The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Hell Gate Bridge

diverse states

with one comment

Full throttle Thursday, and Merry Christmas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in some detail yesterday, I’m playing around with the settings on the new camera, and trying to do so in visually interesting but lonely places. Part of this endless drivel about photographic process has mentioned the concept of combining multiple shallow depth of field and varied exposure shots into a single image, like the one above.

There are 38 individual photos incorporated into the shot above, and that’s what it looks like when a tugboat goes by at Hells Gate… what… how are you filling all the empty pandemic hours you’re experiencing? Sheesh, on Xmas eve, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan for the holiday involves rewatching several episodes of the Star Wars “Clone Wars” series. As I’ve got the time this year, I’m trying to watch all of Star Wars in the order of story continuity, and having suffered through the first two of the prequels, its time to nestle into the winter with the cartoon series (which is arguably the best Star Wars ever done, imho). Don’t judge, I was a nerd before it was cool to be a nerd. The hipsters are nerd poseurs. Imagine giving a shit about how you look or what people think of you. Haircuts, the lot of them.

Pictured is another focus stacked but entirely different shot, depicting the Hell’s Gate Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mission accomplished, the camera was converted back to handheld mode, which is a process so incredibly simplified with the new unit that I kept on thinking that I missed something. My walk home involved crossing Astoria Park. It was an uneventful crossing with no wackadoodle interaction. I had to pee, and the air smelled like marijuana smoke. After finding a tree to water, and breathing in the atmospherics deeply, one was able to relax and slouch roughly into the scuttle back to HQ.

Merry Christmas, y’all, from the other fat guy with a white beard – the one in the filthy black raincoat.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 21st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 24, 2020 at 11:00 am

rather undersized

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Woh, it’s Wednesday again, and FESTIVUS!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The images in today’s post represent a great deal of “in the field” improvisation and a minimum amount of in the studio photoshop work. They were done entirely “within camera,” which means that I didn’t do any retouching to them. Saying that, the gathering of these shots saw me changing exposure and focal points all wildly nilly. I still haven’t perfected the technique behind all this – although shots you won’t be seeing until 2021, which I gathered just the other night, suggest that the underlying logic governing what I’m doing here is finally revealing itself – but I’m pretty happy with these results. This is what I was hoping for, while I was freezing my tootsies off at the waterfront in December, so hooray.

Focus and exposure stacking, that’s what this thing I’m working on is called. The shot above was captured at f1.8, and if you click through to the original at Flickr you’ll be able to see individual rivets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frequent commenter George the Atheist, who is a knowledgable photographer in his own right, chides me often that I should just get on with it and do a long exposure. One often uses this technique, and long exposure has been a “thing” for me for quite a while now. Problem with long shots involving water, however, is that you lose all the surface detail in the waterbody as the long exposure shots render its as a mirror. This has it’s charms, of course, but I want the mirror AND some detail in the shot as well.

That’s what I mean when mentioning the term “intentionality.” Intentionality is the difference between a snapshot and a photograph, and the difference between “I meant to do that” and “I got lucky here.” Serendipity is awesome, but so is having an idea and then making it real.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If I was a patient person, I’d be photographing birds or something. I’m not a patient person, so I didn’t stand there at the East River (during mid December) long enough for a railroad Locomotive to arrive and cross the Hell Gate Bridge. That would have made this one of my favorite photos of 2020. Instead, I was slavishly punching buttons and moving the various settings about on the new camera, trying to bend it to my will.

There are twelve f1.8 2 second exposures ganged up into that shot above. Around four of them are seriously underexposed, one is highly over exposed, and the rest are on meter. I love that the entire image is sharp, that there are both mirror reflections and surface texture in the shot, and there’s a fullness to its contrast. I’m not stoked about the blown out lights in the Bronx or all along the horizon. I’ve since worked out how to shoot around that. I’m also really interested in the wave patterns, and plan on experimenting with that a bit next time I’m at Hells Gate.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 21st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2020 at 11:00 am

ultimate step

with 4 comments

Tuesdays are a season all their own.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During these pandemic months, when I’ve gone out for my constitutional walks, my toes have been generally pointed towards the Newtown Creek industrial business zone. The reasoning behind that is that a) I’m obsessed, and b) people and cooties.

