The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 4th, 2013

great suddenness

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The spectacle of the FDNY deployment on 59th behind me (as detailed in yesterday’s posting), while descending into the underground bunkers of concrete and steel which house the subway platforms, a commonly photographed view of Central Park was laid out before me.

It was decided, as part of my “doing a Costanza” experiment, to break one of my primal rules and go for the “easy meat.” This is where all of the night shooting that I’ve been engaging in all winter , accomplished in the preternatural darkness of Queens, begins to pay off.

from wikipedia

 George returns from the beach and decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. George tells this to Jerry in Monk’s Cafe, who convinces him that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”. George then resolves to start doing the complete opposite of what he would do normally. He orders the opposite of his normal lunch, and he introduces himself to a beautiful woman (played by Dedee Pfeiffer) who happens to order exactly the same lunch, saying, “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” To his surprise, she is impressed and agrees to date him.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It sounds simple, really.

Open your aperture and increase the iso speed, drop the exposure time.

Hand held shots in the dark, however, are not just how the camera is set. There’s a whole series of things to remember, such as breathing out while depressing the shutter, and shooting in short bursts- which are actually military sniper techniques. I’ve even found that a different hand posture is required to hold the camera as well. The great thing about photography is that there is always some new mountain to climb.

Mine happens to be in NYC, and it is badly lit.


The first thing pros will suggest is to ratchet up your camera’s ISO or “light sensitivity” setting. Traditionally, high speed film (ISO 800 and higher) was better suited for low light photography. Unfortunately, where high speed film produced enlarged grain, which could often be used for artist effect, higher ISOs on digital cameras tend to just produce color noise — little specks of red green and blue scattered across your image.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Were I to have the opportunity to do this shot “right,” a tripod would certainly be employed. There would also be around 10-15 flashes on radio triggers at various points around the scene- especially a few up in the trees. I’d have my lens set to a small aperture to control the flares around the street lights, and my iso speed would be at 100. This would be a fifteen to 20 second exposure under such conditions. Unfortunately, all I own are two flashes and no radio trigger, so this is a purely intellectual exercise.

I keep wondering about that guy in the shot above, what’s he doing in Central Park all by himself in the dark?

People walk around like they’re safe or something these days…


An assistant-manager at a certain hotel that overlooks the park, Barry told me that on the day in question – which was a sunny weekday in either June or July 1997 – he was strolling through the park, while on his lunch-break from his then-job as a store-worker.

All was utterly normal until, as he approached one particularly tree- and bush-shrouded area, he was shocked to the core when, out of nowhere, an unknown animal burst wildly through the foliage.

Barry claimed to me that the creature was man-like in shape and covered in hair of a distinctly rusty color – but, unlike the towering Bigfoot of the west-coast, was little more than three-feet in height. Little-Foot might have been a far better term to use, I mused, as I listened to the very odd tale.

Barry could only watch with a mixture of shock and awe as the diminutive man-beast charged across the path in front of him at a distance of no more than about twenty feet, came to a screeching halt for a couple of seconds to stare intently into his eyes, and then headed off at high speed again, before finally vanishing: beneath a small bridge inside the perimeter of the park, no less.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 4, 2013 at 12:15 am

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