The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Railroad

all signs

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All we have to fear is fear itself, and I’m pissing my pants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like many Queensicans, when it was announced that this year’s July 4th fireworks would be taking place in the East River just off the coast of LIC, a humble narrator grew excited. Then one began to read about frozen zones (pretty much from 11th street to the East River) and homeland security. My enthusiasm for the event began to wane as the Terror Warriors descended from their Manhattan aeries, discussed throwing down cordons, announcing entry checkpoints, and throwing a cage over the entire neighborhood. One “gets it” of course, as our enemies from “east austral Asia” specifically target public events that draw media attention, which is the very definition of what the July 4th fireworks show is.

The thing is, and I’ve been pointing this out for years, is that there is very little actual “homeland security” going on the rest of the year around these parts, and the Terror Warriors spend most of their time in Manhattan offices dreaming up scenarios which could only be accomplished by Nation/States with vast combined weapon system resources and functionally unlimited budgets. If we were at war with the United States or the People’s Republic of China, for instance, I’d be pooping my pants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is not so irresponsible to point the actual vulnerabilities out in any detail, as some moron out there might decide to exploit them (do your own research), but if you see graffiti along a train track or in a subway tunnel – that’s called time and opportunity. It should be impossible, literally, to sneak into a train yard or even get close to a moving train nearly two decades into the Terror Wars.

Problem is that our security personnel tend to focus on the outlandish notion that non state actors, who are basically mafiosos, can not only maintain but deploy complicated weapons systems that most nation states cannot even hope to possess. Jackass sappers like the Boston Marathon bombers, whose presence and intentions are THE real threat, just don’t fire the imagination or finger the purse strings of Congress.

It’s all a show, ultimately, designed to assuage the nagging truth that some jerk pulling the pin on a dud hand grenade while riding on the 7 train would be sufficient to shut the entire Subway system down for weeks while the Terror Warriors installed metal detectors and biometric sensors on every turnstile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think I’m just going to go up on my roof this year on the 4th of July, photographing the fireworks at a distance from almond eyed Astoria. One is not interested in being part of a compacted herd of spectators, who are all potential suspects, in LIC. I’ll be out and about on the 5th of July, and will wager that I won’t see a single cop or security contractor protecting the vital infrastructure found hereabouts. To me, that’s terrifying.

The big show will be over by then, and the Terror Warriors will be worrying about space based laser systems at BBQ’s on Long Island and in Westchester County. They’ll muse whether or not ISIL has perfected a tractor beam that can pull asteroids down on targets (that’s called a mass driver, btw.) or developed a neutron bomb.

“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

July 1, 2015 at 11:05 am

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

many galleries

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A short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is anxious to get outside and “into the field” today, so a single image greets you this morning, depicting the Long Island Railroad entering Woodside via its ancient path. Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

directly upward

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Whence goeth I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite my vulnerability to cold – hey, Superman’s got Kryptonite but he still gets out – last week I found myself wandering around Long Island City in what felt like a negative a thousand degrees air mass. Owing to my particular weakness, rather than walking from place to place, mass transit has been utilized. Of late, I’ve found myself on a staggering number of buses and Subway lines, which is a sobering reality for the inveterate pedestrian. Don’t forget, during warmer climes I routinely walk back and forth from Astoria to Red Hook. Funnily enough however, Long Island City – which is the concentrating point of rail and subway on Long Island – often forces you to walk great distances in search of conveyances. It’s virtually impossible to find a cab here as well, despite it being the de facto home of the Taxi industry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking is my preferred methodology for getting around, of course. I detest using mass transit as it’s an admission of defeat. Problem is the derelict condition of the sidewalks – isn’t there a law about shoveling snow and clearing the pavement? There is such a law, but as in many other cases, the rules which the City of Greater New York enforces upon the citizenry does not apply to itself. I can actually spot city owned property by its unkempt state during the winter, and can report that when you’re in a municipal building things are not exactly “up to code.” There ain’t no water saving toilets or CO2 detectors readily visible on Chambers Street, in my limited observations of the municipal lairs. There are hundred year old marble stand up urinals, however, which are framed in black mold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Queens Plaza, the old CN building complex has been obliterated. The Real Estate Industrial complex has seized control of the site, and construction crews are busily preparing the ground for yet another residential tower. I know what you’re thinking – “Wow, I’ve always wanted to live in Queens Plaza.” “Thank goodness that the “market” has finally responded to this desire, and I can have the 7 train and thousands of motor vehicles rolling right past my window 24/7.”

