The Newtown Pentacle

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damnable resemblance

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A bit more Triborough, and some thoughts on the current crisis…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, here’s the way things are going to go here at the old Newtown Pentacle “for the duration.” I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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. That’s the reality right now, it’s all a craps shoot. As of right now, all of my tours and summer events are on hold until we see the way this shakes out.

Also, if anything truly critical happens which needs to be broadcast, I’ll augment the regular blog schedule with news posts. If you’re in any kind of trouble and need help, here in Astoria or in LIC, contact me here and I’ll try to make the powers that be aware of your situation. This isn’t 911 or anything, but I’ve got a line of communication or two with officialdom that most people don’t have, so consider me as a resource.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speculative logic, as in purely speculative – Epidemiological playbooks for the United States Government can and might take the form of soldiers deployed on our streets. Their mission might and will probably include maintaining law and order (the cops are going to be overwhelmed, and will get sick too), as well as vouchsafing and handling the delivery of essential supplies, and possibly handling mortuary practicalities. Border control between the States might happen too. I’ve already seen some goofy things happening on the streets here in Astoria, including some jack ass beating up his girlfriend in front of my house a couple of nights ago. You REALLY don’t want to be incarcerated right now, so best behavior, all.

The traditional American sophistry says that “we’ll get through this together,” whereas the Coronavirus pandemic utterly negates the concept of “together.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… I hope you’re all doing what you can to stay safe and healthy. Saying that, an aerosol based virus is a very difficult thing to control and contain. If you encounter a situation where you can be kind as opposed to cruel in the coming weeks, please consider enacting the former behavioral set. Check in on your family and friends, via phone rather than just text, especially those in your circle who suffer from mood disorders and other psychological bad weather. Tell people you love that you love them. Don’t start a witch panic by sharing obvious malarkey on social media.

If Newtown Pentacle stops updating, and a humble narrator is no more, please look in on Our Lady of the Pentacle occasionally and make sure that she has enough milk for her tea.


“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

March 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

universal belief

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Supermoon in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had yet another of the seemingly endless series of community meetings he is obliged to attend occur, and afterwards a friend gave me a lift over to Astoria Park so that I could wave the camera about for an interval. It was that unseasonably warm day we all experienced, and the celestial calendar indicated that a “supermoon” was going to occur. I had already decided, before getting to my location, that I wasn’t going to be trying to record the “astro” shot palaver where you can see all the details on the moon as well as a clear back and foreground, and was instead going to be shooting more of a landscape dealie with a glowing orb lighting up the sky.

To wit, above is the supermoon framed by the Triborough Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “palaver” mentioned above requires multiple exposures which are then combined in a photoshop composite. You expose one shot for the moon, which is actually as bright as the sun to the camera. Then you expose for the sky, and finally for the other elements in the composition. I’ve done this a bunch of times, so I’m quite familiar with the technique. One of the snags you hit with this however, is that despite what the perception of the human eye indicates, the moon is actually traveling at quite a clip through your frame. Depending on where it is in your frame, you’ve got between 2 and 8 seconds to “get it” before it’s movement causes motion blur. Since it’s night time, you need to calculate the other exposures and when compositing the final shot, compensate for the movement of the orb through the shot.

It is possible to “get it in one” of course, but that’s fraught with technical issues as well. I just went for the “ambience” instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, I wasn’t feeling terribly secure as far as my personage when shooting these images. As is the usual case on nice nights, every “Astoria Boy” in the neighborhood was on station along Shore Blvd. There were hundreds, possibly even a thousand, of impulse control challenged post adolescents milling around down there. Their music, played at top volume, was terrible. The clouds of weed smoke rising from their assemblage and drifting across Astoria Park was intoxicating. If you like the “wacky tabacky,” save yourself a few bucks by just sitting downwind from this crowd.

Just to make sure I’m perfectly clear about this most salient of points – their music was computer generated (badly), irredeemable, and unabashedly terrible. Gah.

Teenagers… brrr.


“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

March 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

starved monsters

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The darkness of Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why the Amtrak people have never sprung for a lighting system for the Hell Gate Bridge, I cannot imagine. It’s like owning a luxury car and never washing or polishing it. Might have something to do with not disturbing those battrachian things, that cannot possibly exist, which live on the bottom of the Hell Gate section of the East River. Peter Stuyvesant is rumored to have left behind a message scrawled onto a piece of yellowed parchment, which every Mayor of NYC has received on their first day in office, advising that there are things in NY Harbor which are best left alone. The Lenape knew that it is best not to delve too deep, nor stare too long into the abyssal water hereabouts, lest that which dwells below takes notice.

Do you honestly believe that the United States Army Corps of Engineers set off the greatest explosion in human history here back in 1885, a detonation whose force was only exceeded after the emergence of the Atomic Bomb, merely to aid navigation?

