The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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disproportionate orders

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What if peace broke out? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given my love of hatred and conflict, it’s an odd thing that I found myself at the East River last weekend to attend a solemnified ceremony led by an international team of Spitiual Industrial Complex employees and sky father worshippers devoted to “peace.” Additionally, since my entire spiritual path and moral compass is built around the “Adventures of Superman,” the only way to achieve a lasting peace on this planet might just be the presence of an extraterrestrial savior possessed of powers and abilities greater than those of any ordinary man. Disguised as one of us, and working at a great metropolitan newspaper… well, you know the rest – leaping tall buildings, mighty rivers, locomotives. Truth, Justice, and the “American Way.”

The American Way ain’t peace. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, there are others out there who live in a more hopeful stat of awareness, and work towards achieving a goal which I’m convinced you’d need laser vision and the ability to walk across the surface of the sun unscathed to do. They gathered last weekend in Gantry Plaza State Park to meditate, and speak in public, sharing their points of view and offering curative advice to halt the epic suffering of their fellow humans by causing a cessation of armed conflict and violence. 

To this end, they inscribed prayers and other missives on a series of floatable lanterns. Some of my friends were driving the kayaks which hauled the things into position. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, this is an annual event, one which my friend Erik Baard is centrally involved with. Erik is a deeply annoying friend, I would mention, as he sets forward examples in his lifestyle, politics, and behavior that few can actually measure up to. Many people in the environmental community “talk the talk,” but few “walk the walk.” They’ll yell and scream about oil and the modern world in a meeting, then get into an SUV and drive into Manhattan. Not this bloke.

I know three, maybe four, of the “real things” and it’s important to acknowledge them when they’re around. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, Erik and his group of paddlers hauled the lanterns out and affixed them to a wire of something anchored on the bottom of the East River. I started getting bored at this point, and decided to play around with the camera a little bit.

Me? I ain’t the real thing, I’m just some schmuck with a camera. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I set the thing up for some longish exposures, about thirty seconds each. Luckily, the displacement waves from passing NYC Ferries were splashing in and around the rip rap shoreline.

Technically speaking, this isn’t Gantry Plaza State Park’s shoreline, it’s NYC’s Hunters Point South Park. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s what I did on Sunday night. 

TLDR; Peace lanterns, musing about Superman, pictures. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 20, 2018 at 1:00 pm

splintered state

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How many bees would you get if you bought a pound of bees?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had planned on offering you a batty story today, but alas, the photos are still in the oven and are being cooked. It will be a satisfying repast, I believe, but that particular dinner isn’t ready yet. Accordingly, here’s a few odd and end shots collected over the last couple of weeks that utilize the daytime long exposure techniques recently described.

Once it cools down again, and we’re in the post Labor Day period when the beaches are fairly empty, I plan on doing some shooting with this technique in areas with truly energetic water. For now, the East River and my beloved Newtown Creek will just have to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I’m looking for are shorelines with some serious waves blasting against the shoreline. I’m thinking the southern coastlines of Brooklyn are perfect, as is the eastern coastline of Long Island out in Montauk, for this sort of endeavor. These shots use the ten stop ND filter recently acquired, and represent about thirty seconds each of movement for both water and wind blown vegetation.

The first shot is one of the dolphins surrounding the Roosevelt Island Bridge, the second is Hallets Cove in Astoria, and the one below is from Newtown Creek in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Half of the Newtown Creek’s environmental issues result from a lack of laminar “flow” which allows for the buildup of a bed of sediments referred to as “black mayonnaise.” At low tide, and using the long exposure technique, you can eliminate the specular highlights of the surrounding environment encountered on the surface of the water and peer into the shallows. I’ve always wanted to chuck a chunk of magnesium into the Creek to light up the water column (magnesium burns in water and emits a blinding white light) but I’d probably end up blowing up Maspeth or burning down Greenpoint.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 28, 2018 at 11:30 am

night watchman

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Smooth, original flavors, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has always had a tendency to ignore the diurnal nature of the human specie, preferring instead to exist in the darkness when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is occluded by the planetary body. Accordingly, when a humble narrator was in his early years, it was not uncommon to find myself employed during overnight shifts at Manhattan’s corporate salt mines. Other than putting a dent in an otherwise nonexistent social life, this particular style of life afforded one rare sights and uncommon experiences. It played to a certain sense of self, wherein one was out of sync with the rest of the world, wanting to eat dinner whilst the menu offered only breakfast fare. The weekends were difficult, as a note, since I was waking up on “Saturday morning” at about seven p.m.

