couple of Days Exploring the Maine Coast

The only thing that I really regret about living in the Monadnock Region is the lack of easily accessible ocean.  Whenever I return to the coast I find fresh subjects to invigorate my photographic eye.  The Camden area, in  Maine’s middle coast, is a great region for finding new perspectives on New England's Atlantic edge.

While growing up, my parents kept a small boat on Rocky Neck in Gloucester, Massachusetts and I spent all my summers cruising around the harbor in my little 8 foot tender with its sputtering thre horsepower motor.  Every summer we took a long cruise of 3-6 weeks exploring the New England coast.  Most often we headed south to the Cape and Elizabeth Islands, but occasionally we would turn north to the Maine Coast which was an entirely different experience.  

I love whenever I get the opportunity to return to the ocean and especially to the Maine coast.  It is a different kind of photography, with subjects laid out against the distant, rod straight, blue horizon, the detail of the fishing and lobstering industry, and the light, which has a sharper quality unfiltered by hills and trees.  I know, light is light, but there is a difference which is felt more than seen.  And of course, there are the lighthouses which have an irresistible attraction.


Early this week Sue and I got away for a few days to the mid Maine Coast around Camden.  We stayed at a friend's house, high on a mountain in Lincolnville, just inland from Camden Harbor.  The weather was variable, with fog and rain the first day, slowly clearing over the rest of our stay.  The variable conditions gave me the chance to photograph the coast and the early fall colors in a wide range of moods.  

Evening Fog Devenseller Mt,
Lincolnville, Me

Fog is Great!  Rain, Not So Much
Our first day was largely a rain-out with the drizzle only broken by periodic
downpours.  As I was shooting the Lobster boats at Lincolnville Beach, I was drenched by a sudden downpour even though I was only feet from the car.  Thank goodness I had a towel over my camera.  I tend to dry out better than the equipment.  We spent of the day exploring the coast north of Camden including the quaint seaside village of Bayside.  We spent the night in the wind, and fog at our friends snug mountainside retreat.

Lincolnville Storm.  Before the Deluge

Lincolnville Beach
The forecast looked better for the next day and I returned to

Lincolnville Fleet
Lincolnville Beach to try for a sunrise.  The beach has a good view to the east and the Photographer's Ephemeris showed that I could catch the lobster boats and pier against the rising sun.  Unfortunately the clouds from the departing storm still obscured the eastern horizon, but with some diffused light coming through I was able to catch the boats in harbor before they headed out to their traps.  There was actually more interest along the shore.  The mud flats were exposed by the low tide revealing interesting patterns in the rocks, and I was also able to slowly approach a heron who was preoccupied with fishing in the shallow tidal waters.  I made the best of the conditions then headed south to Camden Harbor.

Tidal Flat Fisher


Camden Anchors
The morning sun had broken above the clouds by the time I reached Camden.  Camden is a classic Maine harbor noted for its beautiful stately schooner fleet and the hordes of tourists who clog the streets and docks, but in the early morning the warm light and quiet make it a magical place.     The tall ships provide great opportunities to catch nautical detail as
Camden Forest
well as grand views through the forest of soaring masts.  Camden's schooner fleet is available for cruises of varying duration.  On previous visits we have enjoyed a sunset cruise on the Appledore and, one summer, Susan and I  spent a week exploring Penobscot Bay on the Grace Bailey. The magic couldn’t last forever and as the crowds began to gather I headed home for breakfast.

Sunset Helm, Schooner Appledore
Camden Skiff


Bald Mountain
Camden is surrounded by dramatic hills, most famously, Mount Battie which looms over the harbor and is accessible by trails and an auto road.   The view is spectacular, but the summit is often crowded.  On this trip we escaped the mob and climbed Bald Mountain. The mountain is a few miles inland from Camden, but at 1260 feet, its bare summit provides an excellent panoramic view of the coast including Camden and Rockport. The trail is a bit rugged, but quickly breaks above tree line, providing frequent stopping points with excellent vistas. And without an auto road the summit was peaceful and quiet.

Camden Harbor From Bald Mountain

Port Clyde and Marshall Point Light
In the evening I decided to head south to Port Clyde and the classic

Port Clyde Traps
Marshall Point Lighthouse.  Port Clyde is a working fishing village with great collections of lobster traps, buoys and lines, which seem to be arranged solely for the benefit of passing photographers.  I visited Port Clyde several years ago as part of a wonderful Maine Media workshop with David Middleton, and the place has not changed. After collecting my share of authentic lobstering images, I headed down the road to catch the sunset at Marshall Point Light.  The lighthouse was built in 1857 and is famous for the sturdy keeper’s house (circa 1885) and the walkway leading to the light itself.  All this provided interesting photographic perspectives which continuously evolved as the sun settled below the horizon.  Perhaps most interesting was the opportunity to chat with the other photographers who had traveled to capture the magic.   One gentleman from New York joined me in
Marshall Point Frame
an elaborate dance of moving tripods, trying not to block each other’s shots while simultaneously calculating how to steal the best angles.  While we restlessly roamed about, a photographer from Germany stayed fixed to one spot on the keeper's house porch, periodically capturing bursts of images for HDR.  He was waiting for the perfect light.  Happily there was plenty of perfect light to go around and I hope he found his.  He was still there as the light faded through the blue hour and I had to reluctantly retreat to make a reservation for dinner with friends in Rockland.  It had been a long day and I had my priorities.

