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.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Spacing in Your Photographs, Avoiding the Overlap

I have been working my way through my pictures from our recent trip to Italy.  There’s a lot more to do and I will be dedicating much of my “stick season” time to editing my favorites from the more than 5,000 images.  One of my early favorites is the evening shot I captured from the Rialto Bridge over the Grande Canale in Venice.  The light was beautiful as it seemed to curve around the bend in the canale.  I had a number of version of the same picture but one seemed to stand out.   They all had the same golden light, the same classic architecture and the same collection of water buses, taxis and gondolas, but I realized that the “hero” shot was the one in which all the boats stood alone, separate from one another.  The subtle spacing of these important restless elements resulted in a cleaner and more easily comprehensible image.  

Avoiding Overlap

Any Excuse for a Picture of Abby
The importance of providing space is a key element in effective compositions.  The positioning of the space around the key focal points of an image is frequently referred to as “negative space” and is often crucial to a composition.  Negative space can be arranged to provide head room or open an image in the direction that a subject is looking or moving.  It can be used to move the subject away from the dead center, create subtle context or provide a soft background for portraits.   

Golden Light, Overlapped
My brief discussion today is about a different kind of spacing, that is, the avoidance overlapping of key elements.  Standing among the crowds on the famous Rialto Bridge, I was excited to catch the beautiful light, but after I grabbed my first couple of shots, I settled in to wait for that fleeting moment when all the boats could be seen distinctly with spacing from all the other randomly moving craft.  It can be a frustrating endeavor.  Too often, just as one water taxi moved clear, a gondola would glide in front of a water bus.  As the sun faded, my time was limited, but finally the magic happened.

The Magic

Cows Don’t Space

In nature, perfect alignment does not always occur, but it is always worth the wait. In particular, cows seem to know what I’m looking for and appear to take pleasure in foiling all my artistic efforts.  With cows and horses, the more animals the more difficult it is to get all of the beasts in prefect orientation.  You must often take the best you can get and try to find spacing between at least a few of the most prominent individuals. The rest can be allowed to settle back into “negative space”.

Sometime a little cloning can help provide some space or remove the cow that seems to be coming from another’s butt.


Negative space does not have to be completely vacant.  Only a few kids stood apart in my picture of the start of the Children’s DeMar Race last year, but they were enough to provide a clear visual focus.  

The herd came running to me at the edge of a cow pasture in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  They formed a chaotic overlapping crowd, but one calf managed to achieve separation and saved the image.

Trees Are More Cooperative

Stonewall Farm
The avoidance of overlapping is also important in landscape photography and when shooting stationary trees and rocks it is often much easier to achieve.  It usually just involves taking a step to one side or the other. During this year’s Fall Foliage Workshop, I took the group to one of my favorite forest glades at Roads End Farm in Chesterfield New Hampshire.  From a few angles, the evergreens framed a splash of brilliantly colored background trees.  The trick was to arrange the viewpoint to allow the foreground trees to stand apart without significant overlap and while still framing the color.  It is all a matter of remembering to be attentive to this detail.


Arranging a composition within the viewfinder should always involve a visual checklist.  It takes lots of practice but attention should be directed systematically to several important factors, including the location of the image’s focal point, avoidance of distractions both in the background and around the edges, accurate focus and also the avoidance overlap of important elements. While shooting in the field, the excitement of the moment can easily you to miss the overlaps, but it will become glaringly obvious as you edit your images at home.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 Autumn Gallery

Riverside Trail, Keene NH

Golden Wall, Newfane Vt
Given all the recent wind and rain, we have definitely drifted into stick season.  It is time to work my way through all the brilliant fall foliage pictures.  This year the task is sadly reduced, first because the foliage was spotty and dull, and secondly because I missed the first half of the season exploring the beauty of Italy. Again, it would be inappropriate for me to complain.  Our tour was fabulous, and I returned with plenty of “foreign” images to work through, but I did feel the need to get out as much as possible to catch the remaining autumn color of New England’s unique season.  Especially up north on Lake Como, near the Swiss border, we saw a smattering of color, but kept people asking whether the foliage in New England really was as spectacular as it appeared.  What could I Say: “Il fogliame รจ magico”.

