The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Photowalk’ Category

general noisomeness

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Getting low in Manhattan, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent social engagement drew me out from amongst the rolling hills of raven tressed Astoria, caused one to cross the cataract of the East River using that subterranean electrified railway that is operated by the MTA, and to walk through the cylcopean canyons and crowded pavement of the Shining City of Manhattan.

New York, New York it’s a hell.

One realizes that the official phraseology includes “…of a town” but to me, modern Manhattan is just hell. It’s always been somewhat hellish of course, but in the last twenty years or so it’s become so god damned pedantic and boring… people walk around these days like they’re safe or something…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Compulsively “on time,” one found himself on the island quite a bit earlier than was required for the assignation, but a desire to execute some photography – no matter how god damned boring and visually uninspiring the former “fun city” has become in modernity – was paramount. Funnily enough, when I typed in “fun city” just now, the spell check on my device changed it to “fund city” which indicates that my device has begun to develop a certain sense of artificial intelligence and concurrent sense of sarcasm regarding the existential realities of modern NYC – and a particularly wry one at that.

The M Line carried me from Astoria to 53rd and Third, a location memorialized by a certain Ramones song, so I keyed a playlist of the band’s better works up on my phone, and fired up “the boys.” I started my walk, with its destination in the Tenderloin district, where my eventual social assignation would play out after I had navigated through the tourist choked maze of midtown.

I should mention that since having become involved with the whole Newtown Creek thing, and the realization that most of the environmental issues in the outer boroughs are entirely due to Manhattan’s waste products, going to “The City” just pisses me off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Subsumed by a certain amount of contemptuous horror and ennui, my pathway carried me first up to Lexington, then Park, Madison, and 5th avenues. I had decided before exiting the subway that “today was going to be a wide angle day” and set about trying to find some way to capture an interesting shot of the banal internationalist style office blocks and chain store frontages encountered along the way. Remember when there were interesting shops and other street level businesses down here? Book stores, thrift shops, deli’s? When the street level shops were something else than high volume buffets targeted at office workers, or ATM locations?

I was constantly annoyed by crowds of slow moving people who formed “skirmish lines” across the sidewalks, walking shoulder to shoulder. Walking as much as I do, my natural pace seems to be “double time” compared to most.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading west, as I prefer to zig zag through the canyons, and encountered naught but more of the sort of office towers that you’ll likely not stop and appreciate for their architectural detail nor esthetic charm. Glass boxes, essentially.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have no doubt – Queensicans – that this is the future which the “powers that be” have in store for us. Long Island City is going to look quite similar to this within the next decade. The wide open vistas and low lying industrial landscape of our little communities have been traded away in the name of “progress” and there is virtually zero investment for the infrastructure which will be needed to support the increased population loading being planned or budgeted away.

As far as our “Dope from Park Slope,” do you suppose he’s playing his fiddle at Gracie Mansion as the fires of gentrification sear away the past and create an unsustainable future?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friends who live in Manhattan, long indifferent to the general dissatisfaction and sentiment that I and others in Western Queens and North Brooklyn feel towards the Real Estate Industrial Complex, are beginning to “get it.” They’re seeing it happen to Manhattan now, with the midtown rezonings and the construction of the massive Hudson Yards complex and the fact that there are sidewalk cafes on the Bowery and that the East Village now looks like a Midwestern shopping mall.

I would remind you all that the epitome of a NYC real estate developer is the current Republican nominee for President, and that if you want to understand the REBNY outlook on “the great unwashed” and the disconnect between their world and ours – Donald J. Trump is your exemplar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What does all of my complaining and chiding accomplish, however? What non obvious point is a humble narrator trying to make that’s not apparent to anyone with eyes? This is NYC, and it’s always been this way here. We live in an oligarchy, and the government is populated with self serving patricians like the “Dope from Park Slope” who pretend to be the “consul of the plebs” while advancing the agenda of those who are his true masters.

