The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Subway’ Category

rational position

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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

clean shaven

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Getting around town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wheel of the year is about to turn again, and the particular station we are in – what the Pagan crowd would call “Lughnasadh” – is about to give way to the pleasant temperatures and beneficial quality of light which will begin to lessen when Samhain rolls around at the end of October. The whole pagan wheel of the year thing is directly tied to harvesting various sorts of agricultural crops, of course, but a humble narrator is no farmer. Rather, for me the harvest is about photos.

Pictured above is mighty Triborough, as seen through the windshield of an “automobile” owned by a friend who allowed me to enter her moving mechanical contrivance for an afternoon. These “automobiles” are bothersome contrivances given to toxic exhalations and the consumption of a troublesome form of fuel, but quite handy when one’s desire is to photograph the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The twisting complications leading away from the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, are pictured above. These ramps were erected to serve the needs of the automobile, and given that unlike Mighty Triborough – the Queensboro was not erected upon a fairly blank slate – they wind and snake through a shadowy and confusing warren of buildings. The ramps emerge and then disappear behind buildings, seeking out connections to the high speed roads built long after the Queensboro itself was built.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My preferred method for getting around the City is found in the shot above. Given that I live three stops out from the titular center of the megalopolis, it is madness to consider owning one of these “automobiles” for one such as myself. One does miss the freedom offered by these devices, of course, as your humble narrator used to be an enthusiastic motorist in his younger days. Saying that, one does enjoy the challenges offered by mass transit, and the puzzle of getting from A to B when unfamiliar destinations are scheduled to be focused in upon.

Saying that, I cannot fathom why Manhattan’s 34th street Herald Square station is so damned hot.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2016 at 1:05 pm

frightened messengers

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Massing, massing, massive – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a few days ago, one found himself walking towards Hunters Point via the Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue route which I refer to as “the Carridor.” I was heading for a public safety meeting, regarding the East River parks in Hunters Point, and as is my habit – the opportunity to stretch my legs and get a bit of exercise was seized.

Whenever I’ve taken this walk over the last couple of years, one thought seems to predominate as I cast my gaze around – “they’ve stolen the sky.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sky has been stolen, or horse traded away, by the Real Estate people in collusion with the short term thinkers who populate City Hall – of course – but ultimately, who did they steal it from? Did anyone used to own the sky in Western Queens?

Definitively, somebody does own the sky now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The area around Queens Plaza and Court Square, in particular, has become a shadowed warren of glassy towers.

At the public safety meeting in Hunters Point, which was called due to a disturbing allegation of a rape occurring in Gantry Plaza State Park, the residents of the new buildings surrounding the waterfront had a chance to speak and offer their complaints about this and that.

Most of their comments boiled down to “I’ve lived here for twenty minutes, and this isn’t what the realtor told me it would be like.” Nobody told them that the Borough Motto was “Welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself” it seems.

The tower people mainly offered quality of life complaints to the panel at the front of the room which included Jimmy Van Bramer and representatives of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy as well as the various branches of law enforcement who have jurisdiction over the parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can barely spot the Citi Megalith anymore, which once stood as a lone sentinel.

The impossible thing which cannot possibly exist that lurks in its cupola… with its unblinking three lobed burning eye… no longer has an unoccluded view of the world below.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

attic seclusion

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A travlin’ man, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Astoria, Queens’s 31st street and the elevated subway tracks which both distinguish and curse the spot once known to a newly consolidated City of Greater New York as Second Avenue, and to the Village of Astoria section of an independent municipality called Long Island City as Debevoise Street. These particular tracks, which are known to the MTA as the IRT Astoria Line, opened for business back in February of 1917, and today carry the N and Q lines between Ditmars Blvd. and the Queensboro Bridge.

Saying that, the predecessor of what we know as the Q Line (which is part of MTA’s “B” Division’s BMT service) began coming to Astoria at the end of April of back in 1950, after the purpose built IRT platforms were modified to accept the BMT trains.

It’s actually called the Brighton Line, the Q, and that should tell you everything about where I was going last Monday morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the MTA website, it was only going to take me 45 minutes to cross the western tip of a Long Island, from North to South by South East. This calculation proved somewhat true, and the journey took me around 50-55 minutes. On the way, I listened to an audiobook of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” just to get into the mood.

