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, June 26, 2016

Guided Upright Tool in Lightromm CC

Dawn at Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth Maine, Plumb

This week some mandatory whining, and then a discussion of a great new tool in Lightroom's perspective control options. 

Full House, On my front proch
It has been nearly three weeks since my hip surgery and I am doing about as well as could be hoped. I'm walking without a cane, mostly, and I've been driving a bit. Still much of my days are spent hobbling about the house and working on what seems to be an endless collection of torturous physical therapy exercises. It is all walk, exercise, ice, repeat. I’m still not ready for long photo shoots, but I can see the light.  Happily, my bird photography has been simplified by the growth of hatch-lings in the nest on our front porch. The five are looking ready to burst fort.  Also a deer was kind enough to conveniently explore the old drops in my orchard across the road.  Almost looks like I'm getting out there!

Sympathetic Deer in the Orchard

What does a landscape photographer do when he can't get out to the landscape? I can spend time enhancing old images, but I can only edit in short bursts since I have found that sitting at the computer is the quickest way to stiffen my hip. About the only things I have left is to write whinny blogs and to struggle with updates to my software.

Windows 10

I spent the last week back and forth with Microsoft Support to try to get my computer upgraded from Windows 7 to 10. As seen on my wife's laptop, Windows 10 seems to be a significant improvement over version 8, but it took several long tries to get the upgrade to work on my desktop. Turns out I had to install 127 updates to Windows 7 before 10 would install. Now the new operating system seems to be humming quietly along and hasn't (Yet) caused any problems. On to more updates! 

Lightroom and Photoshop CC Updates

I have been keeping up with the periodic updates for my Creative Cloud versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. Some updates contain mostly bug fixes and additional camera support, but occasionally they include some nifty new toys. An update just came out for Photoshop with some significant new features, including refinements in the masking tools, and the introduction of content aware cropping. Today, however, I want to quickly discuss the refinement in the Upright Tools in the new version of Lightroom CC, specifically the Improvement in perspective control with the Guided Upright option.

The ability to adjust perspective has been a powerful tool in Photoshop for some time. Most often this has to do with correcting the key-stoning effect that occurs when the camera is angled upward. With key-stomping, subjects such as buildings appear to be leaning away from the camera. I discussed the use of  Photoshop’s Skew Tool in a previous article, but more recently I have been doing most of my perspective correction with Lightroom’s Upright controls. This is another example of Lightroom capturing some of the editing power of Photoshop, but as is true in other areas, the Lightroom tools lacked some of Photoshop’s ability to fine tune the changes. At least until now. 


Within Lightroom’s’ Upright panel there are a number of automatic adjustments which often do a surprisingly good job correcting problems with perspective. The tools include an Auto adjustment, which tries to find a balanced solution, while Vertical and Level adjustments focus on one axis. The Full adjustment tries to get everything perfect, often with bizarre results. These automatic, control often work well but, as is true of most “automatic” solutions, they don’t always come up with the best result. 

The problem with the Upright controls in older versions of Lightroom is that there was no easy way to make manual adjustments when the automatic controls failed. That is until the new Transformation panel in the latest version of Lightroom CC, which adds the “Guided” adjustment option. Sadly, this new control is found in the latest update of Lightroom CC and is not available as yet in the non-subscription version.

First Do Your Best in the Camera

Perspective corrections in Lightroom and Photoshop can be remarkably effective, but, especially when the corrections must be drastic, they can introduce obvious unnatural distortions. The best way to avoid problems is to minimize how much adjustment we must apply to the image. Of course shooting with an adjustable view camera or with a tilt-shift lens can reduce or eliminate the key-stoning effect but these can be cumbersome and expensive options. Key-stoning can be minimized by raising the camera and thus reducing the need to angle up to the subject. Climbing a tree or using a leader or chair can make a difference, but I often find that merely holding the camera above my head can be a significant help. Once you’ve done everything to reduce distortion within the camera, it is time to use the magic in Lightroom or Photoshop. 

Lens Corrections Panel
 Lens Adjustments

My first step is to select the Lens Profile and Chromatic Aberration corrections in the Lens Adjustment Panel. Chromatic Aberration is the color banding that occurs along edges with sharp contrast, especially in the periphery of images. If left uncorrected this banding can become more noticeable as perspective controls are applied.

Transform Panel
The Transformation Panel and Upright Adjustments

The Transformation Panel is next in Lightroom’s workflow and it is here that the real magic occurs. When I am dealing with an image that contains the converging lines of “key-stoning”, I typically start by trying the various automatic settings. In situations such as my image of Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the Auto or Vertical adjustments often work best, but when I need better control I will go to the Guided adjustment.

Guided Upright

Leaning Portland Head Light
The Guided Upright Adjustment is selected by clicking on the “Guided” button or the tool icon in the upper left of the panel and bringing it into the image. To set either a horizontal or vertical upright adjustment, two lines need to be drawn using the tool along portions of the image which should be aligned along the horizontal or vertical axis. 