I would remind, and advise, that the way things used to work in NYC was that the real estate guys didn’t get “tax breaks” and so on to build, and that in a real estate market as hot and overvalued as the one we exist in – REBNY members should be held to a rule that they have to invest in our commonly held and already strained municipal infrastructure if they want our government to “buy in” and support their dreams of avarice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If I was able to snap my fingers and make wishes come true, I’d bring actual progressive democrats like Al Smith and LaGuardia back to life so that they could wipe the floors with our current crop of Electeds who are self described “progressives.”

The Little Flower would, I have no doubt, take issue with the idea of converting playgrounds in Public Housing projects over to building sites for luxury towers. Of course, reviving the Happy Warrior and Little Flower into our world of the living might have the unintended consequence of bringing Robert Moses back to life as well, and that’s the revenant who would shake the pillars of Municipal heaven itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of my little sojourn, and approaching the appointed time for that aforementioned social engagement which brought me to this despoiled and overbuilt island of Manhattan, my journey across the low ended with getting high. This shot is from a roof in the Tenderloin section along Broadway in the 20’s.

This neighborhood along Broadway in the 20’s used to be a nest of high end hotels and theaters back in the 19th century. 28th street was known as “Tin Pan Alley” back then, and it’s where Gershwin and others had their offices. Before Times Square was the theater district, it was Broadway in the 20’s.  It’s known as the “Tenderloin” due to the number of whore houses and speakeasy locations that used to be here, and the easy graft which the local precinct commander received to look the other way.

The fellow who is attributed as having christened it as the “Tenderloin,” as it was the best and most tender cut of meat a cop could expect to receive during his careers, was a legendary Tammany favorite – Inspector Alexander “Clubber” Williams. 

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with
Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 4, 2016 at 11:30 am

so special

with 3 comments

A busy week arrives.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been somewhat less than fully engaged with my normal round for the last couple of weeks, simply in the name of enjoying the last couple of weeks of August. Uncharacteristic of me, periodic downtime is nevertheless a “necessary.” One believes that all true wisdom can be gleaned from 1970’s “prog rock” lyrics and as the band “Yes” proferred in their anthem “Roundabout” – don’t surround your self with yourself, move on back to square.

Ruts can be depressing, as are the daily demands of the world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week, I’ve got a fairly major Newtown Creek event going on (not a public event, unfortunately) which has been increasingly all consuming, that will play out on Wednesday evening. Suffice to say, it takes place on a boat, and that one has been tremulously watching the quite changeable weather reports that have accompanied the path of Hurricane Hermine up the eastern seaboard.

As soon as the event has passed, which will be after Wednesday evening, I’ve got a few new offerings for the general public as far as walking tours and so on that I’ll tell y’all about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The aquatic excursion will be a Newtown Creek event, onboard and co hosted by the Fireboat John J. Harvey, which I’ve been describing to invitees as a “Community Conversation about Newtown Creek with the Newtown Creek Community.” The event will bring together community representatives, business leaders, environmentalists, and government employees with the goal of discussing the future. I’m proud too say that one of the goals of the trip – to engage neighborhood people and organizations from the eastern section of the Creek (Maspeth, East Williamsburg, Bushwick) seems to have been accomplished. The event has been underwritten – in the name of full disclosure – by Connective Strategies and the Newtown Creek Group, who represent the “potentially responsible parties” named in the Superfund declaration.

Cross your fingers, as this should be a rather productive conversation. We are nearing the interval in which the post superfund future of Newtown Creek will be decided upon, and it’s one of my goals to ensure that everybody’s voice and concerns be addressed. As I’ve told multiple people – there’s a path which I think is the right one, but it’s not up to me to tell Maspeth what it needs. That’s what City Hall does, and unlike the Mayor I happen to believe in Democracy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As an aside, the probable serial killer whom I’ve christened the “Queens Cobbler” seems to have returned to the area, and resumed their nefarious work – as evidenced by a sudden dearth of “single shoe” occurrences.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

wrenching sound

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Coney Island Aquarium, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NY Aquarium is based in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

It is the very definition of the “House of Moses” as it was NYC’s master builder Robert Moses who actually created the modern institution. Moses had ousted the Aquarium from its former home on the Battery in Manhattan, at Castle Clinton, when he was pushing to build his Brooklyn Battery Bridge (one of his few defeats, but he got to take over the tunnel project instead) back in 1941. In early June of 1957, Moses unveiled the NY Aquarium here in South Eastern Brooklyn, right next door to the landmarked “Cyclone” roller coaster which predated it by around thirty years and which is pictured above.

As an aside, the Aquarium is the former location of the semi legendary “Dreamland” Amusement park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Currently operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons, the Aquarium was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is frankly a shadow of its former self. The good news is that there’s a significant amount of construction going on at the site, which should restore the place to its former glory, but there’s not all that much to see hereabouts at the moment. Regardless, due to my NYCID card granted free membership to all the WCS managed properties, I had free admission, so in I went.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bathysphere located outside the Aquarium has to have had every Brooklyn school kid of the last sixty years climb on it.

It’s an artifact of the 1930’s, this pressure capsule, and was used by a zoologist name Beebe and an engineer named Barton (who designed, built, and maintained the thing) to “deep dive” and observe critters in the depths of the sea. It set records for depth back in 1934, as a point of interest, and the bathysphere is said to have descended some 3,028 feet down into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after entering, you encounter a dark chamber filled with tanks of various sorts of itchyan critters. It’s pretty darkly lit in there, and as the room is packed with little kids losing their minds at the sights, you need to be pretty careful where you step to avoid squishing any of the kids as they bounce off the walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m pretty sure that’s a ray. This critter was in the largest of the tanks. One is curious about the “behind the scenes” stuff maintaining these tanks – the filters, aeration, and circulation systems alone must represent a volume of water 2/3 larger than what you see in the tank. There were pretty big populations of fish swimming around in these displays, so there has to be some pretty interesting plumbing connected to it, IMHO.

It’s a pretty challenging environment to shoot inside the Aquarium, incidentally, as the tank walls seem to be composed of some sort of thick plastic which created a lot of visual artifacts and light refraction. It’s also, as mentioned, fairly dark in there, and the light levels are set for the comfort of the inhabitants of the tanks rather than for their observers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “bright lens” which is capable of large apertures such as f1.8 was deployed, and I used one hand as both a light baffle and pad for the lens as I brought it nearly up to the tank. The light baffle part was to control reflection from light sources behind the camera, the “pad” was to avoid directly touching the glass. I had autofocus on, and was “spraying and praying” the shots. Worked out fairly well, with a roughly 40% success rate, as far as image fidelity goes.

That’s some sort of weird tentacle monster above, might be related to certain star spawned deities who are both the key and the gate, and in whom all are one. Y’know, the thousand faced goat from the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In another of the tanks there were what looked like schools of Cichlids, in sort of simulated lake environment. That’s what they looked like to me at least, but as mentioned, I’m no ichthyologist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some truly enormous river fish were observed in another tank. I’ve seen smaller specimens of this critter on sale at tropical fish stores in the past, and they’re all jaw.

One of my college jobs, incidentally, was working as an Aquarium Service technician. I’d show up in rich guy’s manhattan offices who had contracted with my boss, and I’d do all the fish tank maintenance chores for them (deep filtering, water change, chemical tests for ph and ammonia levels, assess fish health, mechanics of tank, etc.) I did a couple of Chinese restaurants in midtown as well, which were huge all day jobs on 500 gallon custom salt water tanks. Back in college, I was also a fine art mover, a clerk at a fotomat, a dishwasher – pretty much anything I could do for money I did. Once I took a job shoveling poop.

Told you that visiting this part of Brooklyn made me nostalgic.

Outside of the interior section of the Aquarium, there was a lonely looking and somewhat shy harbor seal, an otter, and a pack of penguins. The Walrus had the day off, according to the signage. Frankly they weren’t too active and nothing interesting happened when I pointed a camera at them, so…

Sharks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A temporary tank is housing the Aquarium’s collection of various shark specie.

Were Sharks capable of any thought beyond “kill” or “hunt” I might feel sorry for them, but they’re not, so I don’t. Apparently a new Shark enclosure is under construction which should make them as happy as Sharks are capable of being when they’re not killing.

