The Newtown Pentacle

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puzzled till

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Northern Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually amazing how many times I’ve walked the exact same route, in the last two months, given that I’m still finding interesting things to point the camera at. Last weekend was warm and the weather generally beautiful here in Astoria and Western Queens. Restaurants and bars reopened for “to go” service, but large groups of quarantineros were everywhere you looked. If we don’t end up with large sections of the neighborhood in the hospital or dead by the first week of June, it’s entirely possible that the worst part of the first wave is behind us.

Saying that, don’t be a maskhole, and cover up. The less of us who wear a mask, the longer all of us will end up having to. I don’t want to be wearing a mask during August, when it’s hot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “hum” began ticking up again last weekend. That’s what I call the constant background level of noise here in Western Queens generated by automotive and mass transit action. Starting in mid March and then through April, I could hear my footsteps echoing back at me due to the quiet.

Traffic volume has definitely increased, as has sidewalk activity. Word has it that the encounter with the wackadoodle I mentioned on Monday is now a commonplace experience, and has a likely connection with the NYC Dept. of Homeless Services using the many hotels around Queens Plaza as shelters. It seems that the Homeless Veterans of the Borden Avenue shelter down in LIC are now living in the Howard Johnson’s on 12th street, and the hotels in the Dutch Kills neighborhood just north of Queens Plaza are filling up with similar guests.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve managed to reschedule a Doctor’s appointment for next week to which I was obligated towards the end of June, as the very last thing that a humble narrator wants to do is hop onto the subway. It’s funny, I actually miss it.

Just last night, I was wandering up 21st street in LIC, and the sidewalk grates that overfly the underground 7 line Hunters Point Avenue stop were to my left. The train entered the station, and then played its “beep bop, watch for the closing doors” recording. I couldn’t help but smile. It sounded normal.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 18th. 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.


“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

May 22, 2020 at 12:00 pm

head shakings

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Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned several times during the CoronAstoria period, one is trying to maintain an every other day schedule for constitutional photo walks. I leave HQ late, and well after dark when the rest of you are already snug in your bunkers. Let’s call the nights out “even” days, and the odd ones are when I’m in my personal bunker. Finding a way to whittle away the endless hours has been an occupation for me, one which I’ve been using to sharpen up some of my skills in the controlled environment of home base.

To wit, the shot above depicting a bodega directly across the street from HQ here in Astoria, is a composite of about 9 different images. All were shot “wide open” at f 1.8, using one of my “good lenses,” and “focus stacked.” What makes it different from other iterations of what must be a very familiar scene to long time readers, is that this time around I changed the exposure values of the individual images to try and get a rounder capture of the very bright and very dark aspects of the scene. It’s not an “HDR” shot, however. I did execute an HDR version of it for comparison, if you’re curious as to the difference. I prefer the one embedded above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the ways I’m spending my time involves voracious consumption of technique videos on YouTube’s various photography channels. Most of what you find on there is either aimed at beginners or novice photographers, but there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff to watch wherein you can pick up some tricks to up your game.

I’ve become a fan of British Landscape Photographer Thomas Heaton, for instance. Heaton is pals with a Pacific Northwest Landscape Photographer by the name of Nick Page, who also offers videos that are a bit more technical and also offers insights into digital darkroom methodology. I look forward to both arriving in my inbox. If you’re just starting out, or at an intermediate skill level behind the camera, Brenda Petrella’s Outdoor Photography School is a fantastic place to learn some new skills, and Brenda is pretty great behind the lens as well. Subscribe to any of their channels and YouTube’s algorithm will start recommending videos of similar ilk to you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’m hurting a little bit right now for fresh images due to the nasty weather we’ve recently experienced. All that rain upended my odd and even schedule. If everything went to plan, I was out last night wandering around some industrial zone and will be developing the shots gathered as you are reading this post.

Exciting, isn’t it?

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 11th. 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.


“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

May 13, 2020 at 11:00 am

time subsided

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Well, still here…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week’s schedule of rain put a real crimp in a humble narrator’s wanderings, and the end of the week warmup here in Astoria was accompanied by an explosion of people getting out and about, which was followed by a ludicrous amount of NYPD activity… so advantage was not taken of Saturday evening as I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Apparently, two morons over by the nearby Woodside NYCHA campus decided to settle scores and shoot each other on Saturday night, which were Chief amongst the logical decisions made by the community at large. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be in a hospital right now?

NYPD was seemingly busier last Saturday than they’ve been in a couple of months, and one observed the neighborhood manifesting its particular annoyances as if there wasn’t a plague. Observed: Curbside liaisons for amorous adolescents, sidewalk somnambulism for the liquor enthusiasts, the revving of engines and gunning of the gas pedal for the fast and furious crowd, lots of casual littering. For some reason, people are now drinking in their parked cars, and discarding the liquor and wine bottles along the curbs. One particularly annoying lady has been sitting in her running car in front of HQ, drinking and smoking while on the phone (said phone is plugged into her car sound system, of course) for 11-12 hour long conversations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given all of the time spent here at HQ, one has been using the “controlled environment” to sharpen up some of his skills. The shut down has affected the amount of atmospheric and light pollution here in the ancient village of Astoria significantly, and given my night owl life style I’ve been marveling at the number of visible stars in our skies. Clicking on the image above will take you to Flickr and the larger sized iterations of it, wherein you’ll see something approaching constellations, visible from Astoria Queens and less than 5 miles from Manhattan.

