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 24, 2018

Newport Escape

Pell Bridge and Newport Harbor Light

Trinity Church
A few years ago ago Susan and I took an early autumn trip to Newport RhodeIsland.  We stopped on our way to visit our son in New York City and it was a great chance to enjoy a couple of quiet days by the shore before descending into the noise and congestion of the city.

Of course I love any opportunity to photograph along the seacoast and on this visit, I managed to capture the surf at sunrise on Ocean Drive, and also the full moon rising over the Point Judith Lighthouse.  We toured the Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s little 70 room seaside “cottage” and window-shopped along Newport’s overpriced downtown.  The visit was lovely, but too short.  We pledged to return for further explorations, but didn’t realize that this visit would directly lead to another opportunity visit Newport.

The Adirondack II

Gurney's Resort

About one year ago, I was contacted by a representative of Gurney’s Resort and Marina, located on Goat Island off Newport’s waterfront.  They wanted to use one of my sunrise ocean-view pictures on one of their promotional emails. 

The "Money" Picture
They found the image in my article about our visit.  Who knew that people actually read my blog?  We discussed a reasonable licensing fee, but then they generously suggested that I might accept a couple of nights at the resort.  A good deal for both of us and, as a result, we are just back from a couple of relaxing days at this beautiful resort.  My plan was to capture more of Newport and perhaps wangle more time at Gurney’s.  

Sunset on the Pell Bridge from Gurney's

Newport Harbor Lighthouse at Gurney's
The hotel is on Goat Island which is connected by bridge to the center of Newport’s downtown.  A perfect location that features expansive views of Narraganset Bay.  The grounds include the Newport Harbor Lighthouse, which was built in 1842, and since 2005 has displayed a fixed green light visible from eleven miles out to sea.  The Rose Lighthouse sits on a small island in the middle of the bay.  At night the lights on the Pell Bridge create a dramatic foreground to the setting sun.

Rose Island Light

Castle Hill Lighthouse in the Stars
Castle Hill Light 
Whenever I reach the coast, I always think of trying to capturing lighthouses and also the Milky Way.  Looking south, out to sea, I can hope to benefit from low light pollution.  After sunset, I took an early evening nap and then headed out at one AM to catch the sky behind the Castle Hill Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is an active beacon on Narragansett Bay, marking one of the approaches to Newport.   I found the Lighthouse at the end of a short, but very dark path, beginning at the Castle Hill Cove Marina.  The sky was clear and dark.  I wanted to include the lighthouse in the foreground but this was complicated by the bright red beacon which came around every 10 seconds.  With my usual 30 second exposure, this meant two or three red blasts per shot.   I finally dealt with the flare by capturing an image away from the light's full intensity and then blending this clearer starry sky with a light painted view of the lighthouse.  I could have done a better job blocking the beacon and cutting the flare from some of the images.  
Milky Way Clear Shot
 I also shot the sky with the lighthouse at my back, getting an un-obscured view of the stars, with the red bathed rocks in the foreground.  I did what I could, but by 2:30, Susan was calling, wondering if I had fallen off the rocks.  It was time to stumble back to the hotel.  

The next day I took Susan to see the lighthouse.  I hoped for some warm sunset light, but overcast had set in before the evening thunderstorms.  This is a spot well worth a return visit with better light.

Castle Hill Light
Castle Hill Inn

Fred Perry at the Tennis Hall of Fame
International Tennis
Hall of Fame

On our one full day in Newport, we visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Beautiful grounds with more grass courts than I have ever seen.  We also visited their indoor “Real Tennis” court.  This is one of about 43 surviving courts on which this ancient progenitor of traditional lawn tennis was played. 

Real Tennis

During our search for breakfast, before heading home on Tuesday, we stumbled on the  Newport Charter Yacht Show.  The show attracted luxury sailing and motor vessels which were as amazing as they were obscenely opulent. One 200 foot vessel could be rented for the meager price of 400K per week, but split twelve way it would be a bargain.  On this vessel, we watched as a crew member used a lint brush to meticulously remove every fleck from the welcome mat.  Needless to say, we were not invited on board.

Give the range from the simple natural beauty of the seacoast and the ridiculous extravagance of the mansions and yachts, Newport is a great place to visit.  I thank the folks at Gurney’s for their hospitality and I hope to return.  

