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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November Photography

Watchful, Roads End Farm

November is coming to an end and like every year it is time to complain about the terrible conditions for photographers.  It doesn’t help that the dismal stick and mud season comes immediately after the glory of our incredible autumn color, but this is New England, and there is always something to photograph as we await the magical coating of snow.  I have talked about the attractions of late autumn in previous articles, including the rusty display of the leaves as they surrender to the ground, leaving the stark patterns of the bare branches.  November is a great time for hiking with the cool crisp air, open views and most importantly, the absence of bugs.  I have covered this topic before, but, although I’m still working on the pictures, I thought it was a good time to look at some of the special opportunities that came along with this November.  

Late Season Gold

Chesterfield Gorge Color

November is not just about flat colors and dull vistas.  It is a time of remarkable change, and although it often ends with dustings of snow, it begins with the persistent gold from the brave Oaks and Beech trees.  I enjoy the less gaudy colors and the lack of strong early November storms allowed the leaves to hang in longer than usual.


A Time to Think

Roads End Mist

 November is the cloudiest month of the year.  Its soft light and especially the mist make for a quiet contemplative time without gaudy distractions.  We had a number of beautifully soft foggy days to enjoy this year, which contrasted nicely with the stark lines of the bare branches.


Always the Farms

Grazing to the Vermont Hills

There is always activity on the local farms that I consider my own.  The cows were grazing on the hillside with the snow-covered Vermont mountains in the background and the horses of the Roads End Farm in Chesterfield New Hampshire were industriously cropping the last blades of grass from their pastures before the long winter confinement. 

Head Shot
Restless Water

Chesterfield Gorge
 One of November’s traditional attraction is flowing water.  This year the autumn rains have been scant, but in the last few days we have enjoyed a few showers to fill the brooks.   Close to home Beaver Brook and Chesterfield Gorge are great places to catch the cotton candy look of our flowing water.

Otter Brook, Sullivan NH

Super Moon

November Super Super Moon over Monadnock

As everyone knows, November was graced with super Super Moon.  I don’t have anything more to add to last week’s “Bah Humbug” article about super moons, except to apologize and acknowledge that the event was a special break from our typically uneventful season.

Family Time

First Dance : Steven & Rachel

November is a time to gather with family and friends, and this year the usual Thanksgiving feast at home was supplemented by a wonderful family wedding in Tarrytown New York.  My nephew’s wedding was a perfect excuse to get together with almost everyone from Susan’s family and both Jeremy and Abigail were there, looking good and with their significant others.   

Color Along the Hudson

The additional bonus was that even in late November there was still color in the trees along the Hudson River.  

Croton Gorge Dam

 I also managed to get out early one morning to visit Rick Sammon’s favorite local waterfall at the Croton Gorge Dam in Croton on the Hudson New York.  The flow was meager, but it is still an impressive structure holding a large reservoir.

Abigail & Grayson, Gina & Jeremy

Thanksgiving was a more intimate affair with only 14 family a friends gathered around our abundantly stocked dining room table.  As always these occasions are great times to capture candid portraits while everyone is dressed up and expecting to be photographed. The company was warm, the food was amazing and I now have only a few weeks to recover before the Christmas festivities.   

Wonderful Gathering and Lessons Learned
I also learned a few important lessons about photographing the Thanksgiving table.  First, get everyone in the picture.  Secondly, shoot early before the table is in chaos and before much alcohol has been consumed.

Otter Brook Cascade

It hasn't been such a bad stick season.  As November rapidly comes to an end, and until the snow flies, we can continue to enjoy the special quiet autumn joys of the season.

Jeff Newcomer



Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is Super about a SUPER MOON?

Giant Super Moon", November 2016

Like everyone else, I was caught up in Super Moon fever last weekend.  The news was full of it.  The full moon straddling Sunday and Monday nights would be the biggest since January 1948 and not to be exceeded until 2034.  I’m not sure that I will be able to lift a camera in 2034, so I had to get out to capture the “spectacular show”.  Photographers were out, sometimes in large crowds, to shoot the moon as it rose above lighthouses, mountains and church steeples.  Facebook has been glutted with spectacular images of the event.  Crowds gathered and I was no exception.

