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, June 25, 2017

How Do You Want to be Seen

Except where noted, all images are from my iPhone 7 and are unedited

How concerned should you be about the quality of the images that you make visible to family, friends and the world. It all depends on what you are looking for from the giant landscape of social media.

Last weekend I had a lovely time sitting out on my neighbor’s lawn while Spencer, their two year old grandson, frolicked in
Spencer and Grandpa : Canon 5D Mark IV
the grass and jump from lap to lap.  He had recently developed a fear of any person who was carrying a camera, but I was able to break through by showing him each picture on the LCD screen.  He was fascinated, and loved to touch, with his greasy fingers, each of the faces.  Especially his own.  I got some nice shots, and Spencer’s proud grandpa wanted me to send them to him right away.  He insisted that he didn’t care if I had edited the best images.  He just wanted them RIGHT AWAY!   He was a bit impatient when I explained that I never simply dump out my raw unedited images.  I spent time that night selecting the three most iconic shots and then trying to bring out their best in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I love working on portrait images and Spencer was an irresistibly adorable subject.  Grandpa was more than please when he saw the results the next day, but this simple interaction got me thinking about how we all control how our images are seen when we set them free.

Whether it is on Facebook, Instagram, or the seemingly endless list of other varieties of social media, we as photographers are judged by everything we make visible to the outside world.  We can exert a bit more control of the images in our own web sites, but our visual footprint is out there, and as we all know, that stuff NEVER goes away.  

How much time should you spend on perfecting your images before you publish them on social media.  There is no single right answer.  It all depends on your audience and on what you want to accomplish by making your work public.  This week let’s consider what the most casual amateur photographer can do to add impact and interest to their published work.  Next week I’ll discuss the much more complicated workflow that I use before I allow my images out into the world.

iPhone Path

For this article, I went out shooting with my iPhone 7.  The camera in this phone is quite amazing and yields results that are as good or better than many low-end point and shoot cameras.  My main problems were that I missed the controls that I have on a DSLR or high-end pocket camera, and it took massive self-control to avoid doing any post-processing on some of these images.  

Weathered Path : Canon 5D Mark IV

There are a number of simple and intuitive photo editing apps available for smartphones, that can improve the images, but I wanted to start with what can be done to get the most out of unedited pictures right out of your phone.

Town Hall Back-Lighting
I would have loved to apply a little shadow adjustment,
But I remained pure.
Most people who publish their images to social media are not professional photographers.  They are not interested in selling their work or in impressing anyone with the quality of their images.  They are happy to just document their lives and the world around them.  There is no reason why they need to go any further, a smart phone and social media are designed for that purpose.  Digital photography has simplified this kind of quick and easy photography for those who do not want to be bothered with the complexities of image making.   I promise to leave you alone – mostly. I have just a few quick suggestions that might, with just a minimum of effort, make your pictures a little more enjoyable for your friends and family.
Ok.  Not so Pure
I couldn't resist editing just one of these iPhone Shots

Understand What Your Camera Does Well

The Macro advantage
Smartphone cameras have small sensors which means that they inherently have very large depth of field.  This is why they generally don’t require focusing. The DOF can help get sharp macro images, although soft backgrounds (Bokeh) can be more difficult to achieve.  Soft backgrounds are also important for portraits and, here as well, the iPhone’s massive DOF can be a problem.

Chipmunk in the Barrel
Smartphone have wide angle lenses which must be compensated for in all types of photography.  Unless the bear is actually chewing on your foot, an iPhone is essentially worthless for wildlife photography.  Add-on lenses are available to expand the range of focal lengths, but again that would be getting into more layers of complexity and you don’t want that.

One of the greatest advantages of smartphones is that they are almost always in your pocket.  The old saying goes that “Your best camera is always the one you have with you”.  Let’s consider a few other ways that you can the most from that “best” camera in your pocket.

Want to see Ten picture of my lunch?

Spray, Pray and Post

It is an old saying that, with digital cameras, we can just “Spray and Pray”, shooting everything and hoping that we may miraculously get one or two usable shots.  After all, pixels are cheap, and we don’t have to worry about wasting film. Today we can expand this saying to “Spray, Pray and Post”.  Too often, on Facebook, we will see five pictures of that delicious meal and, although it is lovely to admire the spectacular lasagna from every conceivable angle, one picture is probable sufficient to tell the story.  

