About Me

My photo
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, April 23, 2017

Porcupine Falls

Porcupine Falls

Forty Foot Falls Cascade, Surry, NH

I like to think that I know all the significant waterfalls around the Monadnock region, and so it is simultaneously exciting and annoying when I, for the first time, hear about a nearby display of falling water.  The number of dramatic waterfalls within my corner of New Hampshire is remarkable.  I have several articles about some of the most beautiful, as well as more general reviews of many others within Cheshire and Hillsborough Counties.  

As always, this is the prime waterfall season with snow melt and spring rains swelling even the most minor streams.  I have been out shooting some of my favorites, but then friend and photographer Dan Most Facebook posted an image of Porcupine Falls.  Porcupine Falls??  Why had I never heard of that spot?

 After I got over the annoyance, I became excited that there are still new falls to explore.  A quick Google search gave me all the information I needed.  I discovered that Porcupine Falls is a feature of the Calhoun Family Forest in Gilsum New Hampshire.  

Calhoun Family Forest

The 355 acre forest preserve had been managed for half a century by John and Rosemarie Calhoun and, to protect this important resource, the Calhoun family has donated the land to the Monadnock Conservancy.  The forest is located at the end of White Brook Road which exits Route 10 near the big stone arch bridge across the Ashuelot River in Gilsum.  


From a small parking area, the White Brook Trail follows the brook to Porcupine Falls.  It is an easy 0.4 mile stroll.  The trail is nicely maintained with sturdy bridges, walk-ways and a lovely set of stone steps.

Chute and Cascades

The Chute

The falls is most notable for a chute of water that blasts from an elevated rock formation.  The chute was interesting, but I found it difficult to capture a dramatic composition.  To me, the many cascades, below the falls, were more interesting, especially given the strong seasonal flow.  I suspect that during the dry seasons these rivulets are less impressive, but I spent much of my time trying to find angles which incorporated both the main chute and some of these vigorous cascades.  


It is great to discover a dramatic waterfall, but what I enjoy most is the “working of the location” to find as many visual angles as possible. 

The Swimming Hole?
One of the best of these didn’t include the surging chute, but was from below the bridge which spans the brook, just below the falls.  This was also the most perilous location, as I worked my way into the middle of the stream to get a clear view of the bridge from across what I suspect, in the summer, will be a lovely swimming hole.  Slow careful movements are always important when negotiating the slippery rocks around waterfalls and streams.  This is particularly important when you are alone. I was at the end of a lonely trail, in the fading light. An incapacitating injury, including a crushed cell phone, could have led to a long cold night.  

I slid my way to a rock that was far too tiny for my substantial butt.  Keeping myself dry was only a minor consideration.  My primary goal was to avoid dunking my camera and cable release. Painful experience has taught me that I can dry my body without long term damage, but my gear is another, expensive, story.  I got some great shots and then the more challenging task was to make it back to the shore.

It was a lovely and fruitful little hike up the White Brook to Porcupine Falls.  I will be back often.  It might be worth a trip with my up-coming Spring Waterfall Workshop.  Thanks for the tip Dan.  I forgive you for finding it first.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Chesterfield Village

Chesterfield is a lovely town in southwestern New Hampshire and has been my home for 37 years.  It is actually a collection of three villages, my village of Spofford around Spofford Lake, West Chesterfield and the main center of Chesterfield.  The town is a photographer’s delight with rolling hills, farms, classic buildings and dramatic waterfalls.

I have written articles illustrating many of the visual attractions of the town, but  I have tended to focus on my home village of Spofford.  It is time to spotlight some of the best features of Chesterfield Center.  

Heading west on Route 9, a left turn onto Route 63 South will quickly bring you to Chesterfield’s understated center.  The village has a classic stone town hall from 18--.  With modest population growth, the annual town meetings have moved to the more spacious environment of the adjacent school gymnasium, but the town hall is still the historic center of Chesterfield and a great subject for photography, in all seasons. 

In the 1960s, the building was used in the opening credits of the TV series Peyton Place, to represent the quintessential, although scandalous, New England town.  In recent years, the town have done a creditable job trying to design newer town building to fit the feel of a classic New England village center.  The impression is helped by the fact that there is no commercial development in the town center.  The Town Hall is flanked by a small structure which matches the stone construction and is now the home of our active town historical society.  On the other side is a lovely modern town library constructed in a similar style.  Across the street,  the small post office compliments the other structures.

To the south on Route 63 are the K – 8 school, the town offices and fire station.  The school’s sports field provide nice areas of open space with the feel of an expansive town green.

The visual highlight of the drive through Chesterfield Center is its location perched along a high ridge with long dramatic views to the west and the Vermont mountains.  From here Mt Snow is easily seen and the sunsets are frequently spectacular.  All along this stretch of road,  farms, pastures and grazing animals provide interesting foregrounds for the dramatically shifting colors.  Turning away from the sunsets, the warm light can transform  the village structures, especially the Town Hall and a position on top of this ridge can provide an excellent spot to catch the rainbows which form as storms pass to the east.

Chesterfield Center is just one of the opportunities for discovery in my town.  Nearby are a number of active farms, Madame Sherri’s Castle and forest, Indian Pond, and Mt Wantastiquet, but a good start is to take that left turn off of Route 9 and step into a classic small New England Village.

For more information and pictures of Chesterfield’s attractions check out these links and my Chesterfield Center Gallery.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Photography Through the Fence – Melting the Wires

National Zoo, Washington, DC

This should be a quick tip.  I’m getting ready for my Introduction to Digital Photography course which starts on April 6th and my Spring Waterfall Weekend beginning May 5th.  It is a busy time.

White Egret, Naples Fl

During our southern trip this winter we saw incredible wildlife, especially in the Everglades, and in Audubon preserves around Naples Florida.  It was exciting to see so many exotic animals in the wild, and dramatically close and, of course, within range of my camera.  On one occasion, however, we saw a few animals in cages and that reminded me of techniques I’ve learned to photograph through wires.

von Arx Wildlife Hospital

von Arx Wildlife Hospital, Naples Fl

While in Naples, we visited the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, which is a wonderful institution dedicated to the care and rehabilitation for injured wildlife.  The hospital sees more than 3500 animals per year, including bobcats, deer, pelicans, herons, gophers tortoises and many other species of native animals.  The goal is always to get their patients ready to be reintroduced into the natural environment, but that is not always possible. Some of the animals have injuries which prevent them from being able to survive in the wild and are kept as “Ambassadors” for presentations at local schools.  Included in this group are a Bald Eagle and a Red Shouldered Hawk.  

Red Shouldered Hawk
von Arx Wildlife Hospital

 I was able to approach these magnificent birds in their cages, but there was a problem.  How to photograph through the wire?  It is a challenge that I have experienced before and there are a few simple techniques that can be quite helpful.

Note: The Hawk was more challenging since it was standing close to the fence, making it harder to get the wire out of the zone of focus - still, not bad.

Melting the Wires

Against the Fence, Wheelock Park

The most important technique is to use shallow depth of field to your advantage.  Approach the wire as closely as possible and try to center the shot through whatever gap is available.  Then make the DOF as narrow as possible, combining a wide-open aperture with a long focal length.  It is remarkable that, when the focus point of the subject is sufficiently distant from the wire, the obstruction will melt away.  This may take some experimentation.  It helps that, in order to have the brightest the view, DSLR viewfinders are always set to the maximum aperture. Looking at the scene, you will be seeing the effect of the shallowest depth of field. Of course, shallow DOF is helped by having a fast lens and a large sensor.  Given their nearly infinite DOF,  this is not a technique that will work for most smart phones.

Coati, National Zoo, Washington, DC

I was able to find a few examples of these techniques from the past, including a tour of the National Zoo in Washington DC.  For other examples, I went to the ball fields at Wheelock Park in Keene New Hampshire, but the subjects were not especially exciting.  I needed to find interesting stuff with wire in front.

 Portable Fence

My Own Portable Fence

 I also wanted to demonstrate the effects by comparing more pictures captured with large and small apertures.  I finally decided to insert my own fence.  I bought a 2’x4’ piece of wire fencing and then placed in front of various scenes, including the Chesterfield Town Hall and the Pond Brook Falls in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

f 22, 100mm

A few other factors can affect the ability to melt the wires.  Obviously wider wires can be a problem as can anything else that makes them more prominent such as bright colors.

Jacket Cover

A common difficulty comes when the wires reflect bright light. Overcast skies or shadows can help, and sometimes it is possible to place the fence in shade.  I used my jacket to block the light that was gleaming from the fencing at Wheelock Park.

f 2.8, 100mm


Pond Brook Falls, W. Chesterfield, NH

All of these techniques can help deal with fencing, but images captured through obstructions will, at best, still have a softer quality.  Editing software can add clarity, but the best solution is always to try to find a way to get a clear look at the subject.

Now enjoy my first try at an animated gif on the blog!

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG