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, August 10, 2014

Rye Beach 2014, Challenges and Opportunities

Evening Glow, Rye Beach, New Hampshire

My Annual Toe Wiggle

Photographers are always trying to time their photo shoots based on the best season, time of day and weather for any location. I am constantly checking the weather forecast, and using a powerful collection applications to predict the time and location of the sunrise and sunset, the tides, and the precise progression of the Milky Way across the sky. If thing don't line up properly I will often sleep late, settle in at home to work on my images and plan the next trip to capture the magic when the gods are more cooperative. Such is the life of a photographer, but sometimes time and location are set without any consideration of weather or astronomical conditions. This is the case when I find myself on a strict travel itinerary.

We will be touring Alaska later this summer. We have a precise schedule and it looks to be a great trip, but although I can tell you where we will be every day, I have no way of predicting the

Rye Beach Surf
conditions for photography. As always the challenge will be to make the best of the opportunities that present themselves and not morn those that are lost. Some days may be overcast and terrible for dramatic mountain panoramas, but the light may be perfect for macro photographs of wildflowers. For me, an exciting part of the adventure is to work the scene and the conditions to get the most from what nature provides. A great chance to practice this opportunistic approach to photography is our yearly weekend along the Atlantic Coast at Rye Beach, New Hampshire.

The Shack on the Beach

For many years our friends Tom and Paula have rented a summer cottage on Rye Beach, New Hampshire. They welcome guests

Sand Castles are a Must
throughout their stay, but one weekend is unofficially set aside as Chesterfield weekend when neighbors are encouraged to come and enjoy the wine, the food and the opportunity to wiggle their toes in the sand. We try to get there every year. Their cottage is not the most elegant on the beach ... OK it is by far the most "rustic" example of a traditional old beach shack. Through some miracle it has remained standing for decades while every other house on the beach has be torn to the ground and replaced by criminally expensive modern structures. Of course the condition of the house is immaterial, all that is needed is a location on the beach and good friends. It is a wonderfully relaxed and friendly place, but I can only tolerate about two hours of mindless toe wiggling and then I have to get up to start grabbing some coastal pixels.

I love every opportunity I have to shoot along the New England coast, but on our fixed Rye Weekend, there is no way to predict what the weather will be like. It is a perfect example of the challenge of making the best of the prevailing conditions. 

Ghosts of Ryes Past

Rye Beach 2013

Every year the Rye weekend gives me material for a blog article. In past years I have captured dramatic sunrises, moody salt marches and one remarkable full double rainbow, but I have also been forced to deal with rain, fog and disappointing, cloud shrouded, sunrises. It is all part of the adventure and this year was no different.

Above the Waves, Rye Beach

Sun and Sand
This year I arrived at the beach in the mid afternoon of the a

Bob on the Beach
pleasantly sunny Saturday. The Chesterfield crew was all nicely settled on the beach under their pop-up tent. I quickly got my two hours of pleasant conversation and toe wiggling and then I started to look around for pictures. I had brought my new compact SX50 HS camera to use on the beach. I always get nervous about getting sand and salt into my DSLR and I'm still in the exploration phase with my new carry around camera. I started
Star Island, Isles of Shoals
by using the camera's flexible LCD screen to capture images just above the waves as they rolled in to the beach. Fortunately the crowds were already beginning to thin. It was an especially clear day and the view to the Isle of Shoals, six miles out to sea, was unusually sharp. It was a great chance to try out the 1200mm zoom on the SX50. The long lens collapsed the six miles of broiling atmosphere giving the islands a soft abstract appearance. As I watched, the islands seemed to grow in size and I realized I was seeing an unusual atmospheric phenomenon. The light traveling from the islands was bent as it passed between a layer of cold air near the ocean surface and warm air above creating a
Star Island, Superior Mirage
"superior mirage", which made the islands appear as if they were perched on high palisades. The effect lasted for many minutes and my long lens was great for capturing the show. As the sun dropped toward the horizon the mirage disappeared as quickly as it had formed and we were left with the lovely warm sunset light illuminating the flowers on the deck overlooking the beach.