Astrophotography is its own “thing” and not something I’ve ever really had the patience, opportunity, or inclination to experiment with. The plague cleared skies and all of this time on my hands has allowed for all three cautions to be abandoned. Of course, saying all that, it seemed to rain or was overcast 6 out of 7 nights last week. This isn’t “proper” Astro, of course, just a stab at exploring the technique.

It really feels like we’re settled into the trough of “the event” right now, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been happily surprised by the creation and sudden appearance of a new hole in the fences around the Sunnyside Yards, something which has occurred in recent weeks. Whomever is in charge of fence holes at Amtrak had recently sealed up three of my old “go to’s” and a humble narrator has been feeling bereft. One is always in search of a good hole, especially one large enough to allow access to a camera lens.

Holes. Now, more than ever. Also, it’s May 4th, so may the Force be with you.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 4th. 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.


“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.

visual identity

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CoronAstoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before the nightly helicopters begin circling the ancient village, just after sunset in fact, one staggered forth from HQ with the intention of taking a LONG walk. Said walk ended up being five and change hours long and covered around 12 miles of western Queens. What was cool about my night was that the only people I saw were blocks distant from me, or driving vehicles. Funnily enough, upon arriving at my inevitable destination amongst the concrete devastations of Newtown Creek, where one can find themself truly alone, I can finally relax a bit and let my guard down.

While marching around in areas zoned for residential occupancy, one walks quickly, hoping to leave the humans behind as quickly as possible for fear of contagion. Lurking in fear, indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One wears the mask in spots like these, even though there was no one on the street. The sidewalks are narrow, and it was garbage day. Cooties.

Once a certain geographic juncture has been surpassed, the mask goes in my pocket and for a time I can breathe easily again. The industrial neighborhoods are absolutely and completely deserted, save for an occasional warehouse storing foodstuffs, or near the yards of commercial shipping operations like FedEx and UPS. Knowing where these locations are, one avoids them. Getting out of Astoria and across Sunnyside along certain less travelled paths are fairly key.

South, I head south. I bob, and I weave.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, one is desirous of open sight lines. I might just have to go for a ride on the NYC Ferry at some point, riding on the open top deck of course. As also mentioned, you couldn’t pay me to get on a subway right now, so after landing at Manhattan’s Pier 11, I’d have to either take another ferry, or walk back to Astoria along the East River from Wall Street.

I really want to feel some sunlight hitting my skinvelope, though, so maybe.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, April 27th. 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.


“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 29, 2020 at 11:00 am

nocturnal prowler

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Rippity dippity doo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always been a fan of Skillman Avenue for one reason or another, and one of the “dad jokes” which I inflict on people walking with me along it, when we reach 39th street, is that “it’s all downhill from here.” Skillman follows a ridge which overlooks the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards. Between 39th street and it’s terminus at Hunters Point Avenue in Long Island City, Skillman Avenue runs through what’s largely an industrial zone but there’s a couple of exceptions along the way – notably LaGuardia Community College down at the bottom of the hill.

The views are pretty epic for a scuttling photographer, and especially so during this interminable quarantine. One tends to walk down and record it often.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sandwiched between Northern Blvd. and Skillman Avenue are the Sunnyside Yards. Pictured are a bunch of Amtrak trains just seething in the middle of the massive coach yard, whose main function is actually what you’re looking at. Providing storage for trains between periods of peak demand in Manhattan and beyond is what the Pennsylvania Railroad built the facility to do a century ago. On the Skillman or southern side of the Sunnyside Yard, you’ll find tracks used by the Long Island Railroad for commuter service, which travel through the busiest rail junction in North America – the Harold Interlocking. 39th street used to be called Harold Avenue, incidentally, which is where the name for the junction comes from. This shot isn’t from Harold, rather it’s from Honeywell Street – or at least the truss bridge over the tracks that’s so called.

Seriously, I know where almost every hole in the fencing of Sunnyside Yards is at this point. I’ve had Government people ask me how I managed to get inside the rail yard for some of the shots you’ve seen here over the years. They don’t believe me about the fence holes, and I won’t tell them where they are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Northern Blvd. side of the yards, and again at Harold or 39th street, is pictured above. Northern Blvd., or as I call it during normal times, the “Carridor.”

To make things even more complicated as far as street names here in Queens, 39th street transmogrifies into Steinway Street once you cross Northern. Why is this?

Because modern day Northern Blvd. was once a municipal border between the Village of Astoria and Middleburg/Sunnyside once. Robert Moses always did his best work in the areas that were neither “here nor there” found along legal borders between municipal entities. When he widened Jackson Avenue and turned it into Northern Blvd. during the early 20th century, these were “the sticks.” Population centers, as they stood back then, were far away on both sides of the 183 square acre Sunnyside Yards – which itself was opened in 1910.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, April 6th. 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.