Check out my Newport Gallery which includes images from both of our visits.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Monday, June 18, 2018

2019 Calendar Week

The New England Reflections Calendar is Back !

September Setting : 2019 Cover
This has been my calendar week.  I know that it is already getting late, but over the last few days, I have been slogging my way through the tough work of planning out my 2019 Calendar, collecting and editing the images.  Hopefully I can get the final design completed the printing done by the end of this month.  Then the distribution blitz will begin.  I’m thrilled to announce that the proceeds from the 2019 will be dedicated to support the wonderful work of the Monadnock Conservancy.

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program
Pasture Lane, Chesterfield NH  2020 Page
For years I sold my New England Reflections Calendars as a fundraiser, with all proceeds dedicated to providing support for the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center.  For me, Pulmonary Rehab has always occupied an important place.  Years ago, I worked to develop the program, and then served as Medical Director until my retirement. I was honored to devote the proceeds of my annual calendar to this important resource.  Over the years I was able to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to supplement the program’s offerings and to assist patients who could not afford the tuition.   Last year, the medical center decided to withdraw its support for the calendar.  I was surprised and saddened.  The news came late in the year and it forced me to miss publishing a 2018 Calendar.  I was surprised to hear of the disappointment shared by so many people who had come to depend on my calendar for their own use and as a holiday gift for family and friends. Apparently, the New England Reflections Calendar has spread appreciation of the beauty of our region across the country and throughout the globe.

Happily, I found a great non-profit organization that was excited to partner with me, The Monadnock Conservancy.

Enter the Monadnock Conservancy
Spring Rest Keene NH, April
In our corner of New Hampshire, we are fortunate to have the Monadnock Conservancy, which is a strong advocate for conservation.  As a land trust, the Conservancy “works with communities and landowners to conserve the natural resources, wild and working lands, rural character and scenic beauty of the Monadnock region”.  My photography has always focused on the beauty of New England and especially the unique attractions of the Monadnock Region.  It seemed like a perfect fit to work with the great people of the Conservancy to produce a calendar which would celebrate our region while supporting their efforts to protect its special qualities for generations to come.

Howl Against the Storm : Dummerston Vermont,   January 
I have been collecting images which I thought would work well in the 2019 calendar.  As always, I have included one image of animals and one from the seacoast, but I have tried to focus more on the Monadnock region.  Please excuse me for picking only one image from Vermont.  of

Picture Picking Agony
Full Moon Rising, Winchester NH, November
I have gone through the usual agony of picking my 12 images for next year’s ‘months”, I’ve found banner images to compliment the large monthly photos and thumbnail images to scatter through the empty date boxes.  I’ve decided on the important dates and holidays to include. I will be adding a few special dates of interest to the Conservancy, but, once again, “Belly Laugh Day” (January 24th) has failed to make the cut.    I have added the dates for the new and full moons and the traditional names given to each full moon.  In 2019 there will be no “Blue Moon” – no months when two full moons occur in the same month.

I use Microsoft Publisher to create the basic layout of the calendar, but in recent years I have come to appreciate the refinements provided by a talented graphic designer to provide a professional look to the final result. 

Sunrise Passage, Portland Me, August 
This is an exciting and anxious time as I prepare to release my creation to the final processes of design and printing.   My work is largely done.  I have asked several editors to review the text for the inevitable errors and omissions.  The pictures have all been rendered in their appropriate sizes. Next week the calendar goes to the printers and then, in a couple of weeks, the hectic process of distribution will begin.  This year, I expect a new, enthusiastic level of help from the staff and volunteers at the Conservancy.  To all those friends who were disappointed that I didn’t publish a New England Reflections Calendar for 2018, please be patient and await the 2019 edition.  I promise that it will be appreciated by all your friends and family, and again it will benefit a great cause.

In this article, I have included a few of the 2019 image selections.  You can also check out all the major images, including the cover image, in my 2019 NewEngland Reflections Calendar Gallery.  Calendars will be available in many local stores beginning later this summer, or you can always get in touch with me or the hard-working folks at the Monadnock Conservancy.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Content Aware Fill , More Photoshop "Magic"

There is no question, learning Adobe’s Photoshop can be an intimidating endeavor.  The program is so imposing and powerful that many are frightened away before even trying.  It took me several books and courses before I felt that I could begin to use at a small part of this amazing tool.  The fact is that Photoshop is so deep that, I suspect that no one person can fully understand it all.

