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, December 4, 2016

Perfect Christmas Tree, A Squirrel Saga

Gazebo in the Rain : 2016

Keene New Hampshire is most notable for two physical attributes.  The first is its wide and vibrant Main Street and the second is its classic Central Square at the head of that street.  The square is complete with a beautiful gazebo, the ubiquitous Civil War Statue and the towering steeple of the historic white church.  For a photographer, Central Square is the exclamation point on this lovely New England town.  For me the square is at its best with the addition of the holiday lighting, including the majestic beauty of a brightly illuminated Christmas tree.

Tree at the Head of the Square

2013 Perfect Central Square

Every year I become excited to see the tree at the head of the square.  The trees are always obtained locally and although they vary in size and in the care given to the lighting, I always try to capture the display to best advantage.  The tree has been my focus in several articles discussing photography of holiday lights, and at its best the combination of the glowing evergreen with the perfect New England setting can be breathtaking.  But this year there was a problem.

A Beautiful Tree

2007 Tree with
"Winter Wonderland" Coating

This year’s tree is the best I have seen since the magnificent tree of 2007.  It is tall and full without any major defects or holes.  There has been no snow yet to coat the tree in a “Winter Wonderland” blanket, but everything looked very promising when I first viewed the tree in the daylight.



When I came back to view the tree at night, with the full show of the colored lights, I was horrified.  The beautiful tree was missing lights on a major portion of the top.  At its peak, the  brilliant white star was floating above a large patch of empty branches.

I called City Hall to politely inquire about this tragic insult to an otherwise epic tree, but at first I received on answer.  I couldn’t believe that I was the only person to notice the problem.  That night I went into town for my first attempt at shooting the crippled tree.   

As if to add further insult, it was raining.  The scene had nearly every dismal condition that ever detracted from holiday light photography.   No snow, black sky, missing lights, and droplets on my lens.  All I could do was try to find angles which took advantage of the colorful reflections.  At Least the reflections didn’t show the gaping hole in the lights.  I had hopes that the lights would eventually be repaired, but, in the meantime, I went home and got to work.

Photoshop to the Rescue

Magic Restored with Photoshop

A perfectly illuminated Christmas tree is magical, and what is even more magical is the ability of Photoshop to rescue a poor tree and promote it to its deserved brilliance.  As it happens it is not especially difficult to add lights to fill the holes in a tree.  I cloned individual and strings of lights with ease.  The challenge was to match the illumination of the surrounding greenery.  I approached the rest of the image in steps.  Since I already planned to throw authenticity out the window, I also used cloning and content-aware fill to remove the street lights, the support wires and a few of the most obvious smears of light from passing vehicles.  I left the fire hydrant as a sad false suggestion of reality. 

The final image did not have the full “Winter Wonderland” magic, but, until the snow flies, it was the best I could do with the conditions.  At least the reflections added a point of special interest.  I thought the image would at least serve as a way of shaming the city about its negligent short changing of the beautiful tree that had given its life for our enjoyment.  Then the phone rang and I realize my mistake.

City to the Rescue
All Natural and the Blue Hour!
The next day I received a call from a lovely person at city hall.  Helen told me that they had noticed the problem and discovered that squirrels had eaten through the wires on several strands of the lights.  She assured me that the fire department would be scaling the tree to add new lights, and later that day it was done.  I didn’t ask who first noticed the problem and therefore I can feel comfortable taking full credit for the repair. As it turned out, all I had to do was wait a day, but it still was a fun exercise to use Photoshop to fill the tree.

I came back the next evening to photograph the fully illuminated tree and was also able to capture the square bathed in the cool blue hour light.  The only thing missing was a fresh coating of snow.  I can wait for nature to provide.  I promise, I will not try to Photoshop in the snow! 

Even I have limits.

 Jeff Newcomer