Fools ye be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was the promise of a foggy night which drew me to this spot. It’s not exactly industrial Maspeth, Astoria Park and the associated properties surrounding it, so it’s the very definition of off my beaten path as it’s “nice.” I hung around the zone for about an hour or so, occasionally climbing over a fence for a POV as in the shot above.

There wasn’t much movement in the water, but I was prepared to bolt just in case. I’ve heard tell of an orthodox priest named Kiriglou that would spend his evenings along this stretch of Hells Gate back in the early 1980’s. Rumors and stories, myths and legends, that’s what the native Astorians routinely offer in return for a shot of whisky. Supposedly this Kiriglou fellow would toss some kind of charm, attached to a stout cord, into the water and mutter words described to me as a rough sort of Cretan dialect, one which the teller believed to originate in the rugged Sfakia region of that ancient island. Nobody knew if Kiriglou was associated with one of the wholesome Orthodox churches frequented by the local Hellenic community, or was some sort of heretic or ascetic. What happened to him, and what he was doing with that charm, is just another Astoria story.

Ever hear the one about the child molester who lived in the Queens side tower of the Hell Gate Bridge, behind that iron door found under the dedication plaque?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the mists were beginning to precipitate, a humble narrator decided that it was time to begin the journey back to HQ. Before long, a driving rain set up, and one arrived in the Broadway area just in time to avoid a drenching.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you out there got an Astoria Story you’d like to share? Haunted house, lizard man, next door neighbor chanting at the moon on Hallomass? Kids playing bad music loudly? I want to hear it.


“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

March 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

individual feature

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Billious is what it’s called when you’re full of bile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking northwards along the FDR Drive in Lower Manhattan towards the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge with the first of 5 skyline destroying residential buildings dominating the horizon, my point of view in this shot was from the very foot of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. The financial capital of the planet, this part of NYC is where people give their money to rich folks who then gamble with it. The South Street Seaport complex, and the museum ships it maintains, are on view in the Central right section of the shot. Did you know that the reason that the Seaport exists at all is because it’s the site originally chosen by Port Authority’s Austin Tobin and the Rockefeller brothers for the World Trade Center?

The highway is the work of everybody’s favorite NYC historical bogeyman, Robert Moses. The only good thing I can say about it is that when it’s raining outside, the FDR Drive acts as a megalithic umbrella. I often wonder what will become of it in the near future when privately owned automobiles are banned from Manhattan Island below 125th street. If you think that’s hyperbole, it’s ok. Goofy sophistry rules the roost these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is looking southwards towards the Staten Island Ferry, and at the upper left hand side of the shot you can just make out the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, another product of that rascally Robert Moses. Speaking of sophistry, I’ve been greatly enjoying the conversations offered by some of the bicycle people regarding that span recently. The usual umbrage they offer has been focusing on the lack of a bike lane up there. What doesn’t seem to strike them are the physics of the gargantuan bridge, and the fact that vehicular traffic crossing it experience wind speeds – with some regularity – that negate the passage of trucks or buses over the thing due to concerns of them tipping over. What could go wrong with a bike lane twenty two stories over the open waters, anyway?

Man, I just hate everybody and everything at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having accomplished my pedantic goals in Manhattan, one descended back into the slime caked cement tunnels of the MTA and returned to the World’s Borough. On my way, as the train entered into Queens Plaza, I noticed the shop keep at the platform news stand eyeing me all suspicious like through the open door of an R line train.

I’ve often thought that anyone who spends their entire working life underground in the Subway system is actually a damned soul consigned to burn off a lifetime of sin in purgatory. That’s the way I feel for the brief intervals when I’m onboard the train. Imagine waking up early on a Monday morning and heading out for work with the expectation of spending the next 9-10 hours in a subway station. If that’s not some sort of punishment for your sins…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! December 14th, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

December 11, 2019 at 11:00 am

agonizing mortality

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Three Boroughs today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right up there is the very first shot ever published at your Newtown Pentacle, which is an oldie but a goodie. Queensboro Bridge just before it’s centennial parade, and I was the only person on the upper level when this was captured. Archive shots will be greeting y’all for a bit while my smashed toe heals, an endeavor which is shaping up to be quite the ordeal. I’m heading over to the hospital later on to get it properly looked at, since – despite one of my hidden talents being first aid and the ability to tie off a sterile field dressing – things aren’t progressing as I’d like them to and I have to consult with somebody whose first name is Doctor.

I really cannot afford to do this, invoking the broken medical system here in NYC, but you have to do what you have to do and a possible infection related to a broken bone is not something you want to play around with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not sure what the name of that rail bridge is in the shot above, but I can tell you that it’s in the Bronx. Another archive shot, I captured it during another one of the Centennial events about ten years ago, celebrating the Madison Avenue Bridge.

