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.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Photo Studio Dream

Brief Break in the Rain, Spofford NH

I have always been a great fan of photography in miserable weather.  Blizzards, dense fog or rain can all be opportunities to capture dramatic environmental landscapes.  Of all the different atmospheric conditions, I find the most difficult to manage is heavy and blowing rain.   I have the gear to handle most situations and I always argue that terrible weather is the best time for photography,  but the last couple of weeks have been soul crushing.  We have had more or less a continuous blast of showers and torrential downpours, all combined with persistent heat and humidity.

IR Works Anytime
I have done what I could.  Last week, I cut through the haze with my infrared camera.  Mid-summer is always the best time to shoot IR.  The progression of violent thunderstorms has provided the opportunity for rainbow shots, but I never seemed to be in the right spot to capture a balanced composition. 

With challenges outside it seems like a good time to discuss my big indoor summer project, the construction of my new photography studio.  It has been a long time coming.

My Household Sprawl

Studio Work Table
To begin, I should describe my current “studio” arrangement. Beginning from when I started to take my photography seriously, and to my wife’s great frustration, my studio has been scattered throughout our house.  I have taken Abigail’s former bedroom as my matting and framing workshop.  I find it a very productive space, but Susan contends that it is a chaotic trash heap – she has a point.  

Backup Clutter
The small downstairs bedroom is now my office, where I do my photo editing and printing, not to mention storing my gear and my collection of camera bags, 15 and growing.  It is a self-evident truth that a photographer can never have enough camera bags. It all combines to create another productive heap.  To maintain domestic peace, I try to keep these two rooms closed as much as possible.  It helps that they are the only two rooms in the house that are air conditioned.

So, for my photography business, I have grabbed two rooms, and if I could limit the damage to these, I think I could have slipped by.
BUT there is more! Photography seems to have the ability to gobble up space.  Susan doesn’t mind that every wall in our house displays/stores my framed photographs, but we have only so much wall space.  Especially when I am between major shows, I have at least two large bins of pictures with no place to go other than on the floor of our gallery.  The problem is that these pictures along with all my other work can’t be exposed to the heat or cold of our attic or barn. They have to be protected in the house.  In addition to the bins of framed work, I have a couple of display racks of matted images in plastic sleeves.  It occurs to me that, if more people would just buy my work, this storage problem would go away.

Gallery Storage

Mat Board on the Bannister
Wait!  There’s more.  In addition to storage of the finished photographs, I must find places for my other materials.  I have the standing racks for cards, and the tent and display system for my annual Keene Art in the Park Show.  Much of this can tolerate temperature extremes and ends up in the barn, but my boxes of stock mat board must be protected and ends up leaning on the banister at the top of the stairs. 

Over the years, Susan has not been shy about letting me know how annoyed she has become with my photographic clutter scattered throughout the house.  My response has always been, “Where else can I put all the stuff”, and then, one day to my surprise, she responded,  “Why don’t you build your own studio/ workshop in the barn.”  Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate she was to get me out of the house.

I have dreamed of having my own dedicated photography space, not only to do my matting and framing, but also to work on image editing, to have a quiet space to write and an area I could dedicate to studio lighting.  This year, a number of factors came together to make it all possible.

Coming Together

Spousal Support

First and most miraculously, I found that my wife was enthusiastically behind the project, at least until I announced that I was planning to add a screened porch to the back of the studio.   Of course, Susan was excited that I would have a space to enjoy my photographic pursuits, but she was also thrilled that she would be getting back an upstairs bedroom and uncluttered floors throughout the house.  I prefer to believe that the fact that I would be out of the house for large portions of time had nothing to do with her support.

Attached to our house is a beautiful and well preserved 1870s barn.  We have tried to avoid filling the barn with trash, and with the exception of the downstairs workshop have generally succeeded.  The workshop has suffered from a slow accumulation of “stuff”.  Tools, packing materials, an old Franklin Stove and assorted broken furniture had filled the space to the point that the room was too cluttered to be functional.  It didn’t require much thought to realize that that this was the obvious space for my new workshop. 

It took work to get rid of all the junk and litter, but after the purge we found 
Workshop Door, Not exactly Plumb
a space that was in remarkably good shape and ready for the major renovation.  Of course, we have learned that with old barns, as is true for old barns, nothing goes completely smoothly.  As we opened the wall for a door in the back, we discovered an area of rotting sill and, of course nothing was plumb.  We decided to just refinish the original irregular floor boards, but a few were eaten by carpenter ants and required replacement.  All of these problems added to the time and expense of the project, but I prefer to believe that my studio permitted us to find these issues before they became more severe and the barn fell off the bank into Partridge Brook.
Open Space - Looks Simple

The Builder

Jason and Floor Boards to Replace
The final piece for our project was getting a talented builder with whom we felt comfortable.  This was not a problem.  For some time we have considered Jason as a member of our personal staff and a trusted friend.  Jason has handled all of our recent projects and has always been available whenever he is needed, whether it is watching our house when we are away, helping with shoveling snow from our roof or bringing a ladder to help a friend who was locked out get into a second floor window.   He is experienced, easy to communicate with and, what is most important for a general contractor, he does what he says he will do.  From the beginning, Jason has been enthusiastic about this project, as he is whenever it comes to spending our money.

Jason Measuring the Sill Rot

With these key pieces in place, or project is proceeding.  At this point, Jason is completing the basic rectangular box which will be tightly insulated with foam and paneled with simple, rustic ship lap.  My job has been to anticipate everything I might need in the room, specifically all the lighting, electrical service, and cable.  I am only beginning to decide about the layout of the space.  It is all about what I want to be able to do in my studio.  I have a list, but that can be a discussion for another time as the project proceeds.  Let me just say that, in addition to all the photo stuff, the phrase “man cave” has also been mentioned.

Obviously a project like this can cut into my photography, but I am sure it will all be worth distractions.  Stay tuned for more up-dates.


Thinking about the design.  Fills up quickly!

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG


  1. I loved this Blog Jeffrey. I am so excited for you to have your own space. I totally get it! Mike was very happy when I moved my office out of the parlor and into my own new space built from the original woodshed! Cant wait to see the finished project, more so, I cant wait to get into one of your classes.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I’ll see you at the big opening .