The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘night

hastily filling

with 3 comments

Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has enjoyed his self allotted time off, if you’re the curious type. Given the tropical clime and frequent rainstorms, the last two weeks haven’t exactly been a wonderland of joy, but evening hours when the temperatures were a bit more tolerable were exploited. During these nocturnal scuttlings around the various neighborhoods I keep an eye on, it was decided to severely limit the amount of “kit” one carried and utilized in my pursuits.

The normal “everyday carry” of heavy zoomable lenses, tripod, and all the other crap I normally drag around was left at HQ. Leaving the house, all I had on me were two prime lenses – a 24mm pancake lens and the 50mm “nifty fifty.” For camera support, I was carrying a gizmo called an “ultra pod,” which is a metal plate with a tripod head on it and four latex furniture caster feet. Beyond that, all I had on me was an air blower and a couple of lens cloths, a flash light, and a cable release. The camera bag weighed more than what was inside it. Perfect for roaming around on sultry August evenings, here in the Borough of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the worst things you can tell any kind of artist is “do whatever you feel like.” Limitations are important, as that’s where challenge lies. The tyranny of the blank page has demolished the aspirations of many, whereas forcing oneself to write or draw or photograph within set limits is an invitation to “get creative.”

The cool thing about the ultrapod and the tiny and extremely light lenses I was using was that this setup forced me to slow down a bit and really put some thought into where the camera was placed, rather than just zooming in on a subject. Additionally, it put me back into the mental space I used to operate in back when I first got serious about shooting and was using a Canon G10 mounted on a magnetic tripod. My camera has been sitting on top of fireboxes, on the sidewalk, windowsills – you name it – for the last couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, the one thing I was constantly wishing for during this particular two week long exercise was a more modern camera body with one of those neato keen flip out screens. Composing the shot above found a humble narrator lying prone and belly down onto the pavement on the corner of 38th street and Northern Blvd., which was kind of gross.

The Canon 7D is a champion camera body – tough, resistant to the constant physical and emotional abuse I inflict on it, and quite the omnivore as far as the number of common tasks it can handle ably. Saying that, I’m quite attracted to the new Canon mirrorless R series cameras, but everyone I know recommends getting a Sony A7 series with a third party adaptor for my lenses instead. This is all intellectual, of course, as a humble narrator doesn’t have two pennies to rub together. I’d need several hundred thousand rubbable pennies for a new camera.


“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

August 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm

grotesque night

with one comment

Vampires be damned, I’m going out!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you might recall, last Thursday saw the Newtown Pentacle experiencing a temperature inversion whose unseasonable warmth generated a not insignificant amount of mist and fog. Atmospheric humidity was measured in the high end of the ninetieth percentiles, and the air temperature – even at night – never dipped below seventy degrees on that scale which was offered by and named for German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724. Accordingly, one decided to stay up and go out into the fuligin.

After preparing and quaffing several decanters of caffeinated beverages, and having slavishly outfitted the camera bag for “night shooting,” I left Astoria at four in the morning, with a certain destination in mind, and my full kit on my back (including tripod). The tripod wasn’t deployed for a while, however, and all of the shots you’ll see over the next couple of days are handheld.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One decided on 48th street as offering my best southern path from “a” to “b,” with “b” in mind as being the lugubrious Newtown Creek. This is essentially one long incline, passing from the former marshlands of Northern Blvd., over the ridge into which Sunnyside Gardens was embedded, and continuing up the crest of Laurel Hill whereupon a gradual descent to the elluvial flood plains of the Newtown Creek and its tributaries once suffused a vast and mosquito breeding wetland environment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thickening of the atmosphere – due to the high humidity – and combined with ascending the gradual slope, caused a heavy wave of perspiration to start which was soon oozing out of my skinvelope. This occult liquid, thick with secretions, began to soak into my clothing and cause no small amount of discomfort. Of more concern was the effect which the atmospherics might be having on my camera, which – unlike the meaty carriage utilized to carry my brain around – was functionally the same temperature as the surrounding mass of air so accretions of airborne moisture sought to coat it. I had long ago stored away my eye glasses, as their continual fogging made them more trouble than they were worth.

High humidity plus air temperatures in the chillier range, to the glassy parts of a lens, are a terrible combination. Condensation is ruinous. The prophylactic measure is to hold the camera close to my body, which warms it up a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing over Queens Blvd., and under the elevated concrete viaduct of the high flying IRT subway tracks, one began to feel a bit creeped out. It is an odd sensation moving through a City in the dark, knowing full well that any of the humans encountered will likely be inebriated or possessed of malign intent – or possibly some combination. Sex criminals and burglars are out at 4:30 in the morning – as well as photographers, it would seem.

As always, my headphones were in place, and the playlist of audio books employed for my night time jaunt were exclusively the writings of H.P. Lovecraft – as read in unabridged form by Wayne June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe it was the Lovecraft, or June’s basso performance of the material, but one found himself looking over his shoulder a lot. In the shadows and mist, unccommented upon men – if men they were – moved about in a manner which suggested that some series of neighborhood bacchanals had been well attended. All around me were cemeteries, ancient burying grounds locked away behind high iron gates. The desire to trespass was cut down by the sure knowledge that there are some things one does not wish to know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the height of Laurel Hill, the darkened streets began to brighten as the phosphorescence and sodium lighting of industrial West Maspeth began to illuminate the fog and mist. A quickness of step began to sharply increase my pace, which unfortunately began to increase the levels of perspiration one was experiencing.

