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, December 31, 2017

Seeing the Snow with Lightroom and Photoshop

So far this has been a great winter for photographing the snow. We have been hit by several storms, creating a nice clean cover of white, and the fridge temperatures have allowed the snow and ice to stick to the trees creating a classic “Winter Wonderland”.  

I love shooting in the snow.  The dark trees, stone walls and buildings stand in stark contrast to the brilliant white of the snow.  It creates scenes of near pure black and white, but the few remaining colors can stand apart in subtle relief.  It is all crisp and beautiful, but too often the snow can appear washed out without showing any detail.  Happily, there are several post-processing tools that can bring out enough highlight contrast to show the interesting detail in the white cover.  I discussed some of these techniques in the past, but with all the winter wonderland outside, it seems like a good time to review the wonders of snow photography.

First, Get it Right in the Camera
Left alone, your camera’s light meter will do what it has been taught to do, it will adjust the exposure to average everything, including your brilliant white snow, to a muddy middle gray.  Like when shooting on a bright sandy beach,  you will need to increase the exposure by a stop or two.  

The important thing is to avoid overdoing the adjustments and blowing out the highlights.  It is great to shoot to the right, but use your histogram to assure that detail is left in the highlights.  The picture in your camera’s LED screen may look overexposed but the right shifted image will give you the best control over contrast in the final edited image.  Trust the Histogram!!

Now that you have the perfect image from the camera you can start working to increase the contrast in the snow.  The goal is to see the detail that was visible in the field.


Unedited RAW Image in Lightroom

Let’s start with the dramatic image of the dog howling against the storm.  Actually,  he may have been howling against the photographer, but I prefer my story of the noble beast opposing the bitter elements.  The picture showed the dog in nice detail, but the snow was washed out.  No detail was apparent.

The goal is post-processing is to slightly reduce the brightness and
Highlight Adjustment in Lightroom

enhance the contrast in the snow, without excessive darkening of the mid-tones and shadows.  You never want to make the snow appear a muddy gray.  These days, my first approach is to use Lightroom’s highlight slider.  A combination of a decrease of the highlights, darkening of  the shadows and a subtle increase in the brightness can often be enough to make the snow texture more visible.  As with all of these tools, the important thing is to avoid is over-doing the adjustments.  The goal is to show the snow as you remember seeing it in the field.

I should mention that I work almost entirely in Lightroom CC Classic, but similar adjustments of the highlights can be made in the new, cloud-based, Lightroom CC.

Into Photoshop
After making my adjustments in Lightroom, I always bring my images into Photoshop for final tweaking.  This often means working further on the appearance of the snow.

Curve Adjustments
Curves Adjustment 
Detail in the snow may be enhance with a selective adjustment with the Curves tool – a reduction in the highlights while protecting the darker tones.  Here I used a mask to limit the effect to the foreground snow area.


Shadow/Highlight Tool in the Image Drop-down

The Shadow/Highlights tool is a remarkable instrument for selectively controlling the highlights and shadows in an image.  Its effects are applied over the entire image, but I always apply the tool on a separate image layer to allow better control of the effect through masking and adjustment in opacity.  The tool is found in the Image drop down menu under Adjustments.  Separate controls are available to brighten shadows and darken highlights, with the Tone sliders controlling the tonal range over which the adjustments are applied. 

Shadow/Highlights Tool

Limiting the Effect to the Snow with a Layer Mask

The Highlights adjustment does a great job bringing out the detail in snow, but again the key is to avoid overdoing the change.  In the howler image I pushed the adjustment slightly beyond the level that I thought was optimal and then made a final adjustment by pulling back on the opacity of the layer, and limiting the area of the change with a mask.  By masking the background, I was able to protect the soft appearance of the distant trees.

Pushing too far on the highlight adjustment can result in unnatural appearing edges, especially in areas of high contrast, but, by making preliminary highlight adjustments in Lightroom or with curves in Photoshop, the final Shadow/Highlight modification need not be as strong.

Howl Against the Storm, Dummerston Vermont

Any of these tools can be effective at bringing out the natural detail and interest in fresh snow.  Give them a try, after all, tis the season.

Now stay warm out there!!

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, December 25, 2017

Pictures of the Holidays

This week’s blog is being published on Christmas day, so I thought it would be a nice time to share some of my favorite holiday images.

What represents a “holiday image”:

The Lights

Certainly festive lighting is a popular subject.  My favorite has always been the scene around Central Square in Keene New Hampshire.  The gazebo, the majestic white church and the illuminated Christmas tree makes for classic images.  Over the years, the trees have varied in size and the snow has not always been cooperative, but it is always the first place that I look for my holiday lighting.

Of course, there are other locations for Christmas lighting and I am always on the lookout.  

Boston Common Lights

I have written several articles about shooting holiday lights:

Festive Decorations

Vermont Country Store
Holiday decorations are not always dependent on bright and flashing lights.  Wreaths and garlands add a more traditional feeling of celebration, harking back to a time when holiday lighting was a candle in the window, and everything else depended on color and style.

Hancock Inn

The Fells,  Newbury NH
Christmas Cactus

Interesting Weather

Home for Christmas 2017
Christmas in New England also means winter weather.  Everyone prays for a white Christmas, but it may also come with impassible icy roads, fallen trees and power failures.  Recently, a tree crashed into the wires pulling two poles to the ground knocking out power for 12 hours. It was interesting to see the crews working through the night to restore service.  

Great December Ice Storm Outage 2008

Christmas Walk, Spofford NH, 2017
This year we have already enjoyed several storms and are promised a white Christmas, but two years ago, Christmas morning meant a stroll around the village in short sleeves.

Christmas Day 2016
The Warmth of Home and Hearth

Regardless of the weather household decoration stay pretty much the same.  These can include the lights on the Christmas tree, but, like many people, we add our own traditional pieces, including home-made decorations on the tree.  We have an ornament pieced together from the “No Mall” pins that we wore years ago, and for real history, we have Abigail’s old retainer, that we plan to pass on for her trees for decades to come.  Of course, we have bright stockings to hang over the fireplace and everything from a Santa wine bottle holder and, for no obvious reason, a dancing chicken.

Harrisville, NH
Well, I think I have manufactured sufficient excuses to show some of my holiday pics.  Enjoy and have a peaceful and happy holiday season.

For more Holiday Images check out my

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, December 17, 2017

First Snow, Capturing the “Winter Wonderland” Moment

Prospect Hill Westmoreland, NH

It was only a couple of inches, not even enough to fire up the snow blower, but the first accumulating snow of the season is always special.  Even if it melts away the next day, the first coating of white marks, a symbolic end of the dark, gray "stick season".  


November Stick Season
Ashuelot Covered Bridge

I always welcome the calm of November.  After the garish colors have fallen from the trees, it is a time to catch up on the editing of all those amazing foliage images.  Additionally, this year, I have work to do on the several thousand pictures from our wonderful trip to Italy.  Stick season also provides an opportunity to work on holiday orders and prepare for my up-coming classes and workshops, but, it is possible to find interesting things to shoot.  The oak and beech leaves continue to hang on, and the bare branches create a sense of peace before winter's rage.  Accepting all of this, when November fades into December, it feels like it is time for the white.

First Snow
Last weekend, we finally got our first snow, and I was ready.  The first dusting came Saturday afternoon.  I love capturing the first flakes, as they salt the dark earth.  Before the snow totally obscures the soil and fallen leaves, an intricate texture can be seen on the ground and on the newly formed pond ice.  Knowing what is to come makes the delicate scene even more affecting.

Through the night the snow fell, occasionally heavily, but only accumulated 2-3 inches.  It was warm enough for the snow to stick to the trees and the morning dawned cold with calm allowing the snow to stay on the branches for at least a couple of hours.