One of the most effective techniques of professional photographers is to only show their best work and the same approach is the simplest way for amateurs look good in social media.  If you have 15 or 20 pictures of that beautiful rainbow, try to pick one or two to post.  Choose the ones with the best light and the most interesting foreground.  No matter who is in your audience, they will be more impressed with your captured moments and less likely to be scared away by a cluttered story.

Simple Rules

Nothing complicated here.  Just a few things to think about whenever you are capturing those quick shots.

Get Close to Your Subject

As I mentioned, smart phones tend to have wide angle lenses and, if you don’t get really close, your beloved subject can be a vague smudge in the distance.  Get close and then take a few steps closer.  The closer you get the simpler and more impactful will be your subject.  Using my iPhone 7 to shoot the horses at Stonewall Farm, I had to get so close that I was expecting the beasts to grab the phone from my hand.

Don’t Forget,
You can turn Your Camera side-ways.

I don’t have the statistics on this, but I would bet that most of the smart phone pictures that I see on Facebook are in portrait mode.  Phones are usually held vertically, but sometimes an image will work better in landscape.  With cameras, I usually must encourage my students to get away from landscape images.  The rule is, “The best time to shoot a vertical image is right after you have shot the horizontal”.  This needs to be flip around for phones.  Think about a horizontal composition right after the vertical.

Better landscape view. 
I eventually figured out how to avoid the finger.

 Avoid Strong Back-lighting

Bright light from behind will cause your subject to be lost in deep shadow.  This can be partially corrected by editing, but we all know you are not interested in that!  Placing your subject facing into the bright sun can cure the shadows, but It can also lead to squinting and harsh reflections.  The best solution is to place Granma in the shade or to shoot under overcast skies.

Nice photo of Jeff, Distracting Background detail


Watch Your Tilt

I don't do many selfies
I am always lecturing about this.  Just ask my son’s girlfriend Gina. To my eye nothing says sloppy careless photography as much as a tilted horizon and it just takes a second to adjust the camera’s orientation. I know that tilted images are popular right now.  This may be largely caused by the selfie rage, but it can be difficult to find a straight picture on Facebook.  

More my style
Of course, it is hard to control the smartphone’s angle when it is suspended on your outstretched arm but it is apparent that many feel that these disorienting images add a sense of rebellious style. There is nothing wrong with that.  It is OK Gina! I am not the composition police.  The old saying fits this situation, “a single tilted image is a mistake, 10 are a stylistic choice”.   

Gina's Tilt

Tilted Horizon - Ignore the finger!
I would only suggest that the camera angle should reflect the situation.  A tilted image is great if you want to show the world that you are having fun with your friends and that you are most likely drunk, but when communicating pictures of a beautiful landscape or your dear family, you may want to make sure that they don’t look like they are about to fall down a hill.

Getting things straight

I could go on and on, but for the casual photographer I will stop here. Get close to your subject. Decide whether a vertical or horizontal composition works best.  Watch out for back-lighting.  Make sure that the tilt of the horizon matches the subject.  And perhaps most importantly only show your best images. 

Finally, have fun.  You are now free to ignore everything and spray away! After all they’re only pixels.

Jeffrey Newcomer


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Five More Photographic Secrets

Dummerston Sunset
A few months ago I discussed 10 of my Favorite Secrets of Photography. These were just a few of the “take-away” points that have come from several of my, over 350, blog articles.  As I assembled that list, I realized that I had come up with many more than just 10 “secrets”, so here, in no particular order, are 5 more.  I’m sure that these won’t be the last.   

These tips are short and sweet, but I have included links to more detailed discussions found elsewhere in my blog.

11) Diffuser should be held as close as possible to the subject.

A diffuser can block the harsh contrasts created by bright light and prevent stark reflections that tend to mute underlying colors. It is just one of the ways to deal with the challenges of bright midday sun.  Diffusers are available in many sizes.  Bigger is better, but regardless of size, they work best when held as close as possible to the subject, without intruding on the frame.  When positioned close, the light tends to be softer and more diffuse, seeming to wrap around the subject.  When locating the diffuser care should also be taken to avoid hot spots in the background created by areas not shielded from the sun.

12) Rainbows are seen when you turn your back to the sun and look at the receding edge of a rain storm.

