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, September 27, 2015

Photography Bags and Bagophilia*

Thirteen and Counting
Help! I suffer from a devastating ailment which is common among photographers. Bagophilia is the pathological inability to own a sufficient number of camera bags. *


What is it about photographers and their bags? As a general, rule we can never have enough of them. Over the years I've collected
Contoocook Rush Peterborough NH
bags to match various cameras and projects, and they have increased in capacity as my cameras, and their associated lens' and other accessories, have grown in number and size. Complicating it all is the fact that I never seem able to get rid of the old and seldom used bags. Of course, bag manufacturers are complicit with this disease by creating a never ending supply of temptations, containing shiny new features. We simply must have one more side pocket, strap or a nifty new access system.

I have always felt the special connection that photographers have

Shoulder and Kit Bags for the Road
with their bags, but the depth of that connection was recently brought home to me when I found it necessary to wash my beloved ratty old canvas shoulder bag. I had bought the bag in 2011 to use on a cruise down the Danube between Linz Austria and Budapest Hungary, with an extended stay in the remarkably beautiful city of Prague. I was looking for a relatively small bag that would be easy to carry, and able to fit my DSLR, one additional lens, and necessary accessories.

Bag Left by the Roaring Brook

The National Geographic shoulder bag worked out well and has
been my routine "every day" bag ever since. It is nothing fancy but it is amazing the attachment that we develop to our bags. I always thought that the rule for camera bags was the grubbier the better, but Susan finally stole the thing and threw it into the sink to soak away the grimy evidence of years of photo adventures. Over the years I had dragged the poor container through the dirt, spilt coffee on it, left it by roaring brooks, and lit it on fire at my nieces wedding. I reluctantly agreed that it was time for a bath. 


The Long Wait
Emptying the pockets, I found all sorts of necessary things that I had forgotten that I had, but the hard part was waiting for my beloved friend to dry on the line. Even in the summer heat, canvas does no dry quickly and, as I watched it recover from yet another indignity, I felt much like Linus watch his precious blanket endlessly tumbling in the drier. It was all I could do to avoid the inclination to suck my thumb. We are now reunited, but I'm embarrassed to admit that,
while I was watching my bag soak in the Woolite, a part of me was hoping that it would shrink to wallet size, giving me the excuse to go shopping for a new shoulder bag. Such is the depth of the camera bag addiction.

Getting a Grip

The most important first step in controlling Bagophilia is to understand the magnitude of the problem, and so, I decided to collect all my bags in one frightening pile. I realized that I had to carefully watch my wife to block her from setting the whole dump on fire. It was a real danger, but it was worth the risk to appreciate the gravity of my condition. I set out to organize my current bags into categories based on type and usage with the goal of finding duplicates that could be safely retired. Of course the real goal was to see what new bags I might justify to fill gaps in my precious collection.

It is marginally easier to justify my bag excess by pointing out that they fall into a few necessary groups.

Constructing a Lame Rationale

Kit Bags

Kit Bags

The first are my kit bags, design to carry a the full range of equipment on shoots. These vary in size depending on the requirements of the day and include both back packs and shoulder bags.

Imps of the Galapagos
My biggest is a gigantic backpack that I got to hold all of my gear for our trip to the Galapagos Islands. It holds two camera bodies and my mid-range zoom, along with a wide angle zoom, a 100mm Macro and my 100-400 telephoto. With Filters, memory cards, spare batteries and other accessories, it was a massive kit and awkward to lug along the trails. The bag barely fit in the overhead compartments and may no longer meet the shrinking limits for carry-on luggage. 

Gigantic Capacity

I learned from that trip that in addition to the big kit bag, it is worthwhile to bring a lighter shoulder bag or pack to carry just the gear needed for the day. It was for that reason that, before our trip down the Danube, I bought my soft canvas National Geographic bag. The empty bag collapsed easily into my suitcase and held all I needed for our explorations from Prague to Budapest.
Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

It seems that bag purchases are often triggered by trips. Before our recent tour of Alaska, I somehow justified another somewhat smaller backpack by arguing that I didn't want to lug the behemoth along the wilderness trails and that I feared being weighed down in case I needed to escape from a rampaging grizzly. Remarkably, Susan fell for it and I didn't miss the extra big bag.
Hiking the Alaskan Rain Forest

Little Cameras
I have small bags for my two pocket cameras, the Canon G11 and SX50HS. The SX50 with its ridiculous 24-1200mm lens was intended for Susan, but she absolutely refuses to go near the thing. "You're the Photographer!!"  I couldn't agree more, so now I have an SX50HS and also a use for an old fanny pack.

Quick Access

Distant Friends :1200mm Away
A sub-category of kit bags include those that are designed for ease of access to the equipment. I tend to hike with a group non-photographer, power walkers who have no interest in pausing along the trail while I stop to take off my pack to reach my camera. The result is that I end up falling further behind until I finally give up and stroll along on my own. I've tried a couple of packs that allow quick access to gear. The first was a sling pack which rides on one shoulder and can be pulled around to the front, but I found this to be uncomfortable when
Rotation 180 & Sling Bag
carry all but the lightest loads. A much better solution has been my ingenious Rotation180 Panorama bag by MindShift Gear. These bags have a built-in fanny pack which is enclosed within the full pack and can be rotated to the front without removing the
pack from my shoulders.

Fully Rotated
I have the smaller (Panorama) version of the pack with a rotating pocket that can just barely hold my Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-105mm lens. It's a tight fit but would be great for smaller DSLRs or pocket cameras. I think I am working up to justifying getting the more spacious version. In the meantime this pack has allowed me to stay within hailing range of my friends and family as they motor along the trail.


Specialty Bags
A Bag for Every Purpose
I have several bags that that were purchased or inherited for use with smaller, and now obsolete cameras. Since I can't throw out these historical artifacts, I have repurposed them to hold special equipment. I use one for my backup Canon 5D, which I still use for extended time-lapse recordings. Another holds my infrared converted Canon 20D. My sound equipment; field recorder, microphone and of course my "dead cat" have there own bag. I even have one bag stuffed with all the unused partitioning panels from all the other bags.

Ok, I am now officially out of excuses and still have several bags for which I have no earthly use. That doesn't mean I will throw them away - It's just part of the disease.

I thought I had invented the word "Bagophilia", but it turns out I'm not the first to use this term to describe the love of camera bags and, sadly there is another definition.  Before the comments start rolling in from my perverted friends, I should acknowledge that I have discovered that an alternative definition for bagophilia exists.  I regret to report that it has to do with the compulsion to commit unnatural acts with bagels, especially those with cream cheese. More information than I needed - Damn you Internet!

I will stick to the photographic usage!


No Bagels Allowed
Through this exercise, I now know that I own 13 camera bags. Sad, but at least I understand their various uses, and I can construct a more reasoned defense against my wife's efforts to get me to thin the herd. Is thirteen to many? No one bag is perfect and I can always discover new niches that could be filled by one more. Besides, thirteen is an unlucky number. I would be much safer with 12 or 14, and we all know 12 is NOT going to happen.

*Bagophiles Unite!

I would love to hear about how many bags you have tucked in your closet. Perhaps we can start an internet support group. I hope that the other kind of bagophiles have already found the help they so clearly need.

Time to Hit the Trail

My Sad Camera Bag

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Produce Season Album

Peppers at Pete's farm Stand, Walpole, NH

The autumn color is coming. I already see a few trees changing, especially up high and in the wet areas, but while we wait for the cool refreshing air and the glorious blaze this is a time to celebrate the taste and the beauty of our harvest bounty. 


 During the late summer and early fall, I love "pixel grazing" though the many wonderful produce markets and farm stands in our region. In this week's New England Photographers Guild article, I celebrate the abundance of lovely produce and I have included more images here in my Getting it Right in the Digital Camera blog. This time of year, I accompany Susan to the markets and while she picks out dinner I harvest images of the fruit and vegetables. 

Pete's Pumpkins
Favorite local markets and stands include Walker Farm and Green Mountain Orchard in Dummerston Vermont, and Alyson's Orchard in Walpole New Hampshire. Our daily produce requirements are usually met by the Green Wagon Farm stand in Keene and Rick's Farm Stand along Route 9 in Chesterfield New Hampshire. It's great to have so many choices. They each offer special opportunities and challenges for photography. There is a wide variety of lighting and compositions, and it's a great time to pull out your macro lens.