Winter Wonderland
I got out as early as I could in an attempt to catch the season's first "Winter Wonderland" time, when the fresh snow still coats houses, barns and trees.  The difficult question, as always, was which direction to travel.  On Sunday morning, I headed north, along Route 63, through Westmoreland and Walpole.  My goal was to try to keep ahead of the melting, and I was able to capture a couple of hours of at least a little Winter Wonderland.

It felt as if we are truly embedded in the winter season.  On Tuesday we enjoyed another, more substantial, storm.  The snow from this one came down during the daylight, and I had a great time chasing scenes of active "Winter Wonderland".  This time I headed out to Vermont, spending most of my time exploring the back roads of Dummerston.  The roads were slippery, but the snow added softness and depth to the beautiful New England scenery.  Against the snowy back-drop, I was able to isolate a yellow tree, a lonely swing and a dog howling into the storm.  It was a wonderful time to enjoy the weather.

The Perfect Tree 
Snowless Tree

I ended the day by running back to Keene to capture the fresh snow on the Central Square Christmas tree.  This is one of the best trees I have seen in years.  It is large, full, and the squirrels hadn’t (yet) chewed the wires on the lights.  A couple of nights earlier, I had captured some nice pictures of the square.  Everything was perfect, except for the unfortunate fact that the tree had no snow.  Early Tuesday night, the weather was varying between snow, sleet and rain, but there was still snow on the branches, and I had to make another try.  I kept my camera covered with a towel except when unveiling the lens for a shot.  The results were classic winter wonderland lights.  

Perfect Coat

In the Dark
It was a great storm, except that when I got home I found that the heavy snow had brought a tree down on the wires near my home and snapped a couple of telephone poles.  This is rural New England and we are prepared for power outages, but the frustrating thing was that I couldn’t start working on all the great images that were languishing within my camera.  

Over the years, we have experienced many power outages, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to watch the crews work to repair the damage.  I took all night and I can only say that I hope that the families of the repairmen appreciate the great work that is done by their men.

 There is much more winter to come, and it won’t be long before we will begin yearning for the first warm breezes and fresh buds of spring, but, for now there is nothing that feels quite as fresh and exciting as the first tastes of white and the amazing New England Winter Wonderlands.

Happy Holidays

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, December 11, 2017

Up-coming Photograpraphy and Editing Classes. Winter/Spring

Stone Arch Bridge, Keene, NH
Recently, I completed the latest session of my Introduction to Digital Photography course.  I have offered this course for Keene Community Education four times before, but each time it is my “Latest Version” because my course varies based on the needs and interests of the participants.

Shooting at the Stone Arch Bridge

This seems like a good time to present my schedule for courses in the first part of the coming year.  With so many people discovering the amazing capabilities of digital photography, and struggling with the use of the new digital cameras, the interest in my introductory course seems to be persistent.  I love introducing so many enthusiastic people to this new world of photography, and will continue to offer my course until  the interest fades, if ever.  

Lightroom Library Module
One of the key advantages to digital photography is the ease with which images can be brought to their full potential with digital editing. In my introductory course, I inevitably refer to the power of the “Digital Darkroom”, particularly Photoshop and Lightroom, and in response to the many request, I created a hands-on course covering the essentials of image organization, editing and exporting within the amazingly powerful Lightroom program.  I’ll be repeating my Introduction to Lightroom Course, but this year in a new and more convenient venue.


Introduction to Adobe Lightroom 
Tuesday Nights,
January 16th. – February 13th
Monadnock Imaging, Main Street, Keene N

Jaffrey Meeting House
I have been a dedicated Photoshop user for many years, but over the last few years, I have become increasingly impressed with the power of Lightroom, in terms of both its image management tools and its sophisticated 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 its power and ease of use, for the majority of digital photography enthusiasts, Lightroom is likely all they will need to get started with image management and editing.