Mirage of White Island Light, Isles of Shoals

Milky Way
Whenever I go to the coast in the summer I pray for clear night skies to allow a view of the Milky Way across the open ocean

where it would be unobscured by the glow of civilization. I knew from my study of the Photographer's Ephemeris and
PhotoPills that the Milky Way would be in optimal position in the
southern sky from little after 10 pm until about 11:30 pm, when its westward progression would take it over land and the lights of the distant Hampton Beach. I have just recently discovered the Photopills App and It has become my new favorite tool for finding the best time and location to capture the Milky Way. I planned to set up on the rocks just north of Wallis Sands Beach where I would have a clearer view to the south. After a great communal dinner at the beach house, we all sat on the porch watching the sky hoping that it would clear as the evening cooled. As 10 pm approached things were not looking good. I few bright stars were visible above but a haze had settled over the ocean. I finally surrendered and dejectedly headed to my hotel in Portsmouth. On the way, I couldn't resist stopping at my intended viewing spot. Things looked a bit better there and I grabbed a quick test shot. The Milky Way was right where it was supposed to be. The haze still amplified the light pollution, but, living away from the coast, I am experienced in dealing with the horizon glow. I settled in and managed some surprisingly nice shots. I wanted to included the rocks in the foreground, but the major problem was waiting for a pause in the flashlight beacons coming from the fisherman who were scattered on my rocky foreground. There was considerably more beer drinking than fish catching going on and that led to more flashlight play than could be considered ideal! A little patience and I was able to get a few serviceable shots, and then I was off to my lovely, non-rustic, hotel bed.


Shining a Light on a Cloudy Wet Day

Portsmouth Harbor Light

I knew from the forecast that Sunday was going to be a day dominated by clouds and rain. Unfortunate, but at least I had a perfect excuse to sleep late. No predawn slogs for me. When entombed in sheets of rain a "rustic" beach house can become a bit oppressive, even when shared with good friends. A depressing drizzle was interspersed with waves of torrential downpours and after positioning all the pots to catch the various leaks and contributing my fair share to the cottage jigsaw puzzle, I decided it was time to   escape. I ran to the car and started exploring the coast for wet weather photo opportunities. As I wandered north, the rain abated and I decided to check out Fort Constitution at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor.

 I was happy to discover that on summer Sundays the Lighthouse next to the fort was open for tours, conducted up a dedicated group of volunteers from the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses. Portsmouth Harbor Light was built in 1878, and in combination with the taller Whaleback Lighthouse still marks the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. The Lighthouse is 48 feet tall and was actually built inside the taller wooden lighthouse that proceeded it. Once completed the old lighthouse was removed revealing the new cast iron structure. The lighthouse has a dramatic spiral staircase winding around the red brick interior to the top. The light has a fourth order Fresnel Lens that, despite a surprisingly small lamp, reaches 14 miles out to sea.


After my wanderings, I returned to the beach in time to "join" my friends for a traditional stroll along the beach. My friends are uncompromising "strollers" and I was left progressively far behind as I paused to take occasional photographs. My subjects were illuminated by soft flat light and included driftwood, sand tendrils and waves crashing on the stubborn rocks which frame the beach. I was also able to use my 1200mm lens to reach out for an intimate portrait of the backs of my receding friends. We finished off a cool damp day with a lovely dinner in the warm environs of the Portsmouth Brewery.

Beach "Strollers"


Rye Harbor Fog

My last day on the beach was all about the fog. I have always loved the sense of depth and mystery that fog adds to a scene and Monday morning the mist had settled in to cover everything with a soft gray blanket. On my way home I detoured to Rye Harbor to take advantage of the conditions. The boats moored in the harbor emphasized the effect of the fog as the more distant vessels faded from view. 

Then it was time to hit the the road back to my hopelessly landlocked home. It was another great Rye Weekend with its usual challenges and opportunities. Certainly not the best weather, but, as I said at the beginning, it is the process of figuring out how to get the most from the conditions that is a primary source of the adventure of nature photography.

Jeffrey Newcomer

1 comment:

  1. Jeff--This is a great summary of your weekend with us--and some really great pictures!