About Me

My photo
Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had 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 blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Adding Depth with Negative Dehaze

The Quest for Depth



1st Draft
The Cover WILL Change
Now that I have submitted my 2016 Calendar, I have to come up with another excuse for lame blogs. This week it is that I have spent the last several days visiting my daughter in Boston and then joined our friends for the annual Rye Beach days. I'll share some coastal pictures later, but this week I want to provide a quick look at a new tool introduced in the recently released versions of Lightroom and Photoshop CC 2015. 


We landscape photographers have a love/hate relationship with fog and haze. Crystal clear air is beautiful, but a little haze can work wonders to provide a sense of depth and mystery.

Misty Stonewall Farm
I'm always looking for ways to provide the impression of depth on my images. It is an inescapable reality that, without the use of funny looking glasses, photography is a two dimensional medium.  Compositional elements such as converging diagonal lines and the inclusion of foreground detail can provide a three dimensional feel, but a little mist or haze in the air can create a layered appearance that goes further to reveal the depth. But what can you do when nature stubbornly provides only "beautiful" crystal clear air.

I have discussed a few of the tools within Photoshop which can enhance the appearance of depth. Spotlighting techniques, use masking to localize an area of contrasting brightness to a distant point, to draw the eye away from the foreground. I recently discussed the use of Negative Clarity to selectively soften distant portions of an image. With the introduction of the Dehaze Tool we have another option for adding a layered appearance to our images.
Depth from Negative Clarity


 The Dehaze tool was introduced in the 2015 versions of Lightroom and in Photoshop's Camera Raw. It is primarily designed to reduce the softening effect of hazy air, salvaging detail in images that would otherwise be washed away. The Dehaze tool is easy to find in the Effects Panels of both Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom's Develop Module.  Within Photoshop, Dehaze can be accessed as an option in the Camera Raw Filter. The tool works well, but can't remove the haze entirely and if taken to extreme can create a dark, overly contrasty, effect that requires further adjustment. I suspect that this is one of those tools that will get better in future versions of the software. 

Dehaze in Lightroom


West River, Dummerston VT

"Negative" Dehaze
Much like with the Clarity Tool, I have been more interested in the Dehaze Tool's ability to go in the negative direction and add haze. The global softening created by "negative Dehaze", has limited usefulness, but when the effect is applied locally, to more distant parts of the scene, it can produce a layered look that reveals depth.

Global Haze

O.K., Let's drop the double negative and just call it the "Haze Effect". As with the local application of negative Clarity, haze can be applied to the entire image and then restricted to a specific area with the application of a layer mask. Although haze can be created from within Lightroom, I find that the localized effect is easier to control as a Camera Raw filter in Photoshop.  

Distant Haze

I create a Camera Raw Filter Layer and then start by adjusting the Dehaze Tool to apply a level of haze which is more intense than I expect to use as my final result. I add the layer mask to localize the effect and then adjust the layer's opacity to reduce the initial high intensity of haze. I find that the haze effect works best when it is not overdone and is applied with a soft edged mask, but the extent and intensity of the effect can always be readjusted with the masking and the layer opacity. All of this can also be done with a Smart Filter layer.

Added Depth
Morning Pasture, Chesterfield, NH

The local application of negative Clarity and Dehaze either separately or in combination can add significantly to the sense of depth in an image. I have been enjoying playing with these adjustments, but as is always true with new tools in Photoshop, it remains to be seen how they will fit into the full range of techniques that are available. 

Localized Dehaze

 Regardless of its eventual place, Dehaze is one more reason to keep up to date with the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom.  So have fun.  There are new toys in the sand box.

Dawn Road, Lyndonville Vermont - One of my old favorites

Even classics can be helped with a little modern magic

Jeff Newcomer


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Calendar Crunch

Cover & October : Giant Guilford Sugar Maple

Catsbane Falls, West Chesterfield, NH
This is my annual calendar crunch, the time when I rush to get my New England Reflections Calendar ready to send to the printer. Each year the goal is to get the calendar out by late summer, and into local stores before the Keene State students arrive for the fall semester. We depend on all those sad parents to snatch up a remembrance of where they have callously abandoned their precious children. It's as good plan.

