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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, August 14, 2016

Exploring Photography at the Cheshire Fair

I have lived in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire for over thirty-five years, but in all that time I had never made it to the Cheshire Fair.  Most years I promise myself that I will finally make it, but it always seems that by the time I realize that fair week has started, it’s past.  Summers activities are always distracting, but his year I finally made it.  As an excuse for a photo shoot (and of course, a blog), I committed to the 78th Annual Cheshire Fair. 

The 78th Cheshire Fair
The fair has all the traditional attractions, including Four-H competitions, tractor and oxen pulls, a rodeo, and a demolition derby.  Of course, there is the full variety of terrible food, most of which involves frying things that were never intended to be fried.  Fortunately, all that deep fried dough, onion rings and (ach!) fried Snickers Bars doesn’t usually stay down long enough to migrate to the Coronary Arteries.  The fair offers a variety of vomit inducing carnival rides designed to shake, twist and flip the offending “food” from the unsuspecting victims.  Ok, I apologize for sounding terribly self-righteous. If it wasn’t for my gluten allergy, I would have eaten myself into a fried dough coma before I had made it half-way down the first line of stalls.

Protected by my food allergy and a healthy fear of the rides, I was able to concentrate on capturing the color and action of this great American tradition.  Sadly, I missed several of the more popular staged entertainments including the demolition derby, the rodeo and a variety of country music concerts.  I was only at the fair for one afternoon and evening, and therefore tried to concentrate on a few of the attractions. I started with my monopod walking stick, but in the evening I fetched my tripod from the car to capture long exposures of the colorful lights.  Surprisingly, as I wandered with my tripod and attached camera on my shoulder, I got no questioning looks from the visitors or security guards.  I just tried to carefully guard against folks tripping over the extended tripod legs.

The “Food”

Since there was almost nothing that I could eat, I was able to concentrate on the brilliant colors of the concession stands.  Everything stood out vividly in the evening light.  If you wanted one evening per year to go ballistically off your sensible diet this was the place.  The perfect “No Judgement Zone”, and I had to be satisfied with only photographing all of the glorious junk.


The Animals

The animals provided great contrasts ranging from the cute calves, the powerful unruly oxen and the stately perfection of the horses performing in the dressage. 


Tractor Pull

The tractor pull offered the opportunity to see a wide range of antique and modern machines straining against the increasing weight of the sled.  Chatting with the spectators and competitors in the stands, I learned that the “Eliminator” sled steadily increases the strain by shifting the weight forward on its long bed.  As the weight presses the front of the sled into the sand even the most powerful tractors eventually stutters to a halt as the wheels to spin in the sand.

The Rides

A county fair would not be the same without the nausea generating rides.  The goal seems to be to spin the inner ear through every possible axis, often several at a time.  I tell myself that
I am not afraid of the
The Zipper
The rides, but I have learned from sad experience that even tame kiddy roller coasters leave me dizzy and nauseated for hours.  I commented on this to the operator of the  a particularly crazy ride, and he readily admitted that he would NEVER consider getting on board.  I stood a safe distance away from the “Zipper”, and watched the victims lurch out of the cages.  Many folks love this stuff and I was surprised to see how many people staggered back into line.


For me, the greatest attraction was to use long exposures to record the abstract gyrations of the brightly lit rides.  Again this was where the tripod was essential.


The People etc

I’m not an experienced street photographer, but the fair would be a great place to learn.  Lots of interesting people and wide-eyed kids.  I generally felt safer shooting a few of the concession barkers, but avoided the more aggressive salesmen. It must be a struggle for them to stay awake, let alone maintain a positive, energetic attitude.   


Of course my easiest subjects were all the wide eyed stuff animals – no trouble holding them still for their close-ups.

A Grande Finale
On the day of my visit, fireworks were scheduled for 9PM.  I searched for a place to capture the show with the lights of the fair in the foreground, but I couldn’t find a good angle.  I was getting tired and hungry and eventually set my tripod in the parking lot close to the display.  I was able to capture a number of dramatic explosions and was in a perfect spot to get out before the crowd left the fair.  In this picture, I blended three images using the lighten mode to give a grand finally appearance without having to wait to the bitter end. 

I had an enjoyable time exploring my first Cheshire Fair.  It was good to check this one off my list and a great excuse to shoot a wide variety of interesting subjects. Coming to the fair I had no set plan or expectations.  It was a perfect example of Picasso's "finding" rather than a defined "search".

This time of year there are county fairs throughout New England and it is hard to find a more varied and colorful opportunity for a self-assigned photo shoot. Remarkably, I came away from my project without being sick from either the “food” or the rides.  Perhaps i another 35 years I will be ready to go back, but It could be sooner.  The Demolition Derby is beckoning and who knows, my children may yet give me some grand-kids whose brains need to be scrambled on the Zipper.

 The Cheshire Fair can't be captured in words.  It is about the rich sounds, sites and smells.  So get to a country fair and in the meantime check out a bunch more images in my Cheshire Fair Gallery.

Jeff Newcomer


  1. A lot of thank for shared this guy . Like it .

  2. I love the images, they are so colorful and epitomize what a fair is all about. I hate fair rides, like the roller coasters and such. I see you have a picture of The Zipper. I went on that ride and was scared to death, I kid you not. I hate the rides when you fall. They are terrible.

    Heidi Sutton @ Ag Source Magazine

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