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, October 25, 2015

Super Moon on the Coast

 Full Moons are Always "Super"
The rising full moon is always a spectacular sight and worth planning for to capture in dramatic locations. Full moons are
Washed up on the Waterford Beach
especially dramatic because they necessarily rise around the time of the setting sun and therefore are bathed in the orange of the sun while suspended against the last light of the blue hour. The residual light also makes it possible to capture the moon against interesting foreground elements. Unfortunately I live in southeastern New Hampshire among the hills of the Monadnock Region and, before the moon rises above our elevated horizon, the sky routinely has turned black ,imposing impossibly stark contrast between the brilliant orb and the surrounding landscape. A few years ago I managed to shoot the "Super Moon" rising above the silhouette of Mt. Monadnock, but could only capture detail in the mountain by compositing two images, one of the moon and an second, immediately following, exposed for the foreground.
Super Moon 20 miles from Mt Monadnock, March 2011

I whine frequently about this sad fact of astronomy and hold marginally veiled resentment for my colleagues who are fortunate enough to live near the coast.  I know that I could travel to coast for the moonrises, but hey, I'm old and lazy. I need a warm comfortable excuse to go to the coast and a couple of weeks ago the excuse fell languidly into my lap.
Super friends for a super Moon

Very good friends of ours were renting a house on the Connecticut coast and generously invited Susan and I to stay with them for a few days. Susan was busy volunteering at our local DeMar Marathon, but I decided to take Carrie and Jeff up on the kind offer. It was then that I realized that the weekend in question was the occasion of the fall super moon and a "super" lunar eclipse, AND I was going to situated comfortably on the Atlantic coast!

Super Moons
For any who don't know, Super Moons refer to full Moons that occur when the moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit, otherwise know as "Perigee". At perigee the moon appears about 14% larger than when it is at its furthest location, "Apogee". The media make an inordinately big deal of this occurrence, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "Resist the Hype: The size of today’s “Super” moon is to next month’s full moon as a 16.07 inch pizza is to a 16.00 inch pizza". Perhaps the only real significance is that a moon that is super provides a good excuse to get out and shoot, not to mention that I can probably charge at least 14% more for a "Super Moon" picture.

A View to the Saybrook Lighthouse

For me the excitement stemmed, not the "Superness" of the alignment, but from the opportunity to shoot a moonrise over the ocean. Before I headed south I dove into the Photographer''s Ephemeris searching for a nearby location that would allow me catch the moon rising above something of interest, preferably a lighthouse. I was staying in Waterford and following the lines of the moonrise I discovered the Saybrook Lighthouse in a near perfect position. The location was so good that I assumed I would be doomed to cloudy weather, but I headed down on Friday full of hope.

Sunrise on Long Island Sound

Scouting the Site

Harkness Estate
Jeff and Carrie were wonderfully understanding about my plan to disappear Saturday evening and they even joined me on a trip to scout the location Friday night before dinner in Old Saybrook.  Saturday morning I got out for dawn along the coast and then settled in to enjoy the unusually warm weather and await the rising. I walked the beach and in the afternoon we explored the nearby Harkness Estate State Park with its beautiful gardens and expansive lawns leading down to the water. Around 5:30pm I headed off to Old Saybrook.
Crackling Sunrise Light

 Among the Rocks

My location was out on a breakwater about 1.3 miles south of the lighthouse. The sky was clear but there was an ominous haze at the
Jonathan Steele by iPhone
horizon. I moved out on the rocks finding a stable spot to embed my tripod, low against the blustery wind. I was happy to have my choice of location confirmed by the arrival of another photographer. Jonathan Steele is a great local photographer who used the Photographer's Ephemeris to find the same spot at the end of the breakwater, and I was surprised that he recognized my name from the New England Photographers Guild. It was lovely to have pleasant company as we
waited to see if the moon would break through the haze. TPE made it certain that the moon would be there, but would we be able to see it. The moon appeared behind the breakwater precisely on time but it was barely visible through the mist and haze. Happily as it rose
In the Mist
and moved toward the lighthouse it surmounted the mist and became more prominent against the darkening blue sky. Jonathan and I clicked madly as the combination of moon, lighthouse and light became increasingly perfect. I probably could have captured it all with one shot, but this was one of those rare situations when everything seemed to come together and I didn't want to waste the opportunity. I was shooting with a long lens and a relatively long exposure, and, given the windy conditions, I grabbed a pile of shots in hopes of capturing at least one sharp image in precise focus.


