About Me

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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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Portland’s Six Lighthouses

😡I Hate Change😡

A while back the New England Photography Guild web site was discontinued.  The Guild Facebook page is still active, but along with the discontinuance of our website our blog articles have been lost.  

It is sad to have lost all the great blogs contributed by my fellow members of the Guild, but The members are still out there celebrating the unique beauty of New England.  For my part, I was able to salvage the text from most of my articles.  

I plan to republish many of these blogs with the images retrieved from my archives.  I found that the text can be a bit funky and the background appears white, but the information is still there.  
Enjoy.


Against the Storm, Portland Head Light

 

Portland's Six Lighthouses




A  couple of weeks ago we were visiting friends who every summer, spend a month at Rye Beach on the coast of New Hampshire.  This is a regular yearly trip, but whenever I get to the shore, I try to spend as much time as possible exploring the unique aspects of the coast.  I love the rocks, the surf, and the quaint seaside villages, but, of course, my favorites are the lighthouses.  Around Portland Maine, there are six lighthouses, some of which are more accessible than others, and one has a strong claim to being the ultimate classic beacon along the New England coast.  In the past, I have explored all of these lights, but since we decided to extend our trip up the coast to Portland, I decided to visit all of them in one afternoon.
You can check out the locations on my map and follow the GPS locations.  I decided to tour the lighthouses from south to north starting with the most challenging ones to approach, the Twin Lights.
 

1-2)  Twin Lights, Cape Elizabeth
43.5643N, 70.1989

Forward Range Twin Light, Portland, Maine

Only one of the two Twin Lights is still functioning and both are on private property.  Both were built around 1828, but in 1924, the government dismantled the West (Rear Range)Tower.

It is closed off and is now part of a private residence.  The other light is closer to the shore and, although it is still operating, it can’t be closely approached.  Both lights can be seen from the south at the Two Lights State Park parking lot.  I found a nice view of the functioning light from the parking lot of the nearby Lobster Shack.  I am told that the Shack is famous for its excellent selection of coronary inducing fried food, but even on this mid-week afternoon the line was thankfully endless and the parking lot packed.  I stopped for a couple shots of the lighthouses but then moved on to relinquish our spot to the paying customers.  I will have to return when the weather is more conducive to photography, that is, dark and foggy, and less attractive to the saturated fat seekers.

The famous American Realist painter, Edward Hopper, painted one of the towers in 1929.  In 1970, the painting was reproduced on the first US Postage stamp to depict a lighthouse.

Edward Hooper Lighthouse Twin Light

 

3) Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth
43.6232N, 70.2079W

Morning Passage, Portland, Maine

A short distance to the north along Route 77 and then Shore Road is Portland Head Lighthouse.  It was commissioned by President George Washington and is the oldest lighthouse in Maine.  Unquestionably it is the most photographed light in New England. Located inside the forty-one-acre Fort Williams Park, the lighthouse and the surrounding rocky shore make great subjects for photography in any season, and any time of day, but it is most dramatic around sunrise and sunset.  On this trip, we first visited on a sunny afternoon.  I was hoping that a recent storm might have kicked up some heavy surf, but the waves were just average.   I returned the next morning to catch a sunrise.  The signs announce that the gates open at sunrise but I was able to drive right in about thirty minutes before dawn.


You never can be sure what you will get from an Atlantic coast sunrise.  On this day the clouds were disappointingly few, but the light on the tower was lovely, and I caught some nice waves crashing on the rocks. When shooting an active lighthouse, I try to catch a picture or two with the flash of beacon’s light.  Every lighthouse has its own unique timing and, with a little attention, the light can be anticipated. These images don’t need to be your best, since the light can be blended into whichever picture comes out as your favorite.

 

 

I enjoy shooting any of our New England lighthouses, but a trip to Portland Head Light is always a magic return to Lighthouse Mecca.

 

4) Ram Island Light
43.6314N, 70.1876W

A visit to Portland Head Light is another two-for-one lighthouse opportunity.  Across the entrance to Portland Harbor from Cape Elizabeth is Ram Island Lighthouse.  It sits precariously on a ledge that threatens the northern side of the harbor channel.  The frequent shipwrecks led to the construction of the granite lighthouse, which was completed in 1905.  The lighthouse can be photographed from Fort Williams Park.  I like to include Portland Head Light in the frame.  I usually stand back as far as possible to allow a long lens shot to enlarge the distant Ram Island Light against Portland Head.  When possible, it is worth waiting to capture a passing sailboat or lobsterman.  


What can be better, two lighthouses, a sunrise, and a boat!  The only thing better would be to include massive waves crashing against the lighthouse – an excuse to come back again.  The Rams Island Light is now automated and was sold by the government to a private buyer in 2010 for $190,000.

 

Spring Point Ledge Light
43.6499N, 70.2255W

The next lighthouse up the coast is located next to the Campus of Southern Maine Community College.  Spring Point Ledge Light was built in 1897 to mark a dangerous Ledge which lies to the west of Portland’s main shipping channel.   It is a “spark plug” lighthouse, which traditionally refers to a beacon built on a caisson in open water with the light sitting on top of a cylindrical three-story living area.  They look a lot like spark plugs.  In 1951 the lighthouse was attached to the mainland with a 600-foot granite breakwater, making it the only caisson-style light in the U.S. that can be walked to by visitors.  The lighthouse is owned by the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust, which schedules tours of the structure during the summer.

 

Bug Light
43.6556N, 70.2349W

The final lighthouse in our tour is little Portland Breakwater Light which is also called “Bug Light”.  The current structure was built in 1875 and marks the entrance to Portland Harbor.  It was designed by Thomas Walter, the architect of the U.S. Capital buildings including dome.  The light is easily accessible from Bug Light Park, which includes a memorial to the New England Shipbuilding Corp shipyard.  During WW II, the massive yard constructed over 200 of the Liberty Ships that were so crucial in transporting American industrial output across the Atlantic.  Now, all that is left is a skeletonized bow, representing one of the ships.


Liberty Ship Memorial, Portland, Me

Whether you visit one or all 6 of Portland’s lighthouses you will find endless opportunities to capture much of what makes the Maine coast such a special place for photographers.  I hope to see you there.

For more images of Portland’s Six Lighthouses, check out my Portland LIghthouse Gallery

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG
www.partridgebrookreflections.com
603-363-8338

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Summer Deluge


Another Gulf Road "Transient"

In New England, every season offers its special photographic opportunities.  Autumn’s spectacular colors and winter’s quiet white blanket provide obvious attractions, while late falls “stick season” … well we must nap sometime.  Spring typically is valued both for the beautiful and varied early foliage, and also for the waterfalls that surge in response to the seasonal rains and spring run-off.

Garwin Falls, 2018


In recent years, I have scheduled a spring waterfall workshop for mid-May.  It is the best time of year to celebrate the flowing water in my corner of New England, but this year I had to cancel my plans.  First because the pandemic was still limiting close interactions and secondly because our unusually dry spring reduced the streams to disappointing trickles.



We finished May and June with severe drought conditions, but since the weather in New England never stays the same for long, we have been drowned in July.  Suddenly our streams and waterfalls have gushing at a time when the water is usually drying up for the hot summer months.


Old Jelly Mill Falls, Dummerston Vt


Chesterfield Gorge 

For several weeks I have been enjoying the late season flowing water.  Familiar waterfalls such as the Old Jelly Mill falls on Stickney Brook in Dummerston Vermont and Chesterfield Gorge in my home town, have been as active as I have ever seen. And, of course, the water has found its way into our leaky stone-lined basement.  Happily, our sump pump has been working hard to reduce what might have been 4-6 inches to just about 1 inch of water.

An Inch in the Basement











Route 30 Falls

"Transient"Waterfalls
I have been particularly struck by the dramatic flow in what I think of as transient run-off waterfalls.  My area has numerous falls that only seem to bloom in response to heavy downpours.  The water produces beautiful falls that come quickly and largely disappear within a few hours to a day.  On Route 30 near where Stickney Brook enters the West River, a steep road-side drop-off creates a lovely falls in response to heavy rain.  Come back any other time and there is only a trickle.