So check out the images here and in my longer NEPG article. Hopefully they will inspire beautiful photography, but at the least you can anticipate some of the best eating of the year.

Walker Farm, Dummerston Vermont 


Libby's Unusual Egg Plant, Walker Farm

Green Mountain Orchard,
Dummerston Vermont

Alyson's Orchard, Walpole New Hampshire 


Pete's's Farm Stand, Walpole, New Hampshire


Green Wagon Farm Stand,
Keene, New Hampshire


Dave is a Happy Shopper

Rick's, Chesterfield, New Hampshire

Now pick your own favorite spots and snap that produce before it disappears for another year.

NEPG Produce Article

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Problem with Monopods

September Kiss

Pasture Hollow

Once again I promise that this will be a quick tip. I have to get ready for my Basics of Digital Photography course which begins next week, and I also have a New England Photography Guild blog article due in a couple of days. I'm still waiting for the appearance of the relaxation part of my retirement.



This week, I have a very simple story to tell. Let's see if I can tell it simply.

Monopods don't have the stability of a tripod, but the theory behind it is sound. A single stick that is easy to carry around and provides substantially better stability than when hand-holding your camera. With my deteriorating left hip a monopod also serves as a secret cane, masquerading as a photo accessory.  I have two monopods, the first is of traditional single purpose design intended solely as a camera support and the second is a hiking pole which is
Hiking Pole Camera Adapter
equipped with a camera mount in its head. The camera adapted hiking poles are becoming more popular and are easy to use. Just unscrew the ball at the top to reveal the screw-type camera mount. The poles work well to provide convenient stability, but they are not as solid as a dedicated monopod.  For my purposes, both have one major problem.

A Question of Compatibility 

 My DSLRs have L-brackets which fit Arca Swiss heads and, unless I go through the major hassle of removing the L- bracket, they don't fit on the standard monopod screw mount. I faced a similar connection incompatibility on my old, heavy, Manfroto tripod and solved the problem by attaching an Arca Swiss adapter to the tripod's proprietary Manfroto head. The result was a chunkier, but more stable tripod that I use most of the time for shots within close proximity to my car. For hikes and travel I still depend on my much lighter Carbon Fiber Gitzo. It's great to have a choice to match all situations.


My "New" $30 Tripod


Monopod Solution

 I used a similar solution for my monopod dilemma. It was easy to screw a simple and cheap Arca Swiss adapter to the stick's screw head and for just $30 I have a monopod that works for my L-bracketed DSLRs. I feel as if I should somehow make this sound more complicated, but the happy fact is that it is just that simple. The mount also allows me to easily shoot in either landscape or portrait orientation.  With a standard screw mount the camera is fixed in portrait mode. To make my old monopod work as a serviceable walking stick, I improvised a grip, wrapping the top with tennis racket handle tape. The Arca Swiss adapter makes it a bit a awkward to grab the top of the stick, but otherwise it works well.  It is light, easy to carry and fits nicely into most of my camera bags and packs. The adapter is also easy to remove if a camera requires the traditional screw mount.

Other Problems
A problem with monopods is that the camera is rigidly fixed to the
pole. When shooting in any direction other than straight ahead the pole must lean forward or back and this can affect stability. One solution is to attach a flexible connection, such as a ball head, to the top of the monopod, but the added weight can adversely affect the balance of the pole and make it difficult to use as a hiking stick. Lighter ball heads are available but they may only be sufficiently sturdy for smaller cameras. By the time you add a heavy head, strong enough for a full size DSLR, you might do as well with a regular tripod. For now I'm happy with my feather lite Arca Swiss Adapter.  When I must angle the stick, I can stabilize it against my foot or even slip it into my shoe.


My old monopod had been gathering dust in the back of a closet for years.  It's nice when something so simple can bring an old friend back to usefulness. The question is, what took me so long. Now if I can only find a use for all my old film cameras.  Door-stop comes to mind.

Jeffrey Newcomer