The Newtown Pentacle

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I haven’t seen daylight for a while now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself hanging in the sky seems to no longer be a prerequisite for a humble narrator to get busy, huh? Darkness has always been my preference, as a note, which is why one greedily clutched at opportunities to work night shifts in the salt mines of the advertising industry over the years.

I’m not a morning person. I am a mourning person, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, my infinitely winding pathway towards dissolution and an unhappy ending found one wandering along the coastline of the shining city of Manhattan with camera in hand recently. It was quite a chilly night, and the filthy black raincoat was fastened tightly against atmospheric entropy. I’ve always been a believer that he’ll isn’t hot, instead it’s freezing cold, and that there are probably cynical efforts underway to build “affordable housing” underway all across the landscape of the Fimbulvetr.

According to Crains, Gehenna is the next up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn, and there are serious real estate opportunities for the early investor. Follow the artists, they say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge as seen from Corlears Hook, looking towards the realized dreams of avarice over in Brooklyn. I could not help but muse, as the camera did its work, how visiting this spot during the 1980’s at night would have been an akin to visiting a war zone and a serious risk to life and limb. The cops would have just been shaking their heads while staring at your shattered form, wondering why somebody would have been stupid enough to think they wouldn’t get jumped coming here at night with a camera. Alphabet City, that’s what it was called, the extreme east side of the City between Delancey and 14th streets.

As we used to say: Avenue A? Ay, you’ll be ok. B? Better be careful. C? Can’t go there. Avenue D? The “D” is for dead.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

dusty shelves

with 5 comments

East River in the dark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was invited to a holiday party in Lower Manhattan the other night, and a humble narrator fairly abhors holiday parties, but the reason I went was to “show my face” and then excuse myself so I could do some shooting. The party was lovely, filled with friends old and new whom I enjoy both working and personal relationships with. Thing is, and I have to remind myself of this periodically, I don’t belong amongst people. Every minute that I’m not out and about shooting is a waste of my time, essentially, but since there is a part of me that could still be considered human you need to “feed the beast” occasionally. Allowing what’s left of my soul a bit of convivial solace and warmth periodically is as necessary as eating meals or pooping, essentially, but when you really get down to it none of that personal stuff matters. Everybody dies, moves away, or just writes you off in the end and all that really matters is the work. Everybody secretly (or not so secretly) hates me anyway, and it’s always a relief for them to see me walking away into the dark.

Accordingly, one bundled up his filthy black overcoat and set off into the nighted streets of the Shining City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The House of Moses is what I call the East River shoreline of lower Manhattan, which in recent years has seen a spartan park appear beneath Robert Moses’ grandiose FDR Drive. My singular superpower is the ability to see through time, which makes the POV in any shots captured along this byway depressing. Once upon, and long ago, this was one of the busiest maritime centers upon the planet, the destination of hundreds of thousand of ships. Today it’s a relic, a waterfront curiosity for lookie loos, and a window into the short term thinking of an era defined by terminologies like “stagflation.”

Pictured above is one of the remaining sandy beaches along the East River, and the only one I know about in this part of Manhattan. I called a couple of people I know who would be able to tell me exactly how many sandy beaches there are on the East River, as a note, but in both cases my call went directly to voicemail. That happens a lot to me these days, which sort of confirms the dire portent and bleak future thing currently embraced by one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Manhattan Bridge on the left, and the Brooklyn Bridge on the right in the shot above. For some incomprehensible reason, the FDR Drive framing the shot has recently been painted purple. I’m not quite sure about the choice of coloration, as in why they chose purple, but it’s probably a De Blasio thing (does purple equate to equity, or fairness, or just some other high handed and sanctimonious bullshit?). At least they didn’t use LED lights to saturate the atmosphere with garishly colored lighting.

As a note, it was freaking freezing out when I was shooting these, but the dissolute cold felt welcoming and mirrored that psychological and emotional vacuum which a humble narrator calls life.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

venous dissections

with one comment

Beginning, middle, end.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I always like to remind people that there’s a bridge on both sides of Flatbush Avenue. You’ve got Leo Moiseff’s showstopper on the north side spanning the East River – the Manhattan Bridge – but everybody always forgets about the one on the south side – the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. Given that the latter was a particular “feature” in the old neighborhood, as it allowed us Brooklyn hooligans access to Queensican Riis Park and the Rockaways, since it spends its time spanning Jamaica Bay.

