The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Atlas Obscura

thunder crazed

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It’s National Yorkshire Pudding Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tonight, one will finally get to do something purely by choice rather than circumstance or obligation, as I’m attending Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil” event at Greenwoord Cemetery. Well… my plan doesn’t exactly revolve around “attending” so much as being in the Cemetery while the Atlas event is going on. A humble narrator is going to figure out where the crowds are headed and then me, the camera, and my trusty tripod are going off in an entirely different direction to do some long exposure night shots of the type contained in today’s post. I will consider tonight a great success if I do not have to talk to anyone.

It’s been a while since I was able to just “take pictures.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last year, I made the mistake of going with a group to this thing. The herd dynamic found us wandering about in broad and aimless circles punctuated by sudden panicked urgency, as one person after the other suddenly announced that they needed to urinate. No one seemed to be able to coordinate their lavatorial schedules with the rest of the group, so it was fairly rare to get a ten minute interval of shooting in before we had to run off in the direction of a porta potty.

I’m like a camel in this regard, and when out “in the field,” carefully monitor the amount of liquids one consumes so as to not necessitate biological crises. Others in my group last year were convinced that they were visiting a Kuwaiti desert and required constant hydration, which resulted in excessive urination, as Greenwood is in… y’know… Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My photographic plan for tonight revolves around long exposures and my unpatented “night into day” techniques. “Night into Day,” as I call it, involves exposures in the half minute to minute range accompanied by the usage of extremely narrow apertures, a tripod, and shutter release – for the curious. All the shots in today’s post were accomplished using this sort of procedure, for example the shot above was invisible to the human eye and was just a vast expanse of darkness, and my hope is that tonight I can capture a few memorable shots at Greenwood.

I’ll show you what I got next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm

breathing marble

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Greenwood Cemetery, at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Atlas Obscura produced the “Into the Veil” event which was hosted at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. Your humble narrator wormed his way onto the guest list, packed up the whole camera kit in preparation for some night shooting, and headed on over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ethereal tones were pulsing out of several of the Mausolea, as Atlas Obscura had set up several performance spots. One particular tomb, the Morgan, had a familiar set of sounds pulsing out of it. When I hear musical saws playing, I know that I’ve found my pal and Astoria neighbor Natalia Paruz – the Saw Lady – at work. The shot above is a long exposure, which rendered Natalia in a ghostly blur of musical motion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my goals at the event was to “turn night into day.” I won’t bore you with all the technical details and camera settings, but suffice to say that the shots above and below are well beyond the range of human vision and that I was literally shooting blind. It was night time dark, with an overcast sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tripods are a must for this sort of thing, as are remote releases for the shutter (have to minimize camera shake, after all). The funny thing is that people were wandering around in the dark, literally moving through the frame as the shot was being captured, but because of the length of time that the exposure required – they are rendered invisible unless they stood still as a statue for 20-30 seconds. Random hotspots and reflections on the monuments, as seen in the shots above, emanate from distant flash lights carried by the crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In situ, all I could see clearly were the monuments in the foreground, and even they were cloaked heavily in shadow. As mentioned, my goal was to “turn night into day” with these photos. The sky and tree line were barely visible to my eye when I set the exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Physically speaking, these kind of shots are fairly arduous to capture, due to “the carry” of the amount of gear required. My normal “walk around” kit weighs about 6-8 pounds (depending on what I’m doing that day), but the full on night rig weighs closer to 20 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but Greenwood is a fairly “physical” environment with lots of steep hills. A light sheen of perspiration, combined with the cool night air, creates another set of circumstances to deal with – ensuring that the moisture on your skin doesn’t migrate to the glass and metal surfaces of the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being old, I didn’t stay till the bitter end, but was pretty satisfied with what I captured. Hand held, as is the first shot in this post, one last photo of the gates of Greenwood was captured as I left. Both of the bookend shots are “truer” to the eye, and representative of human perception. Personally, I really dig the “night into day” stuff. How about you, Lords and Ladies?

Note: Saturday will see Halloween occur here in Astoria. A humble narrators plan entails assuming my regular station at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – at the Doyle’s Corner pub. I will be photographing all costumed comers who agree to pose, masked passerby, and of course – the alcoholic antics of the Burrachos.