Man, my foot is killing me today. The swelling has gone down, but that means that I can now fully experience and enjoy the injury.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what it looks like when the ship or boat you’re on is entering the Gowanus Canal, and that’s the Hamilton Avenue Bridge. Got this one a while back on a Working Harbor Committee excursion to Gowanus Bay and the canal. My pal Joseph Alexiou was on the mike, who is someone you should be paying attention to on all matters involving the Gowanus and South Brooklyn in general.

Oww.


“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

November 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

protective illusions

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Rainy NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, the whole reason you’ve been treated to me expounding on the hellish nature of the Times Square subway station, as well as positing that the Garden of Eden was located in Times Square itself, is that the Working Harbor Committee offered a Circleline tour during the afternoon and I was in the City anyway. It was positively pouring out, which a humble narrator decided to make the best of. For once, I wasn’t busy on the mike, so a clickety clicking with the camera was commenced.

In addition to the steady downpour, there was a dense fog permeating the scene. Actually, there were seemingly two fog banks, one clinging to the surface of the water, with the second about 200-300 feet up. In between was rain, constant rain. It’s never boring out on the water, I guess,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Foggy days are a formidable challenge in terms of acquiring tack sharp focus. The occlusion of ambient light due to the misty clouds changes constantly, and this sort of climate is especially vexing in terms of not absolutely destroying your camera. Liquids, aerosols, and all the other states which water takes are absolute anathema to digital devices. Luckily, my omnipresent bag of tricks includes the everyday carry of a couple of supermarket carrier bags.

I pop a hole in the bottom for the lens, gaff tape to bag to my lens hood, and then stick my hands through the carrier loops to keep in it place. Looks stupid, but it’s effective, and I don’t pay BH Photo $7-8 a pop for those clear plastic doohickeys. Also, I don’t have to worry about having one with me, since they fold up into a two inch square rather easily and weigh virtually nothing.

Since atmospheric conditions were supplying me with background and foreground separation, isolating my subject was a piece of cake. The hard part was forcing my camera to focus in on the tugboats, rather than the droplets of water falling through the intervening atmosphere between the tug and the lens. Truth be told, I shot the set up above six times and got two positive results, with the one above being the pick of the litter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always a bit of a trial getting the exposure correct when you’re on the water in NY Harbor. You’ve got great big dark things floating about in a luminous and quivering jelly, with bright sky and a hopelessly complicated shoreline which you’re photographing from a quick moving object, essentially. What do you expose for? Why are you here? Who are you?

Due to the pall of humidity, I had to shoot at a fairly high ISO as far as daylight goes. The hard part was getting the color temperature correct during the development stage of things. Here’s a tip – on high iso days like the one pictured above, set your camera to record in a cooler range to reduce noise. If you shoot daylight (5400 kelvin in the Canon family) the rusts and oranges will barely register as anything BUT noise. Your shot will look weird, noisy, and too warm. I captured these at a custom color temperature setting of 3750 K, and then pushed the color to 5500 K when the raw files were in photoshop. That reduced the amount of noise considerably, while neutralizing the color back into what my eye saw.

Anyway, that was my week of wet, at your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 25, 2019 at 11:00 am

was unmistakably

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Minimalist Wednesday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have a whole category of photos which bear the key words “dead things.” Composed entirely of the various cadavers encountered during my travels, it’s overwhelmingly populated by ex birds. Sure, there’s a few dead raccoons, rats, and other mammalians, but NYC seems to be a bird extermination machine. Spotted this poor bastard on the streets of Lower Manhattan recently, for instance. I’m not a bird person, so I won’t even attempt to identify specie or type. It’s a bird, and it’s dead.

Morbid? Maybe. In my mind, I’m documenting the extinguishing of a life which passed without comment or notice. Also, stop being so sensitive to the abject realities of life and death in the big city. Someday, that might be a photo of you up there, lying dead on the sidewalk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That Soundview Ferry tour I’ve been doing is a lot of fun for me, and the route is fantastic. Problem is that in order to get to the meetup spot on time from Astoria via the Ferry, I end up in Lower Manhattan a good hour before I need to be there. I try to make some productive use of the time after reviewing my notes, waving the camera about. Unfortunately, since Manhattan’s spit and polish modern incarnation is so visually uninteresting to me, I have to wander far afield to find something I’d like to shoot. Rusty stuff is always a win.

Luckily, Pier 11 is owned by the EDC, who love building stuff but don’t like maintaining it. Uncoated steel and salt water don’t mix. Paint, fellas, paint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined earlier in the week, one is in the midst of a whole lot of have to. Yesterday, I participated in a conversation with other members of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (superfund) Steering Committee figuring out an agenda for the next public meeting and discussing the latest twists and turns in the story. Then down to Greenpoint to conduct a night time Infrastructure Creek walking tour (which will happen again on October 29, see link below) and afterwards came back home to Astoria.

Today, I’m meant to participate in some fancy pants symposium taking place in the Shining City. On my way home, I’m planning on doing a bit of photographing at Grand Central Station before getting on the train. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be an “outside day” according to the weather people.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

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