About Me

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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

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