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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Long Lens Snow

Pasture White, Chesterfield, NH

Distant Pasture Snow

There are several factors which control how falling snow appears.   I discussed some of these in a previous article. They include the intensity of the storm, the size of the flakes, the wind velocity, and the shutter speed, but one factor that I didn’t discuss is worth considering. The distance from the subject and the focal length of the lens required to pull that subject close can have a striking effect on the apparent intensity of the snow fall. It is all about the volume of falling snow that veils the subject.

Chesterfield Post Office
I have always observed that the intensity of snowfall can be enhanced by moving away from a subject, and then pulling it close with a long lens.  This week I was hoping for a storm that would allow me to clearly demonstrate this effect.  

45 Feet, 32mm Lens
My opportunity came last Wednesday when a brief squall came through.  I ran up to Chesterfield Center where I had the room to shoot a similarly composed picture of the iconic Town Hall, first from a distance of 45 feet with a 32mm lens, and then from across the school playing fields out to 480 feet with a 180mm focal length.  The results were striking.

480 Feet, 180mm Lens
The foreshortening created by the long lens compressed onto the building all the extra snow which was present in the intervening distance.  Although they were taken just a few minutes apart, it looked like two entirely different storms.  The point was dramatically clear. If you want to intensify the appearance of a snow storm, back away from the subject, and then pull it back in with a long lens.  It’s not cheating.  It’s just physics.  

By the time the squall had moved on, I had made my point and also had enjoyed the full effect of the rest of those soft, lazy flakes.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ten Favorite Lightroom Short-Cuts (Sort of)

Lightroom is all about being more productive in the organizing, editing and sharing your images, and the use of the program’s many short-cuts is one of the most powerful ways to to streamline your work-flow.  Within Lightroom, there are literally hundreds of short-cuts available to control almost every function.  The trick is to find the short-cuts which apply to the tools which you use most frequently.  Of course, I have my own favorites. 

Shortcuts in Drop-Down Menus

Happily Lightroom makes it easy to find the appropriate short-cuts.  Many of the choices in the program’s drop-down menus include the short-cut for that function.  If you like tables, each module has its own list of common short-cuts found in the “help” drop-down menu.  Just select the specific short cut list.

Library Short-Cut List

The best way to assemble your own favorites list is to step through your work-flow and notice the short-cuts that apply to the functions that you use the most or that are the most difficult to access through the menus. Functions that are available with the push of a button, such as cycling between Loupe and Grid views in the Library Module, may not be as important to learn.

You will find your own favorite short-cuts, but here are some of mine.


1) Crtl-Z : Undo

I may use this more than any other short-cut.  It is nice to have a quick way to back-up from my mistakes before they get the chance to taunt me from the screen.  The nice thing is that repeated Crtl-Zs will back through any series of missteps.

2} BackSlash (“\”)\

The backslash has different functions in different modules.  In the Library, it cycles through showing and hiding the filter bar at the top of the image.  There is nothing intuitive about this selection.  The “t” key brings up the bottom Tool bar, but why “\” for the Filter bar?  It must be that more obvious keys were already taken.

In the Develop Module, the back-slash short-cut’s function is to  cycle between an edited image and its original appearance, a handy before and after tool and a bit more intuitive (leaning backwards) than in the Library Module.

3) T

“T” cycles between showing and hiding the toll bar under the main preview window.  Too many times during my Lightroom classes, students will tell me that they don’t see the Tool bar functions only because they haven’t pressed “t”  to make them appear.

Tool Bar

4) D & E

There are short-cuts for all of the Lightroom Module, but I only tend to switch quickly back and forth between the Library and Develop Modules. Given the frequency of my usage, I don’t need to a short-cut to get me to the Book Module.  “D” brings up the Develop Module and, again counter intuitively, “E”  the shortcut for the Library. If you try hitting the “L” key you will end up in the Lights Out mode.


5) G & E

“G” bring up the grid mode and “E” goes to loupe in the Library module from all the other modules.  From within the Library Module, these choices are easily available from buttons on the left of the Tool bar, but they are not present in the other modules and are used so frequently that short-cuts are helpful.

6) I

Information Overlay

“I” cycles the overlays of image information in the Loupe mode.  The key cycles between two custom information screens and a blank view.  The content of the overplays are set in the Loupe options of the View drop-down.

 Screen Architecture

7) Tab

“Tab” shows/hides the two side panels.

