The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘sunnyside’ Category

public building

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Sunnyside Yard, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody always asks me how I get these shots, or about certain qualities in them. Simple answer is that I’m always experimenting with the camera, and when I come up with some protocol for “how to get this or that” my next move is usually to reverse it and see what happens.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, my friend, practice.

The setting: Recently, an evening meeting carried one up the hill from the elluvial flatlands of Southern Astoria to the heights of the ridge which Sunnyside was built into. Between these two neighborhoods, there’s a former tidal swamp into which the Sunnyside Yard was embedded back in the first decade of the 20th century. Once the largest rail coach yard on earth, the Yard still hosts the busiest rail junction found on the continent, the so called Harold Interlocking. The busy part is due to the frequent passage of Long Island Railroad commuter rail trains, which share the switches and rails with Amtrak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conditions: Sunset to the west, which I was going to be shooting right into. The weather was humid, and a bit misty. The point of view is surrounded by steel plated chain link fencing whose purpose is to deny observation of vulnerable infrastructure (I’m told that this fencing was installed during the first decade of the Terror Wars). One such as myself has a vast catalog of fence holes and gaps which are dearly held, and since my meeting in Sunnyside would carry one past an entire series of these occluded viewpoints, a point was made to pocket one of my lenses small enough to fit into while leaving HQ. I also brought some chewing gum, but that’s not important.

My “good lenses,” which are used in particularly high rotation, have a circumference too large for these cracks in the walls around the Sunnyside Yard – so a “decent” lens which has a decidedly smaller diameter was employed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “decent lens” mentioned is the so called “nifty fifty” offered by Canon. It’s far and away my most inexpensive tool, and allows wide open apertures which would make it handy for night time shots but for its persnickety focusing mechanics. The term for what it does, autofocus wise, is called “hunting.” What that means is that it noisily rolls through the range of focus and never quite settles itself into a lock. My usual habit with this sort of thing is to use autofocus to “get it close” and then switch the thing over to manual focus for final adjustment.

The optic formula of the lens also renders things a bit less “contrasty” than I’d like, but you can’t really complain about camera equipment which retails for around a hundred bucks – especially when it fits through fence holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The methodology: For those of you not in the know, as to how cameras and lenses work – a “bright lens” will allow you to operate it at wide apertures (f1.8 in the instance of the nifty fifty). Wide apertures create a tremendous “depth of field” effect, which means that the area which is in focus will appear sharply delineated and everything else will be blurred. Higher aperture settings – the “f-stops” as it were – will create a hyperfocal range in which everything in frame will be sharply defined. The lower the “f-stop” the more light enters the camera, and the higher ones allow less light to get to the sensor. You balance the shot using shutter speed and ISO settings. Night shots and interior spaces require you to use the lens “wide open,” with slow shutter speeds, and higher ISO settings – all of which introduce certain quality issues to the captured image.

The shots in today’s post were consciously captured with the desire to have “everything” in focus, with a minimum of motion blur as well, and to record a full range of color and tone. Difficult to do with the sun behind the scene, and in a setting where everything is made of contrasting reflective surfaces.

My formula was to actually reverse my night shooting protocol on 2/3rds of the exposure triangle, using a very narrow f-stop and fairly fast shutter speed, but with a high ISO setting for tone and color sensitivity (f10, 1/1250th of a second, ISO 800). Sometimes, particularly during the summer, the problem isn’t that there enough light – there’s actually too much of it and some methodology needs to be employed to control it. Experimentation and failure often emanate from screwing around with your normal shooting habits, but sometimes it pays to mix things up a bit.

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Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

simple swains

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Most photogenic Subway line nomination, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The elevated 7 line has become quite famous for its multitudinous delays, entire weekends wherein service is suspended, and the frustrations of the vast population who count on it as their daily conveyance to and from the Shining City from Queens. One would offer that despite all of this, it looks great, and since appearances are all that really matter under the current administration in City Hall and Albany…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The underground lines just don’t have the same panache as the elevateds, and there are analogs for them in every major human infestation found upon the earth. The subterranean lines are dirty, dark, and the sweating concrete bunkers through which they run are the kingdoms of the rat. The first shot in today’s post emanates from a point in space roughly one hundred or so yards above the one above depicting the E line, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 even looks good from high above, as it turns out of the Hunters Point stop into the open air over the Sunnyside Yard and heads towards Court Square. If the MTA has a “Belle of the Ball,” it’s clearly the 7 – esthetically speaking. There’s a lot to be said about the scenery at Bushwick junction as well, but the 7…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further east, where the so called international express heads through Sunnyside and Woodside and Jackson Heights high over Roosevelt Avenue – towards its eventual destination in Flushing – the 7 carries itself with a certain bearing and sharply appointed charm. One therefore nominates the 7 as the best looking of NYC’s subways.