My deadline for the draft design and all the finished pictures is this Friday, or, by the time this article comes out, last Friday. Given the time demands, this week's article must be dedicated to the calendar. I want to share some of my selected images and a few examples of the anxious decisions that are part of each year's calendar creation.

The Selections

September : Peecham Sunrise
Every year I share the pain associated with my struggle to select twelve main images for the calendar. Tradition states that the images must roughly match the seasons, they must be in landscape orientation and they must have enough interest to allow me to find something say about them. As I reviewed my initial selections, I was reminded of another requirement. My collection had only one picture from
May : Creamery Covered Bridge, Brattleboro, Vt
Vermont. The Great Guilford Sugar Maple is a wonderful image and it will be featured on the cover, but I always try to have a balance of pictures from New Hampshire and Vermont, my two primary markets. There was no problem finding great Vermont images and in the final version I have four, including the classic Vermont Country Store for December.

With more than ten years of calendars behind me, it is also important to check my archives to make sure that I am not reusing images from previous editions.

The Format

July : Barn Light, Jaffrey, NH
My calendars have always been printed in landscape format with pages at 8.5 x 11". This year I thought it might be interesting to experiment with a different size. I was hoping to publish a bigger calendar, and in portrait format. I have so many great pictures with this vertical orientation that I have been longing to use, but I ended up going with a larger, 10.5x13", size but still in landscape mode. It will be interesting to see if the bigger calendar is popular, but the increased size does place more pressure on the image quality. 

November : Forest Deep, Chesterfield, NH


Red Tail Hawk
One of my first steps in calendar design is to throw low resolution versions of candidate images into my rough draft. These are usually small web images that can look great in the draft, but may fall apart when the originals are brought to full size, and the increased format size made this issue more significant. I wanted to use a great picture of a Red Tail hawk taking flight for my March image. Sadly, when I opened the original, I discovered that the combination of extreme cropping and high ISO made the image too grainy to work at 10.5x13. Everyone loved that picture, but the good news is that I was able to replace the Hawk with a cute picture of two draft horses peaking through the trees at the Stonewall Farm's Sap Gathering Contest. No image is indispensable.

March : Peaking Pair, Keene, NH

A Dedication

 I always dedicate the inside back page of my calendars to a thumbnail of the next year's calendar and a list of that year's holidays. The page is also the one place for a portrait oriented image. This year I hope I will be excused for using that spot to remember my wonderful photography companion Nellie. Over the last 13 years Nellie sat patiently at my side as I captured many of my best images, including most in this year's calendar. I know I will be sensing her presence for years to come as I explore the trails and roads of New England.

I have to get back to work. Only a few more days to go.

Again I hope to see you at the Ewing Arts Awards on the 23rd at Keene State College's Redfen Arts Center. It should be a fun time.

Check out all of the selected images in the 2016 New England Reflections Calendar

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Ruth and James Arts Awards

Celebrating the Monadnock Region's Vibrant Arts Community


I am thrilled to have been selected as one of the first recipients of the Ruth and James Ewing Arts Awards, sponsored by the Keene Sentinel and Arts Alive .

Craig Stockwell

I don't generally submit my photographs to contests or for awards consideration, and there are a number of reasons for my reluctance. I would like to be able to loftily proclaim that "I don't require the acknowledgement of others to validate my work", but the truth is that I crave approval as much as most artists. No, the unfortunate fact is that I simply fear rejection far more than I require external approval.  Sad, but there are other reasons, beyond my delicate ego.

Lee Dunholter

 In recent years there has been an

Swift water, Gill Truslow
explosive increase in the number of photography contests, and often they seem to be more about profiting from submission fees than honoring excellence. Many require unreasonably broad releases, which can result in the loss of control of my images, even if I don't "win".  Then there is the lazy factor.  Given the complexity of submissions, I could spend most of my time entering contests, with little remaining for actual photography.  So, why the Ewing Arts Awards?  First it was the local focus of the awards and the remarkable people for which it was named.

