The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

steep, man, steep

with one comment


– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator decided it was time to visit a few of the local establishments in my new neighborhood of Pennsylvania’s Dormont that serve adult beverages, and explore the “scene” as it were. Most of the commercial activity in my new zone is car based, but as you’d hope, there’s a few drinking parlors found in direct proximity of the T light rail station – pictured above – which is, coincidentally, about a 15 minute walk from HQ.

That’s the “Potomac” station for the Red Line T in Dormont. The street it runs on is called “Broadway Avenue.” Apparently, when they established Dormont, the idea that guided the naming of the roads here including the offering of “a town without streets,” so every street is an ‘Avenue’ instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Broadway Avenue is more or less the high point hereabouts. I don’t know if it qualifies as a “ridge” or not, but all of the streets which cross it fall off in altitude and drop down into valleys. It’s not uncommon for the roads here to be set at a 15-20 degree angle. The steepest street in North America is nearby, in the Beechview section, dubbed Canton Avenue.

Having grown up in a subsection of a part of Brooklyn called “Flatlands,” that’s next door to “Flatbush,” this sort of terrain continually blows my mind. When you’re driving and you come to an intersection, you’ll notice gouges in the asphalt left behind by people who tried to conquer this terrain at too high a rate of speed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s two ways for me to get to and from the T, with one being quite a bit easier to surmount than the other. The most direct connection to the transit line would involve usage of the street above, dubbed “Lasalle Avenue.” Quite a few of the roads here use pavers rather than asphalt for the surfacing. When a vehicle is negotiating down Lasalle, you hear a grinding vibration from its tires and the pavers clanking against each other.

This particular evening was quite cold and icy, and there were a couple of spots where I was literally standing still and still slipping down the road due to gravity and the abrogation of friction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While absorbing a few pints of beer, I also absorbed some local knowledge and lore from a couple of the different bartenders who were pouring the libations. Some of it was horrific, an unsolved and truly macabre murder from the 1980’s which occurred near that T station pictured above, and the Bookshop Killer was also mentioned (said Bookshop Killer has apparently gotten got.) I also got advice on restaurants, other bars, and an admonition to visit some wilderness in somewhat nearby Western Maryland for white water rafting. Y’know I’d like to take pictures of white water rafting, but…

After making my way back to HQ, and with a few belts in me, I decided to try and figure out what color the street lights are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can adjust the “color temperature” of your shot during the developing process in Photoshop, but as I’ve discovered over the years – it kind of matters what you had the camera set to when you’re capturing the photo. Particularly so in low light situations. It’s the “nitty gritty” side of digital photography, and it’s nuanced by knowing how digital images work when you “look under the hood.” The street lights in NYC create a luminance that’s best captured at about 3400 kelvin, which conquers the cool blue LED street lights. Pittsburgh still uses old school sodium maps, which produce an orange yellow light.

The camera will thereby attempt to build the image primarily on the red plate since that’s where most of the light’s coloration is found, which creates all sorts of problems as far as generating sensor noise. A bit of experimentation has revealed that my new “night setting” for captures in Pittsburgh should be 2800 Kelvin, which forces the pixel depth to build up on the green and blue plates, along with the red. This reduces the grainy noise issue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In daylight settings, I capture at 5200 Kelvin, if you’re curious. If it’s cloudy out, I’ll use 5800 Kelvin to make sure that the sky has something in it beyond just “blue gray.” I’ll adjust the actual color in Photoshop, which pushes the histogram into looking “normal.”

Digital images, of course are generally in RGB mode. If you’ve got Photoshop on your device, you can actually look at the three plates individually. It’s worth analyzing how the image is actually formed up, and why something you did in the field failed or succeeded during the developing process. Shoot for the edit, I always say.

Anyway, that was my big night out in Dormont, Pennsylvania. Something different tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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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

January 17, 2023 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. Super interesting and fun post.

    Thanks for making me look up “abrogation”.


    May 18, 2023 at 8:24 pm

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