The Big Name Juggle

New Lightroom CC
Recently Adobe has complicated all of our lives by splitting the Lightroom Program in two.  There are many good discussions of the differences between these very different programs, but simply speaking, the new Lightroom CC is an entirely new cloud based program.  With a simpler interface, but significantly pared down capabilities.  It is designed for more casual photographers, and those who work primarily through a mobile interface.  For more serious photographers who store larger image archives locally on hard drives and who want to use the full features of the old Lightroom, the new program has no significant place. 

Lightroom "Classic"
For me and most serious photographers, the new choice is called “Lightroom Classic”.  It sounds disconcertingly like the old “Coke Classic”, but Lightroom Classic is just the old Lightroom CC with all the old features and functions and a few new tricks.  This split seems to be designed to create a simpler path for mobile and other smart phone photographers, without stripping the power of the “Classic” Lightroom program.  Adobe promises to keep up with innovation on both versions of Lightroom.  We will be watching.

If you, like many, are still confused, just know that the CC and Classic versions are both included among the options in the Adobe Photography Subscription Plan, and still for $9.99/month.  My course will be covering the full power of the Lightroom Classic Program.

Lightroom Classic Course
I have developed my introductory course to cover all the essential capabilities of Lightroom.  In the last couple of years, I have offered the course four times and it has been warmly received.  I run the class as a live demonstration.  Students are encouraged to work along on their own laptops, but a computer is not necessary to benefit from the material.   I’ve had a great time with the classes.

Map Module
Without the use of PowerPoint slides, presentations are much more dynamic, and, as is always true of teaching a course,  have

learned a ton. I initially thought 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 have added a fifth class to cover the Slide Show, Book and Web Modules. I probably could have used more time, but I learned that 2 hours of software complexity at a time is definitely the limit for my mature students – and their teacher.

Monadnock Imaging Hosts

Lightroom Around the Dining Room Table
I have held previous Lightroom classes at my home in Spofford NH, and had to limit the classes to the 8 people who could fit comfortably around my dining room table.  This year, the great folks at Monadnock Imaging in Keene have generously offered to host the class.  This will allow me to expand the group to around 12, and it will also make the location more easily assessable, especially during the snowy winter weeks.  There will be no more struggling over Chesterfield Hill, except for me and Robin.  We will continue to have five, two-hour, evening sessions, and of course, light snacks will be provided. The ten hour course is $195.  There are already people on the waiting list from last time, so please get in touch as soon as possible.



Introduction to Digital Photography
Tuesday evenings 6-8pm
April 10, 17, May 1,8  (Corrected)

This spring I will again be offering my Introduction to Digital Photography Course as part of Keene Community Ed’s fall program.   The course includes 4 classes and two photo shoots. I cover a wide range of topics from understanding the difference in camera types to, image file formats, file management and archiving. Special emphasis is placed on exposure, composition and the use of different types of light.  All these topics are applied to the results of the photo shoots.

Golden Spire

The course size is limited and, if the past is any guide, it will tend to fill quickly.  Registration begins Wednesday, January 17 and can be done over the phone at 357-0088 or on-line at www.keenecommunityed.org.  Please feel free to get in touch with me for any questions.

Steadying the Camera

Waterfall Workshop
That is my list for now.  I will likely announce another Spring Waterfall Workshop for sometime in May.   I am excited how, in the last couple of years, teaching has become such an important part of my photographic activities. 

Of course, the classes and workshops have seemed a natural extension of the teaching I have been doing for years in my weekly Getting It Right in the Digital Camera Blog.  Working on the blog has greatly expanded my knowledge to the point that I feel comfortable offering my classes. I hope to get to know many more of my readers as I continue and expand my live programs.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the up-coming classes and work-shops, or if there other topics you would like to see me cover either in a class or on the blog.  Any interest in a Photoshop Class – or classes.

Jeffrey Newcomer