The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Greenwood Cemetery

cemented hillocks

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Today is World Food Day, on this hungry planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised, here’s a few shots gathered on Friday the 13th at the Atlas Obscura “Into the Veil” event at Greenwood Cemetery. A friend I was showing them to on Friday asked me what the “night into day” technique I employed to capture these images entails other than long exposure times, and I tried to explain the exacting series of steps and settings which are employed, but by then he had fallen asleep. It’s complicated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In a couple of instances, I hung a work light of the front of my tripod. The shot above is a fair representation of what was within the range of human vision. The moon was occluded on Friday by heavy cloud cover and atmospheric humidity was quite high, which is ruinous for this sort of shooting due to the scattering and consumption of light by airborne moisture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The same setup, this time employing the whole checklist of “night into day” techniques which I’ve been working on. The difficult part of this, and why I’m stifled with the result, involves the sky – which isn’t blown out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

LED lighting continues to grow in popularity, but it provides a bugbear of problems for digital photography. LED lights are actually strobing hundreds of times a minute, and throwing out weird wavelengths of saturated color light which the camera sensor struggles to interpret. Notice the difference between the automotive brake light generated red streak on the hill and the unnaturally garish reds of the LED architectural light on the Steinway Chapel at Greenwood.

Just have to figure out how to conquer that one, as I don’t think LED’s are going away anytime soon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2017 at 2:15 pm

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

gray cottage

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The night time is the right time, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedantic banality of my daily existence is occasionally punctuated by a series of rather dull events, and last weekend this included a trip to Greenwood Cemetery for Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil” party. It actually wasn’t that dull, as everybody else actually seemed to be having a good time, but the blackened callouses coating my psyche preclude one such as myself from feeling anything other numb.

I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite my best efforts at erecting emotional and behavioral barricades around myself, I do have a few friends and they were along for the excursion, and unfortunately my attempts at maintaining a social life got in the way of actuating the camera mechanisms with the anticipated and normal frequency.

Despite this, I did manage to crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Into the Veil” is an Atlas Obscura signature event, and brings hundreds of people to Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery (est. 1838) for what can best described as a decadent party. There are bands, and bars, and performances. Above, a group of fire dancers performing at the Crescent Lake found on the northwest side of the polyandrion. It’s a 30 second exposure, and the streaks of fire seem to forming an occult sigil.

It’s all so depressing, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the far north western side of the cemetery is a rather large MTA facility which is both a train yard and a bus depot. The MTA uses harsh sodium based “stadium lights” to illuminate their property which throws an orange glow about for hundreds of yards in every direction, and it penetrates deeply into the fuligin shadows of Greenwood Cemetery where the night gaunts dance about in remembrance of the olden times.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2016 at 11:30 am

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

night gaunts

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The Suydam tomb, at Greenwood Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Monday, Atlas Obscura produced an event at Greenwood Cemetery wherein your humble narrator would join with authors Clay Chapman and Bess Lovejoy in reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” for a group of pale enthusiasts. The excursion was nocturnal, and offered cocktail selections from the East Village’s forthcoming Lovecraft Bar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the charms of the evening, as organized by Atlas’s Megan Roberts and Allison C. Meier, was the opportunity to visit the interior of two mausolea at the ancient burying ground of Brooklyn.

One of them was the Stephen Whitney monument, which was discussed last year in the posting ” fastened ajar ” which described another nighted exploration of the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the thousands of cool things about Greenwood, the sets of keys which govern admission to the mausolea. More often than not, these keys are hand carved, early 19th century affairs. The sort of keys you’d see on a heavy metal album cover from the 1980’s, essentially. When they turn the bars inside the locking mechanisms of the heavy gates and slab doors, there’s an audible “klunk” sound as the lock disengages.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is happy to report that within the tomb itself, the marble slabs were indeed crusted with a powdery Nitre, and the smell of mold and decay were omnipresent but quite tolerable. Of course, the ghastly contents contained in these walls include little more than mouldering bones after their long occupancy here, but there is a distinct perfume found in old tombs – something which is sensed rather than smelled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Suydams are one of the ancient Knickerbocker families, landed gentry whose founders helped build a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam into something. The tomb’s official dedication is to Lambert Suydam, who died on April Fools day in 1833 in his 89th year, but there are many other members of the clan here, including his wife Sarah. It is very odd to stand in a structure like this, which is just shy of 150-175 years old, and more than one person along for the excursion commented on the bizarre acoustic excesses experienced within.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, a humble narrator is given to letting his mind wander, and the ideation of what might be carried by the static volume of air within the tomb began to prey upon me. Miasmic liquors would be found just beyond these marble slabs, pooling amongst those buckles and buttons and bits of bone which had survived the corruptions of the grave and persisted in perspicuous dissolution just in eyes away.

This is the kingdom of the conqueror worm, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My fellow narrators and I all used artificial illumination when reading our sections of the text of “The Horror at Red Hook,” and the crew of curious tapophiles which participated in the evening all carried lanterns (that’s Clay Chapman in the shot above, at the Pierpont monument). I opted to read off my iPad so that my face would be underlit and I’d look extra creepy. It was all quite an atmospheric evening, and I hope we might be able to arrange another at some future date.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 28, 2014 at 11:53 am

Things to do

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Lots of cool fun coming up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday the 21st of July, your humble narrator will be part of a triad reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” in Greenwood Cemetery – at night. This is an Atlas Obscura Event, one which I’m pretty excited about participating in. We will actually be entering the mausoleum of the Suydams.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also with Atlas Obscura, the Insalubrious Valley walking tour of Newtown Creek is on my schedule for the 26th of July. This is one of my favorite tours, which starts in East Williamsburg (or Bushwick as it used to be called) and crosses the Newtown Creek into Maspeth. We end up at the Goodfellas Diner, and lunch is included in the ticket price. Tix link at the bottom of this post, below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 27th, a Sunday, I’ll be out with Brooklyn Brainery checking out the East River and Newtown Creek coastlines of Greenpoint (which also, coincidentally, used to be called Bushwick) on the Glittering Realms tour. Come with? Tix link at the bottom of this post, below.

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There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

fastened ajar

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are my “tripod” shots from the night time excursion to Greenwood Cemetery which Atlas Obscura invited your humble narrator along on. I’m actually rather fond of both the one above and the second to last shots presented in this post. The only sources of light were being radiated by distant street lights shining through a heavy fog from those Brooklyn streets surrounding the victorian era cemetery, and from the candles set out by the Obscura people. What you’re looking at is beyond the range of human vision, as it was so dark that I had to briefly use a flashlight to allow my camera a lit vantage upon which it could lock in its metering.

from nytimes.com

At noon, yesterday, Mr. STEPHEN WHITNEY, one of the oldest and wealthiest of our citizens, died at his residence in Bowling-green. Some of his intimate friends state that he was but 70 years of age, while others affirm that he had completed his 80th year. He entered business, in this City, at an early period of his life, and has always been considered strictly upright in his dealings, but at the same time close and sharp in effecting bargains. These characteristics laid the foundation for a fortune which has accumulated of late years, until it is estimated at the enormous amount of $8,000,000.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This photo was from within the tomb itself. While taking this shot, I felt the need to call Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh and say “guess where I am?”. When I told him where, he wasn’t surprised at my answer, which was odd. As you can see, the Atlas Obscura crew had installed quite an abundance of candles.

from wikipedia

In 1827, he joined William Backhouse Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, in building a Merchants’ Exchange Building at the corner of Wall and William Streets. The New York Stock and Exchange Board moved their operations from the Tontine Coffee House to the new building, adopting it as their first permanent home. In the 1840s he was involved in the founding of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s an interesting dome which caps the Whitney mausoleum. For some reason, it struck me that there must be some sort of message or symbolism encoded in it which I cannot discern, which is common when you lose the cultural context which would be obvious to the dwellers of days gone by. The whole structure is laden with iconic symbolism, much of which is obtusely viewed by modern eyes.

also from wikipedia

Whitney was among the first multi-millionaires in the city. Many accounts refer to his fortune as second only to that of John Jacob Astor, who died in 1848 with an estate of $20 million. Whitney’s wealth was estimated at his death to be at least $8 million, although some thought it was $10 or even $15 million. Unlike the Astors, he was not given to public philanthropy, and the result is that the Whitney name is not remembered in the city the way that the Astor name is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another long exposure tripod shot, I’m actually quite taken with this one. One of my favorite things to do in settings such as this is to leave the shutter wide open for up to a minute, sometimes longer, in total darkness. The shot above was actually 30 seconds long, and the flares you see coming from the candles are actually beams of their light illuminating the fog as it rolls by. Again, this shot displays a dynamic range of both color and detail that were completely invisible to my naked eye. Yay for me, something works for a change.

from green-wood.com

Founded in 1838 as one of America’s first rural cemeteries, the Green-Wood Cemetery soon developed an international reputation for its magnificent beauty and became the fashionable place to be buried. By 1860, Green-Wood was attracting 500,000 visitors a year, rivaling Niagara Falls as the country’s greatest tourist attraction. Crowds flocked to Green-Wood to enjoy family outings, carriage rides and sculpture viewing in the finest of first generation American landscapes. Green-Wood’s popularity helped inspire the creation of public parks, including New York City’s Central and Prospect Parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s what I saw when I went to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn on a chill and foggy November night. Have a good holiday, lords and ladies, and eat too much. Newtown Pentacle will be in single image mode until Monday, when further vainglorious efforts to “break out of my rut” will be displayed.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

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