The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 2019

insidious outrages

leave a comment »

Wednesday’s are seldom fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for a humble narrator, which has seen me visiting several spots scattered around the Newtown Creek. Last week, Newtown Creek Alliance offered a lecture by NYS DEC’s Randy Austin titled “Oil Spills 101” to the public at our 520 Kingsland Avenue HQ. Well attended, the lecture is nevertheless something which I’ve experienced multiple times, so after helping out with setup and introductions, I went upstairs to the Kingsland Green Roof and set up the camera for landscape action. Unlike the failed attempt at such an endeavor described last week, this time I remembered to click all the right buttons and followed my checklist exactly.

See? I’m smart, not dumb, smart. Not like people say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, which presents here at Newtown Pentacle as a rather small image in the vertical sense, is actually a MASSIVE panorama image whose resolution would easily accommodate the pixel count needed for a five foot long print. Click through to flickr and check out the “all sizes” tab if you’re interested. I’d mention that you’d likely not want to do that if you’re on your phone right now. It’s a GIANT image.

Of late, the camera technique I’m using for panorama shots involves turning the tripod mounted camera on its side, in “portrait mode,” and then rotating the leveled tripod head around about five degrees for every exposure. The one above is composited from around thirteen individual shots stitched together. The reason for this, and why I’ve started doing pano shots this way, is that any lens distortion is usually more pronounced at the edges of the frame, and the “squarest” section of any lens is at center. I was using an ND ten stop filter on my lens as well, which means that the shot above represents about five minutes of actual elapsed time, since the ND filter allows me to do longish exposures in full daylight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A more conventional shot is above, looking over the DEP’s Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant property towards Greenpoint’s St. Anthony’s and the lower Manhattan skyline beyond.

Also, regarding the ludicrous plethora of ads which WordPress has been inserting into the blog – and of late into the body copy – is a state of affairs which is currently out of my control to stop. In June, I’m going to start making a few changes once the site officially turns ten years old, and one of them will involve eradicating as much of that junk as possible.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Advertisements

cyclopean vaulting

with 2 comments

Another, in a seemingly infinite number of, Tuesday has arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday I mentioned my distaste for Western style men’s Formal Wear, i.e. a suit and tie. One refers to this setup as “Ritual Garb,” and my problem with it is one of practicality and comfort versus the dubious esthetic appeal it offers for some. One normally favors utilitarian clothing, and I have a stated preference for military surplus items as they offer both a plethora of pockets which have button or velcro closures, and are constructed of fabrics chosen for their rugged and tear resistant nature. Given the life I lead, and the places which I constantly find myself carrying the camera to, it’s a considered decision and I frankly don’t care about “how it looks.” That filthy black raincoat of mine has gotten me through several scraps due to its ruggose construction.

Pants or shorts wise, I’ve generally got six pockets to work with. Cash, a couple of sheets of paper kitchen towels (which come in handy as both snot rags and as absorbent wipes), a lens cloth singularly used for my spectacles, and a leather man pocket tool. Six.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sweatshirt is where I really pack in the pockets, with a whopping 28 of them. I’ve long favored the Scott E Vest sweatshirt when I’m on camera duty. It’s got an internal zippered pocket for my phone that leads to sewn in wire traps for the headphones, secure pockets for metrocard and wallet, a springy stretch thingamabob for my keys that’s anchored into another pocket. You wouldn’t believe the amount of crap I can carry in this thing. When you’re a photographer, there’s all sorts of little bits and bobs you find yourself shlepping around. Knowing they’re secure and won’t fall – say, into Newtown Creek – when I’m dancing about is a real time saver and one less thing that gets in the way while out shooting. During hot weather, one favors a guayabera, or cuban style, shirt. The Cubans seem to have an understanding of both the need for pockets and the atmospherics in hot and humid climes.

So, what, I’m giving fashion advice now? Not at all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the last decade, one of the questions people have asked me over and over is how I do what I do. Camera equipment, lens kit, and operational technique has been offered over the years in a somewhat staccato fashion. The same care which goes into the curation of the photographic tool box is also applied to everything touching me. My “every day carry” or EDC involves nearly fifty individual items (inside camera bag, on my person, etc.) which all have the potential of failing on me or getting lost when I’m in the middle or nowhere or on a boat or something. If the camera itself gets screwed up, well… there you are. The only thing you can really prepare for is staying organized.