“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 16, 2020 at 11:00 am

venomous inundation

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I call Northern Blvd. “the Carridor.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’ve mentioned a few times that I distinguish between a “long walk” and a “short walk.” A long walk would be, say… from Astoria to East Williamsburg and back via Ridgewood and Maspeth – about 10-12 miles. A medium walk would involve heading from Astoria to the East River and Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary and back via Sunnyside – about 6-7 miles. A short walk involves a fairly rapid gait, and takes advantage of the hypotenuse like relationship that Northern Blvd. has with the street grid of Astoria – about 4-5 miles. Indefinite numeration for the amount of distance involves serendipity, noticing something that catches my eye, or just the sudden realization that “I never walked down that street before, wonder what’s there.”

Pictured above, and encountered whilst on a short walk is a type of truck called a Car Carrier. There are several large used and new car lot operations along Northern Blvd., and the car carriers which bring stock to these businesses are a regular sight. The semi tractor section of the equipment is manufactured by a company called Western Star. The trailer is a fairly intricate machine, with lots of hydraulic ramp plates that reconfigure for the loading and off loading of smaller vehicles – it’s a car carrier, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Creepy late winter trees that haven’t started to bud leaves yet? The Standard Motor Products building somewhat softened and obfuscated by mist, and the streets are also wet? If it’s dark out, when you see all these things you’ll probably notice a weird old man in a filthy black raincoat furiously dialing settings into his camera. These are all things a creature like me loves, yearns for, and seeks out.

I’ve captured a shot very similar to this one in the past, but that was under normal circumstance when the Carridor was performing its design function as a local connector between the Queensboro Bridge to west and the nearby Brooklyn Queens Expressway to the east. No cars? Wow, this is Northern Blvd. at about 10:30 p.m. on a Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The interval during which these three images were captured was defined by a lapse in precipitation, which had been constant all day and was scheduled to resume by about midnight. One began scuttling back towards HQ, where a cup of hot tea would be quaffed as a reward for the evening’s effort. This particular short walk also involved a few “getting things done” stops – bank atm, buying a piece of fruit or two from one of the few remaining open shops, that sort of thing.

On the plus side of all this, I’ve actually been eating a fairly healthy menu. One of the things we can all do to bolster the immune system right now is to eat the sort of food we should always be eating but normally don’t for the sake of convenience or just gluttony. I’ve had one slice of pizza in the last three weeks, for instance, and one hamburger. Everything else has been fresh vegetables, rice, lean meats and fish, and barely any cheese. I’ve eaten an entire field’s worth of Broccoli in the last few weeks, I’ll tell ya.

Back Monday with more reports from CoronAstoria.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the end of the week of Monday, March 30th. 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.


“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 10, 2020 at 11:00 am

hung indefinitely

with 2 comments

Great galloping Jehoshaphat, it’s Monday again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was required to attend a Community Board function recently, which utterly angered me since the evening was particularly photogenic and atmospherically offered a thick blanket of fog. This whole “participating in the Democracy of our Republic” thing gets old sometimes, man. It also eats up a lot of time.

Thing is, I can’t “not show up” since life has taught me that any set of rules which everyone else gets to break are always rigidity enforced when it comes to me – people love making an example out of me. It’s been like this since I was a little kid, and experience has taught me that whereas the rest of you get to be as nasty, corrupt, and venal as you want to be, I don’t. Saying that, realizing what sort of photo opportunity I was going to miss, I left HQ a bit early so I could fit in some “me” time. That’s mighty Triborough, of course, as seen from the edge of Astoria Park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cadre of liquor enthusiasts who populate the corner of Broadway and 42nd street here in Astoria like to rummage through people’s trash in search of cash convertible treasures. Often, they’ll find cast off children’s toys like the plushie ones pictured above. More often, they arrange these toys in interesting ways after discovering that neither the thrift store nor random passerby want to purchase the things. There’s a script for Pixar in all this, I tell you.

I’m really into this whole democracy thing, and would only support a dictatorship if the penultimate citizen was me. Who wouldn’t want to be a dictator? It ends badly, but if you play your cards right it’s likely you’ll get ten to twenty years at the top of the heap. If that’s how my story ends up playing out, there will be no abandoned toys, by edict. It’s just too sad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on my list, in that dystopian future where people will fearfully chant my name, are the assholes pictured above. They are part of the neighborhood crew who have modified the exhaust systems on their vehicles – in this case motorcycles – to emit as much sound as possible. This is a subject I recently discussed with a member of the gendarmes, in a side conversation at the aforementioned Community Board meeting. It seems that this noisy vehicle fad is yet another one of the things which the current Mayor has made legal – as in abandoning the prohibition against the kits which modify the exhaust systems on both automobiles and motorcycle to make as much noise as possible. NYPD is aware of the problem, and is seeking jurist approval for an interpretation of using a different statute to squash out the racket offered by these fast and furious assholes, apparently.

Everyone is an asshole to me at the moment, as I’m a sick of it all humble narrator. Happy Monday.


“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

February 24, 2020 at 1:00 pm

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