The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

indelible mark

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Some new gear on display in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always hunting around on camera oriented websites for new bits of gear, lenses, gew gaws, doohickeys, and or doodads which might make my life a bit more interesting as I wander around the City of Greater New York with a camera. There’s a couple of Chinese camera sites that I keep an eye on, which are really hit and miss on the “get what you pay for” front, but recently I decided to take a chance on a manual focus lens which promised a built in series of polarizing filters that would produce an extraordinary result. This is a 65mm prime, with a decidedly small aperture (f4-11) range, but it’s optical formula and clever mechanical plan is designed to allow the user to see both above and below the surface of water bodies at the same time. It’s offered by a company I never heard of before – the Mumma Cei, Xi, & Akkuseh (MCXA) group and is manufactured by something called the Szeihaloud Cooperative. Google translate tells me that Szeihaloud means “great maker” or something, and that their glass factory is located in the dry regions of northwest China. That’s odd, normally electronics gear comes from the coastal cities of the south, but nothing ventured nothing gained. MCXA’s site claims that there’s something special in the mineralogy of the sands of the region they’re located in which lends unique qualities to their ground glass products. At least that’s what I think they’re saying… Chinese website version of English, if y’know what I’m saying…

What the heck, it was only a hundred bucks. I’m glad that I ordered the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – MCXA’s 65mm lens, which they call the X-51, is an ergonomic nightmare. It’s got all these jangly little knobs on it for independently manipulating the eight linear polarizer filters housed within the barrel. Said barrel is plastic, and when I unwrapped my little care package from the Silk Road region the interior of the box actually had some kind of orange powdery substance which smelled vaguely of cinnamon mixed with saffron inside of it, a scent that made me a bit woozy. The lens was packed in a sealed plastic bag so that wasn’t too much of an issue. The glass itself was nice and sharp, which was surprising, once I got it past f 5.6. It’s pretty heavy, and manual focus is a chore, especially with those eight knobs arrayed around the focus ring.

The startling part was that the thing actually worked as promised, allowing me to photograph both the surface details of the waters of the East River (pictured above) and provided visual egress to that which lurks below while I was riding on a NYC Ferry last week. I look forward to putting the thing on a tripod and seeing what can be revealed at Newtown Creek.

Of course, the lens and camera were set for a daylight exposure formula, so sub surface features were darkened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MCXA has another bizarre lens I’m now interested in, which promises Flouroscope like qualities, allowing you to peer “under the surface” and revealing the internal structures of both animals and plants. They call it the “God Emperor of lenses,” or at least that’s what Google Translate says the series of Chinese characters on its offer page means. I tell you, the Chinese century looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. As is my habit, new glass and other camera gear is typically acquired during the tax filing season of the early spring.

I usually like to add a new lens to my kit every April, and especially so on April the 1st.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

awkward signatures

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On the sand at Flushing Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having successfully navigated my way to the water’s edge at Flushing Creek through an open gate, a humble narrator (and my pal Val, who was game for this particular caper) proceeded off the concrete and down onto the sand. As mentioned previously, I’m intentionally staying dumb about the Flushing Creek waterway – for now – as it’s entirely novel to me to “know” nothing about something and I want to preserve that as long as possible. It’s philosophic with me, ignorance, and it’s difficult to preserve. Every year, I play my “Super Bowl Challenge,” which is prophylactic in terms of information regarding the big game. I don’t want to know when, where, who… anything. It’s more difficult to know nothing than everything about something these days.

A challenge I’m several years into, as a note, is the Lady Gaga challenge. I know nothing about Lady Gaga other than her name. Never looked at a photo, listened to a song, wouldn’t recognize her if she was sitting next to me. No animosity against the house of Gaga is offered, of course, it’s just extremely challenging to remain completely ignorant of somebody is who apparently a huge pop star – and it’s a challenge I accept. I guess I know she’s a pop star.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By my standards, which are set to a high bar by that legendary exemplar of urban neglect which is the Newtown Creek, things didn’t look too bad around here. There were all sorts of garbage, dumping, broken pipes like the one above encountered… but… I mean… Maspeth Creek… y’know?

Part of the reason I wanted to come here during the brown and brittle months of the winter, incidentally, involved the lessened chances of encountering biting insects and ticks in particular. Got to imagine that there are clouds of mosquitos and black flies around this spot during the summer months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was some sort of ruggose canvas placed on the shoreline, no doubt an attempt at fighting erosion of the sandy beach. The good news is that said canvas created a hard pack surface which was easy to walk on. We were visiting Flushing Creek at the low tide interval of the daily cycle, so lots and lots of shoreline was revealed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modern day Flushing, with its massive “Hong Kong” style real estate developments, provided a backdrop for the scene. Like LIC, this “other” end of the 7 line in Queens has been growing exponentially in recent years. Manhattan’s Chinatown has been relegated to history’s dustbin, a relic of a forgotten age in NYC. Flushing is where it’s at these days, as far as where Chinese people live and work, and the place is being remodeled according to their tastes and preferences.

