The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Greenwood Cemetery’ Category

baffled curiosity

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Whitney Mausolea, Greenwood Cemetery

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has nothing new to show you this week, so archived shots are on offer. Fear not, as you’re receiving this, one is running about the City whilst the camera is clicking and whirring away. In the meantime, enjoy yourself, as it’s probably a lot later than you think.

Day light savings time is an anachronism and should be abolished.


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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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2019 at 11:00 am

cemented hillocks

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Today is World Food Day, on this hungry planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised, here’s a few shots gathered on Friday the 13th at the Atlas Obscura “Into the Veil” event at Greenwood Cemetery. A friend I was showing them to on Friday asked me what the “night into day” technique I employed to capture these images entails other than long exposure times, and I tried to explain the exacting series of steps and settings which are employed, but by then he had fallen asleep. It’s complicated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In a couple of instances, I hung a work light of the front of my tripod. The shot above is a fair representation of what was within the range of human vision. The moon was occluded on Friday by heavy cloud cover and atmospheric humidity was quite high, which is ruinous for this sort of shooting due to the scattering and consumption of light by airborne moisture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The same setup, this time employing the whole checklist of “night into day” techniques which I’ve been working on. The difficult part of this, and why I’m stifled with the result, involves the sky – which isn’t blown out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

LED lighting continues to grow in popularity, but it provides a bugbear of problems for digital photography. LED lights are actually strobing hundreds of times a minute, and throwing out weird wavelengths of saturated color light which the camera sensor struggles to interpret. Notice the difference between the automotive brake light generated red streak on the hill and the unnaturally garish reds of the LED architectural light on the Steinway Chapel at Greenwood.

Just have to figure out how to conquer that one, as I don’t think LED’s are going away anytime soon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2017 at 2:15 pm

thunder crazed

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It’s National Yorkshire Pudding Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tonight, one will finally get to do something purely by choice rather than circumstance or obligation, as I’m attending Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil” event at Greenwoord Cemetery. Well… my plan doesn’t exactly revolve around “attending” so much as being in the Cemetery while the Atlas event is going on. A humble narrator is going to figure out where the crowds are headed and then me, the camera, and my trusty tripod are going off in an entirely different direction to do some long exposure night shots of the type contained in today’s post. I will consider tonight a great success if I do not have to talk to anyone.

It’s been a while since I was able to just “take pictures.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last year, I made the mistake of going with a group to this thing. The herd dynamic found us wandering about in broad and aimless circles punctuated by sudden panicked urgency, as one person after the other suddenly announced that they needed to urinate. No one seemed to be able to coordinate their lavatorial schedules with the rest of the group, so it was fairly rare to get a ten minute interval of shooting in before we had to run off in the direction of a porta potty.

I’m like a camel in this regard, and when out “in the field,” carefully monitor the amount of liquids one consumes so as to not necessitate biological crises. Others in my group last year were convinced that they were visiting a Kuwaiti desert and required constant hydration, which resulted in excessive urination, as Greenwood is in… y’know… Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My photographic plan for tonight revolves around long exposures and my unpatented “night into day” techniques. “Night into Day,” as I call it, involves exposures in the half minute to minute range accompanied by the usage of extremely narrow apertures, a tripod, and shutter release – for the curious. All the shots in today’s post were accomplished using this sort of procedure, for example the shot above was invisible to the human eye and was just a vast expanse of darkness, and my hope is that tonight I can capture a few memorable shots at Greenwood.

I’ll show you what I got next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm

gray cottage

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The night time is the right time, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedantic banality of my daily existence is occasionally punctuated by a series of rather dull events, and last weekend this included a trip to Greenwood Cemetery for Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil” party. It actually wasn’t that dull, as everybody else actually seemed to be having a good time, but the blackened callouses coating my psyche preclude one such as myself from feeling anything other numb.

I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite my best efforts at erecting emotional and behavioral barricades around myself, I do have a few friends and they were along for the excursion, and unfortunately my attempts at maintaining a social life got in the way of actuating the camera mechanisms with the anticipated and normal frequency.

Despite this, I did manage to crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Into the Veil” is an Atlas Obscura signature event, and brings hundreds of people to Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery (est. 1838) for what can best described as a decadent party. There are bands, and bars, and performances. Above, a group of fire dancers performing at the Crescent Lake found on the northwest side of the polyandrion. It’s a 30 second exposure, and the streaks of fire seem to forming an occult sigil.

