About Me

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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.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Photography of Holiday Lights

Tis the season for warm and lovely holiday lighting around our homes, stores and public buildings.  It is also a good time to discuss some of the challenges in photographing these emblems of this special time of year.

I have discussed holiday lighting photography in articles from a few years ago for the New England Photography Guild and in my own “Getting it Right in theDigital Camera” blog, but this seems like a good time to review some of the essential tips. 

Later this week I will be giving a talk to the South Shore Camera Club in Quincy Massachusetts and they requested a presentation on capturing the holiday illuminations. I didn’t think I had enough material for an hour long discussion on holiday lights, so I have been madly searching for more images and information. These are always great learning situations, so I have been out trying to shoot images that better illustrate some of the essential points.  Fortunately, I am just back from spending several days celebrating thanksgiving with my son in New York City and I had wonderful opportunities to shoot some of the elaborate decorations in Manhattan. 

Ok, since my talk is on Tuesday and I have my last “Introduction to Digital Photography” class on Thursday, this will be a brief list tips for your holiday photography.  For more details, check out my articles from a few years ago.  With the exception of the increasingly prevalent use of LED lighting,  little has changed (see below)

Floating Lights
1) Expose to reveal the detail of the context of the image.
It is important to show that your lights are hanging on something, and not merely appearing to float in the air.  Whether the lights are strung on a house, a church, or trees in a park, it is the context that tells the story of each image.  Just be careful to avoid washing out the lights.  It is always an important to maintain balance in the exposures.

2) Put the Flash Away
Direct Flash
There are very few situations in which is flash can be helpful in capturing holiday lights. In general, a flash will merely wash out the lights nearby while inducing shorter shutter speeds that will underexpose the more distant bulbs. 

Slow Sync Flash
More even capture of the lights may be obtain by using the slow sync flash option which is available on many cameras.  This feature combines the flash with a slower shutter speed to record more of the background detail.

Almost always you will get better images by turning off the flash, attaching your camera to a tripod, and using a long exposure.

No Flash

3) Choosing White Balance  

Daylight Color Balance
For years, most holiday lights used tungsten bulbs which create a yellow tint when shot with a daylight setting.  Switching to the tungsten setting corrects the tint, making white bulbs appear white, but, in mixed lighting situations, surrounding areas may take on a blue tint.  The color balance can be a matter of taste, although in Photoshops two images can be blended with a mask to combine the white lights with the un-tinted background. 

Tungsten Color Balance
The choice of color temperature is especially important when shooting in the restrictive color environment of JPGs.  When shooting RAW the color setting is not important, since it can be easily changed in post-processing, but JPGs are much less capable of color adjustments. 

Highlight Mask

LED lighting imposes another level of complexity since they can produce a wide range of colors.  Experimentation with various color settings can help, but I usually shoot in RAW with the AWB (Automatic White Balance) and then do my experimentation during post-processing.

Blended Light Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA
4) Move in for Detail I tend to love wide views of Christmas illuminations, but it is important to remember to move in to capture some of the interesting detail.  Compositions created by just a few bulbs or details of greenery can provide refreshing variety.  After shooting my grandly lighted landscapes, I try to force myself to keep stepping deeper and deeper into the scene.

5) Finally, Don’t forget to check my other tips about capturing the “Holy Grail” of holiday light photography Including, shooting in the blue hour, capturing the lights in fresh snow, catching the twinkle in the lights and finding strong context in the images.

Christmas Light Photography (NEPG Article)

Perfect Christmas Tree – ASquirrel Saga

Now go out and catch some great holiday lights.  Maybe I’ll see you at the South Shore Camera Club this week

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Negative Space in Photography, The Power of Nothingness

Negative space is the area around the key element(s) of an image. When used effectively it can complement and draw attention to the subject of the composition, which is often referred to a “Positive Space”.  

Eagle's Watch

Negative space has applications throughout many genre of art, painting, sculpture, even music, and of course photography.  It is the process of highlighting the subject of a piece by surrounding it with areas that are of less visual interest.

Sometimes, this includes areas that are essentially blank, but it may also be regions that show softer focus or lower contrast, anything with less visual interest that might draw the eye from the primary subject of the piece.  

All too often I tend to pack my images, corner to corner, with as much detail as possible.  I paid good money for all those pixels, why not jam them with as much information as possible?  But it is a healthy exercise to look for compositions in which negative space can strengthen the message of the image. 

Nose Space

Pavlov Island, Alaska

My most frequent use of negative space is when I add nose or motion room.  

Nose room is the amount of open space left in the direction of a subject’s gaze, or direction of motion.  Flowers, trees and other inanimate elements may still have a sense of direction that can also be enhanced with negative space.

Corn Gazing Left

Flower Gazing Left


Rule of Thirds

Negative space may also strengthen a subject and draw the eye by surrounding it with areas of lower interest or it can allow the positive space to be moved away from the “dead” center of the frame to a visually stronger location, such as at the intersection of the lines of the rule of thirds.

Not Purely Negative Space, but It all works to draw the eye and tell the story

Frigate Silhouette, Galapagos Islands

There are many uses for negative space, and the best way to understand the power of nothingness is to study a few examples and then look for opportunities in your own shooting.  The important thing is to understand that your frame does not need to be filled with detail, corner to corner.  Visual impact can be enhanced by simplifying with a little negative space.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Spacing in Your Photographs, Avoiding the Overlap

I have been working my way through my pictures from our recent trip to Italy.  There’s a lot more to do and I will be dedicating much of my “stick season” time to editing my favorites from the more than 5,000 images.  One of my early favorites is the evening shot I captured from the Rialto Bridge over the Grande Canale in Venice.  The light was beautiful as it seemed to curve around the bend in the canale.  I had a number of version of the same picture but one seemed to stand out.   They all had the same golden light, the same classic architecture and the same collection of water buses, taxis and gondolas, but I realized that the “hero” shot was the one in which all the boats stood alone, separate from one another.  The subtle spacing of these important restless elements resulted in a cleaner and more easily comprehensible image.  

