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, September 30, 2018

Five Essentials for Fall Foliage Photography

Ashuelot River Contrasting Color

Hancock New Hampshire
The early color of autumn is beginning to show and I’m getting excited about my Third Annual Fall Foliage weekend workshop.  As always, it will be over the weekend after the Columbus Day weekend, October 12th-14th.  It is impossible to predict the extent and location of the best color, but I already know that the workshop will include a great group of photographers.  We have just a couple of slots still open, but the list is already full of friends from my previous classes and workshops.  Suckers for punishment.  With the season fast arriving, I thought it would be a good time to review a few of the photographic essentials which are especially important when capturing fall foliage.  Here are five things to consider as you get out to enjoy this special time of year.

1) Polarizer
With the possible exception of a camera, a polarizing filter is the essential piece of equipment for fall foliage photography. A polarizer is designed to cut through reflections. Direct sunlight reflecting off most surfaces becomes polarized to a specific angle which can be filtered by rotating the polarizer to block that angle. The degree to which a polarizer can filter out the glare is related to the direction of the light, being most effective when it is at 90 degrees to the subject. On the other hand, when the light is coming from behind or directly in front of the camera, the effect is essentially nonexistent. The filter is great for 
Sometimes you need reflection
No polarizer  
darkening skies, seeing beyond reflection into the depths of lakes and streams, but for fall foliage, its most significant effect is to improve the color saturation of the leaves. It is often noted that the ability of a polarizer to block reflection is one of the few filter effects that cannot be duplicated by digital editing and it is for that reason that it is considered THE essential filter and it is why my polarizer stays on the camera for most of the autumn.

The best approach is to get a polarizing filter and start experimenting and don’t skimp on quality.  A high end, multi-coated glass filter is best.  You will be using it a lot.  

There are just a few additional points about the use of this most essential accessory.

  • First, there are two kinds of polarizers, linear and circular. Without descending into a swamp of unnecessary detail, you should know that linear filters can adversely affect your camera's auto-focus or metering. Only use circular filters.
  • Given the optimal orientation to the sun, polarizers can dramatically darken a blue sky, and this is often the most 
    Polarizer sky gradient
    obvious effect as seen through the viewfinder. Because the polarization effect varies with the angle of the sun, the darkening of the sky can vary dramatically across the sky, especially when wider angle views are used. It can produce an interesting, but unnatural gradient of brightness. One solution is to avoid the use of a polarizer when wide angle views are captured. Another is to stack two images, one with polarization and the other without, and then blend the images to avoid the brightness gradient in the sky. I will often reduce the polarization in these situations, but there are post-processing techniques which can smooth out the brightness gradient. A polarizer should not be used when shooting multi-image panoramas, since the effect will vary from image to image, making smooth blending very difficult.
  • By its nature Polarizers require frequent rotation and it is possible to inadvertently unscrew the filter, occasionally leading to a disastrous drop to the ground. Trust me, I know from painful experience. To avoid accidents, I try to rotate the filter only in the clockwise direction, keeping the filter tightly attached.
  • Finally, it is important to remember that polarizers reduce exposure by 1 - 2 stops. In low light situation the filter's effect may not be worth the loss of light.

2) Avoid Color Mush/ Zoom in
Nice color, but mush
I must confess that I generally hate pictures of broad hillsides dominated by a chaotic blend of fall colors. No matter how richly saturated, I get a bit dizzy as my eyes have no idea where to go. With fall foliage, the smaller you go, the easier it is to create an image that draws the eye to a strong center of interest. The guidelines of good composition apply equally for small subjects as they do for grand landscapes.
Drawing the eye
 As I drive the autumn backroads, I am always scanning for these small tableaus, or features that draw the eye, usually with a strong single color and contrasting elements. Often a couple of brightly colored leaves can be more dramatic than a whole hillside of reds and golds.  On my way to Harrisville a couple of years ago I saw this simple combination of bright red and gold leaves splashing behind a white birch trunk. All I needed was a simple two image focus stack to get both elements in sharp focus.