Barn at Sunset, Walpole, NH

Deep Red, Spofford NH

Early November Color, Chesterfield NH

Sweet Harvest, Townsend, Vt
I got a quick start.  Just a day after my arduous thirty-hour trip home, I had to start my second annual Fall Foliage Workshop.  I had a great group of people, whose enthusiasm helped to jolt me out of my jet-lagged funk.  I have already shared some of the images from the workshop weekend, but here I wanted to hang a bunch of my other foliage pictures.  

River Red, Hinsdale NH
Hot Corner, Chesterfield, NH
Ashuelot Edge, Keene NH

Autumn Bale, Keene, NH

More Classes

October Harras, Chesterfield NH
Immediately after my workshop, I had to start preparing for my Introduction to Digital Photography course at Keene Community Education.  After so many times, you would think that the prep would be easier, but every year I try to improve and update the classes.  My first goal is always to find a way to simplify by eliminating some of my slide, but I always seem to add more.

Autumn Burst, Keene NH

Autumn Afternoon, Dummerston Vt.
Empire Bunch, Putney Vt.

Autumn Contrast, Chesterfield NH

It has become a annual tradition for me to use a blog article to splash a little color onto the our bleak November grays.  So here, without much fanfare or expostulation, is a few of my favorites for this year’s autumn gold.  It turned out that, if you looked hard enough the color was out there.

Thank you for looking with me.

Late Red, Spofford NH

October Crossing, Keene NH

Ashuelot Pool, Keene NH

Autumn Grass, Surry NH

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Image Backup for a Long Journey

Out of the Fog, Venice

Tiber Steps, Rome

I have been running about trying to catch whatever is left of this year’s disappointing fall foliage.  I’ve found glimpses of nice late color, but I missed the first half of the season.  I have no right to complain since, while everyone was wondering whether the color would ever come, I was enjoying a perfect three weeks exploring the beauty and history of Italy.  As I struggle to decide whether I should spend my time editing images from our trip or from my increasing pile of foliage pictures, I thought I would take a break and share a little about the challenges of backing up my precious images while on a long trip away from the comforts of my trusty home desktop.

One Dome, St. Peter's, Vatican City

On trips such as our Italian tour, it is my pictures that are my primary souvenirs of the experience.  I also routinely try to collect one coffee mug, a baseball cap.  From Italy, I brought home the mug, but I couldn’t find an appropriate cap.  I observed that Italians don’t generally wear hats, and definitely not baseball caps.  This put extra importance on the pictures.  I’d like to share some of the steps I take to protect (i.e. Back-up) my images, and some of the lessons I continue to learn. It all starts with the camera(s)

Saint Peter's Vatican City

Backup the Camera

Susan on the Wall, San Gimignano

You will have no pictures to backup if you can’t capture the images in the first place. One of my firsts step in preparing for a photography trip (ok, every trip is a photography trip), is to decide how I will back-up my cameras.  I don’t want to be left shooting the coliseum with my iPhone, although many do.  For this trip I backed up my Canon 5D Mark IV with my Mark II body.  This seemed to be a good plan. If my Mark IV suffered a sudden mechanical failure.  All my lenses would work just fine and I would still be shooting full frame.  Time for my first lesson.

Grayson and Cuyler, Cupano Vineyard, Tuscany

Lesson One : Theives don’t just steal camera bodies.

Sunset Together, Tuscany

At some point while walking the dark narrow streets of Florence, it occurred to that my camera might get stolen, and I thought it unlikely that the thief would remove my workhorse 24-105 lens and place it next to my unconscious, bleeding body.  On this trip, I brought my 16-35mm and my old 70-300mm, but neither would be best for the majority of the pictures that I captured.  Throughout Italy, 91% of my images were taken with my 24-105mm.  In case of theft. I would still have my Mark II, and although it is always an interesting challenge to shoot with limited lenses, for many situations, the camera would still be severely crippled. I wouldn’t be totally lost since my second backup was my little Canon G11.  I usually bring the G11 to use in situations where the my massive DSLR might be too clumsy or conspicuous to carry.  The image quality doesn’t come close to my Mark IV or II, but in a pinch, it would serve.