One had finally found the time, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of my journey from Astoria, the first thing I noticed were the elevated tracks which lead to the Coney Island Stillwell Terminal. Normal people call that the F, but not me. What I see are the tracks of the IND Culver line, and a rapid transit connection that runs between southeast Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

So… lessee… that means that even without the proposed BQX streetcar system, you can connect from two wildly separate sections of Queens to the same locus point in Brooklyn. It also suggests that since you can go further and faster using this already extant path… bah, what does logic have to do with De Blasio’s New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the 1980’s, when a humble narrator was still a youth, this was one of the best spots in the City to spot graffiti clad subway cars, as they exited out of the terminal. This was also an area infamous for the presence of crack dealers and prostitutes. It wasn’t quite “do or die” around here, but the area in which “The Donald’s Dad” Fred Trump made his fortune was pretty rough “back in the day.”

And that’s before the Russian mobsters arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My little journey was spurred on by the NYCID card which was obtained back during the winter, and more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ve read of my desire to visit all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons. In particular, the one that’s found here in Southeast Brooklyn which I haven’t visited since grade school.

This area, less than an hour from home in Astoria (where I’ve lived for around a third of my life), is close to the part of Brooklyn which I spent the first third of my life in and is the outer edge of my old stomping grounds. Specifically speaking, my family lived about 2-3 miles east of here at the Canarsie/Flatlands border, but in the broader sense – I felt like was returning to my home town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lenape tribe which lived here called this barrier island “Narrioch,” which means “land without shadows.” Given that I spend most of my time in North Brooklyn and Western Queens along a waterway which the Lenape referred to as “Hohosboco” or “the bad water place” and which modernity refers to as the Newtown Creek – seeing Jamaica Bay rising on the horizon beyond Coney Island… it got me all nostalgic.

That’s when I dropped the Lovecraft audiobook and started listening to Iron Maiden.

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 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

violet litten

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Seriously, how much can one guy take?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, and in excruciating detail, have I been told how annoying my company actually is. Noticing every little detail as I move around is one reason I’m so aberrant a fellow, forcing people to listen to me rattling on about my trivial observations is another. More often than not, it’s a habit of relaying unpleasant facts about activities which my companions and myself are engaging in which pisses folks off. Talking about my mother’s cousin Melvin, whose grisly death occurred after he fell off a moving boat and was sliced up by the propellor back during the 1960’s, or the actual process of drowning, described while riding onboard a boat are two. Talking about human decay processes while in cemeteries is yet another.

You never want to hear me say anything about escalators, btw. Deadly things – my buddy Hank the elevator guy shudders whenever the subject comes up, and he’s a guy who regularly dangles from ropes in elevator shafts. Long story short – hamburger meat. Escalators are meat grinders. Brrrr. Don’t ask.

Here’s a few other things nobody asked me about…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A scene from de Blasio’s New York, specifically the foot of the Pulaski Bridge on Jackson Avenue in LIC. The guy with his hat out has turned up in recent days, and made this the spot at which he goes to every car that’s leaving Brooklyn asking for spare change.

It is only a matter of time before we click fully back into the Dinkins era and this dude finds himself a squeegee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors hereabouts in Astoria all seem to hail from places where the accepted custom is to hurl any unwanted or used items directly into the street. When it rains…

Jesus, what the hell is wrong with you people? Give a hoot, don’t pollute. Find a god damned trash bin, they’re all over the place, even if they’re filled with household trash from illegal sublets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one actually blew my mind when it was explained to me. It’s the window of a fancy shmancey supermarket over in the newly built up waterfront section of Hunters Point – tower town, as I call it.

The “out of respect for our customers” prohibitions against “photography” and “organized tours” got me curious. My thoughts of “are Jack Eichenbaum or Kevin Walsh doing LIC supermarket tours now? Wow, wonder if I can get in on that?” were immediately quashed by a long time friend who lives nearby.

She explained that realtors will often bring groups of prospective condo buyers into the local supermarkets and shops to demonstrate that there are – in fact – places to shop in Long Island City. So many buyers have moved through their doors that the shops and supermarkets have had to set rules.