Affordable housing for Sharks, this?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thought going through my head while struggling to get a few decent shots of these predators was the movie character “Dr. Evil” asking his henchmen to outfit his sharks with “fricking Lasers.” Like tigers, we must maintain the Shark specie in case Aliens ever invade the Earth. The Tigers will be ridden by Russian Special Forces Soldiers, of course, and will shot at the arriving fleet of starships in the warheads of missiles to greet the arriving conquerors with the unique brand of hospitality that Russians offer to invaders. I also like to think that it will be Maori Warriors from New Zealand who will ride laser and space suit equipped sharks into battle with the extraterrestrial armies. I should mention that while I was shooting the Sharks, I was listening to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” so…

Personally speaking, a welcome will be offered to our new overlords, as the only mount I have to ride into battle on would be an increasingly lazy dog named Zuzu.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember my little explanation of how to guard against backlit reflections in photo situations like these?

This is what happens when you don’t do that, but I thought it made for a neat effect. Almost looks like a double exposure, but it’s just the reflection on the curved glass as the killers slipped by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having accomplished a minor goal, one’s spirits were high and an exit through the Aquarium’s Coney Island Boardwalk portal was engaged. All told, I was at the facility for about an hour.

It was fun, and a I look forward to returning when the WCS has built the new enclosures and fully recovered from Sandy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to decide what to do with myself, as I’d just spent equal amounts of time at the Aquarium and on the train ride to Coney Island from Astoria, a definite course of action was decided upon.

Before you ask, those box thingies on the stilts in the shot above house the Beach’s “comfort stations” and provide the Parks Dept. folks with offices. They run taxpayers about $2 million each, and these are two of the 35 of them being installed on city beaches. They’re built by the Deluxe Building Systems Corp., have galvanized steel frames to withstand the salty atmosphere and weather events, and are brand spanking new.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned eastwards, as a silly idea suddenly occurred to me, and the desire for luncheon began to rumble.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

upon twilight

with 3 comments

uggggh, anywhere but here…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the infinite wisdom, and macabre sense of humor, which the employees of the City of New York are known for – a recent pass by an inspector from the Department of Buildings here in Astoria resulted in several square blocks of building owners being cited to replace their sidewalks. It is an election year, of course, but this edict has resulted in a non stop cacophony of masonry saws and jack hammers pounding the pavement for the last several months.

Even the sidewalks in front of HQ, which I will point out were in fine fettle, needed to be replaced.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scalar waves of noise, which my little dog Zuzu has found most off putting, have been bouncing around between the brick walls of the ancient village. Clouds of concrete dust, a small army of day laborers stretching out the jobs, and a general disruption of the day to day has created a decided edge to things hereabouts.

I’m willing to go anywhere that’s even marginally quiet at the moment. Industrial Maspeth is actually more pleasant from a sonic POV than the old 11103 at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Noise is the one pollution vector which we all seem to just accept here in NYC. Car alarms and elevated subways are one thing, but the fact that some random inspector can just decide to order three square blocks of building owners to replace their sidewalks – at no small expense, incidentally – seems crazy to me. It’s also goofy that DEP noise cops keep showing up in the hood to write tickets for excess noise due to the demolition of the old pavement, which was ordered by DOB.

The funny part about the endeavor is that the City owned sidewalk sections found on the corners have received no such work orders, and you see brand new walks abutting the craphole Municpal section. The sewer catch basins and curb cuts are found there, as well as the traffic lights. This section of pavement is at least 30-40 years old, cracked, filthy, pockmarked. The curbs are broken, and let’s just say that the City does not feel the same need to ensure that the crosswalks in Queens are ADA compliant that they do in Manhattan.

Upcoming Events and Tours

TONIGHT! Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2016 at 11:00 am

conducive circumstance

with 2 comments

Macro shots, berries, and my life’s savings – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday of this week, a series of table shots were offered, depicting various food stuffs and comestibles which were photographed under a “macro” table shot setup. This sort of setup is kind of technical, involves all sorts of measurements and secondary equipment like lights and flashes. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice to say it allows a somewhat magnified version of reality to be captured. It should be mentioned that my macro setup is by no means a professional one, rather it’s cobbled together from various bits of kit I already own. A proper macro lens is a wonderful bit of optical engineering, and expensive.