My plan is to get there around 2 and stay until the early evening, so if you’re in the neighborhood and costumed, stop on by and get yourself photographed. Unless the weather is ungodly, I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table right by the door. If the shot turns out nice, you might just find yourself published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

angry sky

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Want to see something cool?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got to go to South Brother Island with the Audubon Society once, whereupon these three presented themselves. Baby Cormorants, soon after this shot was gathered, the one on the right vomited half a fish at me. Baby birds are bastards, but they are cool looking.

Nature wants to kill you, and one should never be seduced by its beauty. That’s nature’s game, and it’s why our ancestors paved over everything in retaliation, which brings me inexorably back to Newtown Creek.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs. I have another iron in the fire, which I’ll tell you about later this week. As you’re reading this, I’m likely on a boat with the Working Harbor Committee’s Education program, showing off the harbor to a group of high school students.

Plank Road, with Newtown Creek Alliance, on April 19th. This one is free, click here to get on the list.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th. Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th. Click here for more info and ticketing.

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Thirteen Steps across Dutch Kills

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The 2014 Walking Tours begin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura for an intense exploration of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary – found less than one mile from the East River. Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractile bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards – it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened.

Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and moving through a virtual urban desert as we cross the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended.

Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk, which will be around three hours long and cover approximately three miles of ground.

Meetup – At the Albert E. Short Triangle park found at the corner of Jackson Avenue and 23rd Street in Long Island City, Queens. This is the Court Square MTA station, and served by the 7, G, and M lines. Additionally, the Q39 and B62 buses have nearby stops. Check MTA.info as ongoing construction at Queens Plaza often causes delays and interruptions.

Click here for tickets.

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idle curiosity

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In today’s post- The New York Marble Cemetery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If your view of second avenue in Manhattan’s East Village looks like what you see in the shot above, there’s only one place you can possibly be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You would be standing on the other side of these gates, found at the end of an alley, and within a walled off corridor which was established in 1831- the same year that the French Foreign Legion first deployed and Charles Darwin left England for the Galapagos onboard the Beagle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the perks of working with Atlas Obscura is that I can sometimes insert myself into somebody else’s adventure, and in this case, it was Allison Meier’s walking tour excursion to the New York Marble Cemetery at 41 1/2 Second Avenue. She graciously allowed me to attend her sold out tour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out this page, which I think Allison wrote- at the Atlas Obscura– for the full history of the place (there’s no point in me paraphrasing it). The tombs are all underground, with the grave markers arranged on the walls in the form of stone plaques. The surrounding neighborhood has literally risen around the place, with every building style from 19th century tenement to ultra modern luxury hotel represented around it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The president of the cemetery association was there to talk to the attendees, and she described the walls as being quite fragile and in bad condition. Nearly two hundred years of New York air, and vibration, have taken their toll on mortar laid down just ten years before Mary Rogers “the beautiful cigar girl” was found in a trunk floating along on the Hudson- sparking the interest of none other than Edgar Allen Poe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the plaque denoting the tomb of Uriah Scribner, father of the eponymous founder of the publishing house “Charles Scribner’s Sons.” Uriah died in 1853.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

1830’s New York City is literally the stuff of legend.

It’s Poe’s town, as well as the NYC that Herman Melville and Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant knew, a city which had less than a quarter million inhabitants. What we call the lower east side was farmland back then, and the center of town was down near the Battery.

The river fronts were described as a “forest of masts” for all the merchant trading vessels found docked there.

Check out the New York Marble Cemetery here.

