The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

cloudless peak

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The long heralded storm which had been forecast to hit Philadelphia in the late afternoon finally set up, and whereas a humble narrator had an umbrella attached to his pack – shelter was required. Right alongside the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is the Cherry Street Pier (Municipal Pier No. 9), which is a former maritime industrial doohickey that has been converted over to public open space usage. They have caged artists in residency there, and they imprison them on display in converted shipping containers, no doubt to keep their intellectual contagion from infecting the youth.

When researching the trip, I had spotted this facility, and knowing that thunderstorms were forecast, was ready to duck in there for some cover. It was neat, and my “just in case” plan was successful. Another bit of advice for the traveling photographer – always have a “rain plan” you can alter your course into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to photographing the colossal Benjamin Franklin Bridge, for me, thereby. The roof is missing on the section of the pier I was on, but there was just enough up there to mostly vouchsafe the camera and lens from getting “spotted” by raindrops.

My ambitious shot list for the day in Philadelphia had already been heavily redacted, and most of what I had to drop wasn’t terribly exciting – touristy shots of the historic districts where, you know, the United States was imagined and drawn up. Liberty Bell, etc.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one thing I regretted having to drop, due to weather and time, was walking up onto the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian path and blasting out a few photos from the prominence. As mentioned – Thunderstorms – and a humble narrator doesn’t mess with high wind and lightning if he has a choice.

Next time, I guess. The Port Authority’s website offers fairly explicit instructions for photographers who want to shoot from on high, and suggests introducing yourself to the security personnel at the entrance to the pedestrian path before heading up there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since I was sheltered from the worst of the rain on the pier, advantage was taken. That’s the Delaware River, with New Jersey’s Camden waterfront on the horizon. It seems that wherever New Jersey touches the major city of another state, there’s a pretty awful circumstance. Newark in the north, Camden in the south. Newark is comparatively a paradise as opposed to its southern counterpart, I’m told.

My time in Philadelphia was growing short, and it was nearly time to begin heading back towards the 30th street Station to catch an Amtrak train back to “home sweet hell.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Across the river, and I had to use a super zoom lens for this one, the Battleship New Jersey operates as a museum vessel. Couldn’t avoid taking this shot, despite the conditions.

A general reordering of the camera bag(s) occurred at this point. My current system involves carrying a backpack with foam inserts to protect the gear, and attached to its exterior are my tripod and an umbrella. I also carry a messenger style sling bag on my hip which is similarly outfitted with foam inserts. In general, I carry four lenses on these sorts of excursions. Two of them, the zoom lenses, are “daylight” oriented. The other two are prime lenses, and are “lowlight” specialists. There’s a whole lot of other crap in the bags – batteries, a loop of paracord, gaff tape, gum – all sorts of stuff I might need or want.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lenses I’m using circumstantially and in the moment – zooms for daylight, for instance – are carried in the sling for easy access. When the circumstance changes, so does the carrying order. The zooms go into the backpack, and the low light primes come out. One is on the camera, the other in the sling bag. When you walk as much as I do, even a single pound of weight in the camera bag can slow you down incrementally, and by photographer standards – my kit is a wonder of efficiency.

Don’t forget, with the exception of an hour in the late afternoon when I had a meal, I had been in continuous motion since 7:30 a.m. The shot above was captured at 5:22 p.m. My return trip to NYC was scheduled to leave at 8:01 p.m. Given that I was in unfamiliar territory, and definitely wanted to arrive in advance of the train, my toes were pointed away from the river and back towards Center City.

Seriously, why don’t these cheesesteak eaters just call it freaking “downtown?”

“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

May 4, 2022 at 11:00 am

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