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, October 29, 2017

Image Backup for a Long Journey

Out of the Fog, Venice

Tiber Steps, Rome

I have been running about trying to catch whatever is left of this year’s disappointing fall foliage.  I’ve found glimpses of nice late color, but I missed the first half of the season.  I have no right to complain since, while everyone was wondering whether the color would ever come, I was enjoying a perfect three weeks exploring the beauty and history of Italy.  As I struggle to decide whether I should spend my time editing images from our trip or from my increasing pile of foliage pictures, I thought I would take a break and share a little about the challenges of backing up my precious images while on a long trip away from the comforts of my trusty home desktop.

One Dome, St. Peter's, Vatican City

On trips such as our Italian tour, it is my pictures that are my primary souvenirs of the experience.  I also routinely try to collect one coffee mug, a baseball cap.  From Italy, I brought home the mug, but I couldn’t find an appropriate cap.  I observed that Italians don’t generally wear hats, and definitely not baseball caps.  This put extra importance on the pictures.  I’d like to share some of the steps I take to protect (i.e. Back-up) my images, and some of the lessons I continue to learn. It all starts with the camera(s)

Saint Peter's Vatican City

Backup the Camera

Susan on the Wall, San Gimignano

You will have no pictures to backup if you can’t capture the images in the first place. One of my firsts step in preparing for a photography trip (ok, every trip is a photography trip), is to decide how I will back-up my cameras.  I don’t want to be left shooting the coliseum with my iPhone, although many do.  For this trip I backed up my Canon 5D Mark IV with my Mark II body.  This seemed to be a good plan. If my Mark IV suffered a sudden mechanical failure.  All my lenses would work just fine and I would still be shooting full frame.  Time for my first lesson.

Grayson and Cuyler, Cupano Vineyard, Tuscany

Lesson One : Theives don’t just steal camera bodies.

Sunset Together, Tuscany

At some point while walking the dark narrow streets of Florence, it occurred to that my camera might get stolen, and I thought it unlikely that the thief would remove my workhorse 24-105 lens and place it next to my unconscious, bleeding body.  On this trip, I brought my 16-35mm and my old 70-300mm, but neither would be best for the majority of the pictures that I captured.  Throughout Italy, 91% of my images were taken with my 24-105mm.  In case of theft. I would still have my Mark II, and although it is always an interesting challenge to shoot with limited lenses, for many situations, the camera would still be severely crippled. I wouldn’t be totally lost since my second backup was my little Canon G11.  I usually bring the G11 to use in situations where the my massive DSLR might be too clumsy or conspicuous to carry.  The image quality doesn’t come close to my Mark IV or II, but in a pinch, it would serve.

New Light, Tuscan Villa

Asinelli Tower, Bologna

My lesson from this revelation was to plan to equip my backup camera with a capable backup lens.  As it turns out, I am lucky to have a second 24-105 lens.  It’s the one that I drop into a stream a few years back.  Canon did not judge the lens to be repairable, but over time the water has dried leaving only a few imperceptible stains, and happily no mold.  It works well and from now on I will attach it to my 5D Mark II before I throw it into my bag.  Obviously, not everyone will have the good fortune of dropping their camera into a brook, but there are plenty of used and off-brand lenses out there that might be worth considering.  Alternatively, small carry around camera is a good solution.

Street Produce, Bologna

Oh,  and I keep the Mark II in my suitcase away from my other gear.

Am I paranoid?  ABSOLUTELY, but the point is that you should anticipate the possible disasters and plan for their inevitable occurrence.   Of course, if you are ok with recording your once-in-a-lifetime journey with pictures on your smart phone, then you have nothing to worry about.

Image Backup,

No Image Exists Unless It is in Three Places

The old “Three Place” rule is especially important on “Once in a Lifetime Trips”.  For Italy, I backed up twice to memory cards, and then both to a laptop and an external hard drive.  It just occurred to me that five thousand images in four places means I actually came home with twenty thousand images!  It’s all good.