People are infested with viruses, and therefore if I go to places with few or no people I’m less likely to contract a respiratory plague. I know, this sounds crazy to you Liberpublicans or Republitarians, but I’ve given up trying to convince ideologues about anything of late. If you don’t believe in COVID, don’t worry, the virus believes in you. I know 50-60 people who have had it, and by all reports – the experience is quite unpleasant even if you don’t die. Mazel Tov.

A new skill I’ve developed, thereby, during this interval is the ability to completely avoid all other human beings – even when passing through a fairly densely populated area like the 31st street/Hoyt Avenue corridors here in Astoria. I’ve become like a phantom in a black raincoat, a specter visible only to the wackadoodles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My goal for this particular evening was to randomly point the new camera at different spots around the neighborhood for a bit, and then set up the tripod at Astoria Park’s Shore Road in pursuance of “getting technical” while photographing the wonders of the Hell’s Gate section of the East River.

Along the way, I spotted these two homes sporting rather tasteful holiday decorations, a fine example of what I call “ChristmAstoria.” As a note, I’m always rather uncomfortable when photographing somebody’s home. It would likely freak me out if I saw some ghostly creature in black taking pictures of HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you’re wondering what I mean by “getting technical,” the shot above isn’t it. These were all handheld shots in today’s post, whereas the ones you’ll see tomorrow and Thursday were a bit more intentional in terms of composition and camera technique.

Pictured above is the Hell Gate Bridge in the distance, with a section of the Triborough Complex’s East River Suspension Bridge visible at top.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, December 21st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2020 at 11:00 am

starved monsters

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The darkness of Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why the Amtrak people have never sprung for a lighting system for the Hell Gate Bridge, I cannot imagine. It’s like owning a luxury car and never washing or polishing it. Might have something to do with not disturbing those battrachian things, that cannot possibly exist, which live on the bottom of the Hell Gate section of the East River. Peter Stuyvesant is rumored to have left behind a message scrawled onto a piece of yellowed parchment, which every Mayor of NYC has received on their first day in office, advising that there are things in NY Harbor which are best left alone. The Lenape knew that it is best not to delve too deep, nor stare too long into the abyssal water hereabouts, lest that which dwells below takes notice.

Do you honestly believe that the United States Army Corps of Engineers set off the greatest explosion in human history here back in 1885, a detonation whose force was only exceeded after the emergence of the Atomic Bomb, merely to aid navigation?

Fools ye be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was the promise of a foggy night which drew me to this spot. It’s not exactly industrial Maspeth, Astoria Park and the associated properties surrounding it, so it’s the very definition of off my beaten path as it’s “nice.” I hung around the zone for about an hour or so, occasionally climbing over a fence for a POV as in the shot above.

There wasn’t much movement in the water, but I was prepared to bolt just in case. I’ve heard tell of an orthodox priest named Kiriglou that would spend his evenings along this stretch of Hells Gate back in the early 1980’s. Rumors and stories, myths and legends, that’s what the native Astorians routinely offer in return for a shot of whisky. Supposedly this Kiriglou fellow would toss some kind of charm, attached to a stout cord, into the water and mutter words described to me as a rough sort of Cretan dialect, one which the teller believed to originate in the rugged Sfakia region of that ancient island. Nobody knew if Kiriglou was associated with one of the wholesome Orthodox churches frequented by the local Hellenic community, or was some sort of heretic or ascetic. What happened to him, and what he was doing with that charm, is just another Astoria story.