As Close as it Gets

I got what I came for! The moon and the lighthouse both reflected the color of the setting sun and as the moon approached the beacon it was warmed by a few wispy clouds. My distance from the lighthouse (1.3 miles) magnified the size of the moon against the foreground, which is a key part dramatic full moon images. It was a lovely warm evening and I was reluctantly to leave my perch among the rocks, but I had to get back to join my friends for dinner. As Jonathan and I packed up we discussed the New England a Photographer's Guild and I encouraged him to pursue membership in the group. I'm thrilled to report that he followed through and is now part of the Guild, extending our representation to the Connecticut region. 

Lunar Eclipse that was Super

Eclipse Composite

After a nice dinner, Carrie and Jeff joined me outside to monitor the progress of the lunar eclipse. I followed the moon as it approached totality with my 400mm lens and 2x Tele-Extender. At 800mm I was able to capture a nice succession of images for eventual compositing into an image of the moon-lite ocean that I had shot the evening before. I'm not a giant fan of lunar eclipses, but putting it all together in one imagine was undeniably neat. It was a long day but a unique evening of lunar excitement, and I was ready for bed.

The next morning, after exploring the dunes and avoiding the ticks, I headed home to get ready for this year's foliage blitz. The coastal trip was a great opportunity and a wonderful break from my land-locked status. Again, I thank Jeff and Carrie for their hospitality.  And the bonus was that I got to meet the newest member of the Guild.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Capturing The Depths of Autumn

Trapped by the Foliage Tour

Last weekend I participated in the Monadnock regions Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour. During Saturday and Sunday I hosted visitors to my home in Spofford and displayed over 30 of my pictures spread through the downstairs. It was gratifying to show-off my work to an appreciative crowd. I especially enjoyed meeting several Facebook fans, but the weather was perfect and the color nearing peak, and as a photographer I was jumping out of my skin to get out and shoot the amazing foliage. At 5pm each day, I catapulted out of the door to catch the last glimmers of evening light, but the last few minutes of the golden hour were scant compensation for missing most of what may be two of the best shooting days of the year.

But enough grumbling. Showing the work is an essential part of the deal, arguably as important as shooting the work.   Happily, on Monday, the colors were still building, the air was crisp and clear and I got out several times to grab the season's bounty.


 One Day of Autumn Glory

Surry Pasture

This article is a chance to share the images from just one day of shouting in our most spectacular time of year.  Monday was generally sunny, which provided its own challenges of shadows and reflections, but the colors showed to perfection especially when trans-illuminated and my polarizing filtered helped the rich hues shine through the reflected sunlight. I got some nice shots, and, in the process, I was reminded about how my shooting technique has evolved in recent time. Specifically how I have been expanding focus stacking to capture extreme depth of field.

Barn at the Bend

 Capturing Depth of Field

Md. Sherri Pond
As a landscape photographer, I often work to include sharply focused foreground elements into my grand vistas. In the past I have discussed using focus stacking to achieve a wide depth of field that would never be possible with a single image. In my early efforts, I routinely captured three images, one each focused on the foreground, middle ground and background and then combined the three using
Slipping Arches, Md. Sherri Castle
manually painted masks. This works well for simple images with a smooth gradient of focus from foreground to background, but it falls apart with more complicated images. The Auto-Blend tool in Photoshop does an amazing job on many of these images but some clean-up is usually required to remove areas of mismatch. Recently I've been impressed with the enhanced quality of the result of blending especially when the number of variably focused layers is increased.  

