The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

blossoming orchards

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Down under the Long Island Expressway, or DULIE, in today’s post. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, after shlepping my tripod setup around Dutch Kills last weekend, I decided that I just wasn’t done yet. Heading east alongst the venerable avenue of Borden, a humble narrator found a few interesting spots to do a “setup” and get clicking. It was DULIE which captured my attention on this leg of the walk. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, the LIE and Queens Midtown Tunnel opened for business in November of 1940. The LIE, where it crosses the sediment choked waters of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary here in Long Island City, rises one hundred and six feet above the water. This means a lot of steel supports, and an empty corridor found beneath it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is obsessed with this section of LIC, as so much has happened here. The General Electric Vehicle Company complex was just a block away, so were a couple of steel factories. A fossilized rail spur can still be found here and there, winding it way around and between the factories, but the locomotive city is long gone. It’s all about the internal combustion engine in modernity – the automobile city.

The principal proponent of the latter didn’t begin the Queens Midtown Tunnel, he just took it over towards the end of the project and made sure the LIE would be his baby. I’m speaking of Robert Moses, of course. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sewer grates up on the LIE connect to long vertical pipes, which just empty out onto the ground, and their flow carries all sorts of “yuck” down into LIC from the expressway high above. There’s meant to be a little concrete spillway which would carry the liquid and solute “spill” into a second grate, one which basically empties into Dutch Kills, but the build up of “crapola” around the pipe creates sickly mounds of toxic soil like the one pictured above.

Hey, I’m not judging, I love places like this. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note, whenever I’m describing an encounter with the Gendarmes or some zealous security guard, I always go on about “there being no law forbidding…” and “if you can see it from the sidewalk…”. 

In the case of the other night however – picture this: some weird looking bearded old man standing in pitch darkness on a Sunday night with a camera tripod under the LIE, wearing a reflective vest over a filthy black raincoat – I was ready to converse with somebody wearing a badge about what I was up to. You’d just figure that, right? 

The cops though, three cruiser units worth spaced out over the evening, just drove on by me. I mean… I felt suspicious looking. The reflective vest is very good camouflage. Instead of being high visibility as promised, it’s a near invisibility prophylactic against “why are you taking pickchas of dat?” 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was growing fatigued by this point, it was well after ten, and a humble narrator embraced an ideation about starting out for home. One last long exposure shot from DULIE was executed, and thereupon the tripod kit was folded up into its traveling configuration and a lens swap occurred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lens I’ve been using for the series of night shots recently has been a Sigma 18-300 – which is by definition a “daylight lens, given that at full zoom it’s aperture is only f6.3. Tripod shots, like the ones I’ve recently been producing, make the usage of extremely narrow apertures possible – which in turn allows for a deep field of focus. Impossible for handheld usage in low light, however, this lens is. It’s singular virtue is the zoom range, ultimately. I’ve got better lenses, including a different Sigma, but this particular specimen allows me to carry just one lens. 

I’ve always got a “nifty fifty” lens in my bag, however, which allows me to open up the aperture to f1.8, allowing a lot more light in. That’s the one I snapped onto the camera, which coincidentally lightened the gizmo by about a pound and a half. Lotta glass inside that Sigma, but you don’t really feel the weight of it when it’s in the bag. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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9 Responses

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  1. You wear that “invisible” reflective vest all the way to and from headquarters on Broadway or do you just don it when approaching and leaving areas you’re photographing?

    PS I’m still getting queasy with the cock-eyed horizontals. You do know you’re cutting off a bit of the view’s area by doing this?

    georgetheatheist . . . mal de mer

    March 1, 2018 at 11:57 am

    • PPS Assuming that unlevel composition is created post image capture on your computer screen as opposed to .creating it cock-eyed in camera.

      georgetheatheist . . . mal de mer

      March 1, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    • I put the thing on when I get to the industrial zone. Cropping and twisting the horizon is intentional and mostly in camera.

      Mitch Waxman

      March 1, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      • But what is the purpose of “twisting the horizon”? It’s done now and then in fashion and glitzy event-tyoe photos, but it can get to be cliche-ish. It doesn’t “do” anything for me. Never did. Is this an “artsy” phase you’re going through?

        georgetheatheist . . . mal de mer

        March 1, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      • Just mixing things up

        Mitch Waxman

        March 1, 2018 at 4:15 pm

  2. “event-type”

    georgetheatheist . . . mal de mer

    March 1, 2018 at 4:07 pm

  3. Respectfully, Mitch – you realize I’m a Pentacle fan and never miss a post- but wouldn’t you say if you are “mixing things up” with these crooked horizon lines that there’s some psychological need perhaps for you to overcome ennui? To add some kind of “excitement” to this activity of yours? Are you in some kind of artistic photographic “rut” right now? It happens to me now and then photographing what appears to be the same old thing over and over again – for years now.

    georgetheatheist . . . mal de mer

    March 2, 2018 at 10:12 am

  4. […] call the “Empty Corridor.” I was down there just a couple of weeks back, and the zone was discussed in this post. For the sake of trivia – the LIE opened on the 15th of November in […]


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