The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘macro

moral lapses

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It’s National Vanilla Cupcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit during periods of infirmity, as occurred at the start of this week, one sets up the tripod and plays around with doing “table shots.” I haven’t quite figured out the “ink in water” setup quite yet, but one of the initial steps in doing so is presented today.

I’m doing a cold weather Newtown Creek walk Sunday in LIC, link is found below. Come with?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Astoria

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disturbing to

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Macro fun, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When it’s dark, cold, and rainy outside (a trifecta!) – a humble narrator finds himself stuck indoors. Rather than do something useful, my inclination is to set up a little “stage” on a counter in the kitchen and deploy a tripod. This time around, the stage was a piece of glass that I’d harvested a while back from a dead scanner. A quick trip to the school supplies section of my local drug store resulted in the purchase of a set of kid’s tempera paints, which were applied to the impermeable glass in distinctly separated spots. Water was introduced into the lapses of the various pigments, which caused them to bleed into each other. While the “decay” was under way, a camera was mounted onto the tripod, and placed less than a quarter of an inch from the surface of the swirling colors.

The hard part was lighting it, as there was a quite narrow window into which the light could be aimed and diffused. Additionally, handling the reflections inherent in a “wet media” subject was a bit of a challenge. Can’t begin to tell you how many times I was able to see an exact mirror image of my camera in them before I figured out the right angle to set the tripod head and lights at.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The stage remained on the counter for a couple of days, and I did multiple “set ups” with different piles of and colors of the kid paint. It was paramount to me not to use any sort of “professional” grade paint in these experiments – gouache or proper watercolors, for instance – so the 12 pack of school supply paint was exploited and utilized. I had to break it all down on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving so that Our Lady and I could cook the holiday meal, of course.

The “stage” itself is a jury rigged affair. The aforementioned scanner glass was sitting on top of a sheet of black paper, and was backed up by several other sheets of the black paper held together with gaff tape, soda straws, and pieces of a wire hanger. As mentioned, controlling the reflections in the wet pigment was a real pain the neck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today’s post carries three of my more successful shots from this series, and I plan on doing more of them as the winter months play out.

Tomorrow, we get back to business.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Astoria

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non compliance

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Oil and water don’t mix, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spending a day at home recently, one set up a little “stage” and improvised a lighting setup on my kitchen counter. The subject I wanted to shoot was “oil and water” so a couple of glass vessels were deployed. The shots in today’s post are actually oil, water, and a couple with some dish detergent mixed into the water.

One or two, like the one above, had some india ink added in as well. Obviously, I was using a macro lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above, it’s just oil and water, with a two light setup (cool and warm) bouncing their beams in and around a little tent of colored paper I erected around the camera, which then diffracted through the glass vessel containing the liquid.

If I was a “proper” photographer, I’d assign the image some self important sounding name like “amygdaloid dissonance number six” or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is a witch’s brew of ink, detergent, water, and vegetable cooking oil which received a pretty energetic mixing up. I had to let it settle for a bit so that the soapy foam could decay down to the surface.

It’s probably my favorite of the series.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Desirous to not totally “abstract” the shots, a point was made to pop the minimum power flash and bounce it off a piece of white paper to illuminate the foam. All the other light, obviously the “warm” lamp, was coming from below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Curious as to what a pure detergent foam in water would look like under the macro lens, the shot above was produced. To me it looks a bit like some sort of monstrous spider web, but a lot of things remind me of monstrous spider webs.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria

Tagged with , , , ,

itemized exceptions

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I just can’t stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More of the macro shots with which I’ve been passing the cold weather down time, in today’s post. First up is a bit of Swiss Chard. Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) is actually part of the beetroot subspecies of the Amaranthaceae family. I’m planning on cooking the non photographed portions of it up with garlic, red onion, olive oil, and a bit of a poblano pepper thrown in to make it interesting. That’s likely the first time I’ve ever shared a recipe at this, your Newtown Pentacle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a bit challenging to pose this leafy thing, given the manner in which its leaves buckle up and curl. The now standard under flash arrangement was used to reveal some of the internal structures of the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of Lovecraftian stuff was flying through my head while I was shooting these, it should be mentioned, but then again – I was standing in a darkened and quite chilly room in which bright lights were flashing every eight to fifteen seconds. The thing about strobes is that even if you close your eyes, the light will penetrate the lids.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mentioned pareidola in my last post of macro shots, and a humble narrator is experiencing it heavily in the shot above. It’s the nature of the human mind to try and find recognizable faces and other familiar shapes in entirely random patterns, or at least it’s the nature of the slowly rotting ball of snot found between my ears and behind my eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a bit of that plum I was showing you in the last macro shot, with a blast of light traveling up and through the flesh of the fruit. The slice was probably about a quarter inch thick, and I set my flash gun to half power.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The snow pea pod pictured above required full power on the flash gun. The waxy skin of the legume provided a bit of refraction as well, which was unexpected. A legume, the snow pea (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) is also known to the french talkers as a “mangetout.” That means “eat all.” I know it’s supposed to be “two peas in a pod” but three just worked better.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fuzzy Kiwi fruit, (Actinidia deliciosa aka mangüeyo), is seen in the shot above and is the national fruit of China. Once known as the Chinese Gooseberry, the vine escaped China in 1847 via the actions of British horticulturalists. A girls school principal began planting the vine in New Zealand in the early 20th century, and the fruit soon became synonymous with the country, although it wasn’t called Kiwifruit until 1959.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, the world’s largest producer of Kiwifruit is actually Italy, and the specifics of the most common commercially available variant of this cultivar – called the Hayward – are that the world produces some 1,412,351 tonnes of it annually with Italy and New Zealand leading the pack. It seems that since the two nations are in different hemispheres, they don’t actually compete with each other due to seasonal variability.