8) Shift-Tab

“Shift-Tab” shows/hides both the side and top panels

9) Function Keys

This is a bit of a cheat, but I will include these handy function keys all as one choice, since they all work together.

Panel : Show / Hide

“F5-F9” individually show and hide each of the panels and are worth the effort to quickly optimize the screen for a particular activity.  Happily These four keys are clustered together on my keyboard.

            F5 : Shows/Hides the Module picker (Top panel)

            F6 : Shows/Hides the Filmstrip

            F7 : Shows/Hides the Left Panel

            F8 : Shows/Hides the Right Panel

If I want to get the fullest view as I edit an individual image in the Develop Module, I can first hide all the panel with “Shift-Tab” and then bring back only the Develop Panel by hitting “F8”.

10) F

“F” is one of my favorite short-cuts that show the active image in full screen.  It provides the best view of the image without any distractions.

11,  ) Rating Short-Cuts
         I know ! "11", Consider it an Alternate "10"

Picking ten favorites is impossible, so I will cheat once again by grouping together 14 short-cuts which all have to do with rating images. 

 As I review images that I have uploaded to Lightroom, one of my first task is to rate the them based on there quality and how much time I want to spend on editing.  Lightroom has three rating systems which can be used individually or in combination, Flags(Flag, Unflag & Rejected), Stars (0-5) and Colors (Red, Yellow, Green & Blue).
 A fifth color is available but sadly Purple has no short-cut.  Regardless of the system you use to rate your images, it is convenient to use short-cuts to quickly mark each picture as you fly through the filmstrip.  You will probably choose just one or two of the rating systems and therefore I feel no shame in grouping them together as if they were one.


           “P/U” : Flag/Unflag, think of “P” as “Pick”

            “X” : Reject,  

This does not delete the image but only marks it for future sorting and consideration


            “0-5” : 0,1,2,3,4,5 Stars

            “]/[“ : Increase/Decrease Rating


            “6-9” : Red, Yellow, Green, Blue

I think “0” should have been used for Blue, but tragically, I don’t work for Adobe.


Gold Ascending Jaffrey Center, NH
OK, I know that I have listed 11 favorites, but, if you count, I have actually mentioned   30 Short-cuts!  I’m obviously not a stickler for numbers.  Enjoy, and get going with your own favorites.  Each one saves only a second or two, but when used together, they can significantly speed your work-flow.  Isn’t that what Lightroom is all about.

For a comprehensive list of the mass of other shortcuts check out "The Lightroom Queen's" collection.

Jeffrey Newcomer

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Slide Shows in Lightroom CC

Goldf inch

Blue Jay
I am finishing up my winter Lightroom CC class.  It has been a great group who have shown their commitment to learning by the fact that they keep coming back.  Their dedication is especially remarkable given that it has snowed on every evening of the class.  We have covered image organization in the Library and Maps modules and spent two classes exploring the remarkable editing capabilities in the Development Module.  In me last class, I will run through the remaining tools which focus on sharing images with the outside world.  These modules include Book, Slideshows, Web and Printing, and of these, it is the Slideshow module that I use most often.  

In the Slideshow Module, you can control the arrangement of images, layouts, backgrounds and titles. You can set the pace of the show, control transitions and time musical accompaniment. Finally slide shows can be exported to a PDF file or to a video file in a format consistent with the desired target audience.  As in most of Lightroom, the number of choices may initially seem daunting, but the control panel is arranged to create a logical, step by step workflow.  It all starts with selecting the images for your show.  Go to the end of the article to preview the Winter birds slide show.

Selecting Images

Images into a Collection
To simplify organization, it is best to start by placing your slide show images into a Collection. My “Feeder Birds” collection can contain images from different directories and the pictures can be moved about within the collection by simply clicking and dragging. 

A slide show can be created from files in a folder but, if the folder has sub-folders, the images can’t be rearranged. 
Saved Slide Show
Also, a slide show created from a collection can be saved to that collection and then returned to for further editing whenever desired.

Starting with a Template

Preset Templates

 The Template drop-down window on the left of the Slide show module includes choices of various templates.  Mouseing over each choice reveals a preview in the navigator window.  These are good starting points, and the templates can be edited as desired with adjustments in the Options, Layout, Overlays, Backdrop, and Titles panels on the right side.


