The Newtown Pentacle

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forward slumping

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing which a humble narrator is currently obsessing about, while you’re reading this, involves finding a job in the Pittsburgh area. There’s entire sections of my work life that are simple to describe – there’s a “Madison Avenue” advertising resume I can present, and I used to write and draw comic books as well as package other people’s stuff for publication so there’s that too. My photographer resume ain’t terribly shabby, nor is my tour guide one, and I can write stuff too. The question I’m struggling with is how to combine all of what I can do under a single job title, and does that position even exist in Pittsburgh? How on earth do I describe Newtown Creek Alliance and the constellation of federal and state agencies I help deal with all the time?

According to Jerry Seinfeld, most Americans would rather die than speak in public. Me? Easiest thing in the world, if you have something worth saying.

Existential crises are best experienced in September, I believe. Sweatshirt weather.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like pondering things while I’m shooting photos, always have.

That’s the tug Joker that I pointed out in last Friday’s post, in an aerial shot captured at the One World Trade Center Observation Deck. Joker was docked at the concrete company which operates along the Williamsburg waterfront at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The barge full of sand makes a lot of sense, thereby.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was also an agglutination of maritime cranes and all sorts of heavy equipment on display at the Navy Yard as the NYC Ferry’s Astoria line boat which I was riding on made one of its appointed stops at the venerable campus. It was a pretty nice day, if memory serves – August 19th. Fairly hot, but not horrific.

I’ve announced to anybody who will listen that I have no intention whatsoever of getting close to anything remotely non-profit or governmental in Pittsburgh, but that probably means that… crap.

Really, I just want a normal gig where I do mildly interesting photoshop stuff for some company all day, and then go home. Collect a salary 9-5, live for the weekends. An American sort of life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What we have here in NYC is not an American form of life. NYC is an archipelago nation state that’s found off the coast of America, not an American City. Life here is quick and often fun, but it’s also mean and short. In America, there’s no “finding an open bodega” at 3 a.m. Transit, as we know it in NYC, does not exist beyond a daytime schedule and is extremely limited in scope. Adapting my frenetic “get it done” energy to the local frequencies on the other side of my move is going to one a real challenge.

Luckily, I feel like I’m a thousand years old and a medium strong wind will shatter me into sand particles. I could end up like Manhattan’s East River Park, pictured above. Annihilated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other night, somebody said to me that “of course, you’re going to be coming back regularly to do Newtown Creek tours.” That part of my life is over, I’m afraid. I’m planning on doing one last burst of them in October and November, but no.

I have to remember to include being a NYC Parade Marshal for the centennials of Queensboro, Manhattan, Hunters Point Avenue, and Madison Avenue bridges on my resume. Oh yeah, the Community Board thing too, as well as the non profit stuff too.

Dear Nelly, who am I? What am I? Why am I?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I mentioned, existential wonderings are on the menu right now.

The NYC Ferry dropped me off in Astoria, nearby Hallets Cove. My foot was hurting, so I limped over to a nearby bus stop and rode the thing back to HQ. Planes, trains, automobiles – that’s me.


“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

September 20, 2022 at 11:00 am

stealthy whirring

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

June 19th saw Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself riding around on NYC Ferries for the afternoon and evening. I often espouse the virtues of this service, given its thrifty nature and the fact that you’re traveling around the City with a somewhat clean toilet nearby.

We were all over the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We boarded the Astoria Line, which carried us southwards down the East River towards Manhattan’s Pier 11 Wall Street stop. Along the way, I spotted the Roosevelt Island Tram coming in for a landing from the East Side of Manhattan.

Have to ride that thing again, soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Astoria line makes a stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which always offers you something interesting to point a camera at.

Next stop is Pier 11, where we transferred onto the South Brooklyn line and headed over to Red Hook. Our Lady wanted one of those Key Lime Pie thingamabobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a bit of schedule disruption at the South Brooklyn Line’s Atlantic Basin/Red Hook stop and we got hung up there for about an hour. That sucked, but what are you gonna do?

Finally, the boat which would take us to Manhattan arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the financial district, there’s an imposture set up for tourists called “Stone Street” which goes out of its way to look “old timey,” but other than some barely utilized historic building stock – it’s the financial district. There’s a pub called “Ulysses” there which has pretty decent burgers and the beer is only $8 a pint. By the financial district’s standard, that’s as cheap as it gets.

We had a drink and a meal, and decided that we would splurge on a nice air conditioned cab ride back to Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m paying for a ride, I like to at least get something out of it that I can keep, so my habit is to rig the camera up for high speed and low light shooting. Got this one just after we got onto the FDR Drive.

Tomorrow – something completely different.


