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, November 1, 2015

Hand Bracketing Your Brackets

 Sometimes there is just no practical way to embellish a simple photography tip to make it worthy of my usual rambling blogs. Even after completing some of my longest articles, I still find myself hoping that readers will be able to salvage just one or two valuable "take-a ways" from all of the confusing verbiage, but with limited time to write this week,  I really have only one extremely simple tip which requires no complex discussion. It has to do with bracketing your brackets.

A Return to the Coast
Sunrise Coastal Drive, Newport RI
I have been away most of this week visiting Newport Rhode Island. Another trip to coast allowed me to catch a dawn against the rocky shore of the Coastal Drive, a full moon rise against Point Judith Lighthouse and a few images around the amazingly excessive opulence of the Vanderbilt's Breakers Mansion. We spent one day helping our son set up his new apartment in Manhattan and then limped home through a late night gale along Routes 95 and 91. I'm sure I will share picture from this lovely and productive trip, but for now, here is something that might actually be useful.

Focus Stacking

Minnewawa Autumn, 7 Image Stack
I recently expanded on my previous discussions about the use of focus bracketing to achieve impossible depth of field. Specifically I have been impressed with how an increase in the number of variously focused layers leads to improvement in the results from Photoshop's Auto-Blending Tool. I have been routinely capturing 5-7 layers to align and blend and have found that the amount of correction required on the results is significantly reduced, but one problem is determining which images are included in the focus stack. For any scene, I usually capture a few images to establish the best framing and exposure and then start my series of variably focused images for stacking. In Lightroom it is often difficult to identify the limits of the stack. 

Bracketing the Fence

Finding the Focus Stack Series
Bracketed Stack
A simple way to define the focus stack is to create open and close brackets with your hands in front of the lens. In my images of the
white fence in Chesterfield New Hampshire,  I used my hands to mark the focus stack for global editing and blending. Once selected I could discard the other images, but, of course, I hardly ever discard anything. 

Focus Stacking

Hand bracketing can also be used to define other series' of related images such as bracketed exposures, star trail images or time-lapses. The process involves wasting two images, but in the digital world, who cares. The only challenge is to remember to get your hand in front of the lens before and after the series, but if you forget the open bracket you can always put up the close bracket and indicate the number of exposures by the number of fingers you hold up. 

Magic Hands


Simple. I promised just one "take-away",  but hand bracketing can save a lot of time and aggravation as you wade through those long series' of images in post-processing.

496 words.  That must be a record!



Jeffrey Newcomer


  1. I use this also for HDR images, which, of course, is very similar to focus bracketing.

  2. Just amazing . Thank you very much for shared .