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, March 30, 2020

Isolation Photography 1

Photography, and especially photography in New England is always about finding ways to make the best of the condition with which you are presented. Rain, fog, snow or just “bad light” all have their own particular challenges.  Capturing special images is always about getting the most from what nature provides.

Captain Rodolph Bowles Sargent
In the last couple of weeks, we have been faced with a frightening new challenge with impacts far beyond trivial questions of photographic subjects.  We are learning about Covid 19, about disinfecting, social distancing and “flattening the curve”.  I trust we are all doing what we can to blunt the awful effects of this pandemic, and for many of us, that means isolating ourselves in our homes.  During ancient plagues, measures were a bit more draconian such as bloodletting or flagellation.  A little time at home on the couch with Netflix doesn’t seem so terrible, but we are all looking for other options for sanity preserving entertainment.  Photography could be part of the answer.

For some professional photographers, social distancing and cancellations can be a devastating issue.  I assume wedding, sports and event photographers are hurting, but for most recreational and landscape photographers, there is still plenty to shoot.  I don’t have to worry about social distancing from trees, lakes or mountains.  All I must do is stay away from other photographers.  Still, self-quarantining has affected our lives in many ways and since photography offers chances for escape from these pressures, I thought it might be helpful to suggest some photographic opportunities both in and out of the home. 

Since on the outside, we are still in the middle of the dismal gray spring “stick season”, this week I’ll start with photography within the house.

Photography “In Place”

Details Matter
We live in a beautiful part of the country, but what can you shoot when you are stuck inside of your home.  After hip surgery, a few years ago, I was largely restricted to the house.  After the Hycodan wore off, I started looking within my limited sphere for things to photograph and actually found quite a lot.  I started with macro photography, and discovered detail all around that I had never noticed before. I hobbled from room to room scanning for compositions made from some of the simplest things, a clock face, detail in an old portrait and the decoration on a gourd from the Galapagos Islands.  Indoor plants and flowers were also great subjects.

Galapagos Gourd


In floral photography, precise focus is always important.  The key is to make sure that, if nothing else, the stamen is sharp, and the background is soft and uncluttered. You might try shooting some of the flowers with backlighting.  Trans-illumination can have an electric effect on the floral colors.  You will find that the indoor macro subjects are endless.  You don’t need a special camera or lens to photograph the familiar around the house, but as you move close, depth of field and shutter speed can become an issue  A tripod or some other means of stabilization can be helpful to keep your images sharp.

Finding Friends
Nellie at Eye Level
As the days of isolation pile on, photographs of our aggravated fellow human cellmates may be problematic, but our pets always seem to enjoy the heightened attention. You can get close to your cats, dogs, turtles and more – none of them can get the virus.  Since we lost our Nellie a few years ago, Susan and I have desperately missed having a dog, and never more than since we have been isolated.  It is great to catch your pets in cute or mischievous activities, as long as they have nothing to do with chewing up the toilet paper. 

Just two quick keys to better pet photography.  First get down on your knees (if they still work), or lay on the floor, to shoot your friends at eye level.  Whether you are photographing wild animals or your pets, this is always a more personal and dramatic angle.  Secondly always focus on the eyes.  Everything else can be fuzzy, but if the eyes are sharp, no one will notice.

Black-capped Chickadee
Feeder Through the  Open Window
Don’t have any pets?  Just hang a bird feeder close to house near a convenient window, sit quietly and wait for the action to start.  As we see warmer weather, you can get clearer shots by opening the window.  Again, keep the background clear of distractions, but some stage dressing can help. Try sticking a few branches into the ground to provide more natural appearing perches.  Finally, unless you want to experiment with bear photography, you might want to bring the feeder inside for the evenings.
House Finch Pair

Image Management
Drowning Pool Iceland
Finally, considering all the extra time you have on your hands, you may want to consider editing some of the piles of pictures you have clogging your hard drive(s).   I have just finished my Iceland images, and now I’m neck deep in the mass of pictures from our autumn tour of Ireland.  This is a great time to learn how to use Lightroom, Photoshop or some other image management and editing software.  If the phrase “software program” tends to give you the hives, you can always start by just deleting all those pictures of your feet or those that are hopelessly out of focus. It’s a start.

Lightroom Magic

I hope this brief discussion will trigger your own photographic exploration of your restricted space.   I would welcome your ideas about other sources of indoor inspiration.  For the members of Keene State College’s CALL program Photography Club, I look forward to seeing some of your pictures as you find ways to brighten this challenging time.   To spare my mailbox, please send only small jpg images.

Tufted Titmouse

Doolin Rainbow, Ireland

For more inspiration, check below for some other links to my relevant blogs.  Also go to Part II of my Isolation Blogs where  I will explore some of the opportunities available outside as the drab “stick season” gives way to the buds of early spring.

Jeffrey Newcomer, NEPG