I picked a simple template to start, but for illustration I added various refinements. My first step after selecting my images for the slide show is to save the show to the collection.  The save button ls located above and to the right of the main window.   From this point, all my changes will be saved to the show.

Zoom to Fill

His option shows a part of portrait oriented images to fill the image space.  I work hard on my compositions and although you can adjust the crop, I generally prefer to preserve my complete image.


Stroke Border

You can control the width and color of a border around your images.  I tend to avoid distractions that might interfere with the pictures and so, I generally pick a smaller border with a subtle color.

Red bellied Woodpecker
Cast Shadow

A drop shadow can add a sense of dimension to your images, but again a subtle effect is often best.

Show Guides

It helps to elect to make the guides visible. Un-linked,  the individual guides can independently adjust each side of the image.  This can be done by either moving the sliders or, more simply, by grabbing and moving the guides themselves.

         The Aspect Preview shows how the slides will fit on various devices, including a computer, a wide screen TV (16:9) or a standard TV (4:3).


The Identity Plate is similar to a title but can include either text or a graphic.
Identity Plate Title

You can also insert a preset watermark or star ratings.  Again, I generally like to keep things simple with as little as possible.  I usually don’t include watermarks or ratings. 

Custom Text
 Additional custom text can be added to the slides with the “ABC” button on the tool bar.  The style of each piece of custom text is controlled by Text Overlays tool box.


Color Wash
The Backdrop Panel controls the background of the slides,  For my birds slide show, I selected a simple gray background and added a “wash” effect which displayed the background color in a gradient across the slide.  You can also use a graphic for the background, but care should be taken to avoid distraction by fading the background  image.

Graphic Background


The titles panels allows the placement of an introductory screen with the title of the slide show and an ending screen, which for me, usually merely announces “The End”


Playback Options
Music can greatly enhance the attractiveness of a slide show.  Copyrights can be an issue for the use of music files that are not in the public domain, but for my bird show I used one of my own audio clips of bird sounds.  


Controls for the slide show playback include the ability to sync your slides to music or to set your own slide length and cross fade time.   The Pan and Zoom setting displays the images while alternately zooming in and out.  It is fun to play with, but the zooming is totally unrelated to the content and I find it distracting.  

The “Repeat Slide Show” and “Random Order” options seem self-explanatory, but it is worth pointing out that the slide order can be changed by merely clicking and dragging the images within the filmstrip.

Gold Finch and Cardinal

After interrupting a preview or play of the slide show, the stop button (gray square at the far left in the tool bar) must be pressed twice to reset the slide show to the beginning.


Ready for Export
Your final slide show can be saved either as a PDF document or in a video file with presets for files optimized for iPhones up to 1080p HD Video.  For my on-line slide shows I typically use the 720p setting for which works well for YouTube.  Once uploaded to my Channel on You Tube I can use the embed code to insert the video into my blogs.  Remember to uncheck the box to prevent YouTube from inserting links to other videos after yours is finished.

Export Video for YouTube

The Lightroom Slide Show Module makes attractive presentations and although it does not offer the most sophisticated options, its ease of use and integration with the other Lightroom features, makes it a great choice.

Check out my other blogs covering aspects of digital editing in both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Noise Reduction in Lightroom CC

Stonewall Farm Barn, Noise reduced, Canon G11, Small Sensor

Last week I discussed sharpening in Lightroom CC.  It seems logical that this week I travel down the “Detail” workflow to the next set of tools controlling noise reduction.  Actually, I think that Adobe should have placed noise reduction above sharpening.  In my work-flow, I typically sharpen only after I have taken a first pass at reducing noise.  The goal is to avoid allowing sharpening to accentuate the underlying image noise. Regardless of the order in the development module, lets first look at why noise forms in digital images and what can be done to reduce it before the image gets to Lightroom.

What is Digital Noise 
Noise generally appears as tiny dots of contrasting tone or color across an image area that should show smooth tones.  The pixels in a sensor are not perfect and they all emit a degree of noise along with the light signal they detect.  Several factors can make this more apparent in the final image.

Colonial Marquee, Noise removed and sharpened

Bright vs Dark Areas
Luminance & Color Noise in Shadows
Noise tends to be more obvious in darker areas of an image especially when the dark areas are lightened in post-processing.  It is part of the nature of digital sensors that the dark areas of an image are recorded with a smaller tonal range and thus a lower signal to noise ratio (S/N).  In these areas, the noise can overwhelm the recorded brightness.  The noise in the bright areas is the same, but it is overwhelmed by the strength of the actual signal. This is one reason why it is recommended that images be “exposed to the right”.  “Blowing out” of the highlight should be avoided, but, the brighter that the shadows are recorded, the better will be the signal to noise and less noise will be apparent in the vulnerable dark regions.  In the final image, the shadows can be easily darkened in post processing.