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Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

cold flame

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Does a humble narrator ever leave Queens or Brooklyn? Not if one can help it, but of late, Manhattan’s demands have been omnipresent. Forth and back has one hurtled, to experience the litany of errors which rule the once proud center of the Megalopolis, all the time dreaming of the majesties of that harmonic convergence of ill fortune known as the Newtown Creek. Oh to gambol along the banks of sun drenched Maspeth Creek, or to stagger in awed silence along Dutch Kills, rather than to endure the incompetent malaise of Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It used to be fun, like some of my relatives, but the City has become a theme park of sorts. There are popular rides with long lines, but everywhere there is falseness and facade. Here in Queens, along this tributary of forgotten memory, is found a true place. A place of power and ambition, where hyper capitalism ran amok, creating a toxic wasteland amidst the concrete devastations which it called “progress.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Weird chemical and biological processes are always at work in the sediments of Dutch Kills, and often will plumes of some unknowable composition billow about in those waters found beneath the tension of the surface. It is easy to believe the wild accusations of area wags, regarding this place, when they refer to it as cursed and cancerous. What do they know, these sisyphean dwarves, sitting in their ivory towers of thwarted ambition and thinking only of darkness and revenge?

Also: Upcoming Tours!

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Pana_NCA_CreekEDU_Boat_102311_013359_a

– photo by Mai Armstrong

Want to see something cool?

Odds are that a bunch of the folks who will be reading this might have no idea who Mitch Waxman is, why they should come along with him on a tour of some weird neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens or Staten Island, nor what a Newtown Creek or Kill Van Kull are- let alone where. Who is this weirdo?

Check out the “bio” page here at Newtown Pentacle, or this profile of me from the NY Times published in 2012. My tours of Newtown Creek have garnered no small amount of interest from the fourth estate- whether it be DNAInfountappedcities.com, Queens Chroniclenewyorkview.net, the 22blog, photobycateblog.com, or Queensnyc, and I’ve turned up in a bunch of media reports, documentaries, and been interviewed for multitudinous reports on the lamentable history of the Newtown Creek.

Most recently, it was National Geographic and Curbed. Attendees on my tours come from a variety of backgrounds- photographers, history and rail buffs, maritime enthusiasts, and there always seems to be an odd and welcome concentration of elected officials and journalists about.

What is with this guy?

I’m the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, Official Photographer and Steering Committee member of the Working Harbor Committee, a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee and the Newtown Creek CAG, and am also a member of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Newtown Pentacle, this blog, has been steadily published since 2009. I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife and our little dog, Zuzu.

In just the last few years, I have exposed thousands of people to the Newtown Creek, and its incredible history. This is where the industrial revolution actually happened, along this 3.8 mile long waterway that defines the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

t3_Atlas_PoisonCauldron_082512_012520_a

– photo by Mai Armstrong

In 2013, continuing relationships with Atlas Obscura, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the Working Harbor Committee (as well as friends like the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and others) allow me to offer the following schedule. Live ticketing links will be made available as they come online, and all dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling due to weather or unforeseen circumstance. There are 6 unique walking tours listed here, and one boat trip in which I will be the principal speaker.

Private tours are possible, schedule permitting, and can be arranged by contacting me here. Last year, for instance, several private University classes engaged me for a day at the Creek, as did a few private groups. As mentioned, contact me and we will figure something out if you’ve got a meetup group, college class, or special request.

Here then, is my official schedule as it stands right now. There will likely be a few additions as time goes on, which I will let you know about as they occur. Best to subscribe to this blog (top right, email subscription)  or “follow” me on Twitter @newtownpentacle for news.

In April, 2013- There will be a brand new tour  of Greenpoint debuted, which I call “Glittering Realms.”

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

In May, 2013- We start off with 13 Steps around Dutch Kills, go to the Insalubrious Valley, visit DUKBO, and finish off the month with a Working Harbor boat tour.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

NCA Birdwatch Bus tour- June 24, 2012

– photo by Mai Armstrong

In June, 2013- We visit the Poison Cauldron, return to the Insalubrious Valley, and check out the Kill Van Kull.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

In July, 2013- We visit Queens’s Hunters Point with a brand new tour. I might have another offering or two for you, but nothing I can speak about quite yet.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

t3_MWA_COWD_071412_012314_a

– photo by Mai Armstrong

In August, 2013- We return to the Poison Cauldron, repeat the 13 steps, and the Kill Van Kull walks.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

There are a few other dates coming in the fall, and a couple of more summer events which are still being discussed, but I’ll let you know more about them in coming posts.

Also, I will definitely be onboard but not on the microphone during the Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours on Tuesday nights, all summer. Hope you can come along.

Click here for more on “Beyond Sandy.”

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