A splash of color, Reading Vermont

3) Manage Bright Sunlight
Shade and Back-lighting
Despite what visiting city-folk think, we photographers know that bright mid-day sunlight is the worse time to shoot fall foliage. The reflections off the leaves dulls the colors and the high contrast hides much of the foliage in impenetrable shadow.  As I discussed, a polarizer can help, but you can also look for areas of shade to soften the light.  For me, the best approach to bright days is to take advantage of back-lighting or trans-illumination. Capturing light coming through the foliage is like flipping an electric switch.  Even modest early color can appear brilliant.  Looking into the sun, you may also catch a star-burst of light.

Back-lighting on a sunny day

Overcast Light
Cloudy skies, mist and even rain are great times to get out and capture the foliage. The diffuse, soft light eliminates reflections and allows the color to shine through.  Sadly, wind and rain also tend to knock the leaves to the ground, but while it lasts, foul weather is great weather to capture the full beauty of the season.

Overcast Light

A couple of years ago, I was cruising central Vermont for foliage. The weather began bright, but, as is often true, the clouds gathered as the day progressed. As I explore the road through Pomfret I found this old barn engulfed in foliage that was enriched by the soft light. Even in the overcast my polarizer helped to bring out more of the deep colors.

5) Autumn is about more than color
Keene's Farmer's Market
New England Autumn is about much more than the crazy brilliance of our trees. Visitors and natives alike miss most of the best features of the New England autumn by focusing only on the foliage. The season is also defined by the activities that are unique to our harvest time, the sounds and smells as well as the sites of this dramatic, fleeting time of climatic transition. Most of all, the fall is a time to enjoy the people of New England. We are often a quiet, guarded lot, but something about the nip in the air, and the impending winter, can bring out personal interactions that are, almost, cordial.  Take a hike, visit a farm stand, or immerse yourself in the excitement of a harvest festival or craft show.  All these provide great photographic opportunities without a leaf in view.

Hiking the Monadnock-Wantastiquet Trail

I predict that it is going to be a spectacularly beautiful fall foliage season.  It often seems that the brighter the color, the shorter the season lasts, so don’t miss a day.  I hope these tips will help and get in touch soon if you are interested in joining us for the foliage workshop.

Abby and Samantha - A "Few" years ago

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Summer Highlights, Orphan Moments

Looking back on last summer, it seems that I spent much of my time
working on the planning and finishing of my new studio, on my daughter’s wonderful wedding celebration and other projects which kept me away from photographic explorations of summer in New England. 

 It seemed that my camera seldom left its bag, but, as I reviewed my images in Lightroom for June through August I found that I had, somehow, captured 4,117 images. I must have been shooting something, and as I paged through the images that had not made it to a blog or Facebook posting, I found many that begged to be brought to life.

It appears that I have been shooting, but it is interesting to see how my number of shots tailed off as I became increasingly consumed by studio and wedding priorities.  2187 images in June and only 570 in August.  The discrepancy is at least partially explained by a couple of photographically intense trips in June, Newport Rhode Island and Lake Morey Vermont.

Deep Depth of Field
As I struggle to get though my weekly blogs, I always regret that I can’t publish all of the pictures that I have captured for each topic.  As I look back through my archives there are many images that pop out. They raise the question of why I didn’t work on them and the answer is simple, time. 

Focus Stacking
This is why I have developed the habit of periodically dedicating a blog posting to my worthy orphans.  This time, it is for summer 2018, and as I wandered through the folders I realize that I will need at least two blogs to present even a portion of my favorites.  I’ll start with the busy month of June.   Here are a few of my favorites, first from our great trips.

Newport Sunset

Newport Escape

Lighthouse Flora

We had the opportunity to visit the beautiful and opulent coast town of Newport Rhode Island.  The Guernsey Hotel and Resort off the waterfront on Goat Island licensed a couple of my images, from a previous visit, for a promotion and in return I negotiated a couple of nights at the hotel.  A lovely spot and a convenient location for explorations.

Alexandra Shackelton

Harbor Reflection

Lake Morey Retreat
The next week we continued the theme of free stays at resorts.  In a golf tournament Susan had won a couple of night at the Lake Morey Resort in Vermont.  For two days, Susan played golf while I explored the Vermont and New Hampshire countryside.  I shot a local waterfall, Sugar Hill Lupines and, of course, Lake Morey. 