“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

July 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

neurotic virtuosi

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 9th, after spending a day riding on the NYC Ferry back and forth across the harbor, one set up his tripod in Lower Manhattan at sunset in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Bridge. On both sides of the river, you’ll notice photographers agglutinating along the fences about an hour before the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself descends.

I had a funny encounter with some kid who doesn’t understand the way things work – etiquette wise – in photo circles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my “get there early and stay late” thing revolves around claiming a vantage spot which I’ve chosen. In the unspoken etiquette of the picture taking community, that means that if I got there before you – you have to find another spot. This kid, who was in his late teens or early twenties, says to me “excuse me, are you doing a time lapse” and then indicates that his goal is to shoot such a sequence of images. I say “no” and he asks me to move so that he can. Now… I am pretty amenable to helping a guy out, but since he was being a dick…

I say to him “just to get this straight, you’re telling me you want me to get out of your way because you couldn’t be bothered to be here earlier.” The kid says “yes.” I say to him “Tell you what, I’m going to be a nice guy and move two steps over, but you do realize how special an asshole you are, and that you should seek medical advice about this malignant narcissism you display, right?” Being a child of his generation, he said “yes,” not understanding what I was saying to him. He didn’t care, he got what he wanted.

I stepped two side steps to the right so that he could have his time lapse position, and just stared directly at him with my heat vision eyes until his soul curdled and he sulked away. He didn’t shoot a time lapse during this interval, instead he waved his little Sony A3 with a kit lens on it at the river like the camera was a little flag. Guarantee he was set to “auto” or “program” mode, as not once did he adjust his settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Take my word on this one… for the sorts of shots you commonly see here at Newtown Pentacle, the difference of a few yards right or left in terms of the “POV” is seldom an issue. It’s the Manhattan Bridge you’re looking at there, and said mega infrastructure offers one several POV locations. The notion that this kid had to be standing exactly in the spot I occupied was simply annoying, and its positional unimportance as compared to another spot two steps away is staggering.

There’s a few “narrow” POV spots which I wouldn’t abandon once I’d already set up the tripod… but here? At the edge of South Street Seaport? This isn’t even the best view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, I just didn’t want to head any further uptown from Pier 11, and end up having to take the subway instead of the ferry home to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the NYC Ferry, I boarded the Astoria bound boat shortly after the sunset ebbed away into dusk. My lenses were swapped – day kit stored away and night kit deployed – and I kept on shooting.

The nice thing about shooting digital is that you can just keep on going, experimenting, shooting until either the battery is spent or you’ve run out of storage space on the camera’s memory cards. I’ve got two spare batteries in my bag, and an empty set of backup memory cards with me at all times. Last summer, I managed to shoot for four straight dawn to dusk days without having to install the backup cards, and seldom if ever needed to do a battery change in the field.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Logistical issues abound, however, when returning from a day long photo expedition like this. Night shots, captured from a moving boat and depicting highly detailed scenery like the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge above, have a fairly high failure rate. By failure, I mean they’re not optimally sharp or the focus landed on the subject in an unanticipated fashion. Thereby, I’ll crack out nine or ten exposures of the same basic shot and choose one to keep. The rest get trashed.

Again, the benefit of shooting digital. I came home this particular night (after riding the ferry all day between Astoria, Manhattan, Rockaway, and back to Astoria) with something like a thousand shots on my memory cards. My habit is to do the first pass on a set of images the same day I shoot them, and before I went to bed the group had been reduced down to about 250. By the next evening, I had edited out all but 130. Something like 100 ended up getting uploaded to Flickr.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you click through to see the original of the photo above at Flickr, you’ll be able to see the structure of the steel of the Queensboro Bridge in the shot, which was captured at f2 at ISO 128,000 from a moving ferry boat at night. Because of the f2/High ISO you can’t quite see the rivets and this image is also heavily cropped in on. Still, you do what you can with where you are when you can.

“Are you shooting a time lapse”…


“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

June 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

ivied antique

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one set the camera up along the Brooklyn waterfront on a warm evening in late March and got busy with the clicking and the whirring.

Special attention was paid to the Brooklyn Bridge, and to the weird lighting which descended on the East River at dusk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It had been overcast and rain was threatening all day, but once the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself disappeared, the sky was dark but colored with electric blues. This only lasted a few minutes, but wow.

I had been out of sync with the ferry schedule all day, perpetually arriving at a dock just as a ferry was pulling away from it. Given that it was growing late, I intended on being on time for the boat that would be visiting this particular stop nearby Fulton Landing before heading north on the river towards Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While waiting for the boat to arrive, I converted the operation away from its “landscape/tripod” configuration over to the “handheld/low light” one. I’ve described this in the past, it’s mainly swapping out certain lenses for other ones and safely tying off the tripod onto my knapsack.