It’s simple physics.  Rainbows form when the droplets in a storm cloud are illuminated by direct sunlight. The reflection and refraction of light within each drop divides the beam into its spectrum of colors.   Given the general flow of our storms from west to east, this means that, as  late afternoon fronts pass by,  the setting sun can shine on the clouds predictably creating a rainbow. 

Rye Beach Rainbow

It isn’t Leprechaun magic, given the right conditions, it will happen every time.  To see the strongest colors all you need to do is stand with your back to the sun and look into the dark receding rain-filled clouds.   The only other requirement is that the sun must be below 42 degrees, otherwise the colors will be reflected into the ground.  This means that Today (June18th), in my corner of southwestern New Hampshire, regardless of all the other conditions, I can’t expect to see a rainbow until after about 4:30PM.   

13) Get under a roof to avoid the snow blotches.

There is no other condition that so dramatically demonstrates weather conditions in photographs as does images of falling snow. Snow makes precipitation vividly palpable, and its appearance can be dramatically altered by both natural factors, and how the flakes are captured in the camera. The size of the flakes, as well as the density and rate of the fall are important, and changes in the shutter speed can make a gentle flurry look like a raging blizzard.

The Blotches

Another issue is “the blotches” which is the bane of my falling snow images.  You have undoubtedly seen beautiful atmospheric images of snow storms, but here and there are big blotches of white that seem out of place.  These white smudges come from the snowflakes that are close to the lens when the image is captured.  They are invariably out of focus and, to me at least, extremely annoying.  Happily, there are. number of ways to eliminate the blotch.  

Blotches can be removed in post processing, but this can be a time-consuming chore. In the field, they can be minimized by shooting with wider apertures and focusing on distant objects, but they are most effectively eliminated by shading the lens from nearby flakes.  In the tractor comparison, I shot from under a porch roof.  Magically, no blotches.  When a roof is not at hand, an umbrella or a piece of card board can also help.  Just keep your shade out of the frame.

14) Under harsh, bright midday sun, trans-illuminate the foliage.

Ashuelot Park Bridge, Keene NH

Bright sunlight can be terrible for capturing the full color of foliage and flowers.  This light results in high contrast between brights and darks, and causes reflections that mute the colors.  As discussed above, there are various techniques to block or diffuse the bright illumination, but another solution is to use the light to trans-illuminate the foliage.  Light shining through foliage or flowers can intensify their color, creating an electric brilliance.  This technique can be a lifesaver for the midday sun, but it is equally effective during the “Golden Hours”, when the sun is low in the sky.

15) During the Golden Hour, turn your back to the sun and make images using the warm light.

The “Golden Hours” are notable for the opportunity to capture the audaciously brilliant colors of sunsets or sunrises, but, while you are busy being enchanted, take a moment to turn away from the spectacle and notice the lovely effect that the warm light creates on everything behind you.  

Sally Lightfoot at Sunset, Galapagos Islands

 Even ordinary subjects can take on a magical glow and these often contrast nicely with the deep blues of the evening sky.  So, as the sun rises or drops toward the horizon, go ahead and capture the garish colors smeared across the sky, but that’s the easy part.  Then turn away and explore all that can be done with the soft warm light.

Point Judith Moonrise

That makes 15 quick tips.  Stay tuned for more.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lightroom to Photoshop, When to Jump?

I have just started my next Introduction to Lightroom class. With each major update, Adobe’s Lightroom keeps getting more powerful, and I love sitting around my dining room table demonstrating all the features of this remarkably capable and intuitive program.  

I have been a devoted Photoshop user for years, but for many,
Sugar Hill Lupines Remembered
Photoshop’s complexity has represented a daunting barrier to the discovery of the broad potential of the “Digital Darkroom”.   Since its initial release in 2007 Lightroom has progressed from image organization, to progressively more sophisticated editing  and outputting capabilities.  I initially came to Lightroom to help organize my 400k (now 500K) images in a more easily accessible database program, but, as I became familiar with the editing functions in the Develop Module, I stayed to do much of my global editing within the program.  I found that Lightroom’s workflow was more intuitive, it had the same functions as Photoshop’s Camera RAW and the sliders were easier to use.   So why move my images to Photoshop.