Ruth & James Ewing

The Ewings
James Ewing was the owner and publisher of the Keene Sentinel and both he and his wife Ruth were strong supporters of the arts within the Monadnock Region. Local organizations that benefited included Apple Hill Chamber Music, the MacDowell Colony and the Grand Monadnock Arts Council. I can't think of any two more deserving of this recognition.

Monadnock Focus
The Apple Hill Quartet
Given the Monadnock Region's insulation from the rest of New Hampshire, the geographic focus of the Ewing Awards is especially appropriate. I often say that our corner of the state is drawn together by endless miles of bad road. The fact that major roads circle around us, tends to shield the Monadnock Region from the rest of the world and draws all of us together, including the artistic community. Through organizations such as the Monadnock Area Artist Association, The Art Walk and the Fall Foliage Tour, I have come to know many of our local artists, including several of this year's Ewing winners. Some of them are even willing to talk to a photographer!

Canopy, Deborah Lloyd Kaufman

The Artistic Community

President Lincoln, Tim Campbell

The Monadnock Region is blessed with a wide variety of marvelously talented artists and instead of focusing on a single genre, the Ewing Awards was open to all types of artists, in both the performance and visual arts. They were even willing to consider photography, and I'm especially pleased that the student winner is photographer Annika Kristiansen. I was also attracted by the fact that the awards were not based on the judging of one or two pieces, but on a greater body of work and on the relationship of the artist and his work to the Monadnock Region.

Annika Kristiansen

Grazing the Fence

An award focused on my home region and in the name of two remarkable community leaders, this was not your typical photography contest. So I went through the arduous process of submitting my work, my story and my ego to the prestigious panel of judges and was excited to be considered worthy to be among the 14 other amazing recipients. To me it is wonderful that, in addition to the talented painters, the judges also recognized music and dance, sculpture, set design and, yes, even photography.

Animaterra Women's Chorus

"We want to showcase in some small way the amazing creativity that surrounds us", said Keene Sentinel Editor Terrence Williams, "This is a wonderful beginning." 

I certainly agree, and all I need to do is bask in the radiant glory of these talented artists:

  • Lee Dunholter, painter and theatrical set designer, Peterborough
  • Peter Roos, painter, Walpole
  • Deborah Lloyd Kaufman, painter, Spofford
  • Gill Truslow, painter, Keene
  • Jeanne Maguire Thieme, painter, Swanzey
  • Tim Campbell, painter, sculptor, Keene
  • Annika Kristiansen, photographer, Keene (student winner)
  • Craig Stockwell, painter, Keene
  • Richard Whitney, painter, Stoddard
  • Animaterra Women’s Chorus, musical performers, Harrisville
  • Frank Wallace, classical guitarist, Antrim
  • MoCo Arts, dance performers, Keene
  • Apple Hill String Quartet, musical performers, Nelson
  • Chamber Singers of Keene, musical performers, Keene

Monadnock Orchard, Richard Whitney

Next Thursday, July 23rd, The Ewing Awards recipients will be recognized at a reception in Keene State College's Redfern Arts Center. I will try to jam 2-3 examples of my photography (those shown here) into the 48 inches of "running wall space" that has been allotted to each of the visual artists. Even "running", 48 inches isn't much, but more excitingly, there will be performances by the performing artist winners. I hope to see a few of my friends at the event.

Here are the details:

Ten visual artists and five performing artists or groups will be recognized with the first Ruth and James Ewing Arts Awards. A reception and awards program are planned for these recipients on July 23 at Redfern Arts Center on the campus of Keene State College.

Farrier's Touch
The program on July 23 will be from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. It will feature a gallery showing some of the work of the visual artists and a sample of performances by the performing artist winners. The Sentinel is publishing a glossy magazine with feature stories and photography of all the winners. The magazine will first be available at the event and then will be inserted into all copies of The Sentinel the next day. 