I tell everybody I’m from Canarsie, because that’s a place most people have heard of in southeast Brooklyn. Technically speaking that’s true, I went to high school on the western fringe of Canarsie, but where my parents put down roots was actually an “angle” between neighborhoods called Futurama. Yes, Futurama.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Flatbush is the Brooklyn neighborhood everybody has heard – or hoid – of. Pictured above is the graveyard of the Dutch Reformed Church, which HP Lovecraft vandalized, at Church and Flatbush Avenues. In the background is Erasmus High School. To the south and east of this spot in Flatbush is Flatlands. If you made a left or eastbound turn on Flatlands Avenue, you’d have Crown Heights to the north (or left) until you got to Ralph Avenue. At Ralph, looking to the south (or right) you’d find the neighborhoods of Futurama, Georgetown, Old Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and Mill Basin. Once you cross Ralph Avenue and continue eastwards on Flatlands Avenue, you’re in Canarsie until you get to Pennsylvania Avenue near Starret City and then you’re in East New York.

Futurama was a housing development built in the late 1950’s on landfill surrounding Paerdegat Basin and Jamaica Bay, as are the neighborhoods of Georgetown and (new) Mill Basin. The particular spot which my parents chose to settle was equally distant from the terminal stop of the L line at Rockaway Parkway and the terminal stops of the 5 and 2 Lines at Brooklyn College. It was a good two to two and a half mile walk in either direction for the subway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The southern end of Brooklyn, and of Flatbush Avenue, is at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. It’s a vertical lift span installed over the water at the behest of Robert Moses back in July of 1937. When it opened, it was the largest specimen of this sort of bridge on the planet. Just over the bridge on the Queens side is Breezey Point and Riis Park.

As mentioned, there’s two bridges on Flatbush Avenue.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2018 at 11:00 am

tag removed

with one comment

Don’t go to Manhattan unless you have to, that’s what I say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one used his free time to visit a few spots in Lower Manhattan which offer a certain resonance to the historically minded traveler. A quick ferry trip from Greenpoint found me in the financial district, whereupon a looping path carried the camera through first Chatham Square and then over to Paradise Square – aka the former Five Points. It wasn’t a formal “lookee look” as I’ve done and written about that in the past, instead I just wanted to refresh the muscle memory of where a number of Jakob Riis’s photos were captured, and take a walk through one of the few sections of Manhattan that are still interesting.

Also, I was craving Chinese Roast Pork Buns (Bao) and I know a great bakery in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge near Eldridge Street. My old “go to” on Walker Street has changed management and no longer regularly produces the savory variant of Bao, and instead they focus on the manufacture of sickly sweet ones filled with custard – blech.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a pretty neat roughly two hour route around Lower Manhattan which I feel like I can hang my hat on, starting at the Pier 11 ferry stop at Wall Street. You walk north past Peck Slip and the Brooklyn Bridge, hanging a left a couple of blocks south of the Manhattan Bridge. That carries you through a set of new law tenements to the east side of Chinatown, where you can pick up Canal and make a left on Bowery towards modern day Confucius Plaza (Chatham Square) and then up Mott to the actual Five Points. From there, head west to Broadway and then South through Printers Square where all the courthouses are, then head to the Battery where you’ll find Castle Clinton and Pier A and then loop back again to the Ferry at Pier 11.

It’s a nice walk, lotsa history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been supernally busy for the last couple of weeks, which is not a complaint, and when a rare opportunity for some “me” time came up – I grabbed it by both horns. One has quite a few irons in the fire at the moment, planning events and tours for the summer months, and there’s also been a sudden deluge of meetings to attend regarding that fabulous cataract of urban malfeasance known as the Newtown Creek. It was nice to have an afternoon off which I could fill with some meandering.

NYC History notes for today include the anniversary of the 1936 opening of the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, which was actually yesterday, and today is the anniversary of the creation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1921.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more!


Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

rational position

with one comment

I really need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the fun involved with buying a new lens is testing it out. Doesn’t matter how good or bad the device is, there’s “sweet spots” and contradictory failings which the itinerant wanderer needs to be familiar with if the thing is part of the daily carry. The B&H folks have a fairly generous return and exchange policy, and in my experience, the window in which you can hand them back the lens is a crucial interval for the investment. Accordingly, one has been shooting everything, and everywhere.

I can tell you this, the sigma 50-100 is one hell of a portrait lens, but I’ve had unequal results in certain circumstances. My effort at the moment is to discover where and when those failings occur, rendering them predictable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the places this lens absolutely sings is in the dark. The shot above is “wide open” and was captured while I was waiting for the train at 59th street recently. I’ve been saying it for a while, but the subway system is an absolutely fantastic photography workshop. Worst case scenario lighting, with a reflective subject moving at speed through darkness.

I don’t often “open the hood” on the process I use to produce shots for Newtown Pentacle, but since a bunch of you asked after yesterday’s post…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above were captured at f2.2, with the lens dialed out to 94mm at ISO 5000. I’ve got a few other “bright lenses” but the sigma 50-100 really does a beautiful job drinking in the lurid shimmerings of pale light, and it literally outshines the other specimens in my “dark” kit. You can discern the lens’s aperture blades in the hot spots surrounding the R train’s headlights, incidentally.