New Light, Tuscan Villa

Asinelli Tower, Bologna

My lesson from this revelation was to plan to equip my backup camera with a capable backup lens.  As it turns out, I am lucky to have a second 24-105 lens.  It’s the one that I drop into a stream a few years back.  Canon did not judge the lens to be repairable, but over time the water has dried leaving only a few imperceptible stains, and happily no mold.  It works well and from now on I will attach it to my 5D Mark II before I throw it into my bag.  Obviously, not everyone will have the good fortune of dropping their camera into a brook, but there are plenty of used and off-brand lenses out there that might be worth considering.  Alternatively, small carry around camera is a good solution.

Street Produce, Bologna

Oh,  and I keep the Mark II in my suitcase away from my other gear.

Am I paranoid?  ABSOLUTELY, but the point is that you should anticipate the possible disasters and plan for their inevitable occurrence.   Of course, if you are ok with recording your once-in-a-lifetime journey with pictures on your smart phone, then you have nothing to worry about.

Image Backup,

No Image Exists Unless It is in Three Places

The old “Three Place” rule is especially important on “Once in a Lifetime Trips”.  For Italy, I backed up twice to memory cards, and then both to a laptop and an external hard drive.  It just occurred to me that five thousand images in four places means I actually came home with twenty thousand images!  It’s all good.

 Memory Cards

Lesson Two : Bring Enough

Lake Como Chop, Como

Memory cards have become increasingly cheap and reliable.  I’m happy that Canon has finally placed two card slots in their newer 5D models and on the trip I saved each image simultaneously to two cards in the camera.  I had enough CF and SD cards to continue this redundancy until I finally had to go to a single card for the last couple of days. The lesson here is that, although memory cards have become extremely reliable, they still could fail, and, if possible, dual recording is a great safety measure.  My personal lesson, is to bring enough cards to get through the entire trip.

Lake Como, Brunate

Lesson 3 : Organize your trip images in a separate Lightroom Catalog

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice

I love to review my pictures as I go along on the trip, but the main reason to lug a laptop is to manage the backup to the computer and an external hard drive.  Now that I am a devote Lightroom user, I have learned that my task of moving my images to my desktop at home is made much easier by creating a separate Lightroom Catalog on the trip to organize the images.  At home all I need to do is merge the trip catalog with my main catalog and then, from within Lightroom, move the images over to my desktop storage.  Of course, if you are not using Lightroom, you should structure your backup to work best with you own image management program.

Grand canal Sunset, Venice

External Hard Drive

Lesson 4: Store the Catalog and the Images on the External Hard Drive

Floor Mosaic, Vatican Museum
Over several trips, my daily image upload routine has been to store my special catalog and images to my laptop, but I forgot the rule that Lightroom images should be stored on an external drive and not be allowed to clog the computer.  Since when I get home, I will be moving everything to my desktop, that process is made much easier by keeping both the catalog and the image files on the external drive. On the trip they can still be accessed on the laptop and I will use the laptop as my backup drive while uploading to Lightroom

Getting Home

Towers of San Gimignano, Tuscany
My fiendish plan is complete.  Cards, cards, laptop and external drive, everything is in, not three, but FOUR places.  I can sleep, but there is one final challenge.  All those pixels need to make it home.

While on a trip I usual split my treasures to avoid the chance that a single disaster; lost luggage, stolen camera bag or pick-pocket, could take everything. I typically store my external drive sandwiched among the soft clothing in my suitcase.  The memory cards are in my camera bag and Susan guards the laptop in her backpack.  

One of Many Porticos of Bologna
The flight back is a different matter.  My rule is that I never check my camera gear and I keep at least a couple of copies of my images with me, at all times.  I still carefully pad the hard drive in my luggage, but the laptop and the memory cards stay at my side.  

By now you are certain that I am certifiably paranoid, but think about what you bring back from that once in a lifetime trip.  Besides wonderful memories and that pesky yeast infection, the most important tangible souvenirs will likely be your photographs.  Bring them home safely so that your only physical remembrance won’t be that lonely little coffee mug.