The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

breathing marble

with 7 comments

Greenwood Cemetery, at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Atlas Obscura produced the “Into the Veil” event which was hosted at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. Your humble narrator wormed his way onto the guest list, packed up the whole camera kit in preparation for some night shooting, and headed on over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ethereal tones were pulsing out of several of the Mausolea, as Atlas Obscura had set up several performance spots. One particular tomb, the Morgan, had a familiar set of sounds pulsing out of it. When I hear musical saws playing, I know that I’ve found my pal and Astoria neighbor Natalia Paruz – the Saw Lady – at work. The shot above is a long exposure, which rendered Natalia in a ghostly blur of musical motion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my goals at the event was to “turn night into day.” I won’t bore you with all the technical details and camera settings, but suffice to say that the shots above and below are well beyond the range of human vision and that I was literally shooting blind. It was night time dark, with an overcast sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tripods are a must for this sort of thing, as are remote releases for the shutter (have to minimize camera shake, after all). The funny thing is that people were wandering around in the dark, literally moving through the frame as the shot was being captured, but because of the length of time that the exposure required – they are rendered invisible unless they stood still as a statue for 20-30 seconds. Random hotspots and reflections on the monuments, as seen in the shots above, emanate from distant flash lights carried by the crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In situ, all I could see clearly were the monuments in the foreground, and even they were cloaked heavily in shadow. As mentioned, my goal was to “turn night into day” with these photos. The sky and tree line were barely visible to my eye when I set the exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Physically speaking, these kind of shots are fairly arduous to capture, due to “the carry” of the amount of gear required. My normal “walk around” kit weighs about 6-8 pounds (depending on what I’m doing that day), but the full on night rig weighs closer to 20 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but Greenwood is a fairly “physical” environment with lots of steep hills. A light sheen of perspiration, combined with the cool night air, creates another set of circumstances to deal with – ensuring that the moisture on your skin doesn’t migrate to the glass and metal surfaces of the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being old, I didn’t stay till the bitter end, but was pretty satisfied with what I captured. Hand held, as is the first shot in this post, one last photo of the gates of Greenwood was captured as I left. Both of the bookend shots are “truer” to the eye, and representative of human perception. Personally, I really dig the “night into day” stuff. How about you, Lords and Ladies?

Note: Saturday will see Halloween occur here in Astoria. A humble narrators plan entails assuming my regular station at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – at the Doyle’s Corner pub. I will be photographing all costumed comers who agree to pose, masked passerby, and of course – the alcoholic antics of the Burrachos.

My plan is to get there around 2 and stay until the early evening, so if you’re in the neighborhood and costumed, stop on by and get yourself photographed. Unless the weather is ungodly, I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table right by the door. If the shot turns out nice, you might just find yourself published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Those “day” shots are simply amazing, Mitch — especially the invisible people!

    Ken Furie

    October 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm

  2. georgetheatheist . . . quietly pondering

    October 30, 2015 at 6:57 pm

  3. One problem when shooting the moon at night: you can get detail in the moon’s surface but not simultaneously anything on terra firma OR you can get detail in terra firma but then the moon ges’s washed out – just like you see in the entrance gate photo of yours. Anyway getting around this?

    georgetheatheist . . . quietly pondering

    October 30, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    • two ways, neither one quite works, however. One is shoot two or three different exposures to the same scene – for moon, sky, scenery and composite in Photoshop. Second, do an HDR sequence which extends the dynamic range of the digital file, but there’s issues with that as well.

      Mitch Waxman

      October 30, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      • Solution 1 seems like “cheating”. Solution 2’s HDR I’ve tried but results look weird. I’ll try neutral density filtration next fulll moon.

        georgetheatheist . . . quietly pondering

        November 2, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      • An ND filter is def a way to go. Usually, when I’m doing a moon shot (through a 300 mm lens with an extension tube) I’ll lower ISO to 100 or 200 and narrow aperture all the way to f22. I’m obsessed with sharpness, of course. Want to see mountains and valleys. There’s a formula, btw, which you can google, which dictates how long your exposure can be before movement of heavenly bodies blurs the shot. For celestial, my 18mm has a 17 second window, which determines the other legs of the triangle

        Mitch Waxman

        November 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm

  4. […] time and opportunity to provide some fairly surreal “night into day” shots in “breathing marble.” Back in Astoria, “swinging and plunging” showcased some passing maritime action […]


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