Shots like these subway images are dependent, in my experience on shooting posture. There are US Army sniper rifle manuals out there which discuss shooting postures, and the body posture process which riflemen use to steady and focus their fire on targets is quite appropriate for the capture of light through a lens, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a different commute, the shot above was captured at Queens Plaza, and also depicts an R line train entering the station. There’s a bright, almost cartoony quality to the way that sigma’s “art” series lenses renders primary colors which required some adjusting on the saturation slider when I was working on the shot in Photoshop’s “camera raw” window.

For those not in the know, RAW format is essentially an uncompressed digital negative which allows a great deal of fine tuning to the captured shot as the file contains ALL of the information which the sensor saw, whereas JPEG is an image which is compressed and all the decisions have been made for you by the camera. Those decisions include color temperature, depth of shadows/highlights and so on. Every RAW shot can therefore receive a bit of a tweak, and I always shoot in that format.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I engage in when testing a lens is trying to push it to fail. Architectural detail does not work well with a wide open lens, due to the shallow depth of field. Even an infinity focus will produce unacceptable “bokeh” in this context, or at least it’s unacceptable to my eye. I want to see every rivet.

Saying that, the two shots of the Manhattan Bridge in today’s post were shot at f2.2 on a sunny afternoon.

I think I’m going to keep this lens. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

be ready

with 2 comments

Green Acres, that’s the place for me?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I grew up in a place called Brooklyn. I lived there nearly half my life, followed by a decade in Manhattan, and the most recent portion has been in Queens. Occasionally, I’ve visited… Staten Island… and the Bronx. The only time I’ve ever spent outside the City were a) day trips to various Aunts and Uncles who lived in New Jersey, Maryland, or Long Island when I was a kid, b) business trips around the Eastern Seaboard back when I was drawing comics, c) or on vacations with Our Lady of the Pentacle. When the news of the day reaches me, my first question always revolves around “how does this affect me?” This selfish interpretation of events makes me an archetypal New Yorker.

All told, I’ve probably spent all but an aggregate of maybe 3-4 months of my entire existence (nearly five decades now) outside of the Megalopolis. I always say that if I moved away, it would be ceding victory to the City that it had finally beaten the tar out of me.

I guess that makes me a “City Boy.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’ve considered it a privilege to live my life at the very navel – the omphalos, if you will – of the American Civilization, but when I mention the fact that my experience in life is fairly well limited to the Megalopolis – a lot of people I mention this to get a sad or pitiful look in their eyes. My environmentalist buddies, in particular, will offer to take me camping or something with them so I can experience the wonders of untamed nature.

Blecchhh.

I went camping once, just once. I ended up sleeping in the car as it had doors which locked, it was dry, and there were cushioned seats. A day trip to the woods sounds like fun, but with a sunburn and mosquito bites, and the “Brooklyn” wiseass in me offers that I have an apartment with a bed in it. Like I said – City Boy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve often reminded people that the ocean is a giant stomach desperate to digest you, that woodlands are full of ticks and bears and other critters which are specifically designed to overpower and consume you, that there’s a reason our ancestors paved over everything, and that the entire history of mankind – up until the 1970’s – was about not just taming nature but utterly subjugating it. Look at the shot above for confirmation of this fact, which is the epitome of what was once called “Progress.”

Now, I’m not saying that my antipathy towards clouds of biting insects and giant Pleistocene era predators is normal, nor necessarily desirable, nor something you should make a part of yourself. If you enjoy this sort of activity – Mazel Tov. I like hanging out in Astoria and nursing a pint at my local. What I’m trying to get to is this:

The littoral environment hereabouts is somehow recovering from the centuries long hammer blows of open sewage, ocean dumping of garbage, and industrial effluent which it was been hit with. The continued existence of our own species is directly tied to this recovery, IMHO, which is why this City Boy has found himself constantly talking about environmental issues. If we can’t control and promote environmental health in the built environment of NYC, where a switch or lever can be thrown to control nearly everything you can think of – where else can you figure out how to fix the future?

NYC has always led the Nation, it’s the bow of the American ship. We need to find out, together, how to be a mega city for plants and animals and humans and commerce and be the global example on the subject of clean water in an urban environment. The City boy has spoken.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 25, 2016 at 12:00 pm

nervous motion

with 2 comments

Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours and events –

October 7th, 2015
Our Polluted History:
A Non-Toxic & Fascinating Forum on Greenpoint’s Environmental Past panel discussion

with GWAPP, click here for details

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

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