The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

cacodaemonical ghastliness

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 21st and I was out for a short/long walk which ended up being fairly productive. I was heading towards Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, and along the way I stopped off at “Hole Reliable,” which is found along the fencelines of the Sunnyside Yards.

The reason this hole is so reliable is that it overlooks the Harold Interlocking, a rail junction used by both Long Island Railroad and Amtrak which is the busiest such bit of infrastructure in the entire country. You don’t have to hang around Long before something rolls by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The powers that be have been busy spending your taxes on improving the Harold Interlocking, which is part of the larger “East Side Access” project that will be bringing LIRR service to Grand Central Station, and there’s a couple of new sidings which have recently been completed and brought into usage – like the one pictured above.

Y’know, I’ve spent something like 15 years watching them do all the construction on this, and it’s kind of cool to see it being used.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nothing new to report from Dutch Kills. Nobody cares, nothing matters, and 29th street continues to subside and sag into the collapsing bulkhead at the water’s edge. Turns out that the reason there’s always a puddle there is that the undermined street has broken a water line pipe. That’s great, as now it’s also a DEP problem – in addition to being an EPA, DEC, DOT, and MTA problem. Eventually, the entire alphabet will be involved.

Sigh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My tree of paradise seems to be embracing the warmer weather, and at the time this photo was taken, had just become clothed in foliage.

I didn’t plan on walking directly home on this particular evening, as I was desirous of getting a few low light shots of the 7 train. Accordingly, over to the Hunters Point Avenue stop did I scuttle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My 7 line plan was to take advantage of how frequently the service arrives – usually in about ten minute intervals – to hop on and hop off at the various stations that I don’t frequent.

As a note, I’m a fan of that new OMNY fare control scheme of theirs. Here’s a tip – the OMNY system lets you use your phone to pay for your fare. The credit card you thereby designate for transit use (I’m on an iPhone, can’t speak to how Google Pay works on Android) should therefore be one where you receive some sort of benefit for using it. Some cards have cash back rewards, others have airline miles that accrue with use, others send a few cents to a charity you support – you get the idea. I’ve tied all of my transit charges into a single card account – LYFT/Uber, Amtrak, Subway and Bus, Ferry. This also makes talking to my accountant about transit spending rather simple.

I have a friend who has all his monthly bills flow through benefits/rewards cards. This way he’s never late with a payment, and manages to get some benefit out of his outlandishly high electric bills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I traveled on the 7 for a bit, following my plan to hop on and hop off. The shot above is from the 33rd Rawson stop, and it’s a Manhattan bound train rounding the elevated curve nearby the former Swingline Stapler building on Queens Boulevard. One night soon I’m going to doing this sort of night time excursion on every stop of the 7 all the way out to Flushing and back.

Keeps me out of the bars. Back next week with more, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

fiendish subjects

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 19th saw me taking a short walk around the Sunnyside Yards and cracking out a bunch of shots of passing trains.

That’s a New Jersey Transit train set on the so called “turnaround” track nearby 43rd street which allows the operator to reorient the thing towards Manhattan as opposed to heading into Queens via the East River tunnels. On another siding of the turnaround track is an Amtrak Acela train set, which was just sort of sitting there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Honeywell Street, I noticed the train cars on the lower left hand side of the shot above. They’re done up with “New York Central” heraldry. At first I thought I might be accidentally traveling in time, but no. Turns out these are “heritage” passenger car units which are operated by some private outfit.

One of the Facebook groups I’m subscribed to is for train enthusiasts, and the “foamers” filled me in as to what these cars are, who operates them, and so on. Turns out you can ride on these heritage cars if you’ve got money to burn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on Honeywell Street bridge (which is found at Queens’ 35th street), one of the many hidden fence holes allowed a view into the Acela maintenance facility at Sunnyside Yards. This is a particularly hard thing to get a shot of, incidentally, and the shot above is heavily cropped in.

I headed back to HQ in Astoria, as the 20th was meant to be a fairly busy day that started early.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 20th I was back at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section for a sit down meeting with a friend who was volunteering business advice to our little non profit that could. It may be a non profit corporation, but it’s still a corporation. When advice and wisdom are on offer from somebody who runs and has run far larger entities is on the table, you would be foolish not to absorb as much of it as you can.

Of course, I had to excuse myself a couple of times to wave the camera around as a strong front of thunderstorms approached.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Creeklands were suffused with a heavy fog, being pushed by the pressure waves of that line of storms. This kind of urban atmosphere is absolute candy for a photographer.