Fallen Arch July 2021

MadameSherri Forest in Chesterfield New Hampshire is most famous for the arched stairway which is the only remains of the Madame 1920’s summer party house.  Sadly, and inevitably, the recent storms appear to have been the last straw, resulting just a couple of weeks ago in the collapse of the top-most arch.  Happily, the area continues to offer other points of interest.  Next to the parking lot is the pond which had been the guest’s swimming hole.  The pond normally drains slowly into Gulf Brook, but here as well, the rains have energized the outflow to a boiling surge.


Madame Sherri Pond Outflow



Gulf Road "Transient"

Gulf Road Transients

Down the road from Madame Sherri, along the Gulf Road, is my favorite collection of “transient” waterfalls.  The road cuts through a deep gorge adjacent to the Gulf Brook, on its way to the Connecticut River.  During heavy rains, at several spots along the way, waterfalls plunge down the hillside to disappear under the road and into the brook.  When the weather is right you only need to stand in the road to capture these dramatic cascades dropping to your feet.  It’s easy shooting, but you may be forced to dodge the heavy trucks and bucket loaders as they repair the washed-out dirt road.  


"Transient after a couple of dry days

The important thing is to time it right.  Within a day or so of dry weather the show is largely over and we are back to a dry stream bed, or at most a trickle.


Another Gulf Road Transient




Boiling Gulf Brook


Wilde Brook, Chesterfield Gorge


So, I got my waterfall season, just a month late.  July is almost over and the rain hasn’t stopped yet.  I don’t know if this is the new, globally warmed, normal, but with the rain pouring down today, I guess I’ll be out shooting the falling water again tomorrow.

So get out and capture the falling water whenever nature delivers, and keep track of the “Transient” waterfalls in your area.






Jeff Newcomer, NEPG
www.partridgebrookreflections.com

Monday, July 19, 2021

Summer Infrared Season




Lower Pasture Chesterfield, NH
I have been sitting on this article since last summer.  Now, the earth has turned and it is again a great time to talk about exploring our landscape beyond our own vision into the infra-red.   

I hate to generalize, but for photography in New England, summer is not my favorite season.  Perhaps I expressed it best in a previous article from the summer of 2017:

“It’s summer!  Great! The days are balmy, which is just a nicer way of saying hot and humid.  The Black Flies have been replaced by voracious Mosquitoes, and, if you want to see the sunrise, you must drag yourself out of bed at 4:30 AM.  It is wonderful to see all the green, but the foliage has largely matured to the same monotonous shade for maximal photosynthesis.  BAH HUMBUG?”

To be sure, I enjoy the rich fragrant air with its sweet scents of fresh growth, and I will admit that New England’s warm summer months hold their own visual attractions.  Summer sunsets and sunrises can be dramatic, as can the light during the changeable weather, from morning fog to afternoon thunderstorms.  I have always insisted that, if we are prepared to accept what nature provides, all seasons and times of day can provide photographic opportunities, but I get bored with the persistent monochrome of green.

Happily, summer offers another photographic attraction.  All that green creates the perfect conditions for infrared photography. 

Bradley Hill Vision


Pasture Gate, Chesterfield NH
 Everything that we see comes from our retina’s ability to respond to a narrow spectrum of reflected light.  Beyond the reds, in slightly longer wavelengths, which are just beyond what we can see, lies infrared. Reflected infrared light changes the appearance of the world.  Most notably, plant matter reflects light strongly in the infrared, making the summer greens appear like a winter landscape and the blue sky turns a deep black as it absorbs the infrared light. Infrared penetrates haze, causing even the dullest landscapes to snap to attention.  It may all seem unreal, but what an infrared sensor "sees" is actually no less true than what our retinas record in blues to reds.  

Electromagnetic Spectrum
https://www.miniphysics.com/electromagnetic-spectrum_25.html

Infrared photography follows most of the rules of Black and White.  Void of color, the visual impact depends on pattern and contrast. 

Spofford Home

In previous articles, I have discussed the effects of infrared light and how I modified my old Canon 20D to become an infrared camera. What I wanted to do in this post was to share some of my infrared images from this summer.  Hopefully I can inspire you to convert one of your old dust-collecting doorstops into an infrared camera.  LifePixel specializes in such conversions, and I was happy with their service.   It is not expensive and you will learn that there is much more to our world than can be seen through the illusion created by our narrow visual spectrum.