On my kitchen counter, there’s a bag of garlic which has been there since the first week of January, and some of the cloves have sprouted – as you’ll notice in the shot above. Garlic is native to Central Asia, is officially known as Allium sativum, and is a species of the onion genus – Allium. It’s one of mankind’s oldest cultivars, and is evidenced as far back as 7,000 years in the historic record. Most of the world’s garlic is produced in China, which is probably why you don’t hear many vampire stories with a Han twist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A taproot, the Carrot is another ancient vegetable, especially so for the one pictured above which withered away in the back of my refrigerator. The word “Carrot” suddenly manifested in the English language around 1530, orignating from the Middle French “carotte,” which comes from the Late Latin carōta, which borrowed the word from the Greek καρωτόν or “karōton.” Daucas Carota is the scientific name for the wild Carrot, and there are many, many variants of it found throughout Iran. Wild Carrot variants were grown in Europe as early as 2,000 BCE, but most modern folks wouldn’t recognize those purple colored vegetables as carrots. The modern yellow and orange cultivar “Daucas Carota Sativum” comes from Afghanistan, and found its way into Europe via the Moors back in the 8th century CE.

Suffice to say, the specimen above found its way into the compost bucket shortly after the shot above was captured.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All citrus trees belong to a single genus – Citrus – and are almost entirely interfertile, with farmers reproducing them via grafting. A single superspecies – grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges, and various other types and hybrids are all one “thing.” The fruit of a citrus tree is a hesperidium, which is modified berry and is covered by a rind which is actually a rugged and thickened ovary wall. According to various sources – the word “orange” comes from the Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). The Sanskrit word reached European languages through Persian نارنگ (nārang) and its Arabic derivative نارنج (nāranj). The first recorded use of the word Orange in English was in 1512.

The Navel Orange, as pictured above, is a mutant variant which emerged in Brazil sometime between 1810 and 1820. The navel part is actually a conjoined twin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lemons are thought to have originated in either Northern India, Burma, or Southern China. The plant made its way to Europe and the Romans in the 1st century CE, but it was the Arabs who embraced them in cuisine and widely planted them. Columbus brought lemon seeds along with him to the Americas back in 1493, but it wasn’t until 1747 that Lemons began to be widely planted and cultivated by Europeans – due to a Scot Doctor named James Lind – who discovered that lemon juice could help sailors in the British Royal Navy avoid coming down with Scurvy.

The word “lemon” is thought to be of Arabic origin – “laymūn or līmūn” – which came to the European tongues via the Old French “limon,” and then the Italian “limone.” An older Persian term for it is “līmūn,” which is a generic term for citrus fruit, and there’s also the Sanskrit root word “nimbū.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Limes are actually prehistoric cultivars, and were widely grown by the Persians and Baylonians. There are multiple fruits (actually berries) called “limes,” but not all of them are actually Citrus. The Royal Navy switched over from Lemons to Limes around the time of the American Civil War, which was a HUGE military secret in the middle of the 19th century, given that the latter contained more Scurvy fighting vitamin C than the former. Also, they go better with Gin.

This is where the term “Limey,” as used to refer to a British person, began.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Botanists will tell you that the Banana is also a berry, just like the various iterations of the Citrus family.

Wild Bananas are chock full of seeds. Seedless bananas are all cultivated from two wild variants known as Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Native to Austrailia and the Indo-Malayan archipelagos of the southern Pacific, Banana is believed to have first been actively cultivated in New Guinea, of all places, in impossibly ancient times – 5,000 – 8,000 BCE. The word “Banana” is believed to West African in derivation, and transmitted to European tongues via Spanish and Portuguese trade ships.

