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, February 22, 2015

The Problem with Wires, Part I

Cutting the Cables
White Church, Keene, NH
Sadly, one of the first lessons that a landscape photographer learns is that there are many extraneous interlopers that can sneak into our images to contaminate our lofty photographic vision. The list is long; cigarette packs, road signs, airplane contrails, and of course people, to name just a few. Each can challenge our attempts to arrange the perfect composition, but, for me, it is wires that are the most ubiquitous and insidious contaminators of my photographs. It is an unavoidable consequence of modern society that wires are everywhere, but they are so common that our eyes tend to filter them out. I often don't recognize the problem until I'm home studying the image in Photoshop. It is then that the question always arises, "Where did those &%$# wires come from!


I was reminded of this issue last week while shooting one of my favorite barns in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. The barn was
Wired Westmoreland Barn
beautifully buried in the pristine snow, but when I returned home I found that I had to spend over an hour meticulously cloning out all the wires that slashed across the scene. Telephone and electric cables which are glaringly obvious in our photographs never seem to intrude on our recollections of beautiful scenes and it is for that reason that I never feel guilty about removing them from the final image. It's not cheating, but a more accurate reflection of what we "saw",  and felt at the moment that the shutter was clicked. So how can we deal with this persistent problem? The first step is to appreciate that it exists and then try to eliminate or reduce the unwanted intrusion.

Seeing the Wires

Wireless Hancock Meeting House

When I come across a spectacular scene, my first inclination is to start scanning for the best angles and compositions, but the very next move is, or at least should be, to take a mental step back and study the scene for the inevitable visual intruders. Included in this exercise is to notice where the wires slash across the view. They are not always there and some communities such as Hancock New Hampshire have made efforts to bury the wires in areas of special beauty or historical significance. Of course the entire problem can be avoided by shooting in the middle of nowhere where no wires exist, but the problem is that "the middle of nowhere" is becoming harder to find.


Changing the View
I'll talk about methods to remove the wires in post next week, but
much can be done in the field to reduce their impact.  Once they are recognized even slight changes in position and perspective may be enough to remove the wires from the image, but often the wires cannot be entirely removed without severe compromises to the composition. My favorite angle on the factory steeple in Harrisville New Hampshire, included quite a few wires that required a long and arduous process of removal in post. This was especially challenging where a cable cut across the intricate weathervane. By approaching closer to the tower, I was able to slip under the wires for a clean look, but the resulting view of the factory and the perspective change was not exactly what I was looking for. Even when changes in angle fail to entirely remove the

A Few Steps Forward
them, subtle alterations in position may allow you to move the wire into a location on the image that makes them technically easier to remove in post. When the background includes more intricate patterns, such as created by the clapboards, brick or window sashes of a house, the process of accurately cloning the detail can be a time-consuming nightmare, It is much simpler to erase cables which cross the sky or the irregular background of a forested hill. Yesterday evening, I captured the snow falling on the Village Hall in Spofford, NH. With a small change in location I was able to move the distracting wires away from the building and onto the snowy sky, where they were much simplier to clone away. The resulting key-stoning of the buildings lines was easily corrected with Photoshop's skew tool. Again the process starts with recognizing that the wires are there and then finding a position that either removes or repositions them for the best solution.
Spofford Village Hall

Loving the Wires?

Of course wires are not always bad. Sometimes they can add strength and direction to an image. They may even be the primary focus of a composition. I know I have used wires in this way, but to be honest I had trouble finding many examples in my Lightroom archives. I guess I'm better at removing the wires than celebrating them. The string of wires and poles added a strong
sense of depth to my image of the cow-jam at Stonewall Farm and I liked the way the cables framed the Snowy Owl perched at Salisbury Beach.  I went out the other day looking for more examples of the "lovely" wires. 