 Memory Cards

Lesson Two : Bring Enough

Lake Como Chop, Como

Memory cards have become increasingly cheap and reliable.  I’m happy that Canon has finally placed two card slots in their newer 5D models and on the trip I saved each image simultaneously to two cards in the camera.  I had enough CF and SD cards to continue this redundancy until I finally had to go to a single card for the last couple of days. The lesson here is that, although memory cards have become extremely reliable, they still could fail, and, if possible, dual recording is a great safety measure.  My personal lesson, is to bring enough cards to get through the entire trip.

Lake Como, Brunate

Lesson 3 : Organize your trip images in a separate Lightroom Catalog

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice

I love to review my pictures as I go along on the trip, but the main reason to lug a laptop is to manage the backup to the computer and an external hard drive.  Now that I am a devote Lightroom user, I have learned that my task of moving my images to my desktop at home is made much easier by creating a separate Lightroom Catalog on the trip to organize the images.  At home all I need to do is merge the trip catalog with my main catalog and then, from within Lightroom, move the images over to my desktop storage.  Of course, if you are not using Lightroom, you should structure your backup to work best with you own image management program.

Grand canal Sunset, Venice

External Hard Drive

Lesson 4: Store the Catalog and the Images on the External Hard Drive

Floor Mosaic, Vatican Museum
Over several trips, my daily image upload routine has been to store my special catalog and images to my laptop, but I forgot the rule that Lightroom images should be stored on an external drive and not be allowed to clog the computer.  Since when I get home, I will be moving everything to my desktop, that process is made much easier by keeping both the catalog and the image files on the external drive. On the trip they can still be accessed on the laptop and I will use the laptop as my backup drive while uploading to Lightroom

Getting Home

Towers of San Gimignano, Tuscany
My fiendish plan is complete.  Cards, cards, laptop and external drive, everything is in, not three, but FOUR places.  I can sleep, but there is one final challenge.  All those pixels need to make it home.

While on a trip I usual split my treasures to avoid the chance that a single disaster; lost luggage, stolen camera bag or pick-pocket, could take everything. I typically store my external drive sandwiched among the soft clothing in my suitcase.  The memory cards are in my camera bag and Susan guards the laptop in her backpack.  

One of Many Porticos of Bologna
The flight back is a different matter.  My rule is that I never check my camera gear and I keep at least a couple of copies of my images with me, at all times.  I still carefully pad the hard drive in my luggage, but the laptop and the memory cards stay at my side.  

By now you are certain that I am certifiably paranoid, but think about what you bring back from that once in a lifetime trip.  Besides wonderful memories and that pesky yeast infection, the most important tangible souvenirs will likely be your photographs.  Bring them home safely so that your only physical remembrance won’t be that lonely little coffee mug.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 Fall Foliage Workshop

Autumn Smoke, Chesterfield

Last weekend I ran my second annual Fall Foliage Workshop. Despite the spotty color, we had a wonderful time exploring the beauty of our New England autumn.  We enjoyed the color, where we found it, but also sampled the special character of our region during this unique time of year.

Yellow Climber, Chesterfield
I was concerned about how the weekend would turn out.  I returned home from a magical three weeks in Italy only two days prior to the beginning of the workshop.  I had heard disappointing descriptions of the quality of the fall color this year and, from a distance, and with unreliable email service, I wasn’t able to confirm whether any of the people who had signed up for the workshop still planned to show up.  On top of all of this, was my devastating level of jet-lag that was made worse by a disaster-filled sleepless thirty-hour trip home from Venice.  Enough whining.  I experienced a remarkable three weeks in Italy, including much time with our kids and their wonderful partners. I then came home to a great, but exhausting, weekend with a group of people who were as excited to learn about their cameras as they were in capturing the autumn color.  How can I complain.  Now that I am rested and readjusted from Italian time, I can celebrate the photographic opportunities that I have experienced in the last month.

Steggiano, Tuscany
Over the last three weeks I have shared just a few of images from the first half of our Italian trip.  Rome, Tuscany and Florence contributed much to the nearly 5,000 images from the trip, and in later articles I will share some of my favorites from the rest of our tour.  This week however I wanted to present a few pictures from the Foliage Workshop.

The Conditions

Greeting, Roads End Farm
In our corner of New England, the peak time for fall foliage is usually around the Columbus Day weekend, and, as I did last year, I scheduled my 2017 Foliage Work shop for the weekend after Columbus Day.  While touring Italy, I began hearing dire descriptions of the disappointing fall color, and as I drove back home from Logan Airport, the disappointment seemed justified.  While many trees had totally lost their leaves, many others had barely begun to change. Even though It was possible to find occasional trees with bright foliage, overall the colors seemed dull and brown.  I returned home late on Thursday and only had Friday to scout for color.  I was trying to decide whether I should travel north or south, before my class arrived for our first session Friday night.  Considering all the bad reviews of the conditions, I also wondered whether anyone would actually show up.

Through the Veil, Chesterfield

The Class

Foliage Class, Gilsum
Happily, nearly everyone arrived for our first session Friday evening.  I had five people for the workshop, which is a nearly ideal number.  I would accept a couple more, but these workshops are all about personal instruction and feedback.  My frustration is that I can’t always be at each participants side to answer questions, and as a group grows, this becomes more of an issue.  

Roads End Pasture : Linda

Fountain Seat, Newfane, Robin and Steph
As always, my group varied in terms of experience and expertise, but they all possessed the most important quality, which is excitement about learning how to improve their photography.  Friday night, around my dining room table I discussed tips for better foliage photography, but I also reviewed some key points that contribute to optimal exposure and strong compositions.  I always worry that I might be boring some of my more advanced students, but it has been my experience that most benefit from this kind of review.  Many of the questions that I get during the workshops often seems to come back to these basics.

Gilsum Stone Arch, Robin
 Many of my participants are still trying to learn how to control their cameras, how to make exposure adjustments in aperture control mode, how to use ISO settings, how to control depth of field, and steady the camera for the sharpest images. Complicating this was the fact that my participants were shooting a variety of camera models, including Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus.  With all these different cameras, it was a struggle for me to figure out how to perform basic functions in four slightly different ways.

We broke up Friday evening with some rough plans for the next day’s itinerary, but the only thing that we could be entirely sure about was that we would all meet Saturday morning at 7:30 in my driveway. 


I always say that, despite the conditions, there is always something to shoot in New England, and this foliage workshop was a valid test.  I knew we could find areas of color, but I decided to direct our tour to spots that would provide interest beyond just colorful trees.  

Chesterfield Cemetery : Robin
As it turned out, on Saturday, we were able to stop for some areas of nice color, but our travels also included the Chesterfield Center Cemetery, the horses at Roads End Horse Farm, Madame Sherri’s “Castle”, the Dummerston Covered Bridge, the classic village of NewFane Vermont and a traditional small village fair in Townsend Vermont.  It was a full day.  The weather started overcast which was great for capturing the rich color of the foliage without reflections.

Hot Corner, Chesterfield NH
As the sun came out, it was time to show how a polarizing filter can cut through the reflections and how trans-illumination can make even dull foliage ignite with color and brilliance.  In between all this digitizing, we also managed to squeeze in a lovely lunch at the Top of the Hill Barbeque in Brattleboro.

It was a full day.  We were exhausted, but it wasn’t over.   We all returned to my house in the evening for Pizza and a chance to review the images from the day.  There was some great stuff and I was happy to see improvement in technique in the pictures as the day progressed


John and Linda Porcupine Falls : Robin
Sunday morning, I let everyone sleep later and we gathered in Keene at 8am.  Our morning included a visit to Stonewall Farm in Keene, and then a trip up to Gilsum where we took the short hike to Porcupine Falls.  Again the goal was to find places of interest that would not depend on the brilliance of the foliage.  We finished the day shooting the Gilsum Stone Arch Bridge a short way along the Ashuelot River.  We could have gone longer, but weekend responsibilities called, and, of course, there was a Patriots game to watch.

Sunday Rain Zoom, Chesterfield, NH

Porcupine Falls Trail : Linda
Everyone seemed to enjoy the workshop and I have been seeing some amazing images coming up on our super-secret Facebook page that Manisha created.  Most importantly I think everyone finished the workshop with a desire to learn more, and given the endless potential for growth that digital photography provides, I could ask for no better outcome.

The Foliage Group, Md. Sherri's : Linda
I look forward to my up-coming Introduction to Digital Photography course next month and my Lightroom Course in January.  Just recently there have been some major changes in the options for using Lightroom.  Creating considerable confusion, there are now two different versions of the program from which to choose.  I’ll try to sort it all out for you in my class.  I’m excited that Keene’s Monadnock Imaging has offered to host my class in their store.  It will provide room for more participants and will eliminate the need to struggle over Chesterfield Hill in the dead of winter.  I’ll be announcing the dates soon.