There’s ultimately two families of banana you’re likely to encounter in the Americas – the sort you eat raw which are called Cavendish, and the kind you cook – which are commonly referred to as Plantains – and are called Saba. In Asia and Africa, you’ve got a pretty big group of variants for this sort of big yellow berry. The Portuguese brought the banana to the Americas in the 16th century.

The banana trade, incidentally, is one of the most evil endeavors which British and American Capitalism has ever engaged in. Subjugation and enslavement of native peoples, importation of African and Asian slaves to work the plantations; interference with, corruption of, and the overthrow of foreign governments – were and are a part of doing business right up to today. NAFTA only made things worse, and there’s a reason for the negative connotations of the term “Banana Republic.” The same people who won’t buy a “conflict diamond” or eat a veal chop will happily cut up a banana for their bowl of Cheerios. I know I will, and politics be damned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are few things which are fun to say out loud as the phrase “Deadly Nightshade,” and the Tomato or Solanum lycopersicum is a member of the family. It’s regarded as a fruit, but in reality it’s another berry. The Conquistadors counted the Tomato as one of their many captured treasures after the conquest of the Mexica or Aztec Capital City of Tenochtitlan in 1521. The English word tomato hails from the Spanish word “tomate” which was lifted from the Nahuatl (the mesoamerican language) word tomatl. The Spaniards carried the plant around their empire, distributing it globally. It ended up all over the Mediterranean, and again it was the Arabs who first embraced the crop. Europeans were always uneasy about the deadly nightshade thing.

The Medici’s were growing tomatoes in 1548, over in Florence, Italy. For the fancy types, tomatoes were ornamental props and not for consumption as they grew too low to the ground. For the peasants – then as now, you eat what you can afford to eat. Mangiare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just about everything you’ve seen in Monday’s, and today’s, posts were basically harvested from the food stuffs which Our Lady of the Pentacle and I normally keep on hand here at HQ. There were a few other options, incidentally – potatoes come to mind, but I was particularly keen on the sliced fruit (or berries) stuff, given their complex internal structures.

As mentioned earlier these shots were produced using a complicated setup on my countertop – a stage if you will, which was also harvested from stuff I had laying around. The transluscent stand was a plastic container with a slot cut into it for the strobe, and there’s also a flashlight or two gaff taped to table top tripods and a basic photographic “umbrella” light involved as well. The camera is wearing a flashgun as well, set to its lowest setting for some fill light, but its main job was to actuate the slave strobe that’s stuck under the subject to provide back light. So, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, a shot of my life savings.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

thinking thus

with 4 comments

Something a little different, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, committed in the dark of night, has seen a humble narrator hunched over the kitchen counter with an array of tripods, flashes, and lights. This week’s “project” has involved me using an older camera, which has a fairly decent macro lens function, to get up close and personal with a variety of foodstuffs. The joke I’ve shared with Our Lady of the Pentacle is that I’m trying to produce a series of images you might encounter framed on the wall of a juice bar.

It’s all terribly complicated – this sort of thing – and requires a bit of prep. The red onion pictured above had a pretty powerful flash gun firing at full power under a transluscent “stage” in a darkened room, with my goal being the visualization of the internal structure of the vegetable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I actually like Broccoli, if it’s prepared and cooked correctly, but I realize that this sub genus of the cabbage family is not to everyone’s taste. Raw Broccoli is nasty, but it photographs nicely from a few centimeters away. This one didn’t involve any fancy technique, just a bit of lighting. The hard part about photographing something like this is that fresh Broccoli is purple and green at the same time, and subtly iridescent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A navel orange, cut into a quarter inch thick slice, deployed on the aforementioned transluscent stage with the flash gun beneath it and the lens placed about a centimeter from the focal plane. Again, the internal structure of the thing was what I was going for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunting around in the refrigerator, I grabbed a jar of Smuckers Strawberry Jam and carefully threaded the lens into the neck of the jar, after placing it on the aforementioned setup. The blast of light traveling upwards towards the camera rendered the jam transparent, and you can see all the little shards of fruit in the syrupy goo. The light refracted into the glass of the jar, rendering out a trippy series of visual artifacts which pleased my eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to the Broccoli, this time with an orangish rim light applied. The orange light is something I’ve mentioned in the past, part of my “ghetto lighting” rig. A pill bottle gaff taped to a strong flashlight, it provides a soft warm fill light which contrasts nicely with the purples and greens, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another slice of that Navel Orange on the stage and “under flash” setup, this one was cut a bit thicker and transected several of the fruit’s internal sections. I also hit this one with a secondary “on camera flash,” set to its lowest power setting, in pursuance of getting just a bit of the surface texture in addition to the internal structure of the multitudinous juice sacks.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Photowalk, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