Level Guided Upright
The guides are set and then drawn along the axis with the help of a magnifying loop. The Upright adjustment is triggered when the second line is complete, but after the initial adjustment, the effect can be fine tune with movement of the lines. Adjustment along a single axis may be sufficient for many images, but, if needed a second set of lines may be placed to adjust the other axis. 

The Second City

Michigan Avenue  Chicago
My picture of Michigan Avenue in Chicago had the typical key stoning, but, with Guided Upright, I was able to correct the distortion with two vertical lines drawn along portions of the buildings. With adjustments such as this, portions of the image will be lost on both sides. When you anticipate that perspective adjustments will be needed it is important to enlarge the original framing to provide room for the inevitable cropping that will be required.  

Key-stoning can also occur in landscape shots especially when shooting at tall trees. The sense of the forest malevolently leaning in can create an ominous mood, but when desired this can be corrected easily with the Upright tools. 


Vertical & Level Guides
Original Image
Using the Guided Upright tool to correct both Vertical and Horizontal distortion scan be effective, but trying to control two axis’s at once can stretch the image in ways that appear unnatural. I shot an image of an old business block in Keene New Hampshire with the intention of creating a challenge for the upright tools. I framed the picture from the side and looking up. I got as low as my bionic hip would allow.
Vertical & Level Guides
Using Guided Upright, I applied vertical and horizontal guides, I and was able to get the structure to square up reasonably well, but it was accomplished with considerable stretching a squishing of pixels. Just notice the difference in the sizes of the cars parked from right to left. I think that by stopping at the vertical correction, the building appeared more natural, balanced. 


Often lesser amounts of perspective control are best, but at least with Lightroom’s Transformation options, experimentation is easy, quick and, as always, nondestructive. Take a look at all of the upright adjustments applied to my shot looking up at the spire of Keene’s United Church of Christ Church. The two axis guided adjustment may be the closest to fully square, but I may prefer the original image with its dramatic angles.

As is true of all the new tools in Lightroom and Photoshop, the Guided Upright option will find its proper place in your workflow, but only after much enjoyable experimentation and many, fortunately reversible, mistakes. So upgrade your Lightroom CC and start making those glorious disasters. 

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Upcoming Classes and Workshops

For years I had promised myself that I would start sharing what I have learned about photography by offering classes and workshops, both on the capturing of digital images in the field, and on getting the most from them through the miraculous capabilities of modern post-processing.  I have enjoyed sharing my experiences through my weekly "Getting it Right in the Digital Camera" blog, which now contains more than 300 articles on all aspects photography, most notably focusing on my corner of New England.  Over the years I have received  repeated questions about when I would start offering classes and, beginning last fall, I began my first nervous attempts. 

I started with a basic course on introductory digital photography with the assistance of the nice people at Keene Community Education.  The program included 8 hours of classroom time and two photo-shoot field trips.  We covered everything from selecting a digital camera, to image file types, archiving, exposure, composition and dealing with different varieties of light.  The field trips were a great opportunity to review practices in real-life situations and the resulting images were a wonderful source of material for gentle, loving! critique.  My first course seemed well received and the folks at KCEd asked me to offer it again this last spring.  In response to demand, I expanded the class from 10 to a maximum of 15.  I felt that higher numbers would not allow the needed personal attention.  I was blessed with another energetically committed group and I guess you could say that I'm hooked.  My next introductory course is scheduled for this fall, when I will hopefully be comfortable enough on my new hip to manage a 2 hour class.   


A Need to Edit
A persistent request from my students was to learn more about how I use photo editing software to bring out the best from my images.  I felt the best way to introduce  these approaches was through a course on the Lightroom.  I am a dedicated long term user of Photoshop, but over the last year I have become increasingly impressed with the power of Lightroom, in terms of both its image management tools and its sophisticated image editing capabilities.  I still bring almost all my images into Photoshop for final tweaking, especially when complicated masking is required, but I  now use Lightroom for 80-90% of my global editing.  Given it power and ease of use, for the majority of digital photography enthusiasts, Lightroom likely all they will need to get started.

Lightroom Class

Home-Grown Class

I ran my Lightroom course last winter for a small group of folks sitting around my dining room table.  I had intended to cap the class at eight, but because of a couple of dangling commitments I ended up with ten.  I ran the class as a live demonstration, with students encouraged to work along on their own laptops.  It was a new experience for me trying to keep organized without my PowerPoint slides. I had a great time and the class seemed to enjoy and benefit from the

Selective Masking, Lightyroom

sessions.  As is always true of teaching a course, I learned a ton.  I thought that that four,  two hour classes would be enough to cover the program's many features,  but because of my tendency to ramble and lots of great questions, I had to add a fifth class to cover the Slide Show, Book and Web Modules. I probably could have used more time, but I definitely learned that 2 hours of software complexity was about the limit for my mature students especially since I held the classes in the evening.

Lessons Learned
From my early experiences, three observations seem to stand out and will contribute to future classes.