Avoiding Overlap

Any Excuse for a Picture of Abby
The importance of providing space is a key element in effective compositions.  The positioning of the space around the key focal points of an image is frequently referred to as “negative space” and is often crucial to a composition.  Negative space can be arranged to provide head room or open an image in the direction that a subject is looking or moving.  It can be used to move the subject away from the dead center, create subtle context or provide a soft background for portraits.   

Golden Light, Overlapped
My brief discussion today is about a different kind of spacing, that is, the avoidance overlapping of key elements.  Standing among the crowds on the famous Rialto Bridge, I was excited to catch the beautiful light, but after I grabbed my first couple of shots, I settled in to wait for that fleeting moment when all the boats could be seen distinctly with spacing from all the other randomly moving craft.  It can be a frustrating endeavor.  Too often, just as one water taxi moved clear, a gondola would glide in front of a water bus.  As the sun faded, my time was limited, but finally the magic happened.

The Magic

Cows Don’t Space

In nature, perfect alignment does not always occur, but it is always worth the wait. In particular, cows seem to know what I’m looking for and appear to take pleasure in foiling all my artistic efforts.  With cows and horses, the more animals the more difficult it is to get all of the beasts in prefect orientation.  You must often take the best you can get and try to find spacing between at least a few of the most prominent individuals. The rest can be allowed to settle back into “negative space”.

Sometime a little cloning can help provide some space or remove the cow that seems to be coming from another’s butt.


Negative space does not have to be completely vacant.  Only a few kids stood apart in my picture of the start of the Children’s DeMar Race last year, but they were enough to provide a clear visual focus.  

The herd came running to me at the edge of a cow pasture in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  They formed a chaotic overlapping crowd, but one calf managed to achieve separation and saved the image.

Trees Are More Cooperative

Stonewall Farm
The avoidance of overlapping is also important in landscape photography and when shooting stationary trees and rocks it is often much easier to achieve.  It usually just involves taking a step to one side or the other. During this year’s Fall Foliage Workshop, I took the group to one of my favorite forest glades at Roads End Farm in Chesterfield New Hampshire.  From a few angles, the evergreens framed a splash of brilliantly colored background trees.  The trick was to arrange the viewpoint to allow the foreground trees to stand apart without significant overlap and while still framing the color.  It is all a matter of remembering to be attentive to this detail.


Arranging a composition within the viewfinder should always involve a visual checklist.  It takes lots of practice but attention should be directed systematically to several important factors, including the location of the image’s focal point, avoidance of distractions both in the background and around the edges, accurate focus and also the avoidance overlap of important elements. While shooting in the field, the excitement of the moment can easily you to miss the overlaps, but it will become glaringly obvious as you edit your images at home.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 Autumn Gallery

Riverside Trail, Keene NH

Golden Wall, Newfane Vt
Given all the recent wind and rain, we have definitely drifted into stick season.  It is time to work my way through all the brilliant fall foliage pictures.  This year the task is sadly reduced, first because the foliage was spotty and dull, and secondly because I missed the first half of the season exploring the beauty of Italy. Again, it would be inappropriate for me to complain.  Our tour was fabulous, and I returned with plenty of “foreign” images to work through, but I did feel the need to get out as much as possible to catch the remaining autumn color of New England’s unique season.  Especially up north on Lake Como, near the Swiss border, we saw a smattering of color, but kept people asking whether the foliage in New England really was as spectacular as it appeared.  What could I Say: “Il fogliame รจ magico”.

Barn at Sunset, Walpole, NH

Deep Red, Spofford NH

Early November Color, Chesterfield NH

Sweet Harvest, Townsend, Vt
I got a quick start.  Just a day after my arduous thirty-hour trip home, I had to start my second annual Fall Foliage Workshop.  I had a great group of people, whose enthusiasm helped to jolt me out of my jet-lagged funk.  I have already shared some of the images from the workshop weekend, but here I wanted to hang a bunch of my other foliage pictures.  

River Red, Hinsdale NH
Hot Corner, Chesterfield, NH
Ashuelot Edge, Keene NH

Autumn Bale, Keene, NH

More Classes

October Harras, Chesterfield NH
Immediately after my workshop, I had to start preparing for my Introduction to Digital Photography course at Keene Community Education.  After so many times, you would think that the prep would be easier, but every year I try to improve and update the classes.  My first goal is always to find a way to simplify by eliminating some of my slide, but I always seem to add more.

Autumn Burst, Keene NH

Autumn Afternoon, Dummerston Vt.
Empire Bunch, Putney Vt.

Autumn Contrast, Chesterfield NH

It has become a annual tradition for me to use a blog article to splash a little color onto the our bleak November grays.  So here, without much fanfare or expostulation, is a few of my favorites for this year’s autumn gold.  It turned out that, if you looked hard enough the color was out there.

Thank you for looking with me.

Late Red, Spofford NH

October Crossing, Keene NH

Ashuelot Pool, Keene NH

Autumn Grass, Surry NH

Jeffrey Newcomer