Saying that, after the meeting ended, I needed to “get out of dodge” and start heading home quickly lest I get drenched when the storms arrived and all of that fog suddenly condensed and dropped to the ground. A scuttle of the rapid type ensued.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan was to cut through the Newtown Creek Nature Walk at the sewer plant in Greenpoint, then to surmount and cross the creek at the Pulaski Bridge. Luckily, I was carrying an umbrella. Managed to get this one of the Empire State Building framed up all nice before the sky opened and it started pissing down in torrents.

More tomorrow.


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2022 at 11:00 am

hidden pneumatics

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 15th was a busy day for me, with a Newtown Creek Alliance event in the morning that I helped out on and an astronomical anomaly in the evening. The approaching lunar eclipse saw me planning and plotting, but as it turned out – the weather had other ideas.

I managed to get set up and execute a test shot before a solid sheet of clouds obscured the body. Said test shot is above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned several times, Newtown Creek Alliance HQ is found atop a television production studio in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. Downstairs, they’ve been shooting “The Equalizer” tv show, but I still haven’t gotten to meet Queen Latifa.

Upstairs, however, is the Kingsland Wildflower roof, which I enjoy access to. A couple of phone calls to my peeps to arrange, and I’m up top with fairly unparalleled and unique views. The plan, which was extremely well thought out, was to get the blood/eclipsed moon hovering over the sewer plant. C’est la vie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had actually rented a Zip Car on this evening, given that I’m again a licensed driver according to New York State. The investment in the rental was to ensure that I could quickly dart around and “get” the shot from a variety of locations but with the moon occluded by clouds…

What? I was just going to go home? You kidding? Who am I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We have waterfront access at HQ, so I headed down to the bulkheads after locking the doors up on the roof. The tripod was deployed and I waved the camera around a bit.

It’s a very weird sensation hanging around the Newtown Creek waterfront at night and all alone. This is normally one of the busiest places in the entire City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was quite frustrated by the whole weather thing, and it seemed that whenever I was ready to shoot – nothing was happening. You can’t control serendipity, however.

I was also annoyed that I had dropped $100 I don’t have on renting a vehicle which I didn’t make terribly good usage of. Truth be told, I spent two hours just driving around and enjoying the mobility of a car. It’s been a long time, and I used to absolutely love driving. Turns out that I still do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t get caught out for drunk driving or any sort of violations, before you ask. I just stupidly missed the window for renewal of the document, and then it became a “thing” to do so. I avoid dealing with “things” assiduously until I have to, but since the plan for the next year involves moving out of NYC to “America” – you need to have a car in America, so I had to deal with the “thing.” I had to essentially attend a Driver’s Education class and take a road test, so sweet memories of High School were in the air for me earlier this year.

Insult to injury section: just as I broke down the camera from its tripod mount and was heading towards the gates, a tug approached the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and the span opened for it. Missed it.

Serendipity, it affects us all.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

jaded sensibilities

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On May 15th, a humble narrator was helping out a couple of my buddies from Newtown Creek Alliance on a walking tour of the eastern side of the creek – in East Williamsburgh, Maspeth, and Ridgewood.

Pictured is the end of all hope at Newtown Creek’s English Kills tributary in the East Williamsburgh area. This is some 3.8 miles from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Water conditions back here are as bad as they get on Newtown Creek, and that’s really saying something. There’s lots of oil sheens, the water has virtually zero oxygen in it, and the only source of fresh water coming into this area other than the infinitesimal influences of the tidal cycle emerge from one of the largest open sewers in NYC, found at the head of the canal.

It smells like rotting ham and wet reptiles back here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the north side of English Kills is one of Waste Management’s transfer stations, one which is connected to the Bushwick Branch Long Island Railroad freight tracks. This is the same rail you see behind Flushing Avenue in Maspeth, and which leads to the Fresh Pond Yard found to the north east.

That’s the garbage train pictured above. Normally, when I show you this sort of thing, it’s nearby the Review Avenue Waste Management facility which is in Long Island City’s Blissville section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, this derelict tanker truck caught my eye. It’s sitting alongside the Manhattan Polybag site, which is currently abandoned and being worked on/remediated for toxic materials that were being released into the water. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is in charge of this one.