Realization that my hair and clothing were saturated, and that although I was perspiring heavily, there was no way that this amount of liquid could have emerged out of me caused me to wonder – and more than wonder – why I was so moist.

The fact that I was walking through a gaseous vapor, a grounded cloud as it were, occurred when a casual touch revealed that my camera bag had become somewhat moistened as well. The closer I got to Newtown Creek, the more that an obsequious combination of automotive exhaust combining with the fog began to roil the olfactory senses, and my eyes began to sting. Regardless of discomfort, one had come this far, and the creeklands awaited.

Tomorrow – more.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm

breathing marble

with 7 comments

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

canopic jars

leave a comment »

A short one today

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, I’m a bit buried at the moment in work.

Accordingly, a single image greets you today, depicting my favorite Halal Meats food cart here in almond eyed Astoria. These cats, and their thriving enterprise, are found at 34th avenue and Steinway Street. As you can see, even well into the evening – there’s always a lineup of people waiting for chow. If you’re in the neighborhood – I recommend their two kabab hero sandwich, which is stuffed with eggplant, onions, and drowned in both yogurt and hot sauce.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2015 at 12:09 pm

splitting and chipping

leave a comment »

The Astoria Tumbleweeds doth roll about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The little trees which the human infestation tends to adorn their hovels with during the month of December pile up on the sidewalks around these parts during the first weeks of January, waiting for the wind to take them to new and novel locales. Just last week, one of the abandoned tumbleweeds was observed laconically rolling about in the middle of the street, for instance. Everywhere you go, the Astoria Tumbleweeds doth roll.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Occasion carried me over to 36th avenue recently, nearby the Kaufman Astoria movie studio complex. That’s where the garish lighting affixed to the former Famous Players studio building, as seen in the shot above, was observed. One loves LED lighting, as the technology has allowed a new class of compact and inexpensive flashlights that possess incredible powers of illumination to find their way into my hands, but those color changing architectural ones have to go. You’ll notice these installations all over Astoria, and despite the splash of bright color, these LED color changing accent lights are somewhat lowbrow and tasteless, harkening one to remember the neon colors popular during the 1980’s – when it seemed that a box of highlighters had exploded and distributed their day glow inks all over the city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past, the DSNY has issued instructions for the proper disposal of the resinous holiday trees, designed to aid the agency in putting this lumber to good use via the process of mulching. Unfortunately, the heavy winds typical of January and the presence of hundreds of illegally converted basement apartments (wherein the residents of said units are instructed by landlords to hide their presence from City officialdom by placing household trash in the street refuse wire collection baskets) result in these discarded bits of holiday cheer rolling about the street. Thusly are the Astoria Tumbleweeds released back into the wild, and freed to roam about the neighborhood.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

conscious or subconscious

with one comment

I am the night. You have feasted well…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, while traversing through the so called Court Square area found around Davis and Jackson in LIC, a humble narrator found himself deploying the camera and shooting into the fuligin night. This was a bit of whimsy on my part, as I had just watched the premiere episode of the new television series “Gotham.” It seems that Batman’s home town is actually LIC, as so many of the spots where the shows’ urban dramaturge played out were ultimately familiar to one such as myself.

I figured I’d see if Bats was lurking anywhere nearby, or if I might unintentionally capture a shot of Two-Face or Joker while they skulked in the shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was popping off a few exposures, one suddenly experienced a tap on the shoulder. A fellow was standing next to me, just a little too close for comfort, and watching as I played around with camera settings and assumed the series of odd postures which have proven themselves efficacious when attempting to gather low light shots without deploying a tripod. He said “Can I ask you a question?” as he slipped his hand into his knapsack. A child of New York in the 1980’s, and a Batman fan, I immediately began working out defensive solutions in my mind. There were five. Two would just put space between me and him, one would have busted his pelvis, and the other two would have put me in front of a judge for attempted homicide. The sixth solution was to wait, and find out what the question was.

He slowly pulled his hand out of the carry all, and there was something large – and heavy – held in his grasp. “Here we go again” I thought.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As his hand, grasping a large object which was black in coloration and clearly metallic, exited the bag – one was prepared to grab his wrist with my right hand and pull his arm and a probable weapon down toward the sidewalk and away from me. My left arm was primed to deliver a sharp elbow to his throat while I was simultaneously preparing to deliver a hip check that any NHL player would have approved of (this is one of the two solutions in which I end up in front of a judge). That’s when the fellow asked his question – “can you help me learn how to take better shots at night” as his hand finally emerged from the knap sack and produced a consumer level Nikon with an f3.5 zoom lens on it. Thereupon, a short lesson in aperture, ISO, and shutter speed ensued.

Gotham, indeed.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

headlong down

with one comment

Nowhere to go, no one to talk to, like a falling autumn leaf – me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One actually did have someplace to go last week – as a rare social occasion wherein a group of us who work for the Brownstoner Queens site commiserated over dinner and drinks in the Dutch Kills neighborhood last week. This drew me out just as the rain clouds were blowing out last Thursday night, and the sunset lighting one encountered was absolutely stellar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This rainbow appeared over what is today the Center Building on Northern Blvd., but what was once a Ford Service Center and later offices for a large pharmaceutical company. The song “Somewhere over the rainbow” apparently refers to Sunnyside, it would seem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week I also have someplace to go to – I’ll be attending a meeting of the Newtown Creek CAG (Community Advisory Group), on October 1st. It’s going to be held over in Brooklyn, at the McCarren Play Center Community Room, 776 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn. I’m told that the EPA will be present. Come with?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 29, 2014 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: