The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 17th, 2020

chanting mournfully

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills is a tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek whose course runs entirely through Long Island City. The canalized waterway is hideously polluted, and you should thank your lucky stars that photographs do not transmit odoriferous information. These photos were gathered while standing on the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, and were created by a fairly complicated bit of “Camera Fu.” A regular one shot image is normally captured using some combination of aperture/sensitivity/speed. The images in today’s post are actually several images that are married together using a technique called “focus stacking.” This technique allowed me to use a wide open aperture of f1.8 – which would normally be quite blurry in all but a few inches of focal area. Instead, by moving the point of focus around the composition and capturing up to 9 images in one compositional set up, I’m able to combine them all during the developing phase in photoshop.

Focus stacking in low light allows for dramatically shorter exposure times, and also allows changing lighting conditions to mix and merge. The technique also helps with getting control over a particular pickle encountered in urban low light photos – harsh street and passing vehicle lights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wider aperture and quicker exposure time also combats a flaw which long exposure shots suffer from, which is the erasure of any texture for the water in favor of rendering a smooth mirror like surface. The waters of Dutch Kills are typically quite still and mirror like to start with, and they really don’t need any assistance on this front. It’s about getting the photo to look the way you want it to, right?

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one was ironically seeking out fall foliage here in the concrete devastations of LIC, but then I found some.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m looking forward to experimenting with this technique over the winter months, actually. A few interesting results have been arrived at by mixing exposures during photo stacks, as well as the focal points. A seriously underexposed photo mixed in with a series that had blow out whites due to street lighting saw a lot of that underexposed detail get mixed into the final product that was lost in the “proper” exposures. Interesting. Very interesting.

Never, ever, stop learning and experimenting with your tools.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, November 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.

“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 for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

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