Bradley Hill Autumn

The opportunities provided by Auto-Blending have led me to routinely bracket the focus on most of my images.  On this one day of autumn shooting I returned with 240 images. Reviewing the collection I found that with all these images I captured only 45 different scenes, meaning that I took an average of just over five pictures per scene. This was almost entirely due to focus stacking.



Focus Stacking Gone Wild
Blended & Correction Layers

As an extreme example, in the picture of the ferns along Gulf Brook, I blended seven images to get sharpness from foreground to background. I used my usual technique. I edited the images together in Lightroom and then used the "Open as layers in Photoshop" option to bring them into a single file. After aligning the layers I copied them into a separate stack that I could use to correct errors in the blended result. I then ran the original stack through Photoshop's magic Auto-Blend tool. The more recent versions of Photshop finish
the blending process by creating a layer which merges the effects of all the selective focus masks. With the merged layer in hand, I can be discard the stack of blended layers leaving the copied, unblended stack for corrections. The final step was to carefully review the image for mistakes and use the layer copies to correct any problems. By increasing the number of layers I have found that the merged results are more accurate and require much fewer corrections. The whole process is surprisingly quick and makes impossible broad depth of field a reality. 



Monday was a great start on this year's local foliage season. There is no better time to revel in the glorious depth of color of New England. The images are piling up on my hard drives and I have lots of work to do. Thank goodness I have November coming on to allow me to catch up.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Calendar Time

Peacham Sunrise : September
The season is changing. There is a cool nip in the air and the trees are beginning to show a hint of the brilliant color to come, hopefully. Along with the other signs of autumn, this is the time for me to start my obnoxious marketing of my New England Reflections Calendar. People start avoiding me on the street and in every local shop I am greeted with, "Oh, Is it that time again". To be fair to myself, the calendar has become a
Birth Spiral : April
tradition for many in my region of New England, and people often approach asking "When is the new calendar coming out?" I've discovered that many of my calendars are purchased as gifts, often being sent far from New England, ranging from Germany to Japan. There seems to be a desire to show family and friends the special beauty of our small corner of the world. Most importantly there is an appreciation of the important cause that is supported by each calendar.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation
For more than 10 years I have been publishing the New England

Storm's Border : February
Reflections Calendar to benefit the Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Program at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene New Hampshire. For many of those years I served as the medical director of the program, but now that I'm retired, I'm thrilled to be able to continue to support this important work. Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a multidisciplinary program of exercise and education to help people
East Chop Sunrise : August
struggling with the challenges of chronic lung disease, including Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis and Pulmonary Fibrosis, to live fuller, and more comfortable lives. All of the profits from the calendars are used to assist patients who would otherwise be unable to afford the program and has made possible special events that have added to the experience for many needy participants.

Size Matters
This year's calendar is special for a number of reasons. First, as is true every year, I am confident that the pictures are the best ever. Secondly we have increased the format size from 8.5x11 to 10.5x 13 inches. The change was triggered by many requests to make the calendar more functional. The larger format makes it easier to enter dates and, most importantly, the images have grown to the size that they truly deserve. As always, I have included images from both New Hampshire and Vermont and have included one picture from our beautiful sea coast. You can check out all of the big images in my web site gallery. 

Calendar Gallery

Sweet Nellie

Sweat Nellie
Finally this year's calendar is dedicated to our sweat dog Nellie. I hope I will be excused for remembering my wonderful photography companion who patiently joined me on so many of the shoots throughout the region.


Pond Brook Falls : January
I've been spending the last couple of weeks distributing to the many local stores who generously agree to sell the calendars. It is a testimony to the spirit of our community that so many retailers are willing to contribute valuable counter space to support our efforts. I have completed much of my distribution tasks, but there are a few more I have to reach, and I'm always searching for new venues. If you are looking for this year's calendar, never fear. Here is a partial list of the wonderful places you can visit to satisfy your calendar cravings. And don't forget to thank the owners for supporting Pulmonary Rehabilitation in our region. 