Saying that; I’ve got an extra set of shoelaces with me at all times, a plastic garbage bag or two for waterproofing my bag in case it starts raining, a flashlight, a set of allen keys, etc. All told, it’s about ten and half pounds of crap I have on me when I leave the house fully kitted up. This really isn’t that much, photography wise, and it’s taken me a while (and a bunch of cash) to whittle it down to that number. My current tripod alone took two entire pounds off my back, which is what has made it possible for me to do all the night stuff in the last year and change.

The shots in today’s post weren’t tripod shots, as you probably surmised by how grainy they are. Instead, they were handheld shots with the lens wide open at f1.8.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

godless sound

with 3 comments

Well, it’s Monday again, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one marching home from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, via LIC’s Blissville section, to the gently rolling hills of Astoria here in the Borough of Queens. The connective tissue, as it were, between the two boroughs for this particular perambulatory pursuit takes concrete form in the shape of the JJ Byrne Memorial Bridge – a double bascule drawbridge spanning the notorious Newtown Creek, which is known colloquially as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Having fully armed myself before leaving HQ with photographic ephemera and tools, some time was spent in pursuit of recording the scene.

To wit, the shots above and below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been attempting to pull off a thirty second long exposure of the scene visible from the center of the bridge for months and months, at the center spot where the cyclopean roadway bascules meet, but have been constantly frustrated by the abundance of heavy traffic crossing the bridge. Even the passing of a normal automotive sedan will cause ruinous vibrations to transmit into the camera, blurring the shot, whereas the quaking cavitations offered up by the passage of a heavy truck or city bus over the bridge have more than once caused my hand to grasp my top heavy tripod in order to vouchsafe against it falling over. What I’ve gleaned from this experience is that you cannot find a thirty second interval in which traffic is not passing over this bridge, other than when it opens to provide passage east or west for maritime traffic.

That’s goofy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On another night last week, one was involved in a different endeavor in the financial district if Lower Manhattan when one of the many bands of precipitation which have been painting the City in recent weeks erupted. This event was one of the two or three times a year when you might observe a humble narrator wearing ritual garb. “Ritual Garb” is what I call a suit and tie. I often wish that our society favored feathered headdresses or Maori style piercings, as western formal wear is stupid. It’s composed of easily damaged fabrics, uncomfortable to wear, unsuitable for any sort of actual work or activity other than standing still or sitting down, involves wearing shoes that provide zero ankle support, and you’ve literally got a noose tied around your neck. Also, secure pockets are not part of the equation.

I like a good (velcro sealed or buttonable) secure pocket. Actually I like a whole lot of them.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 20, 2019 at 11:00 am

quintessential loathsomeness

with one comment

Got to remember to click all the clickie things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I headed over to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk in Greenpoint to play around with the camera a bit. It’s a fairly controlled environment, the Nature Walk, and my desire was simply to set up the tripod and attach a certain filter to my lens in pursuance of doing long exposure daylight shots. The benefit of this particular filter, a ten stop neutral density model which is nearly as opaque as welding glass, is that it cuts the amount of light hitting the lens precipitously and allows you to leave the shutter open for long intervals. Problem with it is that you need to set up the camera in a few highly specific ways, which I normally follow a mental checklist to satisfy. If you miss a single one of those steps on the checklist, bad things happen to your images.

I spent about an hour shooting what I thought would be pretty neato keen images, but later discovered that I had skipped a critical step. Managed to get lucky with the shot above, everything else was tossed. Note to self: Don’t forget to turn off the image stabilizer on the lens when you’ve got the camera on the tripod.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as I was breaking down the rig and reinserting my gear into the bag for the walk back home, this tug showed up. I had already stowed the filter and cable release and all the other “chazzerie” but the camera was still up on the tripod. A few quick adjustments brought my settings back into accordance with “normal” shooting. Since these shots were at “normal” shooting speeds measured in fractions of a second, the image stabilizer issue didn’t screw me up.