It’s all so depressing, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the far north western side of the cemetery is a rather large MTA facility which is both a train yard and a bus depot. The MTA uses harsh sodium based “stadium lights” to illuminate their property which throws an orange glow about for hundreds of yards in every direction, and it penetrates deeply into the fuligin shadows of Greenwood Cemetery where the night gaunts dance about in remembrance of the olden times.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2016 at 11:30 am

breathing marble

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Greenwood Cemetery, at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Atlas Obscura produced the “Into the Veil” event which was hosted at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. Your humble narrator wormed his way onto the guest list, packed up the whole camera kit in preparation for some night shooting, and headed on over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ethereal tones were pulsing out of several of the Mausolea, as Atlas Obscura had set up several performance spots. One particular tomb, the Morgan, had a familiar set of sounds pulsing out of it. When I hear musical saws playing, I know that I’ve found my pal and Astoria neighbor Natalia Paruz – the Saw Lady – at work. The shot above is a long exposure, which rendered Natalia in a ghostly blur of musical motion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my goals at the event was to “turn night into day.” I won’t bore you with all the technical details and camera settings, but suffice to say that the shots above and below are well beyond the range of human vision and that I was literally shooting blind. It was night time dark, with an overcast sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tripods are a must for this sort of thing, as are remote releases for the shutter (have to minimize camera shake, after all). The funny thing is that people were wandering around in the dark, literally moving through the frame as the shot was being captured, but because of the length of time that the exposure required – they are rendered invisible unless they stood still as a statue for 20-30 seconds. Random hotspots and reflections on the monuments, as seen in the shots above, emanate from distant flash lights carried by the crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In situ, all I could see clearly were the monuments in the foreground, and even they were cloaked heavily in shadow. As mentioned, my goal was to “turn night into day” with these photos. The sky and tree line were barely visible to my eye when I set the exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Physically speaking, these kind of shots are fairly arduous to capture, due to “the carry” of the amount of gear required. My normal “walk around” kit weighs about 6-8 pounds (depending on what I’m doing that day), but the full on night rig weighs closer to 20 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but Greenwood is a fairly “physical” environment with lots of steep hills. A light sheen of perspiration, combined with the cool night air, creates another set of circumstances to deal with – ensuring that the moisture on your skin doesn’t migrate to the glass and metal surfaces of the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being old, I didn’t stay till the bitter end, but was pretty satisfied with what I captured. Hand held, as is the first shot in this post, one last photo of the gates of Greenwood was captured as I left. Both of the bookend shots are “truer” to the eye, and representative of human perception. Personally, I really dig the “night into day” stuff. How about you, Lords and Ladies?

Note: Saturday will see Halloween occur here in Astoria. A humble narrators plan entails assuming my regular station at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – at the Doyle’s Corner pub. I will be photographing all costumed comers who agree to pose, masked passerby, and of course – the alcoholic antics of the Burrachos.

My plan is to get there around 2 and stay until the early evening, so if you’re in the neighborhood and costumed, stop on by and get yourself photographed. Unless the weather is ungodly, I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table right by the door. If the shot turns out nice, you might just find yourself published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

intoning endless

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A dream to some, a nightmare to others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered at an Atlas Obscura event in Green Wood Cemetery last weekend, which was a soirée of sorts. Cocktails in the Catacombs is how it was described, and an eager band of explorers responded. Your humble narrator wormed his way into the event, but did not partake or partay, I was too busy working. “How often do you get to photograph a cemetery in total darkness?”, after all. You’ll notice a crude bit of lighting in the shots above and below, which was barely visible during the image capture. A battery operated LED flashlight, if you must know.

It was late evening when I was shooting, the event started at ten and I left the cemetery for Astoria about one in the morning. These photos are long exposure, and tripod shots. To the human eye, there was naught but darkness framed against a brooding sky. Leaving the shutter open for 20-30 seconds at a pop, one can gather a range of color and tone which would otherwise be imperceptible. The small LED flashlight becomes a flood light in such circumstance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing was that although you know that you’re “safe as houses,” the fact remains that you are standing in near total darkness in a cemetery and the slightest sound – a tree branch falling, for instance- is enough to trigger an irrational flight or fight response. Fear is so much fun, isn’t it?

The imagined stuff, I mean, not the sort that accompanies bad news from doctors or accountants, or lawyers, or the kind of existential angst that arises when you encounter drunk cops or pistol wielding teenagers.

