About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had 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 blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Vermont Country Store

The Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find

Last Sunday, when Susan perfunctorily asked if I wanted to come with her to the Vermont Country Store, I knew that she expected me to run away. A shopping trip? And with the Patriots playing the despised New York Jets? She was more than a little surprised when I enthusiastically said yes. I hadn't visited this uniquely New England store in a few years and I knew that in addition to being "The Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find", it would also be a colorful treasure trove of photographic opportunities. And of course a topic for a blog article.

The Vermont Country Store opened in 1946 when long time Vermonters Vrest and Mildred Ellen Orton supplemented their Christmas Card list with a small, hand-printed catalogue of "36 Items You Can Buy Now". Since that most modest of starts, the company has grown to become a New England tradition, with stores in Weston and Rockingham Vermont, and it is still run by the Orton family. The original 1946 store in Weston is the first restored general store in the country, and the same informal appearance of the bare post and beam construction and well worn wood floors is maintained in the Rockingham establishment, which was opened in 1967. A trip to either one of the stores is a reminder of the time when the local country store could be depended upon to have a little of everything. Both stores are packed with items you will remember from your youth, and thought were long gone, as well as things you couldn't imagine existed, but now seem absolutely essential. All of this is presented in an atmosphere of relaxed and friendly clutter that seems less like a store, and more like an exploration of treasures in a long neglected attic.

The Rockingham Store was, as I remembered, filled with practical New England clothing, including gloves, sweaters and scarves. I know I will find a plaid flannel vest under the tree and Jeremy will get a pare of gloves with finger pads compatible with his iPhone, not everything is an antique. Around one corner I found an eclectic collection of kitchen utensils and elsewhere shelves of children's books and classic toys. And of course there is the food. In addition to a wide variety of local cheeses, crackers, jams and sauces, there is a sea of jars containing all the penny candy that you recall from your childhood. I could go on, and on, but more importantly all this riot of color, pattern and novelty creates a wonderful playground for the photographer

Deane is in Charge

A Photographic Exploration
My first job upon entering the store was to find a friendly appearing clerk to ask permission to shoot in the store. Easy, everyone is friendly and there was no problem with photography. I didn't expect any difficulty, but asking gave me the chance to meet the manager and learn more about the store's history. Of course it also allowed me drop off one of my calendars. Maybe next year?

Photography in the store offered some special challenges. First, the general illumination was spotty and often rather dim. Of course the soft light is an important part of the store's charm and I didn't want to disturb customers with flash or a clumsy tripod, so a fast lens and high ISO was required. Given the close quarters, my f2.8 16-35 mm seemed the perfect choice. The other major challenge was avoiding knocking over the precariously displayed merchandise with my camera bag. Somehow I managed. Since I always shoot in RAW, I tend not to worry about color balance and leave the camera on Auto White Balance, but in the store the lighting was consistently tungsten and going with the tungsten setting made the color adjustment easier in the editing process. More on this next week.

Establishing Shots
To tell any story you need the broad establishing shots that set the scene. Too often I get so excited about jumping into the fascinating detail that I forget these mundane, but necessary, views and, as a result, my story can lack a sense of place. At the Country Store the outside shots were easy even though the day was overcast. Inside, the broad shots were hampered by those pesky humans who seem always to be in motion. I did the best I could and then rationalized that the blur provided a sense of energy.

Composing a Store
My experience is primarily with landscape photography and I tend to bring the same sense of landscape composition to all subjects whether it is macro, portraiture, events or, in this case, a store. The basic "rules" of composition tend to work in all of these situations and thinking of the "landscape" of shelves, isles and displays is the inescapable construct of my vision. I can't believe that I wrote "construct of my vision", but you get the idea. So let's look around.

Power of the Foreground
With so much stuff in all directions, it is easy to lose the detail amongst all the clutter. I tried to focus on the detail in the foreground while keeping the sense of expansive complexity in a progressively softening background. The feeling of depth works well to communicate the size of the store.