The boat arrived, I flashed the ticket on my phone to the deckhand, and soon I was snugly ensconced on the NYC Ferry heading north.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t ridden the ferry at night… well, I don’t care, you should get out more and watch less television.

The real world is so much more interesting than fiction, if you ask me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last stop before Long Island City’s “LIC Landing” stop is 34th street in Manhattan, where you get to see the shot above.

What is it with all the people who move into the newly constructed condos along the East River who don’t seem to have drapes, curtains, or Venetian blinds? Conspicuously consume much, you oligarchic fucks?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of no drapes, I wonder if they don’t have carpets either (drum shot, please). As you might be able to discern right now, I’m just dripping with sarcasm and hatred at the moment. Something about edging towards a Civil War in a country that’s as armed to the teeth as we are just sets me off.

More tomorrow.


“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.

slight blurring

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator didn’t have anything scheduled for the 23rd of February, and since one of my favorite things to do solo revolves around riding the NYC Ferry to some distant point, that’s what I did.

I boarded the Astoria line boat, headed over to Manhattan’s 34th street ferry dock hub, and transferred onto the Soundview line. Soundview heads over to the East River coastline of the Bronx, and the service had recently opened a new stop there – Ferry Point Park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a stop at Manhattan’s East 90th street, NYC Ferry navigates through the Hells Gate section which adjoins Astoria Park. You get some pretty great views along the way. Saying that, they really open up the engines when heading north, so hold on to something. One hand for you, one for the boat.

The “normal” service on the East River is pretty smooth, and conducted at relatively low speeds. On the Rockaway, St. George, and Soundview routes, however, the boat is moving very fast and that means it’s bouncing around and smashing into waves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tug and fuel barge combo was navigating south west as we left 90th street. Believe it or not, there are “lanes” in the water which ship captains have to follow. Navigational depth, underwater obstructions and hazards, wake sensitive shorelines and construction areas, even environmental factors go into the designation of these “lanes” by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Coast Guard. Also, boat people call these lanes “channels,” ok?

When leaving HQ, I had geared up fully and was carrying my entire traveling kit with me. since I wasn’t going to be trekking miles and miles on foot, I figured “why not”?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fuel barge was empty. You can tell that by how high it’s sitting in the water, and there’s a line of corrosion midway up on its outer hull that gives an idea of where it sits relative to the waterline when full.

That fuel barge carries the equivalent cargo of 38 heavy trucks, incidentally. We are about 10-20 years from seeing self driving barges, ones that are electrical motor driven, navigating the nation’s waterways. In NY Harbor, you’ll nevertheless likely see a tug accompanying the things for a decade or two after the new technology appears and gets deployed into the wild. That will have more to do with safety and homeland security than operational concern.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving up through Hells Gate, you first pass under Mighty Triborough’s East River Suspension Bridge. Triborough is a complex of bridges and highway on and off ramps, and one of the most complicated bits of engineering ever accomplished.

The East River span connects the Grand Central Parkway and Astoria/LIC’s local traffic to the bridge complex centered at Randall’s/Ward’s Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up is the Hell Gate Bridge, which carries railroad traffic off of Long Island and into the Bronx. From the Bronx, rail heads north and then west onto the continent from the archipelago of New York City. If you want to see what it looks like from up there, check out this post from last fall describing an Amtrak trip to Vermont’s Burlington.

More tomorrow.


The Newtown Creekathon returns!

On April 10th, the all day death march around Newtown Creek awakens from its pandemic slumber.

DOOM! DOOM! Fully narrated by Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance, this one starts in LIC at the East River, heads through Blissville, the happy place of Industrial Maspeth, dips a toe in Ridgewood and then plunges desperately into Brooklyn. East Williamsburgh and then Greenpoint are visited and a desperate trek to the East River in Brooklyn commences. DOOM! Click here for more information and to reserve a spot – but seriously – what’s wrong with you that you’re actually considering doing this? DOOM!


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!


The Newtown Creekathon returns!

On April 10th, the all day death march around Newtown Creek awakens from its pandemic slumber.

DOOM! DOOM! Fully narrated by Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance, this one starts in LIC at the East River, heads through Blissville, the happy place of Industrial Maspeth, dips a toe in Ridgewood and then plunges desperately into Brooklyn. East Williamsburgh and then Greenpoint are visited and a desperate trek to the East River in Brooklyn commences. DOOM! Click here for more information and to reserve a spot – but seriously – what’s wrong with you that you’re actually considering doing this? DOOM!


“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 6, 2022 at 11:00 am

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