The “American Way” at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We proceeded back along Flushing Creek for a bit, and the further that we went in the direction of Roosevelt Avenue, the more marshy the ground became. Brush and grasses became thicker, and salt water streams punctuated the foliage with increasing frequency. The sound of traffic on the nearby highways and area streets were the only non naturally generated sounds, other than the occasional passage of a 7 Line train set on the overhead trackage which carries the subway to and from Flushing’s Main Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were oodles and oodles of birds flapping around, and I’m sure that at night this part of Flushing Creek would be crawling with Raccons and Rats and all sorts of nocturnal critters doing their thing.

More tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2019 at 12:30 pm

utterly bewildered

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Getting minimalist at Flushing Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I found myself out in Flushing again last week, making good on my threat to return there during the daylight hours. Last time that I was in this neighborhood, it was at night, which really isn’t the best time to scout a location properly. This time around, it was a mid day winter’s afternoon.

Ultimately, where I wanted to get to was Flushing Creek, but more on that in subsequent posts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have to admit, it was a little odd just waving the camera around without having to do the whole “set up” needed for the night shot process. Funny how something so normative to me can suddenly become alien, sort of like eating the first real meal after an interval with a stomach virus can seem bizarre.

Light, abundant light that I need to cut down and control? Weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a car tire submerged in the surf which has been turned into a colony nest for shellfish, which is something I found neat. Saw several examples of this sort of thing all around the bay and later on Flushing Creek itself. Just goes to show that the mechanisms of nature, given enough time, can adapt to anything.

Back tomorrow with more, and we’ll be exploring part of Flushing Creek for the next few days at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

despair’s profundity

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Just another day in paradise, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the height of last week’s “hot” one found himself at Hallets Cove here in Astoria, killing some time with the camera whilst waiting for the NYC Ferry to arrive. Unfortunately, the long exposure shots from Hallets Cove didn’t turn out well, as in the midst of calculating exposure times and compositional angles, a humble narrator omitting calculating the effect of setting up a tripod on sand. It was my firm belief that that the tripod legs were spread out far enough to create a stable enough platform for the camera, but alas, like sand through the hourglass (or within five feet of the tide line) so are the days of my life – shifting, insubstantial, and without foundation. The long exposure above and below were actually gathered at Socrates Sculpture Garden where a more solid firmament is found.

Accordingly, I spent the entire weekend beating myself up over coming home from Hallets Cove with a bunch of motion blurred shots which would have otherwise been quite fetching.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is always the case this time of the year, one is more introspective and self critical than is usual, which is usually “very.” I still retain vague recollections of the impending doom felt during childhood for the “back to school” part of the late summer, an atavist memory which always colors my mood. It’s also a particularly depressing week for me personally, since I have a birthday coming up and my birthdays never seem to go well. There’s been like fifty of them so far, and maybe five haven’t resulted in some sort of traumatic experience. Our Lady of the Pentacle and my coterie of friends try their hardest, but I’m just jinxed when it comes to birthdays.

Speaking of, today is H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out the link (below) to a boat tour I’m going to be conducting on the 30th of August, after all this birthday business has passed. It’s underwritten by a grant that my pals at Waterfront Alliance and Working Harbor Committee managed to get that commemorates the bicentennial of the opening of the Erie Canal. Only five smackers for this one, and we’re going to be onboard a NY Water Taxi leaving from Red Hook. First, we’re heading north along the East River as far as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, then reversing and going south towards Erie Basin and Industry City in South Brooklyn and eventually returning to Red Hook. 

I’ll be on the mike for this one, and I’m planning on regaling the folks onboard with maritime history. It should be a fairly vulgar display of my rhetorical prowess. Also, it’s only $5, so if I’m as disappointing in real life as many tell me you don’t have much to lose.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 20, 2018 at 11:15 am

no matter

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Da national boid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a short break this week, and single images will be greeting you through the July 4th Holiday week while I’m out shvitzing and photographing things.

Today is July 4th, and just like the rest of the calendar, there’s always a series of events that occurred over the centuries which seems to suggest that history might not be all that random. Alternatively, it probably is, and it’s the nature of human beings to attempt to form ordered patterns out of chaos.

  • 1054 – A supernova, called SN 1054, is seen by Chinese Song dynasty, Arab, and possibly Amerindian observers near the star Zeta Tauri. For several months it remains bright enough to be seen during the day. Its remnants form the Crab Nebula.
  • 1776 – American Revolution: The United States Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Second Continental Congress.
  • 1826 – Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, dies the same day as John Adams, second president of the United States, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence.
  • 1855 – The first edition of Walt Whitman’s book of poems, Leaves of Grass, is published In Brooklyn.
  • 1911 – A massive heat wave strikes the northeastern United States, killing 380 people in eleven days and breaking temperature records in several cities.
  • 1918 – Bolsheviks kill Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family (Julian calendar date).
  • 2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the World Trade Center site in New York City

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in animals, birds

Tagged with ,

silent laboratory

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A few more shots from industrial Maspeth, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a section of Maspeth which one refers to as the “crane district,” which is distinct from the hammock district. Actually, there no hammock district, just cranes. Whenever I’m waving the camera around at the sort of thing pictured above, I set it to a fairly narrow aperture and slightly overexpose the shot. The goal is to get a super saturated set of colors and to have every screw, lug, and rivet render in sharp relief. For those of you who have asked, that’s the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. The former is when you say “hey look at that” and the latter involves a visualized goal and thought process about how to achieve what you want the final product to look like.