ISO 1600 Noise, Obama in Keene NH, 2007
Noise becomes more apparent as ISO is increased.  Elevated ISOs work by increasing the signal intensity, but the noise is also increased.  Many new cameras have built-in noise reduction for high ISOs, but it is always best to shoot at the lowest ISO compatible with the shooting situation.

Pixel Size and Density
Stonewall Barn,  Canon G11, 10MP Small Sensor
As a rule, larger sensors produce images with less noise.  If you plan to blow-up your image to 20”x30”, don’t shoot it with your smart phone.  This related to the size of the individual pixels and how closely they are packed on the sensor.  A 14MP sensor crammed into a smart phone must have pixels which are much smaller than those in a 14 MP sensor on a full frame DSLR.  The small pixels each “see” less light and therefore must amplify the signal – and inevitably the noise.  The image from a 21MP sensor may have higher resolution than a 12MP sensor of the same size, but the 12 MP pixels can be bigger and therefore result in less noise.

Exposure Length
One Second Exposure, Lower Purgatory Falls
Longer exposures can introduce more noise into the image.  During long exposures, the pixels heat-up which results in more noise being produced. Also, during longer exposures, there is more opportunity for random static to add noise.  The impact of long exposures varies from camera to camera and some experimenting might be necessary to discover your camera’s tolerance for prolonged shutter speeds.

Balancing Factors
Lower Purgatory Falls, Wilton, NH

All photography is compromise.  If you lower your ISO to reduce noise, you may need to increase the shutter speed which will have the opposite effect.  When not constrained by the need to freeze action, I generally lean toward longer exposures, since it may take a shutter speed of a minute or more before heat will build-up to the point of causing significant noise.


Noise Reduction in Lightroom CC

Detail Panel

Ok, you have pulled out your full sized sensor camera, lowered your ISO and exposed to the right, now what can Lightroom do to reduce any residual noise?

The Noise Reduction Panel performs separate adjustments on two types of noise, Luminance and color.  Let’s start with the easier of the two.

Color Noise
Color & Luminance Noise
Color noise appears as spots of aberrant color seen best when zoomed in to darker areas of the image. This noise often goes unseen since Lightroom, by default, presets color noise reduction to 25.  This is often sufficient to control the color artifacts and further adjustments may be unnecessary.  If you reduce the setting to zero you can see the underlying noise and higher levels of correction may rarely be required in especially noisy images.  The other two sliders seldom require adjustment.  The Detail Slider sets the threshold for what Lightroom will consider as noise.  Generally the default of 50 works well.  The Smoothness slider helps to smooth out larger blotches of color noise.


Luminance Noise

Color Noise Reduced, Luminance Noise Remains
Luminance noise is more difficult, both because it is generally more prominent, and because its limitation must be balanced against a loss of image detail.  Here, as in so much of photography, only you can decide where the best balance lies.  The major adjustment occurs with the Luminance Slider.  As it is increased, the coarse appearance of the noise fads, but along with this effect comes a steady loss of image detail, to the point that the image can have an overly smooth plastic look.  It is helpful to judge this effect both zoomed in and on the full image.  Some areas of
Luminance & Color Noise Reduced
smooth tone, such as the sky or skin may benefit from great greater noise reduction, but remember Lightroom's noise reduction is a global tool.  Both noise reduction and sharpening can be applied to select areas of the image with the local adjustment tools, but the effects don’t have the fine controls available in the Detail Panel.  In Photoshop, selective masking allows better control of local detail adjustments.

Local Brush to apply Noise Reduction Selectively to the Background (Red Mask)

The other two sliders in the Luminance Panel control the amount of preservation of image detail and contrast and can be adjusted to taste.

Final Obama Image, Keene State College Rally 2007

This is just a brief review of the sophisticated noise controls in Lightroom CC.  A more detailed discussion could not replace what can be learned by simply playing with the sliders.  Try them from their lowest to maximum levels, studying their effects at various magnifications.  Have fun and remember, this is Lightroom, everything is reversible, you can’t explode your precious image.

Jeff Newcomer