It was a difficult exercise to so fundamentally shift my focus as I was simultaneously looking for cases of strong composition, as well as examples of cable contamination. On a hill above Keene, New Hampshire, I found a 
spot where high voltage lines crossed the road creating an interesting pattern of crisscrossing lines leading to a distant tower. Not bad. As I was congratulating myself for finding something vaguely positive to display, I turned around and noticed with horror that, in the opposite direction, the same wires were callously entangling the iconic profile of our beloved Mount Monadnock. You Do Not mess with our mountain! I was quickly  back to hating the wires.
The Desecration

Next week I'll try to outline some Photoshop techniques to remove those wires that can not be avoided in the field. New and refined tools within more recent versions of the program have made the process much easier. It still requires practice and a considerable investment in time, but your artistic vision deserves no less.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Seward & The Kenai Fjords


Part 3 of Our Alaskan Travels
Since returning from our trip to Alaska late last summer, I have been working in spells on the over 5,000 images that I brought back from that amazing adventure. Given all the distractions of our
Fleeting Bear
glorious New England autumn and the depths of this winter's bounty, it has been a slow process. I needed a kick in the butt and Susan provided it by signing me up to give a presentation about the trip to the local Rotary Club next week and I have been scurrying to get a collection of the images into a PowerPoint presentation. The biggest challenge has been to select pictures that will fit into the mere 30 minutes that I have been allotted for the talk. I could easily go on for an hour or two. I don't think I have ever presented a talk that was less than 60 minutes! My plan is to try to focus on the remarkable wildlife from the trip, letting much of the spectacular landscape and the travelogue stuff stay in the can for future, and longer talks.

A Short Digression on the Number of Images

5,000 sounds like a lot of pictures, but in truth the great mass of my images comes from my habit of capturing different angles and

Horned Puffins
multiple exposures from every scene. When capturing a scene which possesses interesting depth, I will typically grab at least 3 images, one each focused on the foreground, background and on the middle zone and that number is often multiplied by experimentation with different f stops. When photographing hand-held, I like to shoot in burst mode, finding that the second or third shot, after a jitter inducing shutter poke, will be sharper. By the time I finish selecting the best angles and the sharpest exposures, and have blended focus-stacked images, I will be happy if I end up with a couple hundred keepers. Such a waste of valuable pixels? Thank goodness for digital photography.

Back to Alaska

Since I have been spending the last few days wandering through the Alaska images, I thought that this would be a good time to put together the third installment of my Alaska Blogs. The first two covered the immense Denali National Park and our jet boat trip up the wild Susitna River to the rapids of Devils Gorge. This week I will share the next chapter of our adventure traveling south to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula and the Kenai Fjords. It will mostly be an album of my favorite images. The pictures are what tell the story.

To Seward

After our trip on the Susitna River we headed south from Talkeetna back through Anchorage on a lovely late afternoon and evening drive to Seward. Along the way we stopped just long enough in Wasilla to confirm that, in fact, you CAN'T see Russia from Sarah's home town. On the way south, we were rewarded with occasional glimpses of the sun , but by the time we arrived in Seward we were back in the overcast and rain.
Seward Harbor

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier
Seward is located south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula. It is named after William H. Seward, who negotiated the purchase of Alaska while Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson. On our first day we toured the nearby Exit a Glacier and were able to hike down to the Glacier's toe. The Exit Glacier is the most accessible of the nearly 40 Glaciers coming off the massive Harding Ice Field and, like most Glaciers, It has receded many miles in the last decades.

The Kenai Fjords

Restless Coast, Kenai Fjords

Bear Glacier

Kenai Fjords Cruise

On our second day on the Kenai Peninsula we took a day-long cruise around the Kenai Fjords. The views of the pristine rugged coast were spectacular and for this one day we actually enjoyed beautiful sunny weather. We cruised from Resurrection Bay

along the coast and up the Northwestern
Fjord to its terminus at Northwestern Glacier.  This tidewater Glacier is named after Northwestern University which had sent an early party
Glacial Cocktail Ice
to explore the region.  The deeply sculpted fjords dramatically revealed the awesome effect of the ice flows as, over centurys, they carved the landscape.  All that persistent strength was still hard to comprehend as we examined some of the ancient, but crystal clear, glacial ice floating in the bay.

Northwestern Glacier

Northwestern Fjord

Lone Sentinel, Stellar Sea Lions
As impressive as were the rocky shores and massive glaciers, the best part of the cruise was the varied wildlife. We saw Sea Lions basking on the rocks and Horned Puffins nesting on the shear cliffs. Grizzlies were prowling the steep banks of the fjords although we never got close enough to adequately capture their fleeting appearances.
Horned Puffin, Kenai Fjords


On the way back we were able to get close to a number of Humpback Whales including a mother and her calf playfully cruising the shore and periodically entertaining us with flamboyant breaching.