I routinely tell my students that, for many of them, and especially as they get started in image editing, Lightroom may be all they need for simple image adjustments. I probably do about 90% of my image editing in Lightroom, and the resulting images could often stand on their own, but I still routinely make the move to Photoshop before feeling that my work is truly done.  So why do I make the jump?

Complicated Selections

Lightroom allows simple localized adjustments with gradient, oval and brush tools, but Photoshop allows much more finely controlled selections which can be applied to layers affecting a full range of adjustments as well as to  image layers.  The ability to use layers is a key  strength of Photoshop and essential difference between it and Lightroom.
Focus Stack

Comparing Images

Compare Mode
Lightroom has several ways to view and compare images, most notably, the Survey and Compare options in the Library Module’s Tool Bar.  My biggest problem comes when I have several images to compare.  This most often happens when I want to find the sharpest image among a group of captures of the same scene or, when I want to select the best images from a focus stack.  The Compare Tool allows two images to be compared side-by side at varying magnifications, but it is tedious to step through a long series of similar images to find the best.  

Survey Mode, Keene Central Square
The Survey Tool allows several images to appear in an array on the work screen, but each can only be seen in full size.  This is helpful when prominent defects are apparent, but since the images can’t be zoomed together,  the survey is not useful to make precise comparisons of sharpeners and focus.  This is where Photoshop comes to the rescue.

Photoshop Arrange, Zoomed
In Photoshop several images can be arranged in various patterns, horizontally, vertically or in grids.  The images can then be zoomed together for detailed comparison.  The windows can be locked to allow synchronized movement around all the images.  Sometimes, early in the editing process,  I will move a group of images to Photoshop for this comparison and then, when I have identified the best capture, I can remove the Photoshop versions and go back to finish work on the chosen image in Lightroom.

Compositing and Text

There's always one that needs help
 Lightroom doesn’t allow the blending of different image layers.  I can’t move heads around in group portraits or add that dragon sitting on top of the lighthouse.  

I also need to jump to Photoshop to add text to my images.

Dragon on Portland Head Light

Cleaning Up

Harrisville Library Wires
Lightroom can be used to remove dust spots and other simple distractions, but, for more complex problems,  the spot removal tool does not offer the precision of Photoshops Cloning and Healing Brushes. Also the miracle of Content Aware Fill and Move, and the Puppet Move are only available in Photoshop.

Complex Cloning

Since I am teaching Lightroom, I enjoy pushing the limits of what can be done with the program’s limited tools.  It is remarkable how much can be accomplished, but at some point, for both ease and accuracy, I have to make the jump.  For now, when it comes to seriously “punishing the pixels” Photoshop is the only way to go


Tulip Path, Putney VT
It is important to understand that a file in Lightroom is not a finished image.  The price of nondestructive manipulations is that the image that you see in the Lightroom‘s working panel is not real.  It is still just the RAW file with a bunch of adjustments stored in the catalog, but not actually affecting the original image file.  That is why there is no “save” command in Lightroom.  To make the Lightroom image actually “real”, available for you to save, and others to see, it must be Exported into any of a number of standard formats.  Whether it is in a PSD, TIFF, JPG, PNG other other, more exotic, formats the Lightroom adjustments are burned in and the image is no longer RAW.  

Most of the time, I make this jump by moving the image for final touch-ups to Photoshop, but the Lightroom adjustment can also be applied as the file is exported to a specific image format.

Either way, before the jump, I ask myself if I have done all I can within Lightroom. When I make the move I want to know that I am leaving a pristine RAW file in my directory and a safely separate and nondestructive set of adjustments carefully archived in my Lightroom Catalog.


OK, this is an admission of my Lightroom ignorance.  I have never been able to get the best results when I try to print from Lightroom.  All the controls seem to be there, but I remain more comfortable applying my printer profiles and adjusting the resulting soft proof from within Photoshop.

I’m always embarrassed when I reach the point in my Introduction to Lightroom Class when I have to review the Print  Module.  The Module is powerful and intuitive.  I know I’ll get it eventually, but for me fine art printing is a whole different part of the process of image making and, for now, to get it right, I still make the jump to Photoshop.  

These are just a few of the reasons why I make the jump.  I am sure that there are many more.  Sometimes, when I’m happy with the image in Lightroom, and don’t have any obvious reason to move, I will still finish my work with a final examination in Photoshop. A fresh look in the context of the expanded tools of my old friend can often suggest subtle final adjustments that can make a significant difference.