Remember, it’s better to look good than to feel good, and that form always trumps function.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

A Short History of the Sunnyside Yards

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A little video action for you, in today’s post.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

festoons of green

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A St. Pat’s one shot today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I fully realize that you’ve seen this shot before, but god help me, I just love it so. Big time fancy dancy post coming tomorrow, have your seatbelts on for Wednesday and happy St. Pat’s.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 17, 2015 at 12:31 pm

bleak plateau

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In the Cold Wastes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sporadic intervals during which one has been “out and about” in February have been infrequent, but somewhat entertaining. Just last weekend, when a short period of warmth occurred, the ice pack retreated and released several examples of Queens’s native art form – illegal dumping – for inspection. Above, a series of flash frozen berries and a small bottle of perhaps wine was observed in Sunnyside reemerging into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets have been noticeably quiet around Astoria’s Steinway Street, which is normally a tumult of the old vibrant diversity and the caterwaul of honking automotive horns. It’s an “Astoria thing” incidentally, honking your car’s horn. Should another driver dare to slow down to let a passenger exit the vehicle, the custom hereabouts is to activate the horn and keep it operating until the offending vehicle clears a path for you. “How dare you slow me down, incrementally” seems to be the thought process at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another unusually inactive point of view at Queens Blvd., nearby Aviation High School. The Boulevard of Death normally teems with traffic heading east and west, and it is somewhat disconcerting to see it abandoned by all but a few autos and the Q32 bus. Did everyone else get invited to a party that I wasn’t invited to? Such is the lot of a humble narrator, always a bride’s main, never the bride.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 5, 2015 at 12:04 pm

perhaps pining

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Wandering, always wandering with no particular place to go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sadly, licpost.com reports that the Waterfront Crab House in LICs’s Hunters Point neighborhood will be closing. Although I just found out about it yesterday, owner Tony Mazzarella died a few weeks ago, and his family is reportedly selling the former Miller Hotel. Condolences are offered.

The notorious Patrick “Battle-Ax” Gleason, who served as the last Mayor of Long Island City, used to sit in a barber chair outside the Miller Hotel – which is today the Crab House – and hold court with constituent and passerby alike. This was a favorite spot, directly across the street from the LIRR train and ferry terminal. He told those he met to avoid addressing him as “Mayor”, instructing them instead to “Just call me Paddy.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would be complaining about the cold and snow, but after having seen some photos of the conditions in Boston – it comparatively looks like springtime here in the Newtown Pentacle.

Recently, I attended a meeting in Greenpoint that discussed the DEP/National Grid partnership which will purpose waste gas generated by sewage processing into a commercial product. At the end of the meeting, I found myself reminding a high ranking City official that DEP is a tax payer funded utility and that National Grid is an extra national publicly traded energy corporation. The two entities have developed a rather chummy relationship which is a real cause for concern, in my opinion. Wait till the DEP’s solid waste to energy partnership with Waste Management kicks in – that’s going to be quite a show.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole “deck over the Sunnyside Yard” business proposed by the Big Little Mayor recently has been occupying a significant amount of time. To say that this idea is less than popular with anyone who lives here would be an understatement. Activism wise, Queens seldom gets past a simmer whereas Greenpoint is at full steam all the time. The Sunnyside Yard deck, however, has ignited something out here that is reminiscent of the sort of situation John Lindsay found himself in. Queens is boiling.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2015 at 11:40 am

inferior body

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Friday’s all right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for today’s late update, a humble narrator was too busy crying in his coffee to get it done on time, what with the hubris and ennui and all that. Pictured above is the endangered sight of railroad traffic at the Sunnyside Yard, as seen from Skillman Avenue. That’s an AMTRAK train, for those of you interested in such things, with the continuing construction of the East Side Access project underway just behind it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Northern Blvd., these Christmas trees await the buyers who will watch them finish the dying process that began when they were cut away from their roots. Having grown up Jewish, this is one of the “goyem” things I’ve never really understood. You people kill millions of trees every year because… Christmas? Next month, these will be the Astoria tumbleweeds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A borderland between two distinct sections of Queens, the automotive city and the locomotive one, is found at the cross of Queens Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue. I’ve always loved this spot, despite it being one of the most confusing and dangerous pedestrian intersections in the borough.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm

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