I hope that this new building will be one of the transformers – apartment towers which can autonomously turn into giant robots that defend the City – which are called “the CondoBots.” At the CN site, another one of the smaller transformers was sighted, that yellow earth mover in the shot above. It calls itself Diggity Dig Dig Dig. Nice enough cyber guy, but a bit single minded.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

defined apprehensions

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Twirling, ever twirling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The affability of recent climate has seen me visiting old haunts and novel locale alike in recent weeks, which might be described as having been a somewhat pleasurable set of experiences. That would mean, of course, that your humble narrator was actually capable of experiencing a sensation called “pleasure.” A series of dull events punctuated by occasional gastro-intestinal distress, all sorts of bacterial and viral infections, and the oft bizarre actions of others is the way one such as myself describes “Life.”

One bright spark in the otherwise gathering clouds of existential horror which plague me are unexpected moments of serendipity.

A train passing by can excite one endlessly, and reminds that “you have to appreciate the little things.”

In my case, it’s big things that go “thruuummmm thruuuuuuummmm thruuummmm” or “claaacckkclaaacckkclaaacckk” as they pass by, but I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good days are ones where I’m not walking to go anyplace in particular. Days when I leave the house and decide only which compass point to walk toward. For some reason, its not east that often, as that’s usually looking into the light. Instinct always points my path towards water, no matter where I am. It was kind of interesting finding myself in Queens Plaza, which I used to inhabit back in 2009 and 2010 during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial period but which I mainly cross through these days on my way to someplace in Brooklyn or Hunters Point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle had agreed to visit the Brooklyn Grange roof top farm here in Astoria with a friend of ours who subscribes to their CSA program and I tagged along. While they picked up some quality produce, I got busy with the camera. Serendipity at work, when I woke up that morning, seeing this vista overlooking the Sunnyside Yards and the Shining City of Manhattan was not on the menu.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

this splendor

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If these guys go out, what in the name of god itself will I take pictures of?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One isn’t too sure about the details of the current beef between the LIRR unions and the State of New York’s MTA – but my concerns about an impending strike have little to do with the crippling effect it will have on NYC and all of Nassau and Suffolk counties, nor the living hell which commuters will endure getting too and from their Manhattan jobs, or the financial consequences to both organized labor and state officials. Purely selfish motivations rule, as your humble narrator is overly concerned about the lack of photographic opportunity which a cessation of locomotive service in LIC will cause. Hey! This one affects me personally, what am I supposed to take pictures of without any trains?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s always tugboats, I guess, although I’ve been shooting less and less maritime in 2014. No particular reason, it’s just that life have led me away from the harbor in the first half of this year, and I’ve been busy upland. Nice thing about industrial Maspeth, I always say, is the random movement when a train suddenly busts through the scene. If there is a LIRR strike… let’s just say that it diminishes us all, and industrial Maspeth most of all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One wonders if freight operations will be suspended as well? I’d imagine so, but I’m a stranger to the world of organized labor except by neighborly osmosis. The industries I’ve worked in – Advertising and Comics – eschew organized labor. The excesses of both are legendary, but you’ve probably watched “Madmen” so I don’t have to discuss Madison Avenue. As an example for the comics industry, the guy who created Superman ended up walking into DC Comics one day while working as a delivery man. The guy who created all those characters in the Marvel movies – Hulk, Captain America, etc. – was Jack Kirby, whose heirs get ugatz from Marvel. Either way, I’ve got to find something else to take pictures of, somewhere in the Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

furious delirium

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Your music sucks, why do you play it so loud?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the midst of everything else, a humble narrator has to worry about getting the laundry done, which is not always as easy a proposition as it sounds like. More often than not, indecision about the logical process by which one arrives at some sort of conclusion about whether a soiled garment should be considered for the “colors” or “darks” bags reduces one to gibbering madness. Crouched in the corner of the room, wild eyed and slaked with cold perspiration, I often find myself impaled on the horns of dilemma. That navy blue shirt… where does it belong? Does it belong? Where do any of us belong? This is why I largely dress in black.

All ‘effed up, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dire portent abounds. A general tension is palpable, and even the normally laconic army of bicycle delivery guys seem tense, here amongst the raven tressed hillocks of Western Queens. As one sorts his socks and towels, preparing them for drop off at the local laundry shepherd, a distinct sensation of dread permeates the atmosphere hereabouts. Even my little dog Zuzu seems to sense approaching calamity, as she drums her claws across the worn floorboards. At least the humidity seems to have broken.

I fear the polar vortex itself might return, carrying with it certain things which Esquimaux legend only hints at, and am quite unsure if I should send certain articles of Our Lady of the Pentacle’s wardrobe to the laundromat or segregate them out for dry cleaning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Were this the 21st century that a humble narrator was promised, when still an innocent moppet – the one which had jet packs and moving sidewalks and flying cars – we’d all be dressed in self cleaning space age fabrics which would obviate little need for the services of the laundry shepherds. These were supposed to be “onesies,” or speed suits as Dr. Venture would refer to them, whose coloration would be indicative of social rank. Unfortunately, the world we’ve got is neither “Brave” nor “New.”

Oh no… what do you do with a sock that has red, white, and black stripes? Oh dear lord… the horror of it all…

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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