Chesterfield Donkey
My approach has always been to decide what I wanted to do for my images, and then discover how to use the parts of Photoshop which would help accomplish that goal.  I didn’t worry about everything that Photoshop can do, just those things that I can use.

Of course, when starting, there are a few basic tools that are important to understand.  Importing images, layers, selections and the basic image controls are essential, but what about all that other stuff.  You can go a long way without having to worry about, HDR, panoramic merging, and split toning, but it’s nice to know that all these tools are there just waiting for you to explore – when needed.

One of these tools, which is fairly new, is Content Aware Fill.  Like many of the new tools, Content Aware Fill (CAF) just provides an easier way to do something that you could do before.  It has always been possible to use the Cloning Tool to fill unwanted areas of an image with pixels taken from other parts of the image, or even from another image.  This can be arduous, as you try to find areas that blend seamlessly with the underlying content and texture.  The cloning brush is still an essential tool, but given the right situation, Content Aware Fill can use the amazing computational power of Photoshop to automate a large portion of the job.

Content Aware Fill

In the Edit drop-down menu, Photoshop provides a list of options to fill an area of an image.  A selection can be filled with the current foreground or background color, a pattern or any color you choose.  This is also where the content aware tool is found.  After creating a selection around an unwanted area of the image (eg my face), Content Aware Fill will attempt to fill the area with pixels from around the selection.  It works to blend the fill with the surroundings.  It doesn’t always work perfectly, but often the results are almost magical.  Typically, the filled area can benefit from a bit of touching up with the Cloning Brush or the Healing Brush. I thought of this as I was working on a picture of a pasture lane in Chesterfield.

Pasture Lane
The Leaning Lane
Recently, I was visiting a friend’s farm down a backroad in Chesterfield New Hampshire.  In addition to becoming reacquainted with their semi-friendly donkey, I got a nice shot looking up the pasture lane which reminded me of the power of the Content Aware Tool.  The picture had all the essentials, beautiful light, a nice fence and road all leading to the border tree and even a distant tractor.  Great! But when I got home, I realized that all of my focus stacked images were significantly rotated clockwise. I could just hear the donkey laughing, but, hey, this is digital, all I had to do was rotate the image back to plumb.  A 5.5 deg counter-clockwise rotation brought everything back to normal, but the process left me with four triangular areas of vacant space at each of the corners.

Curing the Triangular Transparencies
My choices were simple, I could either crop out the areas of transparency, use cloning to fill the spaces or do some combination of the two.  I wanted to keep most of the full image, so cloning was the obvious solution.  All of this could be achieved with careful use of the cloning brush, but it was the perfect situation to start with Content Aware Fill.

Fill Menu
I started working on a fresh pixel layer to preserve the original layer and then by selected one of the spaces.  On this picture, selection was easy to do.  On these geometric shapes, I find that the Polygonal Lasso Tool works well.  It is generally good to expand the selection slightly into the surrounding pixels.  I typically use “Modify” “Expand” adding about 5 to 15 Pixels, depending on the size of the selection.    I then pulled up the Content Aware Fill option under the Edit drop-down menu.  

Filled Triangle

The Content Aware Tool has a few options.  “Color Adaptation” should be checked to improve the color blending of the patch.  Since I was filling an area of transparency, the most important thing in this case is to leave the “Preserve Transparency” box unchecked.  Otherwise none of the area will be filled.   I hit “Ok” and waited for the magic. 
Duplicate Fence Post
 In this case the results were generally quite good requiring only a little cloning touch-ups, but the CAF tool works randomly each time and, if you don’t like the results you can always try again. 

As you review the results of the fill, it is important to look for areas where surrounding detail has been noticeably copied into the patch.  This can be seen in the upper left where a fence pole was clearly duplicated.  A little cloning easily removed the obvious defect, but sometime the duplications can be more subtle.  A careful examination is always a good idea.

Madame Sherri’s Hat
Madame Sherri at the Ball 1920s
Like most of Photoshop’s new “magic” tools CAF is not quite as magic as it is suggested in Adobe’s press releases.   CAF does not work in all situations and almost always requires some amount of clean-up to reach the best result.  An example of this can be seen in my article about repairing antique photographs.  The absent area of curtain was first filled with CAF, but the folds did not align with the rest of the material.  With the cloning brush I was able to smooth out the lines to make a more even match.  We can see that Madame Sherri really knew her hats!