We worked our way back home the next day.  The weather and our

Curtis Island Light
limited time allowed us to sample only a small part of the beauty of this lovely piece of the Maine coast, but it was a fantastic escape.  Throughout Susan was reasonably patient with my photographic
stops and side trips.  On the way out we made one last stop at a nearly hidden vista that provided an angle on the Curtis Island Lighthouse.  The light guards Camden's outer harbor, but it is usually best seen from the sea.  This spot off the coast road revealed the lighthouse in the late morning light, but the best part was that on the short path to the viewpoint Susan actually carried my tripod!  It must have been the magic of the coast.  I have to get back soon.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Simple Gear to Improve Your Photography

Pemaquid Light
 Sue and I are getting ready to head off to Camden Maine for a few days at the beginning of next week.  Hopefully we will catch some nice color, but as a result, this week’s blog will be a short equipment recommendation.  It great to talk about the latest cameras or big lens’, but some of the most important gear are not the most expensive, but things that fit, almost invisibly, into your everyday process.  For me one of those simple but essential pieces of equipment, which I use on every shot, is my L Bracket.

Gearing up at the Maine Media Workshop

Marshall Point Light
Back several years ago I took a wonderful workshop at the Maine Media Workshops with Vermont landscape photographer David Middleton.  Early fall was a perfect time to explore the Maine coast with a small group of enthusiastic photographers.  I had been attracted to David’s workshop after reading his book on photography in Vermont.  It was a helpful guide but what really interested me was David’s no sense approach to photography.   Over the course of a week we had a wonderful and exhausting time shooting the coastal icons including Marshal Point Light, Rockport Harbor, Stonington, and   Pemaquid Light.  I had a great time and caught some wonderful shots, but the most long-lasting part of the workshop came at the end.  It was just a wrinkled piece of paper.

Throughout the week David gently critiqued, both our
photographic technique, and our equipment.  He kept coming up with recommendations about how I could up-grade my kit.  Among other things, he suggested a new, sturdier tripod and ball
David Middleton hard at work
head, a set of variable neutral density filters and an L-Bracket.  It was a substantial list and I told David that I would need a note for my wife justifying the purchase of this essential equipment.  And he came through.  On a crumpled piece of paper he scribbled the list of gear along with his assurance that the acquisition of these items would make me a more proficient and satisfied photographer and therefore a much more pleasant spouse.  Surprisingly Susan went for it and didn’t crumble as I gleefully went on a  B&H shopping spree.  Off all the equipment that David recommended the L-Bracket probably had the most significant impact on my day-to-day photography.


The L-Bracket
Simply stated an L-bracket looks like a roll cage added to the outside of your camera.  It allows the camera to be quickly attached to a tripod in either the horizontal or vertical position and makes switching from one orientation to the other a very simple and fluid procedure.


Walpole Town Hall Color, Landscape

Portrait Orientation
The L-bracket has a number of important advantages over a fixed attachment to a tripod.  After taking shots in the horizontal (or landscape) position, I often want to grab the same scene in the vertical (portrait) mode.  With the camera fixed to the plate, I have to flip the body over to the side of the tripod.  The result is that the framing changes as the camera moves
Miss Aligned
& Unbalanced
down and to the side of its original position making recomposing necessary.  Additionally, with the camera hanging off to the side, the tripod becomes less stable and more subject to accident and vibration.  With the L-bracket, the camera stays centered stably over the tripod legs and the framing of the image is not altered.  The difference is especially noticeable when photographing subjects which are close to the camera.  You will be surprised what a difference this makes in capturing the exact composition that you want. 


L-Bracket Aligned & Stable

The L-bracket also provides some protection to the camera. This is an unintended benefit and the bracket doesn't cover the entire body, but this "roll-cage" has saved me a few times from drop-related damage.  Besides it  looks cool.


Engulfed, Portrait
L-brackets are available for a range of cameras.  They are generally custom designed for each body to allow access to all the important
buttons and connectors.  Arc-Swiss is the most common connector and you must have a head which takes this system, but older tripods can usually be adapted for this connector.  L-brackets are widely available.  Mine came from Kirk photo, but really Right Stuff is also a reliable source.  Depending on the camera they range in price from $125-nearly $200.  It may seem like a lot of money for a piece of metal, but it is well worth the expense.   This is something you will use on every shot, so don't skimp on the quality. I typically order my L-Bracket at the same time that I order a new camera. 

Bracket Custom Cut for Connectors

If you don't have one already I would strongly suggest that you consider getting an L-Bracket for your camera.  You will find it makes a simple but persistent improvement in your work.

Really Right Stuff has a nice video which demonstrates the use and benefits of L-brackets.

 Jeff Newcomer