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, June 8, 2014

Noone Falls and My Sad Camera Bag

Contoocook River Below Noone Falls
 YET Another Cautionary Tale, With a Bonus

Here is a quick cautionary tale. It seems that at least half of my blog articles follow a cautionary theme. I am perpetually telling you what not to do by recounting the disasters that have befallen
Noone Falls with Better Flow, Peterborough, NH
me when I did that exact same thing. Cameras falling into streams,  lens ground to dust in my bag, frozen batteries, following the wrong trail and missing the sunrise or lighting my camera bag on fire at my nieces wedding. I'd like to say that these were all wonderful learning opportunities, but there MUST be better ways to learn. Perhaps I should be reading some other photographer's disaster blogs. Certainly, I have learned important lessons from all these tragic experiences, but, life being the random experience that is, sometimes past lessons open fresh opportunities to screw up in wholly new and creative ways.

Noone Falls
Last week I was in Peterborough delivering a picture to a client.
Contoocook River Reservoir
While I was in the neighborhood, I decided to check out Noone Falls off of Rt 202 along the Contoocook River. The old mill falls drains the Contoocook River Reservoir across a broad drop, but on this day, the main falls were dry with the water all shunted through a slues-way along the side. Happily the flow was strong and the cascades below the falls were promising. I settled in to find the best views along the rough, over grown banks and here is where my hard won experience paid off. As I worked my way to the best spots, I had visions of my Macro lens flipping out of my camera bag and into the steam, similar to what had happened to me a couple of years ago. As I am a cagy and experienced photographer, I took off my bag and carefully placed it beyond danger on a safe and stable spot above the bank. The river here has lots of interesting rocks and eddies and the passing clouds allowed prolonged exposures to capture the soft beauty of the flow. As I worked my way upstream, I grabbed some nice shots and then quickly circled back to the car to head home. It was getting late and I wanted to have time to do my necessary tortures at the Keene YMCA, before we joined friends for a pot luck supper to celebrate Susan's ..... birthday.

Contoocook River Through the Shoot

As I got out of the car at the Y, I grabbed for my gym bag and suddenly realized that I would not be punishing myself on the weights that day. The "cagy, experienced photographer" had left his photo bag in its very secure location on the side of the Contoocook River 25 miles away. I took such great precautions to protect my bag that I had completely forgotten it. Horrified, I did a quick mental inventory; Macro Lens, Filters, extra battery ,memory cards, graduated and variable ND filters, somewhat ratty cable release, and of course one partially incinerated, but much beloved camera bag. There was no choice. I leaped back into the car and hurtled back to Peterborough, reassuring myself all the way that the chance of someone finding and absconding with my bag of random stuff was very low. But that thought didn't reduce my anxiety.
and it didn't help to realize that, if I lost everything, I would have the makings of yet another sadly cautionary blog article.


As I pulled into the parking lot and rushed toward the river I knew I had no right to expect a joyous reunion. Against all justice the bag was still there, looking a bit hurt, but none the worst for this trial separation. I could almost hear it complaining, "First you light me on fire and now you desert me by a raging river? Is there a message here?"


Undeserved Bonus
As I sheepishly returned to the car, fate struck one more surprising blow. Along the informal path I came across a beautiful collection of Lady Slippers. These were some of the most perfect examples I had ever seen and at the peak of their unsullied pink perfection. Surprisingly I didn't notice them earlier in the day when my attention was drawn to the cascades, but on the way back to the car after retrieving my bag, my head was bowed in shame, and there they were! I placed my bag safely on the ground (really!) and was lying on the grass in an instant. I grabbed multiple, progressively focused images to allow focus stacking when I got home.  The wind was light, so I was able to align the images and get good sharpness front to back.  I also found an interesting new angle on the river from downstream. The water was churning around a projection of the bank which split the flow. Later, in post, I gave the water a bit more bite by blending in a tone-mapped layer. I found that an opacity of only 18% was enough to add the sense of the energy that I saw in the cascade. Nice shots, but my self-loathing was only partially assuaged by the photographs.

So what is the lesson from my latest screw-up? It may be that I should keep better track of the equipment and not get distracted by the beauty of the location, but I prefer to think that it is the reminder of the value of returning to a spot for a fresh look. Even when the visits are just a couple of hours apart, a fresh eye,(or head orientation) can reveal surprising new opportunities. Perhaps my bag knew all along that there was more to see along the Contoocook. Oh, and I did remember to bring that bag home this time, but the poor thing was watching my every move with practiced skepticism.

Jeffrey Newcomer


  1. Glad it worked out well in the finish. I haven't left a whole bag in the woods, but I remember when I lost my remote shutter cord. I was in Pawtuckaway shooting the hepatica. I got back home and realized. Went back the next day, retracing my steps. Well, trying to and wouldn't you believe it? I found the darn thing.

    I like the bonus lady slippers. Well seen!

    1. Thanks Kris. Glad your story came out ok as well.

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