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.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Resurrecting Old Favorites

 Bringing New Life to Past Images

Nellie's Dread

Susan and I are getting prepared for our trip to Alaska. As always, before a big trip, our dining room table has become the staging
The Look
area where we pile all the stuff we don't want to forget. My job is to find all the various chargers and connectors we will need to keep our cameras and other electronics operating. Susan's task to keep me from bringing way too much clothing. Of course all this "staging" makes Nellie very nervous as she anticipates the coming separation. We have a nice house sitter lined up to keep Nell thoroughly covered in touch and love, but there is nothing like the appearance of suit cases to make her pathetically clingy.

I'm sure I'll be grabbing a picture or two on the trip and I hope to be sending out preliminary shots in my blog along the way. The status of my time and internet connectivity may be a bit shaky, so if I miss pushing out my weekly articles, I hope I will be forgiven. As I anticipate a pile of pictures to work through on my return, I thought this might be a good time to look back to some of my ancient images.

 Revisiting Old Friends

Every year there are a few images which I feel are my best, with which I have a strong personal connection. I enjoy wandering back to these old friends, but I notice that many of my former "masterpieces" don't seem to have the same brilliance and pop that I recalled. Many look unnaturally flat and dull. It's not surprising. Over 10-15 years, I would hope that my shooting and post-processing techniques have improved, and undoubtedly my personal style has evolved. Obviously, photo editing software has matured making it much easier to bring out the dramatic qualities of an image. I decided to revisit some of these old images, some dating back more than ten years, to see if, using current processing, I could breath new life into ancient pixels.

Immediately I was aware of the challenges. These old images had been captured at much lower resolution than is common now. I tried to find the least manipulated version of the images that was available. RAW files were preferable , but, for some, I had to start with a base image that already had editing baked into the file. Eight bit JPGs were especially difficult to manipulate.

Here are just a few examples of my attempts at Frankestein-like resurrections of old images. I first experimented with adjustments of color and contrast in Lightroom and Photoshop and later used blended tone mapped layers to add a broad range of pop to the images.

Portland Head Lighthouse
Some years ago, when I was more flexible, I jumped the fence at Portland Head Light to catch the surf rolling in, and nearly washing me out. This picture seemed a bit flat, without the drama that was so apparent in the moment. I worked on the image in Lightroom and Photoshop to increase the contrast and vibrance, highlighting the bright lighthouse against the dark angry sky. I also used the skew tool to reduce the keystone effect caused by my low position looking up from the rocks. The overall effect was closer to the scene that I recalled. 

Artist's Shack, Marlboro Vermont

 Eight years ago I was cruising the back roads of Marlboro, Vermont looking for autumn color. I found this shack which, because of the model head in the window, I decided was an artist's studio. Probably wrong, but it gave me a title. I came back with an image that to my eye is terribly
HDR Tone
flat with none of the brilliant color that was apparent at the time. I moved the JPG into Lightroom and had some success, but then I decided to blend a toned layer to kick up the color and contrast. I have discussed this process previously. I made a flattened copy of the image and then applied "HDR Toning" in Photoshop. I have found that the "Scott5"preset is often a good starting point. The results are always grotesquely garish, but after I move this layer back to the original
Scott 5 Preset
image layer stack I drastically reduce the opacity to get just the amount of kick I want. In this case I only used an opacity of 8% to get the result I liked. It still has a touch of "painterly" quality, but I much prefer it to the original. The nice thing about blended tone maps is that adjustments in the opacity allow for a near infinite range of effect to meet anyone's taste.


Storm Over Monadnock
Storm Over Monadnock
One of my favorite early images and one of my best sellers is "Storm Over Monadnock" captured in 2006 with my canon 20D.  I had watched a thunder storm pass over my office in Keene, NH and I knew it was heading for the mountain. I jumped into the car and ran for Chapman Road with its view of Monadnock to the Southeast. I was thrilled to catch the thunderhead rolling over the top of the mountain. The most dramatic part of the scene was the contrast between the ominously dark mountain and the last light skittering across the valley below. Back then I struggled with the contrast and was never fully happy with my ability to bring the light into balance. In this case I used 25% of my toned layer to bring out the contrast. I could only do so much with this aged 8 bit original, but I was happy with the results


Harvest Sunset 
The Old Oak at Alyson's Orchard is gone now having fallen to a lightning strike a few years ago. Back in 2006 it still stood proudly on the hill and I was able to capture it as part of a classic autumn scene. Once again the picture from my archives appeared flat and bit overly warm in tone. I cooled the tone slightly in Photoshop without loosing the warmth of the setting sun and then applied a touch from a toned layer to bring out the drama. 

Pemaquid Pool
Pemaquid Light
Pemaquid Light in Bristol, Maine is famous for the tidal pools that provide opportunities to catch interesting reflections. I was happy with the image that I captured of the reflected lighthouse in 2007. It has been one of my most popular coastal images, but I thought that, while I was playing with tone mapping, it might be fun to go a little crazy with this old favorite. I was also inspired by an image taken from the same spot by Rick Sammon using HDR technique. Using 28% of my toned layer I ended up with an effect beyond my usually comfort zone for HDR/Toning, but I can step back and appreciate the picture for what it is, without any pretense of real life appearance. Hey, its art. 


Well I have to get back to my packing. I've enjoyed my stroll through the past.  Photography is a time machine and it was fun to bring new life to old favorites. Now see what pictures you have that deserve to be re-imagined.

Jeffrey Newcomer


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