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, February 16, 2014

Photographing a Winter Sunset

Chasing the Last Cold Light
As we in New England have been struggling through this year’s bone chilling winter, it is nice to recognize the first tentative promise of the coming spring, the days are getting longer.  In the depths of winter, I typically go to work and return home in the dark.  Even with the sparkling crisp winter days and the warm glow of our wood stove at night,  it is hard to escape at least a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder depression.  But then, usually sometime in February, it suddenly hits me.  I’m heading home and there is still light in the sky.  It may be 10 below, but that sudden revelation fills me with an invigorating sense of hope.

Spring is Coming

Steeple Light, Westmoreland, NH
It was earlier this week that the revelation struck.  I was heading
from Keene, New Hampshire to my home in Spofford and I suddenly became aware of the beautiful evening light playing against the snow.  Actual warm sunlight!  I called Susan to warn that I might be a little late for supper, and then the only question was where should I go to chase the light.  I decided to head north.

I headed north from Westmoreland to Walpole New Hampshire generally along Route 63.  The images here where all (except one) captured as
Westmoreland to Walpole
the sun dropped below the horizon, over a period of about forty minutes, covering just eight miles, last Tuesday evening. Winter sunsets have a different quality than those during the warmer months.  Perhaps it has something to do with the clearer air or ice crystals diffusing the light as then float weightless in the sky.  I suspect that the glow from the snow cover affects the drama above, but the winter white certainly helps to strengthen the appearance of the foreground as it reflects the colors from above.

On this evening my first question was whether to find a dramatic spot and sit still as the light changed or to keep moving looking for various locations that might work with the evolving glow.  I decided to hit the road.  It is amazing how quickly the mood changes as the sun dips toward and then below the horizon.  Moment to moment the light provided different opportunities and challenges.  It helped that I knew this route extremely well and could anticipate how the illumination would compliment the lovely rural countryside.

 Gizmo's World

My first stop was at a favorite farm in Westmoreland on the Old Westmoreland Road just outside of Spofford.  Of course, if you
Gizmo's World
were going from Westmoreland to Spofford, you would call it the “Old Spofford Road”.  The sun was still above the horizon casting a warm glow on the snow in the pasture.  Gizmo, the farm’s prize bull, was warming himself in the evening light.  Yes the bull’s name is Gizmo, and I’m sure he finds that name endlessly annoying.  Regardless, he is a powerfully proud animal who seemed quite content to pose for the shivering photographer.

Park Hill Light

Park Hill Meeting House, Not at Sunset
My next goal was to reach Westmoreland’s Park Hill before the warm light faded from the buildings.  Park Hill is a lovely collection of classic houses arranged around one of the most beautiful white churches in New England.  It is just west of Westmoreland’s main village, but it is really a place unto itself.  The church, which stands on a small hill above village, has been the subject of many of my photographs, but on this evening the direct sunlight was fading fast and was best seen complimenting the red bricks of a house at the edge of the green.  The glow quickly slipped away, but while it lasted it seemed warm enough to cut with a knife.  And then it was gone, but I kept moving to enjoy the afterglow of the developing “Blue Hour”.

The Blue Hour
 The Blue Hour is the 45 - 60 minutes after sunset when the sky retains a cool blue tone before all descends to black.  I found a spot
on a hill that allowed me to contrast the deep blue with the sunset reds and gold reflected off the clouds on the horizon. I especially liked the detail of the farm house and the tangle of tree branches that dominated shadowy foreground.  Just a few minutes later, and from the same location, the sunset glow could only be seen in the reflections off the windows across the cow pasture.

Orchard's Last Light

In order to get one last shot at the fleeing light, I went to the hilltop
Alyson's Orchard, Walpole, NH
of Alyson's Orchard in Walpole.  From this high vantage point, there was just enough light in the sky to illuminate the ranks of apple trees.  It was interesting to see how the chaotically pruned branches contrasted with the careful linear order of the orchard rows.  The hill was lovely, clear and cold, but the light was nearly gone and I was ready for the warmth of our wood stove heated kitchen.  Of course I was also excited to see what magic I had captured on my innocent appearing CF card.


People often say that photography is about the light, almost as if "the light" was one thing.  Of course, we all know that light is always changing and that is what makes photography so endlessly fascinating.  The surprising variety of colors and moods in the sky over the short duration of a winter sunset is a magnificent example of this restless of quality of light and it is a privilege to be able catch even a small taste of that wonder.  And yes, I have seen the light, and can assure that spring IS coming.

Jeffrey Newcomer

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