anytime, anywhere

with 7 comments

A few shots from last week’s blizzard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given a humble narrator’s legendary vulnerability to cold, as you might have guessed, I spent most of the blizzard last Saturday firmly ensconced in the steam heated walls of Newtown Pentacle HQ in Astoria. I did venture outside during the afternoon to visit the bodega across the street for breakfast cereals, I like a bowl of Cheerios with a banana cut into it, and to vouchsafe a bar of chocolate for Our Lady of the Pentacle.

When venturing into the cold waste, I discovered that at least one Chinese restaurant was open, and offering delivery services. Early bird gets the worm and all that, but… Jaysis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were those who had decided to try and motor about, this was before the Mayor banned automotive traffic, but they were soundly rebuffed by road conditions. It was actually kind of difficult just to crack out a couple of exposures due to wind blown snow, which tended to “spot” the lens, let alone cross the street.

Luckily, most of the neighbors didn’t attempt to drive, and the streets were eerily quiet hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing you saw much of were Municipal vehicles like the ambulance pictured above. One neat thing was that everyone in the neighborhood was given the opportunity to recognize the undercover vehicles which the 114th pct utilizes after the Mayor’s ban on travel was enacted.

After 2:30 p.m., anything you saw on Broadway was basically “blue” or “red.” Or Green, Orange, and a White in the case of the sanitation guys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having purchased my Cheerios and Chocolate, I began to scuttle back towards home, and one of the hundreds of plow trucks operated by DSNY rolled by. The annual Astoria problem has begun again, incidentally. As happened last year, and the year before – recycling pickup was cancelled due to Martin Luther King day. Recycling in my neighborhood is Sunday night’s problem, so it is up to us to store the stuff in anticipation of the following weekend. Now, we’ve got a blizzard’s worth of snow, so recycling pickup is again postponed till next week.

Last year, a series of similar cold weather events and legal holidays pushed the storage of the entire month of January’s recycling trash until well past President’s day in February.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in HQ, and with no intentions of leaving the place, one nevertheless used the fortuitous positioning of the building relative to the prevailing wind in pursuance of a few shots in the evening. As you’ll recall, this is when the storm really got rolling. I set up a tripod and all my night shooting gear, but in the end elected to use low light techniques for the shots.

The long exposure methodology effectively eliminated the falling snow from the shots, and since I wanted to have a “truer” record of the event – I went for high ISO and a faster shutter speed to capture the drifting snowflakes. As is always the case, getting the color temperature of the light was critical, and for the new LED street lights that’s 4300 Kelvin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got to hand it to the neighbors, they were fighting this storm while it was at full force and attempting to keep their cars from being completely buried in the drifts. The different technologies of street lighting which were discussed a couple of weeks ago – the old school orange yellow sodium lights versus the new school led blue colored lights can be discerned in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new school LED’s actually performed quite well during the storm, I would add.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildup of a shelf of snow on my window sill while shooting inspired me to shove a couple of flashlights into it and get a macro shot of the translucent accumulation. These lights are part of what I call my “ghetto lighting” rig. Ghetto as in I have zero funds for real lighting and therefore have been forced to jury rig a set, which given my normal shooting habits – needs to easily portable. The warm light and blue light are formed by identical and quite powerful LED flash lights which can pump out an amazing 300 Lumens and are powered by just 3 AAA batteries each. That’s actually kind of amazing, but I’m a flashlight geek, and will jump up and down if you say “Cree.”

The warmer light is created by the flashlight having an old pill bottle gaff taped to its head.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

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