Lake Morey Fog

Everything Else 

Of course I live in a beautiful corner of New England and I don't need to travel to capture great images, including my summer infrared pictures.

Politics: Stoddard Dems, NH

Catsbane Brook Bend

Otter Brook Mill, Nelson NH

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG

Monday, September 17, 2018

Photography Studio Set-up

I now have this box.  It is a lovely box, measuring 12’x27’, about 320 square feet.  It has beautiful new ship lap walls, extremely tight insulation and an efficient heating and cooling system.  My new studio is hidden in a quiet corner of our barn away from the distractions of the house, but now the bigger challenge is what am I going to put in my box.  It all comes down to deciding what I want to do in the space.

Studio Stuff Piled in the Barn
For Susan, the answer is simple.  She wants all my photography crap, and, by extension, me out of the house.  I admit that the tentacles of my clutter have invade most corners of our lovely old home, but I have resisted the plan to make my studio the dumping ground for all my photo stuff. The plan is to at least start off being selective 

I have started to move things into the studio and my first discovery is how quickly this “big” space is filling up.  I need a plan and that must start with a prioritized list of what I actually want to accomplish in the studio. 

1)    Matting and Framing

Cutting and utility tables and Desk
My previous studio occupied my daughter’s old upstairs bedroom, and was jammed with the materials, equipment and furnishing that I needed to cut mat board and frame pictures.  All this must be my first priority for my new space.  I have moved my utility table into a convenient space opposite my desk.  My cutting table was always a patched together affair with a piece of plywood perched precarious on a smaller potting table.  Happily, Susan remembered that the Indian King Framery was moving to a smaller space in downtown Keene, and I discovered that they were graciously willing to let we have some of their equipment that would no longer fit in the new location.  I acquired a great carpeted 4’x4’ cutting table and a lightly used CH Advantage Mat Cutter.  I also got a good deal on a professional, wall mounted mat board and glass cutter.  Very exciting, but I quickly realized that my desk, utility table and cutting table occupied more that 1/3 of my available space.  I needed to get more serious.

2)    Storage
Storage Shelving
   Studios aquire a lot of stuff; hanging wire and hardware, framing tools, cleaning cloths and solutions, tool boxes, table-top stands, and glass, just to name a few.  All these essentials must have their place and I have been busy assembling storage shelves to organize the glut.  
And, of course there is the mat board and foam core

My boxes of full-size mat board will fit nicely against the wall, but through the years I had also accumulated piles of odd pieces of board that I fancifully expect to use some day in some imaginary project.  I have donated boxes of the stuff to our local school’s art department, but even they are getting overloaded.  I know I can’t store all this material in the studio, but it is inexplicably painful to consider chucking even small pieces of this precious material.  I will save the largest pieces and then make some difficult decisions.

I know I need to escape my pack-rat tendencies, so here is my plan. 

Horse Stall Storage
First, I need to Identify those things that I use infrequently and can also survive living in an unheated or cooled environment.  These items, such as many tools, and some framing materials can be stored in the old horse stall at the other side of the barn – more shelving to be built. I may also see how mat board survives the wide temperature fluctuations in the stall.

The real problem are the things that are temperature sensitive, most importantly my bins of framed pictures.  All those that I can’t fit on the walls of the house or studio will stay in the studio bins.  The studio has an array of spots to highlight the pictures on the walls.  Now, I have to decide on a convenient and reasonably priced hanging system

3)    Studio Lighting
Mat board cutter and back wall
Lights coming
It has been my dream to build a space for studio lighting in my new studio, and I have been struggling to retain a small area in the back of the studio where I can set up my present and future lights and backdrops.  Susan keeps insisting that I should surrender this sacred territory to more storage, but, so far, I have resisted. 

4)    Man Cave
In order to fully accept my banishment to the barn, I insisted on a few creature comforts.  I realized that a pool table and hot tub were impractical, but I do have a comfortable leather couch which includes two recliners.  The initial plan called for a 65” flat screen tv, but given the size of the room, I had to downsize.  Every studio needs a comfortable reception area for clients.  I think this will serve nicely and will also provide a much needed napping location.