Sigh…

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

tried every

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I mentioned this over the weekend to my Facebook peeps, now it’s your turn…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An old friend of mine recently hit a bit of a health crisis. Surgery ensued, and she’s having a bit of trouble with the purely existential part of her life during recovery – food shopping, laundry, the lifting and carrying sort of stuff. Our Lady of the Pentacle and I volunteered to help her out, and last Saturday our plan involved an afternoon trip to Hunters Point to help out with “whatever.” Before you ask: a) my old friend doesn’t live in one of the new buildings (it’s one of those century old and quite rickety walk up jobs on Jackson where she has lived for literally decades), and b) there was no connection between Court Square and the IND station at Queens Plaza due to maintenance work so we took the R from Astoria and hoofed it the rest of the way.

That’s not the story, though, that’s just the setup.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, this was Fourth of July weekend, of course. The news was abuzz with the news that NYPD was operating a full scale and City wide security operation, and that Hunters Point in particular was going to be focused on due to the gathering at the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I call it the Homeland Security Kabuki show, for various reasons. Pretty standard stuff, in the age of the Terror Wars.

What wasn’t standard was the steel cylinder, which appeared to be some sort of garbage can, sitting on the 46th street subway platform. Having “seen something” a humble narrator thereupon went over to the MTA Station Agent housed in the booth and let her know that the incongruous item was there. She indicated that the authorities would be alerted, and I boarded the incoming R train having “said something.”

As a note, when I arrived at Queens Plaza, I walked over to the NYPD office at the end of the platform and informed the on duty officer of the situation – and also showed him the picture positioned above. He seemed concerned about it.

I was thanked and told that it would be investigated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the 114th precinct being what it is, when Our Lady of the Pentacle and I returned to the 46th street station some three and change hours later… the curious cylinder was still there and clearly unmolested or investigated. That’s when I posted about my experience, and made sure that our local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was tagged in my missive. He let me know that he had contacted the precinct and that it would be dealt with. In my neighborhood, JVB is the motive force of all things, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, the council member has a unique ability to twist the dials and move the levers of the municipal machinery.

The thing about Queens which drives me absolutely mad is why it is that when someone “sees something” and “says something,” you still need a high government official to cajole the freaking cops into doing their damn jobs. As far as the MTA station agent goes, she probably didn’t have the union certifications for dialing the phone.

I think it’s the International Brotherhood of Button Pushers, Local 5, who does that. You also need three Union carpenters on duty, but you always need three carpenters for some reason.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

hellacious tide

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My mother used to call me “the complaint department.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A buddy of mine once described his ideal job as “freelance unsolicited criticism.” He posited that he’d walk into a bank, let the manager know that the velvet ropes leading to the tellers were arranged incorrectly, and then submit a bill for his services. I’ve always liked the concept, although to be fair, my buddy’s nickname is “Special Ed.”

Pictured above, a view of lower Manhattan from the Wallabout in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsolicited criticism number 1 is offered to my fellow riders of the NYCTA Subway system. For the love of god itself, use your freaking headphones when you’re playing a video game on your phone while riding the train. It’s bad enough that I’m being subjected to evangelist Korean guy and to jazz busking. Do I really need to listen to the stupid beeping and blinging that your game is making?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsolicited criticism number 2 is also aimed at my fellow riders of the Subway system. I am certain that allowing me to exit the freaking train will not, in fact, cause you to not be able to get onboard. Pushing past someone like me, a veteran of 1980’s NYC’s punk scene, means that you will – in fact – find yourself bouncing off of a stranger whose elbows are far sharper than yours. The worst offenders on this subject are found at the 59/Lex stop. Do you really want to experience the “people moving” techniques I learned in 1980’s mosh pits?

No? 

Then wait your turn and let me get off the train before you enter it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unsolicited criticism number 3 and 4 are offered in the shot above.

First, the solar powered garbage cans that the urban planning geniuses of Pratt University have been placing around Lower Manhattan and the tony sections of North Brooklyn. Let those words roll out of your mouth – “solar powered garbage cans.” Do you have a fossil fuel powered garbage can in front of your house, lords and ladies? Was this a problem that needed solving?

Secondly, the giant pit you see above – according to the NYPD personnel I asked about it – used to be a subway grate on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan. It seems a truck driver decided to use the sidewalk to bypass a parked car and discovered that a sidewalk grate wasn’t designed to carry the weight of a truck.

Fellow New Yorkers – NYC streets are color coded. Black pavement is for vehicles (including Bicycles, Delivery bikes, and trucks). Gray pavement is for pedestrians, baby carriages, and “not vehicles.” Stay the feck off the sidewalk.

Bah. 

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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