That’s DonJon Towing’s Emily Ann, maneuvering two bucket barges into Newtown Creek and heading over to their clients at SimsMetal in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What went wrong with the tripod long exposure shots that I had intended to gather was leaving the lens image stabilizer on, as stated. What that means is this: an image stabilizer is a bit of technology which compensates for shaky hands and moving objects that can offer up to a couple of stops of exposure compensation by wiggling the lens elements around. You’ve got one in your phone camera, so it’s not an esoteric thing. Problem is that it doesn’t sense when you’re mounted on a tripod for an exposure of thirty seconds or more, so despite the camera being stock still, the lens elements are still wiggling. This wiggling introduces blur into the image, which screws the proverbial pooch.

Human error, huh? Human, all too human.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

without mind

with one comment

Old man shakes fist at cloud.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The time of the year which one refers to as “meetings season” is upon me. The good news is that laziness and inertia are cancelled out by “have to,” and the bad news is that I have to attend a bunch of meetings. The meetings mostly revolve around – you guessed it – Newtown Creek. Just last night, I was over in Greenpoint at a CAG (Superfund Community Advisory Group) meeting with several layers of officialdom – City, State, Federal. The EPA discussed part of their technical process, called “modeling”.” As described; they collect multiple lines of evidence regarding the “yuck” found in the water, assigning categories to the contaminants, and determine its nature, transport mechanisms, and risks. EPA has all sorts of algorithmic formulae through which the raw data is processed, and the modeling phase of their operation involves converting an abundance of observation into an action plan which will guide the actual physical removal or abeyance of continuing transport for the contaminants of concern found in the waterway.

If you think that paragraph sounded boring, you should attend one of the CAG meetings yourself. The paragraph above is Hemingway compared to the actual presentations, many of which are frankly “above my head,” as math is involved. I’m an arithmetics idiot, literally. On my SAT’s back in high school, I got ten points under a perfect score on the language side, and ten points higher than signing my name correctly on the math side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After EPA finished up their presentation, a combined team from NYS’s DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and DOH (Department of Health) spoke to the CAG group about the many, many sites which are under some sort of environmental enforcement decree along the Newtown Creek. A lot of attention was paid to the Queens side in particular. Essentially, you couldn’t throw a stone between the Pulaski Bridge and Maspeth Creek without it landing on or close to a DEC administered site. LIRR’s Arch Street yard, a certain spot nearby the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, the Buckeye Pipeline, the Qantas resources and the Pratt sites in Blissville, the massive former Phelps Dodge properties in Maspeth, the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the National Grid site, the Morgan Oil Terminal site, and the Manhattan Polybag site were all discussed. There was even an upland property which at didn’t know existed, the Equity Manufactured Gas site. I had no idea about that one.

The DEC guy had a bit of fun with me, saying “See, you don’t know everything.” A roomful of regulators whom I’ve been tormenting as the “walking Newtown Creek encyclopedia” for years all laughed at that one. Ha ha.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the meeting, which occurred at McCarren Park’s multipurpose rooms and play center (or something), I decided to hoof it back to Astoria as it was a nice night and it wasn’t raining. After getting back to the neighborhood, which involved setting up the tripod a few times along the way, I ended up in a debate with two Hellenes about the origins of the ethnodecriptive term “Greek.” I favor the interpretation that it’s a latin language racial slur (Grik – short legged) popularized by the Roman Empire, and asked them if the actual Hellenic Language uses “Greek” or even refers to their nation state as “Greece” when speaking about it in their own tongue. This devolved quickly, and I was put on the spot to explain the origins of the Jews, and soon found myself arguing against the Eastern Orthodox assertion of the Jews as being Christ killers.

All in good fun, nothing like a good historical debate with the Pizza guy and his buddies at midnight on Broadway here in Astoria. It was all very civil. That’s a word with a latin origin too, civil is. Polis, and politic, are hellenic words.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm

stricken flesh

with 3 comments

My foot hurts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lately, it feels like I’ve been exposed to ionizing radiation at some point in the recent past, as everything hurts. Part of getting older, I suppose. I’d worry more about it if the various aches and pains were more chronic and didn’t move around. One day it’s the knee, the next it’s a foot on the other leg, another it’s a weird knot in my neck which came out of nowhere. I’ve come to refer to this phenomena as my “pain squirrel” since everyday it seems to take up residence on a different branch of my personal Yggdrasil or world tree. Regular talking folk would just say “body,” but I ain’t regular.

