The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

malignity expressed

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Nighted travels on the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, I described the… nana nana nana Bat Boat!…. excursion I joined in with that my pals at Newtown Creek Alliance and NYC Audubon had organized which saw some three dozen bat enthusiasts take to the water in search of the children of the night. Today, here’s a few shots I cracked out on the way back to the North Brooklyn Boat Club dock in Greenpoint found alongside the Puslaski Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the “operating the camera” POV, these were actually kind of difficult shots to gather. It was crazy dark, as there aren’t many light sources directed at the water, and when there are they’re explosively bright like the ones on the Kosciuszcko Bridge. Generally speaking, I was using two of my “night lenses” which offer apertures as wide as f1.8.

Shooting “wide open,” however, introduces an extremely shallow depth of field into the shots. It’s quite the endeavor to find a focal point which offers an acceptable level of sharpness to the entire shot at these settings. Things were further complicated by the fact that I was in a giant canoe with six other people who were all rowing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of the “shooting in the subways” stuff I do is in preparation for opportunities like this, which in the past have produced few or no usable shots. Practice, practice, practice – that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall. 

Oddly enough, for the last few weeks, I’ve found myself shooting at f1.8 in bright sunlight, with insanely fast shutter speeds like 1/6000th of a second. What can I say, I like to “mix it up.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frequent commenter George the Atheist asked yesterday, in a comment, about the safety aspect of paddling around in Newtown Creek. I offered a short reply, but here’s the official story:

The stuff you really have to worry about are the bottom sediments, the so called “black mayonnaise” which is about 20-30 feet down. If you’re coming into contact with that, you’ve got a whole other series of problems going on which involve a lack of buoyancy and oxygen deprivation. As far as the biological activity in the water, that’s determined ultimately by the last time that it rained, and whether or not that rain has triggered the “combined sewer outfalls” to release untreated wastewater into the creek.

My pals at North Brooklyn Boat Club who were running the expedition are seriously good at their jobs, and everybody out with us were wearing life vests. Additionally, T. Willis Elkins of North Brooklyn Boat Club (and NCA project manager) is in charge of the water testing program at NCA and if he says its “Kosher” to go out paddling you can take that to the bank.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, you’d definitely want to wash up after paddling around and certainly before picking up a chunk of food and sticking it into your mouth. In my mind, you’d want to do that anytime you eat, especially after engaging in hand shaking activities with people you meet.

I hate that plague passing custom, as a note, especially when I’m doing a tour and thirty strangers all want to shake hands. One insists on touching elbows instead, if need be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As we were returning to the dock at North Brooklyn Boat Club, I whipped out a pocket flashlight and illuminated this juvenile Night Heron. The bird then proceeded to lunge at us, aiming its path at my head.

Everyone, and every thing, hates me.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. Thanks for the health info. Me? I’d still rather not go out paddling on the Creek. Not only do you have to wash up as you recommended but also you’d have to launder your clothes, no?. Too much bother,.

    georgetheatheist . . . cleanliness is next to godliness

    August 30, 2018 at 11:52 am


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