Lupine Sunrise, Sugar Hill NH

1. Given the availability of digital cameras that are both sophisticated and affordable, there is a large demand for information that can make these complex machines more understandable and to learn how to use their remarkable capabilities.  Lesson: There is a large and excited demand.

2. It takes a surprising amount of time and effort to assemble eight or ten hours of course material, even on subjects that I think I know a lot about.  Lesson: Don't bite off too much at one time.

Photo shoot, Ashuelot Falls, Keene, NH

3. Much can be communicated in the classroom, but there is not

substitute for hands on experience with the camera controls and the interpretation of light and composition.  During my introductory course, the field trips were valuable, but even with only 10 or twelve students it was impossible for me be as available as I would have liked.  Lesson: Smaller group workshops, spending more time in the field, and supplemented by critique could be ideal, especially for more advanced shooters

4. When people get a taste of the capabilities of modern photo editing software they become excited to learning more about how these programs can bring their photography to the next level.  Lesson: Share the miraculous capabilities of post-processing.

Fueled by these observations I have been planning my upcoming teaching schedule, but first I have to get my titanium hip working properly.  I'm making good progress and should be reasonably mobile by the fall.

The Curriculum

Introduction to Digital Photography :
September 22 - October 13, Keene High School
On successive Thursday evenings from 6-8pm
Participants have seemed to like this class, therefore I will continue to try to tweak the content to meet the needs of those just embarking on the exciting adventure of digital photography.
Two photo shoots will be planned at the convenience of the participants.
Contact Keene Community Education for details and to get on the list soon. 

Autumn Foliage Workshop : 
Weekend of October 13th -15th
Evening class Friday covering basics and special requirements of foliage photography
Extended shoots on Saturday and Sunday with locations based on the weather and the status of the color.
Evening of discussion and critique of work, over a simple dinner Saturday evening, with further feedback Sunday afternoon.
Contact me at jeffn49@myfairpoint.net, or 603-363-8338

Introduction to Lightroom
January 2017
Five (I've learned my lesson), two hour classes covering all the major features of this amazing tool.

To be held comfortably around my dinning room table.  Limit of 8 students.
Contact me at jeffn49@myfairpoint.net, or 603-363-8338

So that is the schedule so far.  In the future I would like to expand classes to include more advanced photographic techniques including panoramas, focus stacking and HDR, and workshops to explore topics including night photography and the great variety of our New England Seasons.  Some day I may even take a stab at introducing  Photoshop to a small group of unsuspecting victims.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about upcoming programs or suggestions for future topics.

Jeffrey Newcomer


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Keene Main Street – One & Done

Keene Central Square

All Are Welcome

In last week’s Blog I discussed the value of exploring a location from many different angles.  As I have become familiar with the  broad spectrum of photographic techniques my approach has evolved, often with multiple images to optimize focus and exposure, and, often,  at the expense of the time required to look for other opportunities.


One an Done Experiment

May Sale

As an experiment I took a stroll down Keene’s classic Main Street and as a simple exercise, I forced myself to explore new angles, and to capture only one shot per composition.  No tripod, no multi-image focus stakes or multi-exposure HDR.   


I arranged the composition, adjusted focus point, f stop and shutter for optimal sharpness and then clicked. I allowed myself a second shot only if I guessed wrong on the exposure.  It was wonderfully liberating and great fun.  In just about 20 minutes I came home with just 71 shots on my memory card,  resulting in  17 unique images.  They are not all “hero” shots, but overall, I learned a lot From my quick photo walk.  

A Shorter Blog

I usually don’t feel that I must apologize for a short blog.  They appear to be a rare and welcomed relief from my standard volumes. For this week’s article, I would have normally rambled on about the value refreshing your photographic vision and the limitations of spending too much time on the technical aspects of just a few  image.  I covered much of this last week and this week I am more than just a little limited.  


The Hip Has It

Canon Ball Square

Last Monday I underwent a total hip replacement at Concord Hospital.  I had been limited by pain and stiffness in my left hip for a few years.  I could deal with the pain, but the hip was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do, especially when it came to getting out to photograph in more difficult or remote locations.  The time had come.

Dr. Fox did an admirable job and I was home the day after the surgery, but I have a lot of difficult work to do.  I hope that by the autumn I will be more mobile.  This week has been tough and I have had little time or energy to blog.  I suspect that will be true for several weeks and I certainly will not have any new shoots to recount.

Gazebo Time


Now Hiring : Naked Woman (#3)

 Here then without prolonged comment are the images from my Main Street photo shoot.  They are largely self-explanatory.  I am happy that I finally have an actual “naked woman”, sort of, partially, to allow me to boost my traffic by mentioning the phase “naked woman” , three times!

Main Street Stroll

Enjoy Keene New Hampshire’s Main Street and excuse me if the next few blogs are excessively brief or late.  Hopefully I will be able to get out before the summer is gone.

Jeffrey Newcomer