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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Photography Calendars

2015 Cover

Assembling the Right Stuff
I will ask forgiveness in advance for devoting this weeks blog to my experience designing my yearly New England Reflections Calendar. With the deadline for the 2015 calendar coming up next week, I have little time to think of much else. I have been publishing my calendar of New England photography to benefit the Cheshire Medical Center Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program for more than a decade and I hope my experiences will be of some interest to those who publish their own calendars or those who are considering taking on the challenge. 

Last year, and for the first time, I actually got my calendar out on a reasonable date. Our goal has been to have the thing in stores by
The Cover is Critical
the time the students return to Keene State College for the fall semester. This year it means that I need to get the files and my rough layout to the designer by July 25th. In the early years, I had to design the calendar in Microsoft Publisher and then work with the lovely people in the hospital print shop to try to get the images to look something like I had seen on the screen. The results were remarkably good considering that they were coming off of a laser printer that was intended to produce large volumes of hospital forms and not fine art images. The calendars sold well, but they were not of professional quality. 

Beginning in 2010 we made the jump to a professional printer and the differences have been amazing. Not only are the images sharper and more brilliant, but the process for me has been much easier. I now do

May, Peacham, Vt
the initial selection of images and set the rough design in Publisher, but from that point I hand off the images and layout to a designer who prepares the final files in InDesign.  The calendars come back in a couple of weeks all bound and shrink wrapped with a piece of cardboard in the middle to avoid curling. It is wonderful that I don't have to collate, punch and bind hundred of calendars. The calendars are more expensive to produce, but we get a reasonable deal from Silver Direct, Inc, a local printer who does a nice job and is a pleasure to work with. The bottom line is that we get a lovely calendar and most importantly we can still make money for the Rehab Program.

While the process is all painfully fresh in my mind, I thought it might be helpful for those considering putting together a calendar of their own work, to provide a short list of the resources I need to assemble for my yearly project and it all starts with the painful chore of selecting the images.

The Big Pictures
My first step is to assemble a collection of potential images for the large monthly calendars and , of course, for the all important cover

October, Green River, Vt
shot. The first basic criterion is that all the images must be in landscape orientation. Someday I will put together a calendar using portrait oriented images and that year I will have a ton of pictures available that I have been desperate to use.  Although what I do is called "landscape" photography, I love images which feature a wide depth of field and that, more often than not, means shooting in portrait orientation.  Knowing that the
April, Winchester, NH
calendar is coming every year reminds me of an important photographic axiom; "The best time to take a landscape oriented picture is right after you have taken the portrait oriented image". After shooting a portrait image, I always try to remember to flip my camera and look for a composition that will work in landscape mode. This not only works for the calendar but also gives me important options for future clients who may need the landscape view.

Location, Location

March, Rye Beach, NH
My calendar is titled "New England" Reflection, so I can't use any of my spectacular pictures of Prague or the amazing wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, and, to satisfy my audience, I try to include a selection of images from both New Hampshire and Vermont. Traditionally I try to add one sea coast picture and, to provide a break from the endless trees and mountains, I look for at least one wildlife image. This year I knew what my wildlife picture would be even before I clicked the shutter on this year's remarkable Snowy Owls. 

The Seasons
Of course it is tradition that the images should match the season,

January, Spofford, NH - Why Not in July?
but it has always been a source of wonder to me that, in the middle of the nose numbing cold of winter, people would rebel at seeing anything other than a winter scene on the January calendar. I swear that someday my calendar will switch the seasons. Why not a warm summer pasture in February and a refreshingly cold snow covered village to offset the steamy heat of August. I swear, I'm going to do it! I'm retired now and I can do anything I want, I think. Anyway, I digress, you can check out my selections for this year in the Calendar Gallery on my partridgebrookreflections.com web site.

The Little Stuff
After the agony, of picking my twelve images from all those I would like to include, I move on to the other graphics in the calendar. I have to switch my vision to look for complementary banners and thumbnails.

Finding banner images that will complement the main pictures both visually and contextually is often a more difficult task than picking the primary images themselves. I have to scan looking for a slice that will work, understanding that even my least favorite image may contain a sliver that will work perfectly. I move candidates into photoshop and, after setting my crop ratio to the needed 11.25" x 8", I move the crop window up and down to see if something clicks. 


August, Port Clyde, Me

Finally I get to pick images for thumbnail, those little pictures that fill some of the open blocks in the calendar. This is where I get to honor some of the images I would have liked to have included as main monthly pictures. Some of these occasionally show up as big pictures in future calendars.


Once I have selected all my images I have to go back to the original full resolution files and adjust the size, color and sharpness to fit into the calendar. I keep my monitor calibrated and I haven't found a need to apply a separate printer profile to get reasonable color balance. 

The Text

I have always tried to include helpful information in my calendars. 

After the images are ready, I start by writing short informational blurbs" for each image. I try to write a short story which describes something about the location or the process that went into capturing the image. Some picture come with great stories to share, but for others this can be a challenge,  when the only thing I can come up with is "Red Barn".  I do my best, but sometimes I will sacrifice a great image just because I can't find an interesting story to tell.  This year, where appropriate, I've decided to supplement my "Blurbs" with links to complementary articles in my Blog archive. Next, I update the information for the back of the calendar that describes the work and honors all the great things that Pulmonary Rehab does to help our patients who struggle with the challenges of living with chronic lung disease. Finally I have to decide on which holidays to include
My One Portrait for 2015
in the calendar. Federal Holidays are obvious, but which Christian, Jewish or Moslem holidays, AND how exactly do you spell
"(C)Hanukah".  I throw in Groundhog Day, Fathers, Mothers Day and Valentines day (to help out Hallmark), and, sadly for our Native American readers, Columbus Day. Google "holidays" sometime and you will see that it is impossible to include everything and I am bound to piss off lots of very earnest celebrants of National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Day (May 3rd). I do my best. All that is left to add are the phases of the moon and I'm done.


Letting Go
I package all the files onto one or two disks and drop them off at Silver Direct. It usually only takes a week or two to get the PDF

July, Winchester, NH
proof back for review. I have learned to get as many people as possible to proof read the calendar.  I do this to catch the inevitable mistakes and to involve as many critics as possible in the blame for the one or two gaffs that always slip through. One year the printer actually left out a day, just skipped it!, and no one caught the mistake until the calendars were distributed to stores throughout the region. I had to chase down every calendar and insert a sticker strip to correct the offending week. The flawed calendars that I missed are still out there and are undoubtedly valuable collectors items.

So that's my process. If you want to produce your own calendar, I hope this description will be helpful, and not horrifying. I would only add that the best decision I ever made was to donate the profits from my calendar to a worthy cause. It makes the marketing much easier and benefits some very lovely and needy people.  So if you get a chance, buy one (or 10) of my calendars, they make great gifts for a GREAT cause.  I could say more, but I am only half way through my banner images and that deadline is freight training its way to my door. 

Jeffrey Newcomer

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Jeff! For 2015 I was considering forgetting about doing calendars for sale, just printing a few to give as gifts. You've convinced me that that's the way to go. :-) I love your pictures.