The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 27th, 2022

neurotic virtuosi

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 9th, after spending a day riding on the NYC Ferry back and forth across the harbor, one set up his tripod in Lower Manhattan at sunset in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Bridge. On both sides of the river, you’ll notice photographers agglutinating along the fences about an hour before the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself descends.

I had a funny encounter with some kid who doesn’t understand the way things work – etiquette wise – in photo circles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my “get there early and stay late” thing revolves around claiming a vantage spot which I’ve chosen. In the unspoken etiquette of the picture taking community, that means that if I got there before you – you have to find another spot. This kid, who was in his late teens or early twenties, says to me “excuse me, are you doing a time lapse” and then indicates that his goal is to shoot such a sequence of images. I say “no” and he asks me to move so that he can. Now… I am pretty amenable to helping a guy out, but since he was being a dick…

I say to him “just to get this straight, you’re telling me you want me to get out of your way because you couldn’t be bothered to be here earlier.” The kid says “yes.” I say to him “Tell you what, I’m going to be a nice guy and move two steps over, but you do realize how special an asshole you are, and that you should seek medical advice about this malignant narcissism you display, right?” Being a child of his generation, he said “yes,” not understanding what I was saying to him. He didn’t care, he got what he wanted.

I stepped two side steps to the right so that he could have his time lapse position, and just stared directly at him with my heat vision eyes until his soul curdled and he sulked away. He didn’t shoot a time lapse during this interval, instead he waved his little Sony A3 with a kit lens on it at the river like the camera was a little flag. Guarantee he was set to “auto” or “program” mode, as not once did he adjust his settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Take my word on this one… for the sorts of shots you commonly see here at Newtown Pentacle, the difference of a few yards right or left in terms of the “POV” is seldom an issue. It’s the Manhattan Bridge you’re looking at there, and said mega infrastructure offers one several POV locations. The notion that this kid had to be standing exactly in the spot I occupied was simply annoying, and its positional unimportance as compared to another spot two steps away is staggering.

There’s a few “narrow” POV spots which I wouldn’t abandon once I’d already set up the tripod… but here? At the edge of South Street Seaport? This isn’t even the best view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, I just didn’t want to head any further uptown from Pier 11, and end up having to take the subway instead of the ferry home to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the NYC Ferry, I boarded the Astoria bound boat shortly after the sunset ebbed away into dusk. My lenses were swapped – day kit stored away and night kit deployed – and I kept on shooting.

The nice thing about shooting digital is that you can just keep on going, experimenting, shooting until either the battery is spent or you’ve run out of storage space on the camera’s memory cards. I’ve got two spare batteries in my bag, and an empty set of backup memory cards with me at all times. Last summer, I managed to shoot for four straight dawn to dusk days without having to install the backup cards, and seldom if ever needed to do a battery change in the field.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Logistical issues abound, however, when returning from a day long photo expedition like this. Night shots, captured from a moving boat and depicting highly detailed scenery like the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge above, have a fairly high failure rate. By failure, I mean they’re not optimally sharp or the focus landed on the subject in an unanticipated fashion. Thereby, I’ll crack out nine or ten exposures of the same basic shot and choose one to keep. The rest get trashed.

Again, the benefit of shooting digital. I came home this particular night (after riding the ferry all day between Astoria, Manhattan, Rockaway, and back to Astoria) with something like a thousand shots on my memory cards. My habit is to do the first pass on a set of images the same day I shoot them, and before I went to bed the group had been reduced down to about 250. By the next evening, I had edited out all but 130. Something like 100 ended up getting uploaded to Flickr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you click through to see the original of the photo above at Flickr, you’ll be able to see the structure of the steel of the Queensboro Bridge in the shot, which was captured at f2 at ISO 128,000 from a moving ferry boat at night. Because of the f2/High ISO you can’t quite see the rivets and this image is also heavily cropped in on. Still, you do what you can with where you are when you can.

“Are you shooting a time lapse”…

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

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