Sea Otter

All-in-all it was an amazing day with bright sunlight, flat seas and wonderful wildlife. On our return to Seward, we threw our gear

Denali From Anchorage,  It Counts !
into the car and headed back up the Seward Highway to Anchorage. On the way we caught a spectacular rainbow over the Turnagain Arm. In Anchorage we enjoyed dinner with an old friend from Keene New Hampshire and, from the 20th floor of the hotel, we had our trip's only distant view of Denali (Mt McKinley). The Mountain was over 200 miles away in the fading light and shot tangentially through the glass with Susan's camera, but, hey, I got my shot of the Denali - It counts!
Turnagain Arm

Dinner with Laura & Friends, Anchorage

The next morning we flew off to Juno to start our cruise among Alaska's southeastern islands aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird, but that will be the subject of the next one or two blogs.

Alaskan Blogs (More to Come)

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunflowers New England Photography Show

 A Warm Refuge from the Winter Chill
After several weeks of articles about enjoying and surviving the miserable winter cold, it is time for a word about warmth, hospitality, great food and of course New England photography. Once again I am honor to present an exhibition of my images at Sunflowers Restaurant in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.


What Makes a Great Venue
My criteria for a great venue for my work includes bright walls with good lighting, a modern hanging system and most importantly, friendly and appreciative owners. Of course, when hanging in restaurants, the quality of the food is a critical factor. Considering all these criteria, Sunflowers Restaurant is a great place to hang out, and an even better place to hang pictures. 

Jaffrey Meeting House & Mt. Monadnock
This is the second time I've had the opportunity to show my work at Sunflowers and whether it is at the restaurant or at the Jaffrey Civic Center, I always love exhibiting in Jaffrey.  It is a beautiful small town with a strong sense of community. I love any excuse to drive down Route 124, which I continue to believe is the best road for viewing Mount Monadnock.

Misty Hay Rake, Dummerston, Vermont

Carolyn's Welcome
Sunflowers is located on Jaffrey's Main Street just North of the intersection of Routes 124 with 137 North and 202 South. It is a cozy place with great breakfasts, lunches and dinners and has considerable wall 
space open to local artists of all persuasions. Carolyn Edwards, the restaurant's owner is wonderfully friendly and accommodating, and has a true appreciation for the artists who add color and interest to her walls.

Sunflowers has a good wire hanging system which keeps the walls clean and bright. The restaurant has a surprising expanse of wall space and although I always try to bring more pictures than I expect to be able to hang, on this occasion, I needed all 18 of the images that I had loaded into the car. I have come to expect that it will take at least two or three hours to hang a major show. I never
know how I will arrange the pictures until I can lay them out and match the pictures to the wall spaces and the lighting. I always try to leave a show evenly spaced and plumbed, but I know that within a day or so that the carefully balanced perfection will be lost. This time, it was especially helpful to have Susan along to provide a fresh perspective on the arrangement and to assist in adjusting and cleaning the pictures.
Bucket Line, Westmoreland, NH

Whaleback Dawn

As usual the exhibition is dominated by local scenes from all seasons, but I also included a sunrise picture of Whaleback Lighthouse off of Portsmouth and the remarkable Multnomah Falls from the Columbia River Valley in Oregon. I have posted a gallery of the images on my web site, but, in this era of electronic everything, It is easy to forget the power and depth of the printed image. If you have a chance, I would encourage you to drop by to take a look. The show will be up through March 3rd. Sunflowers is open every day except Tuesday:


  • Breakfast 7-10:30
    Multnomah Falls
  • Lunch 11-2
  • Dinner 5-8 Mon, Wed, Thurs
  • Dinner 5-9 Fri & Sat
  • Sunday Brunch 9-3
  • BISTRO NIGHTS 5-8 pm
  • MEXICAN NIGHT every 4th WED
  • Closed Tuesdays


So drop by beautiful Jaffrey. Its a lovely drive, the food is great and, of course, the photography is spectacular.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Heat 3 Smart Glove, Optimal Cold Weather Photography Glove ??

Mt Washington Summit, 20 Below

Tax Time Calls
Susan is going to kill me if I don't get my tax stuff organized. In an attempt to isolate and bring my photography business into order, this year I finally got it together to form "Partridge Brook
Reflections, LLC". It make sense to keep my photography
Nellie's Spot
income, expenses and liability separate from the family finances, but it adds a number of additional layers especially when tax time looms. So, within the limits of Nellie's sacred corner, I have all the invoices and receipts spread out on the couch. My usual approach is to find a couple of movies that I have been meaning to watch, and settle in to the task of separating income and expenses. It usually requires several hours, not to mention the several days that it takes to actually assume my position on that damn couch. Nell has been watching me, and won't claim her spot until she is sure that I have settled in.

All this means that I will have little time to do one of my rambling, overlong blogs. This week I'm actually going to try to do a mercifully short article. Although, as I say this, I realize that I have already gone too long.

The Heat 3
A couple of weeks ago I ended my article about winter gloves by discussing an interesting half finger mitten that, in its advertising, looked quit interesting. I was looking for input from anyone who had experience with the gloves, but I didn't expect a lot of feedback. Of course, I knew that I was already hooked. I bit the $200 ! bullet and ordered the gloves from outdoorphotogear.com.  I promised to provide my early impressions and here they are.

Franconia Blizzard


 The gloves were as advertised, quite substantial and comfortable with good insulation and, so far they have met my expectations. The Heat 3 Gloves are similar to other half-finger mittens with the ends flipping back to expose the fingers. Unlike many similar gloves, the flaps have nicely protected zippers to enclose
the warmth. The zippers work well, but take a bit of practice to learn how to move them easily. The flaps are effectively kept out of the way with magnetic buttons on the back. When exposed, the fingers remain protected by attached glove liners which are thin
Glove Liners

and flexible enough to allow easy manipulation of the camera controls and have special material on the index fingers and thumbs to allow reasonable, although occasionally awkward, control of touch screens. As I mentioned previously, my freakishly short digits made it a bit more difficult to get the proper leverage to the ends, but it was nice that that I didn't have to take my gloves off every time I wanted to answer my iPhone.

Finger Straps
Finger Straps
Although it may seem a rather minor feature, for me, the most brilliant piece of engineering are the straps between the internal fingers, which make it much easier to remove the gloves without turning the liners inside out. The straps don't interfere with the fingers as I work the camera controls and they solve a problem that has driven me nuts for as long as I have been using glove liners.

Turning on the Heat

Hand Warmer Packet
For additional warmth the gloves have small, zipper enclosed pockets on the back of the flaps, designed to fit hand warming packets. Given the glove's design and insulation, this may be a bit of thermal overkill, except for the coldest weather, but I can imagine that this may be welcomed during those long hours shooting the night sky in winter. The glove's manufacture sells glove warmer packets, but the standard glove warmers, which are widely available, fit easily into the pouch.


So far, I have been quite happy with the Heat 3 gloves, but I do

Lens Cloth
have a couple of minor criticisms. First the gloves are necessarily bulky and can make it awkward to find things in deep my pockets. This is somewhat ameliorated by the ability to place small items such as keys or a lens cloth in the pocket on the back of the gloves. I found the separate thumb flaps to be a bit awkward especially when I try to get the thumbs back inside. Once again much of this problem comes back to my stubby fingers, but most often I found it easier to keep the thumbs inside as I controlled the camera. The built-in glove liners
are a key feature, but I can't see any way for these to be washed separately from the leather gloves and I'm concerned that over time they could get a bit funky. Finally, the gloves come in a variety of colors including brown, gray and green, but in this country I was only able to find them sold in black. To reduce the chance that they would become lost in my glove drawer among all my other black gloves, I was hoping to get a more distinctive color.

Franconia Notch

The Heat 3 Smart Glove is available from a number of on-line vendors including Amazon and Outdoor Photo.Com, but sadly I wasn't able to find them in any brick and mortar stores. The gloves are sized through a measurement of palm diameter and I think that worked for me, but it would be nice to find a place where the gloves could be tried on.


My Early Impression
Although I have only used the Heat 3 Gloves for a couple of weeks, my overall early impression has been favorable. They seem to

Special Forces
combine many features to provide warmth and functionality for photographers, as well as for the Austrian Special Forces, for whom they were developed. Simpler, lighter and cheaper gloves will still work well for most conditions, but when the cold is severe and the exposure is long, the Heat 3 is a great solution. The final question is whether they are worth the $200 price tag, and this is a highly personal decision. The combination of a standard half-finger mitten with separate glove liners is a reasonable alternative for most conditions, but given my tendency toward cold hands, I think the Heat 3 is well worth the price. My only problem is figuring out how to avoid loosing them as they drop into the black hole of my glove drawer. 

Now, back to the couch, and all that damn paper - move over Nellie.

Icy Pasture

More on Winter Photography

Jeffrey Newcomer