Finding the Super Moon

Line to the Super Moon
As always, I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris to find the line upon which I would need to find a clear observation point to place the rising moon behind Mount Monadnock.  On the coast, it is easier to line up the moon with a clear view to various interesting foregrounds, such as lighthouses, but inland, I needed a spot far enough away and high enough to make the moon stand out large against the rapidly fading blue hour background.  My line went through Winchester, southwest of the mountain.  I needed to go high and, on a hunch, I found a spot on a ridge west of the Ashuelot River

Cresting Super Moon

that opened through the hills to a view of the mountain fifteen miles away.  It was sheer luck, helped by a little planning, that I found such a perfect spot so quickly.  Sunday evening was clear and I was able to convince fellow photographer Steve Hooper to join me on the ridge.  As we waited, the neighbors came out to offer us beers.  The pressure was on and, thankfully, the Ephemeris came through.  As predicted, the moon crested perfectly and on the

Steve Hooper, On the Ridge

northern ridge of Monadnock.  Steve and I shot continuously as the compliant moon rose over the peak.  Good thing, because on Monday night the moon over the cemetery in Troy was obscured by clouds.  No matter, I have another Super Moon in the can!
Super moons are always a great excuse to bring people out to appreciate the beauty of the full moon, but, as everyone is breathless over the spectacle, it’s good time ask whether the super moon is really all that super?  After all our moon reliably orbits the earth every 28 days and every 28 days it returns to being fully illuminated by the sun.


What's So Super

Elliptical Orbit, Much Exaggerated

So, what is special about Super Moons.  The moon’s orbit around the earth is an ellipse, its proximity to us varies from about 222,000 miles at its closest, called at “perigee” and 252,000 mi at the farthest point on the ellipse, called at “apogee”.  The moon reaches a perigee point every month, but the “Super Moon” title has been arbitrarily give to full moons that happen to occur when the moon is at perigee and are seen to be about 14% bigger than when at apogee.  


Regardless of the phase, the moon is always bigger at perigee, but no one gets excited by a “Super” quarter moon.  I love it when the moon is in full sunshine, but I also find special interest when it is partially illuminated.  Light shining tangentially on the moon’s surface highlights the irregular landscape of mountains and craters.  For all its brilliance, the light on the full moon is flat and lacks dimension.  


Lunar Eclipse

Old Saybrook Super Moon

On rare occasions the full moon provides an additional bonus, when it is paired with a lunar eclipse. I was lucky to be visiting friends on the Connecticut coast for the last such event in September 2015.  I caught the super moon rising over the Old Saybrook Breakwater Light, and later recorded the progression of the lunar eclipse from my friend’s front yard.  Ok, that WAS super!

A Super Pizza
Super & Mini Moons
But, how much more impressive is the moon when it is 14% larger than when at its smallest.  I’m never quite sure that I can appreciate the difference and, for all the gasped admiration, I doubt that the average viewer would notice the difference unless the two moons were magically side-by-side, or if they were told that it was “Super”.   It is the result of an optical illusion that makes all full moons look impressively large when close to the horizon, but he diameter of a super moon is only about 7%  bigger than a “Mini” moon.  Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson has a nice way of placing this small difference in understandable gastronomical perspective:

"If you had a 16" pizza, would you call that a super pizza compared to a 15" pizza?" 

Supersize Your Moon

Non-Super Full Moon Over Monadnock

It may be true that some observers, with unaided eyes, can appreciate the relative size of a full moon at perigee, but for photographers, the difference is of less importance.  We view the moon, not through our eyes, but through a lens and the smallest moon can be rendered super merely by a slight increase in focal length.  A super moon seen through a 100mm lens will appear to be the same size as a “mini” viewed at 107mm. 