Paula, Bob and Tom watching the Patriots lose

Out Back
The final piece, which is scheduled for next summer, is the addition of a screened porch off the back of the barn.  Susan has been fanatically opposed to the idea, but it is MY space and my dream, and everyone else thinks it is a great idea.  Off course ”everyone else” won’t be paying for it, but I’ll just keep threatening to come back into the house if I don’t get my porch.   Beside we have already begun the necessary first steps.  We replaced the back window with a door, which currently opens onto nothing and the porch lights are already installed.  The porch will overlook magnificent cherry trees leading down to the meandering Partridge Brook.  After all, my business IS called Partridge Brook Reflections, LLC.

View Out Back

Well that is the plan.  I still have a lot of work to do.  I apologize, to those who have actually read this far, for this selfish attempt to organize my own thoughts on this project.  It has been helpful for me and I hope to others who are being thrown out of the house.

I would be interested to hear from others who have gone through a similar process of planning and outfitting their own studio.  I hope to get things reasonably arranged soon so I can get out shooting again.  Fall is coming.

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fall Foliage Workshop Weekend

Green River Bridge, Vermont

Fall Foliage Workshop
October 12th – 14th, 2018

Monadnock Region and Southern Vermont

The weather is finally cooling a bit and I’m beginning to see the early traces of color in a few of our trees.  I hate to see the summer pass, but it is good to feel the first signs of autumn’s arrival.  This summer has been hot and hectic, but now that our various trips are out of the way and all the commotion around Abigail’s wedding celebrations has past, I can finally grab a breath and prepare for New England’s most beautiful time of year. 

Md. Sherri's "Castle"

Autumn also marks the beginning of my teaching schedule.  First up, is my Introduction to Digital Photography Course which starts on Tuesday evening, September 19th.  As always, the course is offered through the Keene Community Education Program and includes 8 hours of classroom discussion and two photoshoots.  We are fully book but if you are interested you could check with the Community Education office for late cancellations.

Third Annual Fall Foliage Workshop
I am especially excited about my Third Annual Fall Foliage Workshop.  As before I will be offering the program on the weekend after the Columbus Day weekend, this year, October 12th-14th.  Conditions vary from year to year, but I have found good color on these days and, by avoiding the holiday, we have escaped much of the crowds.     

Gathering Around the Table
2017 Workshop

Our base of operations will again be around my dining room table in Spofford, NH.  I will host the participants at my home on Friday evening for snacks and a discussion about photography in general, and the specific opportunities and challenges of foliage photography.  Based on the conditions, It will also be time to plan the shooting for all day Saturday and Sunday morning.  


Saturday, we will head out early to explore as many different locations as possible.  My goal. Will be to place the group in beautiful locations and then help them get the most from the opportunities. Depending on the state of the color we may travel west to some of my favorite locations in southern Vermont, such as Guilford and the magic village of Green River, or we may explore the hills and farms around the Monadnock region including my own village of Chesterfield.

In the evening, we will return to the dining room table for an informal feast of pizza and some gentle critiquing of the day’s shoot.

Hancock New Hampshire
Sunday Morning
We will head out again Sunday morning for more of our exploration of color, and I will finally let people go around noon. I promise you will come away exhausted but thrilled with the experience.  I look forward to sharing my love for photography in this special time of year.

Autumn Festival, Townsend Vermont
The three-day program is $195, including the delicious snacks and an elegant pizza dinner.  Currently there are a few spaces left in the workshop.  To keep the numbers manageable, I try to limit the participants to less than 6-7.   Please get in touch as soon as you can, by email or phone, to assure your place on the workshop list. If you are coming from outside of the area, I can send you a list of some the best local accommodations. 

Introduction to Lightroom Classic – AND the Transition to Photoshop
Six Tuesday Evenings January 8th - February 12thMonadnock Imaging, Main Street Keene New Hampshire

And don’t forget to plan for my Introduction to Lightroom Course coming up in January and again being offered at Monadnock Imaging in Keene NH.   This year I will be adding a fifth evening class covering the transition from Lightroom to Photoshop.

Jeff Newcomer