Ever hear the one about the child molester who lived in the Queens side tower of the Hell Gate Bridge, behind that iron door found under the dedication plaque?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the mists were beginning to precipitate, a humble narrator decided that it was time to begin the journey back to HQ. Before long, a driving rain set up, and one arrived in the Broadway area just in time to avoid a drenching.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you out there got an Astoria Story you’d like to share? Haunted house, lizard man, next door neighbor chanting at the moon on Hallomass? Kids playing bad music loudly? I want to hear it.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

great bridge

with 4 comments

It’s both National Crabmeat Day, and National Meatball day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy official anniversary of the first train crossing of the Hell Gate Bridge! Personally, I’m going to attend the celebratory soirée at Greater Astoria Historic Society tonight, where Dave “the Bridgeman” Frieder is going to be talking. Dave Freider is a photographer and historian who probably knows more about this subject than anyone else alive, and he was featured in a recent NY Times article on the subject as well.

I’ve been talking about the Hell Gate bridge since Newtown Pentacle started. This recent post, commemorating the day on which the steel of the bridge was finished, for instance. As an aside, here’s a post on it’s neighbor to the south, the Triborough Bridge, and one of the many where a humble narrator described ships and other vessels passing beneath it. There’s that time I spotted an experimental combat vessel at Hells Gate, described here. The esoteric history of Hells Gate was discussed in this 2010 post, and the largest explosion in human history prior to the atomic era as well as why its called “Hells Gate” was offered way back in this 2009 post, and in this one as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually because of all the rattling on I’ve done over the years about Hell Gate that the decision to largely shut up and let you look at the pictures is offered today. Of course, since I’m a “Chatty Cathy,” that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fill the dead air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mose the fireboy is said to have strangled a sea serpent to death at Hell Gate in the early 19th century, a creature whose skin was draped over the bar at McGurk’s Suicide Palace during the legendary era of the Bowery B’hoys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate Bridge is federal property, specifically Amtrak, who acquired it out of the (then) largest bankruptcy in American history. It was the Pennsylvania railroad that built the thing, which eventually merged with their arch rivals at New York Central Railroad. The combined company, Penn Central Transportation Company (and its assets like Hell Gate), also collapsed into bankruptcy (in 1970) and were federalized by Richard Nixon into Amtrak and Conrail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge is pretty much the only way off of a Long Island and onto the continent for freight rail. There’s a second and quite smaller structure called Little Hell Gate which isn’t not too far away, and that span carries rail traffic into the Bronx and from there all points north and west. On the other side of this connected track system, which is called the New York Connecting Railroad, is the Sunnyside Yard. That’s where the passenger links are, which lead to the east river tunnels, Penn Station, and the Hudson River tunnels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hell Gate Bridge hurtles over Astoria Park, and fills the background of much of it. It’s a rite of passage for the “utes” of Astoria to find their way up to the tracks, I’m told, and there’s a legend they propagate that there’s a phantom train which emerges along the unused fourth trackway to chase and claim the unwary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The arches of the NY Connecting Railroad continue eastwards, and as they do, begin to intersect with residential properties. There are dozens of homes in which the back yard plots include geometries formed by these cylcopean structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria legend also describes a homeless serial killer of children who once lurked within the bridge’s Queens side tower. As the story goes, there’s a room in there where photos of the killer’s young victims are displayed. The 114th pct will deny that such a person ever existed, but will mention the occasional “ultra violence” that happens around the bridge – like the homeless man who had his skull crushed here a couple years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The New York Connecting Railroad tracks continue on through Astoria, heading eastwards toward the edge of Woodside and then crossing Northern Blvd. Local community organizations sponsor the creation of murals on the street facing sections.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After 31st street, there is naked steel again, with the massive concrete structures giving way to columns and posts. There is still quite a bit of collossal concrete arch and balustrade along the route, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s such a part of the Astoria landscape that seldom is it commented upon, the passing of the railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy birthday, Hell Gate Bridge. I’ll be thinking of you at Greater Astoria Historic Society’s “do” tonight.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

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