Nothing but happiness and joy at the fabulous Newtown Creek, I always say. Happiness and joy…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another tributary of Newtown Creek on the eastern side of its course is called “The East Branch.” It splits like a letter “Y” at the Grand Street Bridge. One section of it terminates at Metropolitan Avenue nearby Scott Avenue in Ridgewood, and it’s there that you’ll find the fourth largest open sewer in NYC.

Happiness and joy…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other section of the East Branch forms a short barge sized canal, which is visible from the Western Beef supermarket’s parking lot. There’s a nice view there, pictured above, of the Grand Street Bridge.

Get your shots of this centuried span while you can, the City is in the earliest phases of replacing the thing.


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

neurotic virtuosi

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 9th, after spending a day riding on the NYC Ferry back and forth across the harbor, one set up his tripod in Lower Manhattan at sunset in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Bridge. On both sides of the river, you’ll notice photographers agglutinating along the fences about an hour before the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself descends.

I had a funny encounter with some kid who doesn’t understand the way things work – etiquette wise – in photo circles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my “get there early and stay late” thing revolves around claiming a vantage spot which I’ve chosen. In the unspoken etiquette of the picture taking community, that means that if I got there before you – you have to find another spot. This kid, who was in his late teens or early twenties, says to me “excuse me, are you doing a time lapse” and then indicates that his goal is to shoot such a sequence of images. I say “no” and he asks me to move so that he can. Now… I am pretty amenable to helping a guy out, but since he was being a dick…

I say to him “just to get this straight, you’re telling me you want me to get out of your way because you couldn’t be bothered to be here earlier.” The kid says “yes.” I say to him “Tell you what, I’m going to be a nice guy and move two steps over, but you do realize how special an asshole you are, and that you should seek medical advice about this malignant narcissism you display, right?” Being a child of his generation, he said “yes,” not understanding what I was saying to him. He didn’t care, he got what he wanted.

I stepped two side steps to the right so that he could have his time lapse position, and just stared directly at him with my heat vision eyes until his soul curdled and he sulked away. He didn’t shoot a time lapse during this interval, instead he waved his little Sony A3 with a kit lens on it at the river like the camera was a little flag. Guarantee he was set to “auto” or “program” mode, as not once did he adjust his settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Take my word on this one… for the sorts of shots you commonly see here at Newtown Pentacle, the difference of a few yards right or left in terms of the “POV” is seldom an issue. It’s the Manhattan Bridge you’re looking at there, and said mega infrastructure offers one several POV locations. The notion that this kid had to be standing exactly in the spot I occupied was simply annoying, and its positional unimportance as compared to another spot two steps away is staggering.

There’s a few “narrow” POV spots which I wouldn’t abandon once I’d already set up the tripod… but here? At the edge of South Street Seaport? This isn’t even the best view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, I just didn’t want to head any further uptown from Pier 11, and end up having to take the subway instead of the ferry home to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the NYC Ferry, I boarded the Astoria bound boat shortly after the sunset ebbed away into dusk. My lenses were swapped – day kit stored away and night kit deployed – and I kept on shooting.

The nice thing about shooting digital is that you can just keep on going, experimenting, shooting until either the battery is spent or you’ve run out of storage space on the camera’s memory cards. I’ve got two spare batteries in my bag, and an empty set of backup memory cards with me at all times. Last summer, I managed to shoot for four straight dawn to dusk days without having to install the backup cards, and seldom if ever needed to do a battery change in the field.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Logistical issues abound, however, when returning from a day long photo expedition like this. Night shots, captured from a moving boat and depicting highly detailed scenery like the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge above, have a fairly high failure rate. By failure, I mean they’re not optimally sharp or the focus landed on the subject in an unanticipated fashion. Thereby, I’ll crack out nine or ten exposures of the same basic shot and choose one to keep. The rest get trashed.

Again, the benefit of shooting digital. I came home this particular night (after riding the ferry all day between Astoria, Manhattan, Rockaway, and back to Astoria) with something like a thousand shots on my memory cards. My habit is to do the first pass on a set of images the same day I shoot them, and before I went to bed the group had been reduced down to about 250. By the next evening, I had edited out all but 130. Something like 100 ended up getting uploaded to Flickr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you click through to see the original of the photo above at Flickr, you’ll be able to see the structure of the steel of the Queensboro Bridge in the shot, which was captured at f2 at ISO 128,000 from a moving ferry boat at night. Because of the f2/High ISO you can’t quite see the rivets and this image is also heavily cropped in on. Still, you do what you can with where you are when you can.

“Are you shooting a time lapse”…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

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