The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for December 1st, 2015

strange and roving

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Someday, a real rain will come.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assertion often offered to Our Lady of the Pentacle is that “NYC never looks so good as it does when it’s wet.”

Long suffering, Our Lady is infinitely patient when confronted with pedantic statements and oft repeated phrases like the one above. One recent storm found a humble narrator hanging out at my local pub, Doyle’s Corner at the Times Square of Astoria, and clicking away while enjoying the shelter offered by an awning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big problem encountered in the pursuit of photographing weather events is obvious. Keeping your lens clean and avoiding the infiltration of water into the internal cavities of the camera. My rig enjoys a certain amount of weather sealing, but a soaking or immersion would be ruinous. It’s always a challenge, and positioning yourself so that the wind is at your back is critical to the operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the little tricks I’ve learned over the years is to find “rain shadows.” Manhattan, particularly lower Manhattan, is a good place for this sort of thing. The canyon walls, construction sheds, and narrow streets offer the pedestrian several opportunities for temporary shelter from storms. When I’m walking, my naturally quick pace allows me to walk around the rain drops, but some still inevitably find the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Umbrellas are an obvious choice, but operating the camera with one hand whilst struggling against wind and rain with the other makes for a dicey proposition. Ponchos are more trouble than they’re worth, and do little to protect the equipment.

A few people over the years have asked me how I achieve the “sharpness” apparent in my photos, and they’re all hoping that I can pass on some sort of technical trick or camera setting they can use when they ask. The simple fact is that I’ve read about and adopted a series of techniques which military snipers employ governing posture and body position. Snipers don’t use umbrellas, or at least they don’t mention them in the army and marine training manuals.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Snipers and photographers are essentially preparing for their respective tasks in the same manner. You assume a stable position, ready your equipment, look through a view finder, and then push a button.

In the case of photo gathering, you’re collecting light reflecting back from a farway target, whereas snipers are trying to embed a piece of metal in theirs. Regardless, you breathe out before triggering your device to reduce metabolic interference in the process and posture yourself in a manner designed to steady your device.

You’d be surprised at how much you’re actually moving around, even when you believe yourself to be still. On long exposures (anything over 1/60th of a second in my case, although I’ve know individuals who can do hand held 1/30ths) you can actually discern the seismic shocks rippling through the arterial system as caused by the stertorous motion of the heart, necessitating the usage of camera supports such as a tripod.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the hazards and problems introduced by rain and the lack of light it brings – airborne water droplets, wind, etc. – a humble narrator irregardless stands behind his assertion that “NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s wet.”

Stormy weather adds a dramatic sense of latency to an otherwise pedestrian capture, and should you see some mendicant wandering alongside the road in a filthy and quite saturated black raincoat during a storm somewhere in Western Queens or North Brooklyn – you very well might have spotted me trying to conquer the weather. Maybe the world too, depends on how much coffee I drank that day.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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