Content Aware Fill - Poor Alignment

CAF and Cloned Touch-up

Parrish Shoes

The fictitious Parrish Shoes sign was painted on a wall in downtown Keene NH for the filming of the movie “Jumangi”.  Since then, the town has elected to keep, and regularly refresh, the sign as a local attraction. 

I recently shot the spot from the perspective of the shoes, but of course I couldn’t avoid at least one person waiting at the crosswalk. With the woman against the brick wall, CAF didn’t do a great job.  The brick kept bleeding into the patch.  I tried it a few times, but eventually found it easier to use the Cloning brush.

Bleeding with Content Aware Filll

That’s it.  One of the confusing things about Photoshop is that there is almost always more than one way to achieve the same result.  The challenge is to choose the right tool or tools for the situation.  As you use the CAF tool you will begin to recognize situations where it will work well and other where the surrounding detail may get blended uncomfortably with the result. In these situations, “Content Aware Patch” can provide a bit more control over the sampling area.  But that is a subject for another article and, of course, you can always go back to the good old Cloning Brush.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Spring Collection Without Purpose

Pasture Island, Spring Green
Producing a weekly photography blog means that I am always looking for 
West River Light
new topics.  It also means that I spend much of my shooting time trying to find images which will illustrate my topic of the week and the images that I post on social media usually reflect the same topic.  This week has been about my up-coming classes and workshops, but, beside my shameless self-promotion,  my posts frequently center on photographic and editing techniques, equipment, and special locations throughout New England.  While I am doing all this “purposeful” shooting and publishing, I get frustrated that I don’t give myself time to share all the random photographs that I capture as I wander through the seasons.  

Purple Flowers 1
We are quickly emerging from another glorious New England spring.  Although I have been busy preparing for a jumble of exhibitions, finishing a large order of pictures for a local bank, and completing another Introduction to Digital Photography Course and my Spring Waterfall Workshop, this seemed like a good time to take a quiet breath and show a few of my “Spring Photographs Without Purpose”.

Of course spring is all about growing things, flowers and green stuff, but since I am a hopeless categorizer, let me see if I can impose order on the photosynthetic chaos.  

New Growth
Maple Bud Spofford NH
I am always excited to see the first appearances of growth.  The shoots and buds burst forth with such bizarre exuberance.  The bud season lasts for only a week or two, but it is worth capturing every day.  This year spring seemed delayed, but when it arrived it arrived with an explosion.

Fern Attack, Spofford NH

Variety of the Forest’s New growth.
I say this every spring, but the early spring greens tend to come with a remarkable variety of hues.  To me the colors are every bit as beautiful as the more garish tones of autumn.

Pasture Lane, Chesterfield NH

Green's Edge

Evening Light, Westmoreland NH

Spring Flowers
New England gardens are home to a lovely array of color throughout the spring and summer, but the naturally occurring blooms in our fields and forests can be equally lovely.

Flowers on Purpose
Daffodil Fence
I am always amazed at the beautiful flowers and greenery that I can find as I take my my walks around my little village of Spofford New Hampshire.  Of course, every spring, I travel with Susan to Walker Farm in Dummerston Vermont.  Susan selects plants for our gardens while I roam among the carefully cultivated flowers and shrubs.  It is a great place to capture images of perfect flowers in a wonderfully controlled environment.  My only problem is that I always forget to photograph the identifying name tags.  That is why you will again see many titles like “Purple Flower 1”.  

Purple Flowers 1

New England in Spring

Central Square Bloom

Every New England seasons has to be seen in the context of the classic village and rolling hills.  It is a reminder to me to put away my macro lens and revel in the glorious mix of spring colors and our natural landscape.   This year my April and May collection included everything from the traditional view of Keene’s Central Square in full bloom to sunset on Brattleboro’s West River and the Full Flower moon rising over Mount Monadnock. 

West River Sunset

Community Church Harrisville NH 

May Flower Moon and  Mount Monadnock

Factory Birch, Harrisville NH

I've had a great time wandering through my random spring images.  Photography is about storytelling, but it's nice to just kick back and let the pictures speak for themselves.

For me, summer begins with the first of June.  I’m looking forward to a busy few months, but the end of Spring is always a sad time.  After all, November’s stick season is only five months away.  It’s all downhill from here.

Jeffrey Newcomer