About Me

My photo
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, January 10, 2016

Why Monadnock

I have lived in the same house in the Monadnock Region since I finished training about 35 years ago. I have enjoyed caring for the people of this community, but recently I've moved away from medicine to a more serious involvement with photography, and have increasingly come to value the beauty of this under-appreciated corner of New England. The Monadnock Region and southeastern Vermont don't have the highest mountains, or the largest tracks of wilderness, so what is it about this area that keeps me busy finding new and exciting things to photograph. All regions of New England have their own feel and unique attractions as well as many qualities which are shared throughout our special corner of the country. What follows is a very personal and admittedly self-indulgent love letter to the region I have come to feel is my own. 

What is Special About Monadnock?

Close to Home 

Hubner Farm, Chesterfield, NH
The first attraction is not unique to my region. For every photographer the value of the nearby and familiar is strong. It's not only that I'm lazy and don't like to spend hours on the road, but also that I have come to value being able to visit local 
Stonewall Farm, Keene, NH
attraction on a frequent basis, to get to know where the
best spots can be found and when the light is perfect. The "power of coming back" should never be underestimated. Almost every week I visit the Roads End horse farm in my town Chesterfield NH and and yet I still find new and interesting subjects and angles on this familiar treasure. Keeping my list of nearby landscapes also allows me to respond quickly to interesting changes in the weather that can occur without warning and disappear in an instance.

Nestled, Spofford Village , NH

For every photographer a major attraction of their local environment should be that it IS local, nearby and familiar.

The Seasons

Westmoreland Spring
For all of you living in New England, the presence of discreet seasons is nothing special, but if you reside where the only two seasons are "hot" and "god awful hot" then the our wonderful variety of the seasons must be seen as a major attraction. I seem to alternately despise, and then exalt in our changing weather. The autumn color is spectacular and then overnight the leaves crash to earth, and I moan about the barren "stick" season. The pristine winter beauty is followed by the mud and sticks of late winter, which must be endured until the green explosion of our exuberant spring. If you live in New England you learn the price that must be paid for our magic seasons, but the continuous cycle of renewal is invigorating and visually inspiring.

Farms, Barns and Produce 

 Every rural region of New England has great farms and I have come to appreciate a few near home. Roads End Farm, Hubner Farm and Stonewall farm are just a few favorites, but apart from active farms there are beautiful barns, farm houses and farming implements generously scattered throughout the region. Many structures are lovingly maintained but those that show the effects of years of exposure to our challenging environment have their own special of history and stubborn endurance.

Walker Farm, Dummerston, Vt

Good Eats and Pics
Wherever there are farms there must be produce and, especially in the late summer and fall our region explodes with the wonderful fruits of the land. Delicious and more than just incidentally, great to photograph.



Keene's Central Square 
 Keene is famous for its wide Main Street and quintessential town square. At the head of Main Street, among stately trees, you will find a circular common with a traditional gazebo and fountain. The square is topped by a towering white steepled church and the whole display is guarded by a classic Civil War Memorial gazing protectively into the center of town. Central Square is beautiful any time of year, but for just a few days each spring the common bursts into bloom. For more than a decade I have recorded this event and during that time I have noted that the "bloom" has, on average, moved about two weeks earlier. Global warming IS real!


Hancock Meeting House
Keene is the vibrant hub of the Monadnock region, but the "city" is nestled among lovely villages that have their own energy. The Monadnock region is at the geographic center of New England, but it benefits from being sufficiently distant from any of the major regional cities to make it no one's suburb. As a result the towns and villages must look within for their life and social structure. Hancock, Chesterfield, Gilsum and many more have a stubborn pride and a willingness to protect what is unique about their home. I often say that the Monadnock region is drawn together by our miles of bad roads and that connection helps to preserve a sense of interdependence and rural simplicity that provides endless opportunities for photography. It is with good reason that the Monadnock Region is referred to as the Currier and Ives corner of New England. We struggle with our own challenges of encroaching development, but I'm hopeful that our spirit will help protect our special rural character.
Marlow, NH

Dark Skies 
 It is increasingly difficult to find dark sky to allow the observation of the wonders of the cosmos. The Monadnock region has its share of light pollution but it is still possible to find areas that offer reasonable views to the night sky. The key is to travel far enough away from the "metropolis'" of Keene and Brattleboro. I usually head north to Walpole and beyond in an attempt to escape the glow of humanity. Sadly we don't have the endless expanse of lightless ocean that my friends on the coast can use, but in addition to the dark, the other major requirement for dramatic night sky photography is interesting foregrounds, and that we have in abundance.