What can I tell you, I spent most of my life burning the candle at both ends. If a situation required it, I’d use my body as a wrecking ball. It’s taken a toll, and the bill is coming due these days. All this recent rain has made me suspect that arthritis might be the culprit behind some of the various aches and pains, but it wouldn’t surprise if I woke up one morning and found that some part of me had turned to a form of goo under the blanket.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ideally, I’d like to house my brain, after the bodily gooification is complete, in some sort of robotic housing. On envisions a robust fluid filled jar for the brain, with electrical connections allowing me to control a mobile chassis. Said apparatus would have modular attachment sites for devices to interact with the world outside the jar. Given that I view the human body as little more than a chassis for carrying around the brain as it is, this scenario would be a bit less nightmarish for me than it would be for others. What I’d miss would be the feeling of sunlight on my face, as I wouldn’t have a face. A software algorithm could simulate any of life’s pleasures by pumping the appropriate dopamine solution into the jar anyway.

Yes, I sometimes fantasize about becoming a cyborg. Sue me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If my mobile brain chassis was constructed properly, I’d be able to crawl up walls, or even activate an amphibious modality and become a boat. I’ve never understood the science fictional trope of the robot man trying to return to being human. People already react to me like I’m some sort of monster, and I’m barely transhuman as it is. The camera is always hanging off of me, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking brain in jar, mounted in a poly alloy battle chassis powered by the particle decay of some sort of radioactive isotope, not rapidly aging idiot wandering around Queens. I look forward to the day when my biggest problem would be a patina of oxidation. Come to think of it, my biggest problem would actually be torch bearing mobs of peasants chasing me around since they’d perceive me as a monster, but that’s the sort of thing that already happens to me occasionally. Ask me about the time that a group of old Greek ladies saw me taking a pic of St. Irene’s here in Astoria when you see me.

In the meantime, the pain squirrel is lodged squarely in my left foot today, but I’ve got to walk over to a Greenpoint tonight for a Superfund meeting so it’s best to just suck it up and take a tylenol. That’s the burning the candle at both ends thing again, I guess.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

chorused anguish

leave a comment »

All the familiar places…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s really best for me to be by myself as much of the time as I can manage it, these days. I like to swipe the “do not disturb” or sometimes even the “airplane mode” button on my phone and drop off the digital planet for awhile. It gives me private time to ponder about what really might be running around in the woods surrounding the Chernobyl plant over in Ukraine, worry about Fukushima’s radiotropic fungi, and think about whether or not we’re accidentally terraforming the planet into the ideal environment for some race of sleeping elder gods who last saw the sun before the oceans had formed. Along my notifications free path, I take photos.

That’s the Sunnyside Yards in Queens pictured above, specifically a section of the facility which the Long Island Railroad is currently rebuilding. I think it’s connected to “East Side Access,” this construction, and they’re building a series of tracks for rolling stock to “dwell” in between rush hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quixotic, that’s how I describe the current obsession which the City and its Economic Development Corporation has with building a deck over the yards to house a multitude. According to officialdom, their negotiations with Trump’s AMTRAK are continuing apace. They’ve hired an architect to oversee the planning over this largely Federally owned railyard, one who has worked with the Kushner Companies on several projects so he’s got a relationship, and besides he’s got this whole Ayn Rand mentality so he’s fits right in with EDC. They haven’t talked about who the money to build the thing will be borrowed from yet. The Hudson Yards project was supposedly financed via the Israeli Bond Market, which is a great place for shady international financiers to cleanse their money and hide it from the prying eyes of both the global public and their own respective governments. If you’re a Chinese Army General shaving a few bucks off the budget, or involved with risky trade in South American powders, and you need a place to hide the cash…

But I digress. What do I know about such matters, I’m just some schmuck with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular afternoon these shots were gathered, one of the few in recent weeks where drenching rain hasn’t been falling from the sky, a humble narrator’s phone was in “do not disturb” mode and absolutely zero “LOL’s” or notifications of unimportant facts were coming my way. I did have my headphones in, and was re listening to Mike Duncan’s “History of Rome” podcast. Duncan offers an overview of Roman History, and resists the urge to get overly granular about this and that, which is a feather in his cap. For granularity, I prefer Dan Carlin’s massive “Hardcore History” undertakings.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 14, 2019 at 1:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: