The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

moon cast

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The center of the earth is the end of the world, if you think about it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Night shooting has been something which I have been working on for the last six months or so. The problem presented by lowered illumination is the need for equipment such as tripods and lighting devices such as flashes. Spontaneous moments of joy such as a train entering the elevated station are denied by such techniques. I’m a handheld kind of guy, I’m afraid, but I hate the distracting presence of color noise and the weird oranges it produces. High ISO night shots are necessarily noisy, but produce weird colors straight out of the camera- especially under the influence of NY Cty street lamps which are kind of yellow anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent acquisition of a brighter lens (capable of large apertures) than the one I normally use as my general contractor has aided immensely in the pursuit of working around both my limitations and those of the capture device. The remarkable Sigma 18-35 allows for apertures as bright as 1.8, and is sharper than heck, and it is currently jutting out of the camera obscenely- it’s a very nice piece of glass. The problem which I’ve been trying to solve is a purely digital one presented by the camera software itself, and the incongruities encountered between capturing the image and processing it. I’ve long worked as an advertising photo retoucher, what can I tell you, this is the sort of stuff one ponders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The image, as captured by the camera, is assigned settings whose parameters are determined by an onboard suite of software which assesses and assigns color temperatures when it is written to card. The camera also sets the shot to certain levels of bright and shadow, contrast and saturation. The camera, except in bright sunlight, almost always gets it wrong. Fixing these matters in a compressed format like jpeg is not so easy, so I shoot in raw format which allows me to noodle things around a little bit and get the image a little it closer to what I actually experienced in situ.

What I’ve been working on, feverishly, is using the information typically captured in the raw file (a 16 bit file richer in image data than an 8 bit jpeg) to create a predictive shooting protocol. In English- trying to figure out what the camera sees, and why, and creating a series of moves on the raw image to better represent the real life colors and range of tone which exist within the range of human vision. Nowhere even close yet, but I’m starting to think that the path lays before me.

Here’s a tip- canon’s higher iso settings produce a huge amount of noise on the red and green plates, shifting an image to colder temperatures will reduce the color noise significantly.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 21, 2013
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale soon.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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