Waterfalls and Stream
Catsbane Falls

I have to admit that I remain a sucker for the soft, cotton candy appearance of flowing water caught in long exposure. I continue to search for nearby waterfalls and streams. Chesterfield Gorge, Pulpit Falls, Catsbane Falls, and Garwin Falls are just a few of the more famous. Happily my region seems to have an endless supply of flowing water and it is a major attraction especially during the vigorous spring run-off

Spoffo0rd Lake Summer
Lakes and Ponds 
I live just a short walk from one of our regions best lakes. I've shot Spofford Lake in all seasons and varieties of weather, but it is just one of many beautiful bodies of water, ranging from developed lakes to small pristine ponds. 

Covered Bridges

Green River Bridge, Guilford, Vt
There is probably nothing as classically New England as a covered bridge and the Monadnock region and southeastern Vermont have more than there share. Why did New Englanders cover so many of their bridges. Unfortunately for the romantics it was not to provide a secluded spot for young lovers. Actualy, these "kissing" bridges were covered to protect the struts and roadway from the harsh New England elements. It was found that an inexpensive roof could significantly extend the life of these essential structures. New Englanders are a coldly practical group but covered bridges have an undeniable photographic appeal and are just incidentally great for smooching.


Spofford the Moose

I am primarily a landscape photographer but the wonderful beauty and variety of wildlife is unavoidable as the inconsiderate creatures wander into my compositions. Remarkably, these days I occasionally go out with the intention of stalking the Eagles on the Connecticut River or the graceful Blue Heron on Harvey Pond. I also have my window seat positioned to catch the many song birds at my feeder. The secret is to be ready for the wildlife opportunities as they periodically arise.

Blue Heron

The People

Pumpkin Festival Volunteers

New England country folk are famous for there reticence toward strangers, never rude, but always a bit cautious. I have lived in Spofford for over thirty five years and although still far from being considered a "native", I hope I am at least a little less "strange". 


One of the great traditions of small town New England is the
Election Day
reliance on the town meeting. Susan and I never miss the March exercise of this simplest form of self-government. It is exciting to join a small group of neighbors, sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs, discussing and voting on the town's business. During our first meeting, Susan bravely stood to ask a question, probably wondering just exactly what was the difference between a "back-hoe" and a "loader". The next day a lovely elderly lady approached Susan at the Post Office. She welcomed her to the community and thought it was nice that she had attended the meeting, but then strictly informed her that townspeople were not allowed to speak at the meeting unless their grandparents were buried in the town. We are still not considered natives but the true natives have long ago given up trying to keep Susan quiet, and I still haven't moved Grandma.
Tom Above Indian Pond
Once it is clear that you are here to stay and are committed to the community rural New England people become warm, and fiercely loyal. Susan has served on the local School Committee and has been a long term member of the Budget Committee, and I have been a member of the Conservation Committee for over twenty-five years. I especially value my relationship with local farms sharing their commitment to the agrarian economy and the beauty of the land.


Mount Monadnock 
 The traditional Abenaki word for a mountain that stands alone, towering above its surroundings, is "monadnock" and mountain from which our region gets its name fits this description. Mount Monadnock is OUR mountain. Its bare rocky peak stand at least 1000 feet above any mountain within 30 miles and towers 2000 feet above the surrounding plane. To our community the mountain is much more than a landmark. In a surprising sense it defines us and people take their relationship with the mountain very personally. It is why so many have worked to protect the peak from the constant pressures for development. 

The Mount Monadnock is one of the most climbed peaks in the country but in more than 30 years I have only climbed to the summit about five times. As a photographer, the real attraction of Monadnock is its many faces and moods in the full range of light and weather. All this is can only be fully appreciated from the bottom, looking up.

Henry David Thoreau probably said it best : 

"Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it. The view of the pinnacle itself from the plateau below surpasses any view which you get from the summit. It is indispensable to see the top itself and the sierra of its outline from one side.... It is remarkable what haste the visitors make to get to the top of the mountain and then look away from it."

On the day I decided to take my landscape photography seriously, my first step was to spend a day circling Monadnock. I was amazed at how the mountain changed when seen from different directions and, years later, I continue to find fresh perspectives gazing up to my mountain.

Infrared Mt Monadnock

Well, enough gushing. I still love the fresh inspiration obtained from traveling throughout New England and the world, but I will always be called back to my Monadnock Region.  Now if you could only move the ocean over to our side of the state, everything would be completely perfect!

Jeffrey Newcomer


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