Ultimately, I wanted the crane truck to look a bit like a kids die cast metal toy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a stunning amount of litter in industrial Maspeth. A lot of it is quite dangerous, as in the case of the tempered glass windows I encountered that someone had the good sense to shatter when they were abandoning them. Illegal dumping is a city wide phenomena, but it seems that the industrial zones are particularly good places to abandon unwanted items. The comedy of it all is that Maspeth is the destination point for a significant amount of commercial and municipal waste by statute, and the folks handling said cargo are pretty responsible as far as how they handle the stuff.

Saying that, there’s shattered and powderized glass everywhere you look around these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m hardly a saint in this category, but a humble narrator is the sort of fellow who pockets his personal waste products while moving around the great urban hive, carrying them until a proper receptacle is discovered. You don’t have to look too long, in my experience, before a municipal waste basket or a dumpster will appear. Others, it seems, are less patient than a humble narrator.

I mean, you’ve just drank a half gallon of milk, why not just pitch the empty container to the curb?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is one of the many, many municipal solid waste trailers parked in the industrial zone around Newtown Creek (and elsewhere, if you’re anywhere near a sewer plant, you’ll see or scent them) that stink of sewer solids, which the (now) NYC Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection tells me I’m imagining. This particular one has been parked here in industrial Maspeth so long that the steel legs of the thing have begun to bend.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All winter, I was commenting to myself (and I think I even mentioned it here, at your Newtown Pentacle, not long ago) that the abundance of “dead things” normally encountered around the Newtown Creek’s watershed districts had leveled off. That trend has reversed in recent weeks, with an abundance of dead birds encountered on area streets.

Newtown Creek is kind of “death prone.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff you encounter in the crane district of industrial Maspeth, back tomorrow with something entirely different.

Also, check out the tour offers below, they’re both being offered at special low rates. Greenpoint and the 520 Kingsland Green Roof this Friday, and a Skillman Avenue walk with Access Queens on Saturday the 30th.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

suggesting question

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Canada Goslings in industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching about recently, my path carried the camera past Maspeth Creek, which – as the name would imply – is in industrial Maspeth and is in fact a tributary of that lugubrious cataract of cautionary tales known to all simply as the “Newtown Creek.” Whilst scuttling past the Maspeth Creek waterway’s head waters, which flow out a sewer, these Canadian invaders were shifting from foot to foot in a manner which I did not like.

Geese, in general, are dicks. Canada Geese, in particular, are jerks as well as dicks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news, for this dick specie, is that there’s now more of them. “Goslings” are what you call baby geese. While I was shooting this, one of the adults – I’m presuming it was the papa – was ambling towards me while sticking his tongue out. I once had to punch a goose in the face at one of the area cemeteries to ward off an attack. This particular paragon of poultry  was intent on killing me for wandering too close to a nest, I guess. For you PETA types out there, one tried every other recourse first including “flight” before “fight” became my only option. That “sumbitch” chased me half way across Calvary Cemetery before I had to vigorously assert my right to be unmolested with a closed fist.

Seriously, Geese are mean dicks, but they’re real cute when they’re babies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one who was messing with me the other day is the big one, at the back of the group in the shot above. I’m not sure if Maspeth Creek is in the 108th or the 104th precinct, but if anyone recognizes that goose I’d appreciate it if you called the NYPD tips line and let them know. I bet that its name is Claude or Jean or something… pfft… Canada.

Back in conventional reality, rather than within my inner dialogue about rude avian biota, the Canada Goose is one of the many, many birds that arrive at Newtown Creek each and year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek, and all of NY Harbor, sits in the migratory Atlantic Flyover zone. Every year you get to see nestlings putting on weight and size all summer long around the creek. Towards mid August and late September, they’ll begin vacating the area for parts unknown, returning in late March and April.

There’s a bunch of them wallowing around in the toxic sediments of Maspeth Creek, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of what I look out for as a hazard around the Newtown Creek are trucks rather than birds, and while making my way home, one marveled at all the different kinds. Semis, packers, roll on and roll offs, panel, box, wreckers, concrete… I even saw a couple of crane trucks. Industrial Maspeth is lousy with that sort of thing. There’s trains, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving the Maspeth area via 48th street, you cross under and over the Long Island Expressway while heading north into Sunnyside. I like to use this steel and concrete landmark, a corridor of the House of Moses, to mentally signal that I’ve left the Creeklands and reentered the world as it’s meant to be.

As in, if an aggressive goose showed his face around south Sunnyside, he’d soon find himself cooked.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

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