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, December 7, 2014

Capture the Person Along With the Pixels

Last summer I quite randomly noticed a sweet little waterfall hidden in the trees across a field in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire. I generally feel uncomfortable wandering into private property, but I had to check this out. The waterfall was a lovely surprise as it cascaded into Catsbane Brook, and I knew that this little treasure would be exciting to explore in various seasons. I came away happy with the images, but uneasy about using them, or publishing the specific location, without permission from the owner. A couple of weeks ago I delivered a different framed photograph to folks living in the house across the road from the field and was able to discover that the field belonged to the people who lived in the next house down the street. They told me that the owner did not mind visitors to the falls, so, after our Thanksgiving snowstorm, I decided to return.

I geared up with my snow pants and my waterproof  NEOS Overshoe Boots and trudged across the field. The waterfall was
magical, with the cascades framed by snow encrusted trees. As it does in the winter, the late afternoon light was fading fast leaving a lovely blue tone. I was thrilled with the results and anxious to get home to work on the images, but then I got a bonus to complete the experience. As I followed my tracks back to the car, I noticed that the apparent owner of the property was down the road on a tractor moving snow away from his driveway. It was the perfect opportunity stop and chat. Rick could not have been more friendly. He reminded me that our kids had gone to school together and told me that he had bought the field expressly to protect the brook and waterfall from development. He generously invited me to come by anytime to photograph and I promised to send any pictures that came out well. 

The experience reminded me that, no matter how great the image, it is always more fulfilling when I drive away having met and chatted with the owner of whatever property I had been shooting. When I started getting serious about my photography I had a fear of approaching landowners, but years of happy experience have taught me that the vast majority of these folks are excited and flattered by my interest. It is amazing how many times people have invited me to come back any time to photograph and they will often suggest that I go to other parts of the property to get a nicer angle. It happens all the time and is one of the greatest joys of photography in New England.

Just a few examples.

Working the Scene

Sheridan and Monadnock

A few years ago I was photographing a horse in front of a barn in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. To get a better angle, I had crept a short
way down the driveway when an elderly woman came out of the house. I was certain that I was about to shooed away, but instead the lovely lady ask me if the horse was in a good location for my photograph. Our conversation included the history of the house and the name of the horse. It all ended with her using a carrot to lure Sheridan into the best position, aligning him with the barn and Mt Monadnock in the distance. I have since been back frequently for pictures and chats and to give my friend, and her charming sister, one of my favorite prints of this classic location.


Property Releases
Whenever I settle in to shoot a location, I try not to shoot and run, but consciously dawdle a bit in hopes of meeting the locals. I scan
for people outside or peaking through a window to whom I can offer a friendly wave, but often there is no one in sight. Unless I hope to move more deeply into the property, I don't generally ring the doorbell, and that often leaves me with no information on the owner.  Sometimes that can be a problem. Several years ago I was photographing in the New Castle area along the coast of New Hampshire and caught an image of a classic house sitting on the edge of a lovely cove. A nice 'fine art" image, but when Red Lobster wanted to use the picture to decorate their restaurants, I suddenly needed to contact the owner. A property release is always necessary when I will be selling an image for commercial use. I told the design company to hold on the image, I made a matted print of the picture and went to knock on the door in New Castle. The owner was happy to get the print and to sign the release and he appreciated that I had the courtesy of asking permission. It turned out he had worked as a photographer in the past and understood the importance of releases. I was in business, but it is always easier when I get the chance to meet the landowners at the time of the shoot. Even if I don't get a formal release at the time, the contact information makes getting a permission much easier if I need it in the future.

This autumn, I was shooting the foliage along the road to Guilford, Vermont. I found a lovely scene with a tractor in a field, backed by

Guilford Tractor
nice foliage. As I was shooting a farmer came by. He was there to take the tractor back to his farm.   I expected a quick dismissal, but instead he asked if the machine was blocking my picture. When I told him that the tractor was an essential feature, he agreed to fire it up and then sat still while I caught him on the seat with the smoke billowing from the stack. He didn't move on until I assured him that I had what I wanted. He headed down the road, but I caught up to introduce myself and get his email.  That night I sent a copy of the picture WE had produced.


The ideal situation is when initial contacts lead to long term

Roads End
relationships. One of my favorite local places to shoot is Roads End Farm in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Tom is the owner and protector of this lovely horse farm which is home to over 60 horses and a summer riding camp for girls. Tom has been a friend for years and is always welcoming to my regular visits. On one occasion he happily pulled my car out of a snow bank with his tractor. For me it has been a unique opportunity to capture the farm and it's workings through all seasons. Tom has great respect for the land and despite difficult financial times he has remained dedicated to protecting his land from development. He knows that I would be happy to support him in any way I can and that my photographs are always available to promote his efforts.

Simple Rules, Should Be Obvious

Obviously be friendly, human and appreciative.

Seek, don't hide, from the opportunity get to know the landowners. Make sure they know how beautiful there property is and how lucky you feel they are to be there.

Don't wander deep into private property without permission. Be patient. A single violation may spoil the chance for a valuable long term relationship.

On call to capture the prize cow.
Stonewall Farm, Keene, NH

Give out your card and give back. A business card can establish your professional status, and a print or even a link to pictures on-line can do wonders for future interactions.  If a picture ends up in my calendar, I try to get a copy to the landowner. Of course it doesn't hurt that this often leads to more sales. 


Record your interactions. My memory being what it is, I always try to get all the contact information, including any personal details, into the image's meta data as soon as I get home. "Remembering" the name of the family cat can do wonders toward cementing a strong relationship.

And finally I will say again, don't fear interactions with landowners. In the vast majority of cases you will come away from the shoot not only with great images, but also with a burgeoning friendship that will open up future opportunities and provide a fuller appreciation of the location.

Jeffrey Newcomer

1 comment:

  1. Great post Jeff.
    I will always try and give pictures to people if they contain meaningful subject matter. It took me a year to track down the owner of a dog that I had gotten great shot of. Finally tracked him down and gave him an 8X10 print...Butch