Diagonals to Draw the Eye
I hate straight horizontal and vertical lines and I always look for strong diagonals to draw the eye and add energy to a composition. In the store the diagonals were everywhere. Rows of shelves, tables of candy and clothing and long aisles. With the wide apertures required by the dim light, I often needed to use focus stacking to capture enough depth of field.


Zoom in on the Detail
So much of the fascination of the Vermont Country Store comes from studying the detail in the endless array of antique and classic items on display. I didn't have my macro lens on hand but I found that the close focusing capability of my fast wide angle worked quite well.  On my next trip, I will carry my Macro and explore a whole new layer of interest.

Nancy's Fudge

The People Are the Store

For a great store you need great people and I found everyone at the country store to be friendly, energetic and more than a little playful. And this all on one of the busiest and hectic days of the year. I appreciated everyone's help and interest.

The Grounds
The Rockingham Store is set on 86 acres of Vermont country-side which includes a covered bridge, an old Grist Mill, the Water Wheel Museum and a Christmas Tree Farm out back.

The 1872 covered bridge was originally built in West Townsend Vermont, but, when the span became threatened by the rising waters of the Townsend Dam, it was disassembled and in 1967 the renovated bridge was moved to Its current location. It was originally named the Depot Bridge, but, in its new location, it was known as the Victorian Village Bridge and now the "Kissing Bridge". New England tradition claims that bridges were covered to protect lovers from being observed on their amorous strolls across the water. The roofs probably had more to do with protecting the structures from the brutal New England weather, but I prefer the more romantic explanation.

We had a great visit to the Vermont Country Store. In addition to the photography, I managed to stuff too many samples of cheese, jams and sweets down my throat and I snuck a "Vermont 1791" mug into Susan's shopping bag. Beginning in 1777 Vermont was an independent republic and only joined the original 13 in 1791 as the 14th state.

Whether you come to Weston or Rockingham, the Vermont Country Store is a great place to visit as you explore and photograph the beauty of rural Central Vermont.

The Vermont Country Store web site

For more images check out my
Vermont Country Store Gallery

Jeffrey Newcomer


Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Hancock Album

Hancock Village Mural, Hancock Inn

This week It is my turn to post an article on the New England Photography Guild Blog. This honor predictably rotates among the members, but I always fall into a panic when I suddenly realize that I must come up with two blogs for the week. Even after over 200 articles on my Getting it Right in the Digital Camera Blog, it is still a challenge to come up with just one topic every week. And now I need TWO! My usual approach is to try to find a single topic that can be dealt with in two different ways. This usually means picking a special location in New England, discussing its beautiful qualities in the New England Photographers a Guild Blog and then adding a supplemental album of pictures from the area in my Getting it Right in the digital Camera a Blog. These are photography blogs and I always like to make the articles about the images.  It is great to feel less constrained in the selection of the images.

Hancock NH, A New England Time Machine (NEPG Blog)

This week my twofer is about beautiful and historic Hancock New Hampshire. Hancock is located just north of Peterborough in the southern tier of New Hampshire. Although a bit out of the way, it is a active community with a busy village center, almost entirely populated with historic buildings, and with soft rolling countryside marked by lovely lakes, hills and tens of thousands of acres of conservation land. It is all very typical of our corner of New England.

Hancock was first settled in 1764 and was incorporated as a town separate from Peterborough in 1779. The town is filled with fascinating history, but I covered much of this in my NEPG Blog. So lets get to the pictures, starting with more of Hancock's quintessentially New England village center.

Town Meeting House / Congregational Church
The meeting house dates back to 1820 and features an original Paul Revere Bell from 1825:

Listen to the Ringing of the Paul Revere Bell in the Hancock Meeting House

The Hancock Inn
Since 1779 the Hancock Inn has provided New England warmth and hospitality to countless travelers and local residents. That tradition continues to this day.