Who knew?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

cubits wide

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More macro comestibles, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in a couple of posts from last week (this, and that), a humble narrator is making productive use of the hermitage forced upon him by the cold weather by experimentation with macro lens photography. The subject matter for this pursuit has almost exclusively been food based, and in the case of what you see in today’s post – it’s a true fruit and a drupe, not berries which are commonly referred to as fruit like banana or citrus.

The circumstance of the shots utilizes a jury rigged lighting set up which includes the usage of a powerful flash placed behind the subject, which allows for some of the internal structure of the food stuffs to be revealed. It’s all somewhat complicated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First up on the stage are apples, specifically two of them, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you exactly which one of the 7,500 breeds of the thing they are – they’re red apples which I bought at the bodega across the street from my house is all I can tell you. The nice thing about this sort of project is that in addition to providing for an interesting technical challenge which produces somewhat intriguing results, it also results in a series of tasty and healthy snacks for a narrator to enjoy when the work is done.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apples and humans have been together a long time. Literal interpreters of certain holy texts will tell you that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil consumed by Adam and Eve was an apple, but that’s largely because of a translation era. There’s also the Nordic tradition of the Golden Apples of Idunn, which supplied Odin, Loki, and the rest of that crew with immortality. Heracles had twelve labors, and acquiring the golden apples found at the Garden of the Hesperides was one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Malus domestica is the botanical classification for all 7,500 kinds of domesticated apple, which have been bred out from a wild ancestor native to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang that is called Malus sieversii. It’s believed that the original cultivation of apples as a crop began in China’s Tian Shan mountains in prehistoric times. Apples are produced by a deciduous tree which is part of the same botanical family that produces Roses and Plums, amongst other useful things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that China is the world’s apple superpower, producing roughly half of the worldwide annual 80 million ton harvest of the fruit. Apples are nearly twice as genetically complex as human beings, and unlike humans, if you store them under the right conditions you can count on them staying fresh for months. The Granny Smith and Fuji variants can be kept viable in storage for nearly a year under tightly controlled circumstance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apples were brought to the Americas by European colonists in the 17th century, and the first orchard on the continent was in Boston. The schoolboy mythology version of American history claims that Johnny Appleseed distributed cultivars of Apples to far flung homesteads. The reality was that John Chapman was a Swedenborgian missionary, who maintained a far flung apple tree nurseries business, who would just show up on your property and try to convert you to the “New Church.” He would distribute individual sections of the bible to people he visited, operating a one chapter at a time library service for pioneers. Chapman would also try to talk the farmers he met into partnering with him on an apple nursery planted on their property.

The esoteric side of Swedenborgian thought opined that if if you could create a society that operated in the manner of an orchard, it would be producing better citizen and parishioner fruit than you could by letting them grow wild. Later adherents of the philosophy would popularize and institutionalize into education a tenet of their faith, and if you attended Kindergarten then you’ve experienced it.

Swedenborgian Kindergarden – American Child Orchard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above looks right down where the stem of the fruit connected to the branch. My “under” flash was set to maximum power and “throw” to illuminate the otherwise lightfast skin and flesh of the fruit. I’ve received a couple of comments about the prior posts that there’s a “Georgia O’Keefe” sort of sexual vibe going on with some of these shots, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Technically speaking, these are the sex organs of a life form, so… probably not far off. I’ve always been interested in the visual similarity of various animal body parts to analogous organs found in the plant world. My opinion on the subject has always been that evolution is a somewhat lazy beast, and that certain anatomical configurations were figured out very early in the game and have been widely transmitted as the various clades diverged from each other. Someday, science will describe certain shapes and structures as being distinctly terrestrial – presuming we have something else to compare earthly life to in a clinical setting.