I enjoy the workshop format and will be offering my Waterfall weekend this spring.  Other possibilities include a winter workshop and possibly one on night photography. 

Stay tuned

Jeffrey Newcomer

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Italy Part Tre, (Florence)

The Duomo and Brunelleschis' Dome, From our Roof-Top

Our Window View
Santa Croce Basilica

Our three weeks in Italy are winding down.  We look forward to a few days in Venice and then we will be heading for home.  This trip has been amazing, but I think that both Susan and I are looking forward to getting back to New England.  Hopefully, by the time this blog is posted we will be enjoying New England’s crisp autumn weather and brilliant fall foliage.

Alley Green, Florence

After a lovely week in the relaxed environs of Tuscany, the next days of our trip were spent in the cities.  Florence and Bologna were both fascinating, but in different ways.  I had planned to cover both Florence and Bologna in this article, but we have been so busy along the way that it has been difficult to find any time to work on the images.   When you are in such beautiful and interesting places it is hard to justify wasting time in front of a computer screen.  This article will focus on Florence, including as many pictures as I can get to process. 

Duke and Duchess of Urbino, Uffizi Gallery

You will notice that this article is a few days late.  Since getting back, I had to deal with my wonderful Fall Foliage Workshop, and a massive dose of jet-lag.  I can’t wait to work my way through the rest of the Italian images, I know what I will be doing during stick season, but in the meantime, here are a few glimpses of the fascinating city of Florence.

Palazzo Pitti

The Duomo Dome

Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is rich with monuments to that important epoch of history. The city is dominated by Brunelleschi’s remarkable cathedral dome, completed in 1436, topping the intricately ornamented multicolored Duomo.  There was no possibility that I could get Susan to climb to the top of the dome, but she did manage to get to the roof-top bar at our hotel.  From the roof we had a spectacular panoramic view of the city.  Both of our kids were staying in Air B&Bs, but they were sure to join us for evening cocktails on our roof.   

 The Kids 

Jeremy, Gina, Susan

On the Roof
Grayson, Abby, Kerry, Cuyler

Ponte Vecchio

Our hotel was on the Arno River, close to the shop-lined medieval Ponte Vecchio, which was the only bridge across the Arno that was left intact by the Germans in World War II.  Florence’s many narrow streets open on busy plazas, churches, shops, and endless museums. 

Uffizi Gallery Across the Arno River

The Uffizi

Long Lines around the Uffizi Courtyard

By far the most famous art gallery is the Galleria degli Uffizi.  The Uffiz was built to house the massive collection of pictures and sculpture collected by the powerful Medici family.  The museum is famous for long lines, but we were lucky to have reserved tickets and had only a relatively short wait.  Once inside, the Uffiz is intimidating.   

Ceiling Uffizi Gallery

Tribuna Gallery


Cosimo de Medici the Elder

We saw only a fraction of the more than ninety galleries.  Works by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vince, Michelangelo, Raphael and many lesser known artists were on display, and along the halls were ancient and more “modern” sculpture.  After 3 hours we reached artistic overload and had to escape for a relaxing afternoon exploring the Boboli Gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti.

Adoration of the Magi  (Detail, Unfinished)
Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo

Wheels, Florence

Florence is a beautiful and historic city.  We explored much on foot and ate much more. It was here that I finally found a Gluten free pizza! I began to tire of beautiful churches and statues and began studying the people on the street.  I was inspired by an exhibition of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Musei Civici in San Gimignano. I may do an article solely on some of the wonderful faces of Italy. 

Street Leather

David by the Uffizi

 We were reluctant to leave.  I didn’t know what to expect from Bologna, but I was very pleasantly surprised. That part of the trip will need to wait for the next article in this series, but I am heading back to New England and given the fall foliage who knows when I will get back to the thousands of my Italy pictures.

In the meantime, you can follow my slowly growing archive on my

 Blogna, Lake Como and Venice are to come!

Sunset on the Grand Canal

Jeffrey Newcomer