Toadstool Bookstore, Keene and Peterborough New Hampshire

Hannah Grimes, Keene New Hampshire

Ingenuity Country Store, Keene New Hampshire

Ingenuity Country Store
Monadnock Imaging, Keene New Hampshire

The Cheshire Medical Center Gift Shop, Keene New Hampshire

Leon's Auto Repair, Keene New Hampshire

Nicole & Bonnie's Salon
, Keene New Hampshire

J&J Discount, Chesterfield, New Hampshire

Chesterfield Inn, Chesterfield, New Hampshire

Hancock Inn, Hancock New Hampshire

Hancock Inn

Jingles Christmas and Country Shop, Westmoreland New Hampshire

Gilsum Village Store, Gilsum New Hampshire

Walpole Grocery Store
, Walpole New Hampshire

Apryl's Orchard, Walpole, New Hampshire

Chesterfield Inn

Drewsville General Store, Drewsville New Hampshire

Sharon Arts Center, Peterborough New Hampshire 

Vermont Artisans Design, Brattleboro, Vermont 

Harlows Sugar House, Putney Vermont 

Putney General Store, Putney Vermont 

Green Mountain Orchard, Putney Vermont


The calendar can also be purchased on-line at the  

Cheshire Medical Center web site 

(With free shipping!) :

And of course I always have a bunch in the back seat of my car and, if we meet on the street, be prepared to either buy calendars our sprint desperately away.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour

The autumn color is coming on fast and that means that it is time for the Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour in the Monadnock Region.

Art and Foliage

For some years a group of superb area artists have hosted a self-guided tour of their studios throughout the region during the Columbus Day Weekend. The group has included artists working in sculpture, painting, jewelry, fiber glass pottery and wood turning and this is the second year that I am participating as the only photographer. The tour includes the studios of 23 artists spread from New Ipswich in the southeast, to Stoddard in the north. Keene and Swanzey are well represented and I hold the western frontier in Spofford. The tour will run from 10am to 5pm, October 10th and 11th.  In each location you will be able to meet the artists, learn about their processes and enjoy their work. Given the distribution of locations, it will be a great chance to bask in the autumn beauty of our region while seeing some great art. More information is available in the brochures scattered everywhere and on the Tour Web Site and Facebook page.

Showing the Work

My involvement in the tour is again bitter sweat.  Last year I enjoyed meeting all the folks who took the trip out to Spofford, but I know that I am potentially missing two of the best foliage days of the season.  Of course the spectacular natural beauty is a big reason that we see so many people out on the tour and once again it appears that next weekend will be close to peak foliage.  I always talk about the importance of "showing the work" and there may be no better time to see some amazing art throughout what is the heart of New England. 



Touring the "Studio"
 Of course, unlike the other artists on the tour, my "home studio" is a computer, two high definition monitors, a large format archival printer and piles of hard drives.  I will be happy to provide the "tour", but my plan is to show as much of my work as I can cram into the first floor of our house and be ready to demonstrate my editing and matting techniques if anyone is interested.  I will be highlighting new work and autumn images.  Of course, I will offer some nice refreshments.  Sadly, next weekend Susan will be away at her high school reunion, but once again this year she is excited by the event because it will force me to try to clean my office and pick up the downstairs rooms.

I hope you will drop by the house on your foliage explorations.  My "Studio" is at 373 Route 9a in Spofford.  Follow Route 9 West from Keene, NH, or East from Brattleboro, Vt.  Take the east entrance to Route 9a.  Our house is the second on the right past the Post Office, a greenish cape with a thick stone wall.  Look for the sign.  Feel free to park in the orchard across the street, but if you bash one of my apple trees, expect to buy LOTs of art.

Tour Web Site
Jeffrey Newcomer