Personally, my days are usually filled with horror of one stripe or another – although more often than not it’s of the “kafkaesque” type – and the wild hallucinations experienced during those daily intervals of fevered unconsciousness – that some may call “sleep” – consume a third of my life and they both terrify and inform.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recently recurring hallucination of the nocturne has been a scenario in which your humble narrator is sitting at his desk and working, with Zuzu the dog lying at my feet. There’s a white flash, and suddenly everything is darkness and pain. Limbs are pinned by some unknowable weight, and there is a smell of copper as something begins dripping onto my face, and a certainty that one is completely helpless is realized. There is also pain, unknowable pain. Unable to wipe this unknown drip away from my eyes, immobilized in total darkness, a bit of light becomes visible and seems to be some distance away but it illuminates my situation. Surrounded by bloody concrete and rebar, the light grows brighter and begins to assume a hue as it intensifies. Orange yellow and growing brighter, the light illuminates clouds of dust which are picking up on an air current beginning to sweep through mounds of broken masonry and shattered bricks, as the ambient temperature begins to rise. The smell of cooking meat greets. My eyes begin to blister, and all vision perishes in fire just as the…

That’s when I wake up. At least this has replaced an older nightmare – one where I fall into an industrial carpet loom and am torn apart by clock works and bobbins of spinning yarn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s also a series of “consigned to suffer” and “torn apart by sharks” ones, and a fantastic internal narrative that involves a rapid onset of Leprosy that completely disincorporates a humble narrator in the interval which it takes the R train to reach Manhattan’s 59th and Lex from the Steinway Street stop in Queens has emerged recently. When the Subway doors open in the city, my mortal remains gush out onto the tracks unnoticed. The last thing witnessed before waking, in this fantastic example of Freudian angst about Ebola, is a herd of rats licking up the crimson juice which once called itself a humble narrator.

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Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm

night gaunts

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The Suydam tomb, at Greenwood Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Monday, Atlas Obscura produced an event at Greenwood Cemetery wherein your humble narrator would join with authors Clay Chapman and Bess Lovejoy in reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” for a group of pale enthusiasts. The excursion was nocturnal, and offered cocktail selections from the East Village’s forthcoming Lovecraft Bar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the charms of the evening, as organized by Atlas’s Megan Roberts and Allison C. Meier, was the opportunity to visit the interior of two mausolea at the ancient burying ground of Brooklyn.

One of them was the Stephen Whitney monument, which was discussed last year in the posting ” fastened ajar ” which described another nighted exploration of the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the thousands of cool things about Greenwood, the sets of keys which govern admission to the mausolea. More often than not, these keys are hand carved, early 19th century affairs. The sort of keys you’d see on a heavy metal album cover from the 1980’s, essentially. When they turn the bars inside the locking mechanisms of the heavy gates and slab doors, there’s an audible “klunk” sound as the lock disengages.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is happy to report that within the tomb itself, the marble slabs were indeed crusted with a powdery Nitre, and the smell of mold and decay were omnipresent but quite tolerable. Of course, the ghastly contents contained in these walls include little more than mouldering bones after their long occupancy here, but there is a distinct perfume found in old tombs – something which is sensed rather than smelled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Suydams are one of the ancient Knickerbocker families, landed gentry whose founders helped build a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam into something. The tomb’s official dedication is to Lambert Suydam, who died on April Fools day in 1833 in his 89th year, but there are many other members of the clan here, including his wife Sarah. It is very odd to stand in a structure like this, which is just shy of 150-175 years old, and more than one person along for the excursion commented on the bizarre acoustic excesses experienced within.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, a humble narrator is given to letting his mind wander, and the ideation of what might be carried by the static volume of air within the tomb began to prey upon me. Miasmic liquors would be found just beyond these marble slabs, pooling amongst those buckles and buttons and bits of bone which had survived the corruptions of the grave and persisted in perspicuous dissolution just in eyes away.

This is the kingdom of the conqueror worm, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My fellow narrators and I all used artificial illumination when reading our sections of the text of “The Horror at Red Hook,” and the crew of curious tapophiles which participated in the evening all carried lanterns (that’s Clay Chapman in the shot above, at the Pierpont monument). I opted to read off my iPad so that my face would be underlit and I’d look extra creepy. It was all quite an atmospheric evening, and I hope we might be able to arrange another at some future date.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 28, 2014 at 11:53 am

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