Tickets — $25 for adults and $10 for students 18 and under — will go on sale Friday, June 26m.  Tickets can be reserve at 603-352-1234 x 1004 or aruest@keenesentinel.com.

I hope to see you there.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Travels with Nellie


Who can explain the connection we have with our dogs? They are a source as well as a recipient of unconditional love, but it is much more. We lost our sweet, wonderful Nellie this week and she has left both an emotional and physical hole in our lives.

Nellie's Spot
Nellie has been showing her age in recent months, moving more slowly and less rambunctious on her walks in the woods, but she seemed to get as much joy as always from her favorite activities, being near us and being touched. On Monday she had her usual morning walk, but later in the day
she became increasingly lethargic, breathing rapidly. By the time I got her to the Vet, she needed to be carried. She had a large bleed from an abdominal tumor, probably on her pancreas and there was nothing to do but relieve her suffering. It all happened so suddenly that we couldn't possibly have been prepared, but for Nellie, it was mercifully quick and painless. Susan and I were close to her, speaking softly and rubbing her behind the ears as she drifted away.

Nellie Arrives in a Storm
Nellie joined our family as a puppy in 2002. She came from a liter that was expected to be pure-bred Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, but mom apparently had other ideas. We think that the father was a Giant Schnauzer, but, whatever the mix, the results were wonderful. Nellie was loving from the start and insisted on sleeping between Susan and I on the first night. She loved walks, and going frog hunting in the lake. Despite her frequent leaps, she never caught anything and wouldn't have had a clue what to do if she had. In the winter Nellie enjoyed prancing through the snow, periodically flipping on her back to create her own version of snow angels. She was always friendly to strangers as long as they kept petting her. She was excited to be chased by other dogs and had a typically raucous relationship with her sibling Sammie, who lived nearby. She was good with other dogs, but following years of torment from a local Jack Russell Terrier, she triumphantly bite the annoying little mutt firmly on the ass. We all cheered, but sweet little Nellie acquired a criminal record.

Frog Hunting

The feelings of the loss that accompany the death of a beloved pet can't compare to loss of a parent, child or close friend, but Nellie was such a integral part of our daily lives that her passing leaves holes everywhere we look. Nellie was a calm and loving soul. She watched me closely as I moved about the house and lay close whenever I settled at my desk or on the couch. Her eyes had gone a bit milky in the last few years but she could still melt your heart
As long as touching was involved
you could do anything.
with her warm gaze. She could never get enough touch and would wantonly roll onto her back inviting belly rubs. If someone stop touching, she would lean in and flip the person's hand into the air with her nose. For me, touching her  was intensely therapeutic and I still find myself reaching out for Nellie in all her favorite resting places about the house.

With Abby on Gap Mountain
I will miss our walks about the village and along forest trails. Even though she was getting stiff, she still became excited with the mention of, "Let's go for a walk" or "a hike in the woods". So many of my best images from around our village came with her at my side. 

Time to Head Home
On the trail, she was remarkably patient as I took my pictures and seemed to understand when I said "Nellie get out of the shot". "Ride in the car" was another of her favorite phrases and Nellie was a wonderful companion on my photography drives. I'm sure she had no idea what I was doing with that black chunk of metal supported on those spindly sticks, but she loved the road, the wind in her face, and she absolutely hated to be left behind. She also had a certain look that always reminded me that, "It's time to head home".

At the Gorge,  Thanks to the Sentinel's Michael Moore

Travels With Nellie

I apologize for these highly personal reflections, but this week I don't think I could speak of anything else. I know that our pain will ease over time and at some point we may even welcome another dog into our family, but Nellie will always hold a special spot in our hearts and memory. We feel incredibly lucky that she shared our lives for so many years and she will always be deeply loved.

Good Puppy Nellie

Nellie's Picture Gallery

Jeffrey Newcomer