Fiddleheads Cafe
Fiddleheads is a great place for a snack and especially nice place to view the work of local artists. Did I mention that I will be showing my New England photography at the Cafe from December 22 and continuing until January 19th, 2015. Just one more reason to visit:


Historic Village
Nearly all the structures in Hancock's village center are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places:


The Countryside in All Seasons



Harris Center
Struggles Along the Trail
Though its school programs, research and land preservation efforts, The Harris Center is dedicated to environmental awareness and protection. It is also a great starting point to explore the center's extensive trail hiking system.


The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. 
What? Yes Hancock's nearly 10 story tall radio telescope is part of the "Very Long Baseline Array". The VLBA includes 10 radio telescope dishes stretching 5000 miles from Hawaii to the Caribbean and is the largest continuously operating astronomical instrument in the world. In Hancock and you can drive drive right up!


Whether strolling its historic Main Street or wandering its rural back roads,  Hancock is a great place for New England photographyI'll see you out there.

Hancock Photo Album

Hancock NH, A New England Time Machine (NEPG Blog)

The Hancock Inn

Fiddleheads Cafe and Catering
The Harris Center  

The Very Long Baseline Array National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hanging In


Hancock Meeting House
This is one of those weeks when I am struggling to get two blogs ready in the same  week. Once again it is my turn to contribute an article to the New England Photography Guild Blog and of course I will also need my usual weekly "Getting It Right in the Digital Camera" article. For the guild, I'm working on an piece about one of my favorite classic New England villages, Hancock, New Hampshire, and as usual I will dedicate my personal blog to an album of additional images from Hancock that I have collected over the years. All this leaves me little time for this week's blog, so I've decided to offer a quick tip. This week it's about tools to make hanging your pictures easier and more precise, and it was triggered by a simple devise that I found at Bed Bath and Beyond, of all places, just a few days ago.

Nail-Free Hanging, Jaffrey Civic Center

The Challenge
I've have talked about the challenges of hanging images at shows as well as on the walls at home. There are new hanging systems that make this much easier, but for me, one of the biggest challenges comes when I have to pound nails into a wall and somehow try to get all the pictures to line up. I've tried various approaches usually with disappointing results. Often I will give up and purposely hang the pictures at significantly different levels to avoid the disorienting discomfort of seeing them all slightly out of alignment.

DIY Hanging
My best solution has been a simple home-made tool. I don't have the patience or skill to construct a complicated device, so this is perfect. Here are the instructions:

Get a strip of wood and put a screw through it at one end.

 That's it. It only took me three of four tries to get it right. Once I got over the fact that it contained no batteries or microchips, I found that it worked pretty well. I simply hang the picture on the screw, adjust to the desired height and then press on the screw to make a small hole where the nail will go. Except for the problem of the picture occasionally falling off the screw, this has worked rather well, but a few days ago I found something that should work even better. Still no batteries, but It has a level!

Hang and Level
Hang and Level
As I was browsing at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Keene, I saw that someone with much better engineering skills had improved on my idea. I knew it would work great because the package said, "As Seen on TV". I had to have it. The "Hang and Level" did exactly what my crummy wood slat tool did, but it had hooks to keep the picture from falling of, and, since the nails on the The back are recessed, and only poke through when pressed, the tool can be held tightly against the wall, without scratching the finish. It also offers a two hook option for heavier pictures, and it includes two levels. I already have a level in my picture hanging tool kit, but this thing was bright yellow plastic, how could I resist. It even fits in my tool box. 

The Hang and Level seems to be widely available. I found listings at Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware and on Amazon. For the sake of some free advertising, I found it at Bed Bath and Beyond and it was certainly worth the $15 price. You can check out Under the Roof Decorating's website for more information including a number of simple videos, but if the price is too steep you can always go the DIY route.  I still hate being forced to pound nails into perfectly good walls, but now I can't wait to hang a show where I can try my new, favorite tool. I'm talking to YOU, Kristin's Bakery and Cafe, I'll see you in the spring with this bad boy in hand.

Kristin's Crumbling Wall
I'd love to hear how you deal with this problem and, if you try it, how the Hang and Level works for you.

Now on to Hancock!

Jeffrey Newcomer