The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

rather undersized

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Woh, it’s Wednesday again, and FESTIVUS!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The images in today’s post represent a great deal of “in the field” improvisation and a minimum amount of in the studio photoshop work. They were done entirely “within camera,” which means that I didn’t do any retouching to them. Saying that, the gathering of these shots saw me changing exposure and focal points all wildly nilly. I still haven’t perfected the technique behind all this – although shots you won’t be seeing until 2021, which I gathered just the other night, suggest that the underlying logic governing what I’m doing here is finally revealing itself – but I’m pretty happy with these results. This is what I was hoping for, while I was freezing my tootsies off at the waterfront in December, so hooray.

Focus and exposure stacking, that’s what this thing I’m working on is called. The shot above was captured at f1.8, and if you click through to the original at Flickr you’ll be able to see individual rivets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frequent commenter George the Atheist, who is a knowledgable photographer in his own right, chides me often that I should just get on with it and do a long exposure. One often uses this technique, and long exposure has been a “thing” for me for quite a while now. Problem with long shots involving water, however, is that you lose all the surface detail in the waterbody as the long exposure shots render its as a mirror. This has it’s charms, of course, but I want the mirror AND some detail in the shot as well.

That’s what I mean when mentioning the term “intentionality.” Intentionality is the difference between a snapshot and a photograph, and the difference between “I meant to do that” and “I got lucky here.” Serendipity is awesome, but so is having an idea and then making it real.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If I was a patient person, I’d be photographing birds or something. I’m not a patient person, so I didn’t stand there at the East River (during mid December) long enough for a railroad Locomotive to arrive and cross the Hell Gate Bridge. That would have made this one of my favorite photos of 2020. Instead, I was slavishly punching buttons and moving the various settings about on the new camera, trying to bend it to my will.

There are twelve f1.8 2 second exposures ganged up into that shot above. Around four of them are seriously underexposed, one is highly over exposed, and the rest are on meter. I love that the entire image is sharp, that there are both mirror reflections and surface texture in the shot, and there’s a fullness to its contrast. I’m not stoked about the blown out lights in the Bronx or all along the horizon. I’ve since worked out how to shoot around that. I’m also really interested in the wave patterns, and plan on experimenting with that a bit next time I’m at Hells Gate.

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, December 21st. 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

December 23, 2020 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. A wonderful photo, the clarity and colors. I love this bridge, it was a fixture of my childhood, seen out my bedroom window and admired up close when I walked the north walkway on the Triboro’s main span. There appear to be two moving vessels on the waterway, one in roughly the middle, the other on the right in front of North Brother Island, each looking like a string of lights but surely an artifact of the multiple exposures. Cool!


    December 24, 2020 at 9:04 am

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