Either that, or it’s the same mechanism of the human brain which renders a passing cloud as either a winged dragon or a unicorn and sees recognizable shapes in otherwise random patterns, which is called pareidolia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, Plums also belong to the Rosales or Rose family, just like apples. A taxonomist will argue about the number of plum species there are, but the presumption is that there are something like 20-40 individual variants. Commercially available plums are a different story, with most of the Plums we eat originate from either the European plum (Prunus domestica) or the Japanese plum (Prunus salicina).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plums aren’t fruits, unlike apples, instead they’re drupes. They’ve been domesticated by humans since Neolithic times. If you spot a stand of Prunus domestica in the woods of the Caucasian Montains of Eastern Europe, you’ve got a good candidate spot for archaeologists and paleontologists to poke at.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I’m trying to do with these macro experiments is to find a way to do an “x-ray view.” This requires a bit of “studio-fu.” The shot above is the same basic setup as the one below, with the difference between them being that in the one above, I left a lamp on that flooded the lens facing section of the plum with light. This reveals surface details and true color.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the “x-ray view” above, the lamp was turned off after about a second. When the big flash underneath the Plum went off, all that light went traveling straight up through the thing, revealing all the internal structure. Haven’t quite perfected this procedure yet, but intriguing – ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above and below are long exposures, coupled with that flash traveling up through the Plum to reveal the internal structure of the skin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one above is my favorite of the plum series, mainly because you see both exterior and interior of the thing simultaneously. I had to jump through a few digital hoops developing these things, incidentally, as my improvised lighting and flash set up hopelessly confused the camera.

I’ll be doing more of this kind of thing periodically, as I’m having a lot of fun, and eating a lot of fruit.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

vine encumbered

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It’s “something completely different day” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle has been exercising her green thumb since the late spring, and we have quite a cucumber patch situation in one of the flower boxes out on said porch. Our Lady is an early riser, whereas your humble narrator is not, so one recent evening after she had retired to the boudoir, I was found out on the porch. Astoria is somewhat infested with rats, and given the abundance of cucumbers found hereabouts, a rustling in the patch caused me to grab a flashlight and inspect. While doing so, and it was just the wind btw, it occurred that it would be cool to stick a camera down in the pot and see what I could see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My trusty old Canon G10 has a fantastic macro lens function on it, but the device’s weaknesses have always been most apparent in low light situations. Luckily, one of my flash guns has a “slave” function built into it, which triggers it when another camera flash is actuated within a certain visual range of its sensor.

Accordingly, the secondary flash was positioned at the far end of the vine, and the G10’s onboard flash (which is pathetic, but adequate for the task at hand) activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The G10 was outfitted with a remote cable release, and its menu of options set up, whereupon I sat it down on the soil deep within Our Lady’s flower trough. A little bit of noodling on the settings was called for, and eventually, the correct combination of instructions were encoded into both the capture device and external flash gun. Did I mention that these shots were captured well after midnight and in somewhat complete darkness?

Also, I never knew that cucumbers were covered in little hypodermic needles when immature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Encouraged by my results in the first few shots, I ran inside and grabbed another bit of photographic kit, a clamp with a tripod’s ball head built into it and used the same technique to shoot down into the vine at some of the maturing fruit. In some of these shots, like the one above, you can actually see worms emerging from the recently watered soil. I plan on exploring this approach in the future, presuming that some urban farmer will allow me access to their planting beds at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One realizes that botanical macro shots aren’t exactly par for the course here at your Newtown Pentacle, but since I couldn’t stop looking at them, it was decided to share them in today’s rather late in the day post.

Also, for all of you who donated money to the camera fund last week, I cannot express my gratitude. I will at some point in the near future, incidentally, when my financial life isn’t quite as rugged. Like the Grinch confronted by Mary Lou Who, my heart grew two sizes due to your generosity and support.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

adding to

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Even when I’m home, shit happens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’m sitting on the porch with the dog recently, when a fly lands on a table we keep outside. The fly looks at me, all haughty like, and proceeds to squeeze out this yellowish blob from what would be, on a mammal, its buttocks. You never know with insects, but if something came out of the analogous section of the dog…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Curious as to what this yellowish blob was, I grabbed my camera and soon discovered that it was beyond the limited “macro” focusing that my lineup of glass could capture. Macro photography is its own “thing” and is an area which I’m not really set up to explore. Therefore, I had to get all inventive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a quick trip to my desk for equipment – acquiring a small jewelers loupe and a pencil – I had set up a quickie magnifier for the fly goop. What I was hoping for was that was some sort of squamous egg cartridge which be sprouting worms, but I think it might have just been fly poop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obviously, this is far from a perfect situation – optical fidelity wise – shooting with an expensive lens through a cheap magnifying lens. There is a trick to this, one which involves disabling autofocus on the expensive glass attached to the camera. The camera desperately wanted to lock onto to the front of the loupe’s lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trick is to get the focal point of the image set for the point in space at which the magnifying loupe was focused, as you see in the shot above. An interesting exercise, but I didn’t get any little worms as I hoped. Regardless, I doused the thing with Lysol and went along my merry way. The dog slept through the whole thing, but she’s a honey badger when you really get down to it.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

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