I have nothing against super moons, I was out on the hillside with everyone else, but please, can’t all those spectacular, but non-super, moons get a little love.  After all, you won’t have to fight the crowds to shoot any of those lonely non-perigee displays, and with careful planning they can be equally impressive

Full Moons Attractions

Cape Cod Moon, Blue Hour

The attraction of any full moon is, of course, that it is full, but for me its most important attribute is that it always rises and sets during twilight.  Full moons always appear when there is still beautiful blue light in the sky to compliment the yellow orb and to cut the contrast.  Against the dark night sky the moon must be photographed either with detail against a featureless black background or appear as a blown out white disc. Regardless of the size of the full moon its true glory comes from the visibility of its surroundings.  Some of this may be captured using multi image HDR, but nothing matches the warm moonlight against the cool of twilight and that occurs with every full moon, not just the super one.

Know the Rules
So get out and worship the glorious full moon, but remember that you don’t need a super moon to come home with super shots.  The rules are always the same.  

  •  Find a view that includes something of interest in the foreground.  
  • Get far enough away from the foreground so that you can use a long lens to make the moon appear large in the background. 
  • Unless you are on the coast, get high enough so that the moon will appear above the horizon before the twilight blue fades to a fathomless black. 
  • Expose for the detail on the moon’s surface.  Remember that no matter how dark are your surroundings, the moon is as bright as a sun drenched sandy beach. 
  • If the important foreground detail is too dark, you may want to take separate images, exposed for the moon and foreground.  Just shoot quickly so that the moon will not move significantly between images and complicate the eventual blending.

I couldn't get back any further
from Abigail and Grayson


    And finally remember, every full moon can be super.  Your next chance is the “Cold Moon” on December 13th.  

Ok, if you insist, the next “Super Moon” will be December 3rd 2017, but, don't get too excited,  it will be about 620 miles further away.

Super Moon, March 2011

Jeff Newcomer

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Foliage Therapy

One Window, Chesterfield NH

Autumn 2016, A Gallery for no Particular Reason

Window on Autumn
The election is over I can only pray that people we have elected start working together for all of us, seeing beyond meaningless difference in race, color, sex or place of origin, to our common humanity and aspirations.

With that one nonpartisan prayer, I can move on to a much more exciting topic.  I woke up the morning after the election seeking a way to move beyond the despair and tried to focus on the fact that I am privileged to live in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of our country.  It may never be as important than today to apply a little “landscape therapy”.   So I settled in to continue with work on my annual Autumn Celebration Blog.  

Stone Pond Chapel

Foliage Workshop
In the last few weeks I have posted many fall foliage images, most related to specific, autumn related events, chief among these have been the DeMar Marathon, my Intro to Photography photo shoots and my Fall Foliage Workshop.  Although not strictly an event, our trip to Maine’s isolated Monhegan Island was also a magical early autumn photographic bonanza.  I have more to show from these great photographic “excuses”, but autumn is a time to get out shooting for no particular reason and this is my chance to show some of my favorites from this year’s contextual orphans.  After all, this is autumn in New England and context seems entirely unnecessary.  


Golden Afternoon, Westmoreland NH

Through the Gorge, Chesterfield, NH

Given the vagaries of the summer weather, no one expected this year’s foliage to be so brilliant and long lasting, but it is this uncertainty that makes photography in New England such an adventure.  So, in rough non chronological order, and with minimal interruption, here are a sample of my treasures from this year’s explorations.  Enjoy and, for just a few minutes, try to forget.



Autumn's Edge, Chesterfield NH

Lost Wall, Chesterfield NH
Golden Passage, Chesterfield NH

Inn & Tavern
Classic Hancock, Hancock NH

Dairy View, Westmoreland NH

Belted Galloways, Westmoreland NH
Pasture Curve, Chesterfield NH

Autumn Asters, Spofford NH

Lake Outlet Foliage

Mixed Greens, Spofford NH

Soft September, Spofford NH
Two Stones Broad Brook, Guilford Vt

Oaken Framed, Spofford NH

November is only half over, and there is a lot more time for work on Autumn 2017.  The first snow of the season came and went quickly.  Stay tuned.

 Jeff Newcomer