If you want to experience hypnogogic hallucinations regularly, the night shift is the best way to get there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s late night, as in one or two in the morning, and then there’s the “hour of the wolf” as its called by European peasantry. The latter are the fuligin depths experienced between three a.m. and the rising of the burning thermonuclear eye in the eastern skies. That’s when the animals of the Shining City have regency over the streets. One of my overnight jobs, which was an astounding number of decades ago, saw a humble narrator working in the complex of “international style” office buildings at Rockefeller Center adjoining that hive of villainy and perversion called Times Square.

Something I can tell you is that Rockefeller Center sits upon a connected complex, and that beneath the banal glass frontages of the office buildings is a subterrene series of basements, tunnels, and facilities that maintain the physical plant of the offices above. Many times I had occasion to enter this underground complex, as the company I labored for on the overnight shift maintained a small print shop down there which I’d periodically have to deliver and pick up work from. They have golf carts with flashy siren lights on them down below, and a small army of maintenance workers. I never saw a map, but this series of interconnected basements and underground floors has to cover at least five to six square city blocks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been inside the Manhattan Bridge, officially. Never have I entered the vaults of the Brooklyn Bridge, nor the towers of Queensborough. “As above, so below” is something an occult scholar will tell you, and one of my obsessive desires is to gain nocturnal entrance to the dripping network of maintenance tunnels and underground caverns maintained by the City someday. How far down have we tunneled and chipped away? It’s always night underground, so I should fit right in.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there?


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 21, 2018 at 11:30 am

despair’s profundity

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Just another day in paradise, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the height of last week’s “hot” one found himself at Hallets Cove here in Astoria, killing some time with the camera whilst waiting for the NYC Ferry to arrive. Unfortunately, the long exposure shots from Hallets Cove didn’t turn out well, as in the midst of calculating exposure times and compositional angles, a humble narrator omitting calculating the effect of setting up a tripod on sand. It was my firm belief that that the tripod legs were spread out far enough to create a stable enough platform for the camera, but alas, like sand through the hourglass (or within five feet of the tide line) so are the days of my life – shifting, insubstantial, and without foundation. The long exposure above and below were actually gathered at Socrates Sculpture Garden where a more solid firmament is found.

Accordingly, I spent the entire weekend beating myself up over coming home from Hallets Cove with a bunch of motion blurred shots which would have otherwise been quite fetching.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is always the case this time of the year, one is more introspective and self critical than is usual, which is usually “very.” I still retain vague recollections of the impending doom felt during childhood for the “back to school” part of the late summer, an atavist memory which always colors my mood. It’s also a particularly depressing week for me personally, since I have a birthday coming up and my birthdays never seem to go well. There’s been like fifty of them so far, and maybe five haven’t resulted in some sort of traumatic experience. Our Lady of the Pentacle and my coterie of friends try their hardest, but I’m just jinxed when it comes to birthdays.

Speaking of, today is H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out the link (below) to a boat tour I’m going to be conducting on the 30th of August, after all this birthday business has passed. It’s underwritten by a grant that my pals at Waterfront Alliance and Working Harbor Committee managed to get that commemorates the bicentennial of the opening of the Erie Canal. Only five smackers for this one, and we’re going to be onboard a NY Water Taxi leaving from Red Hook. First, we’re heading north along the East River as far as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, then reversing and going south towards Erie Basin and Industry City in South Brooklyn and eventually returning to Red Hook. 

I’ll be on the mike for this one, and I’m planning on regaling the folks onboard with maritime history. It should be a fairly vulgar display of my rhetorical prowess. Also, it’s only $5, so if I’m as disappointing in real life as many tell me you don’t have much to lose.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 20, 2018 at 11:15 am

was nightlocking

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Who can guess, all there is, that might be lurking down there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In industrial Maspeth, where I spent last Sunday afternoon, are the relict maritime industrial bulkheads of a corporate outfit called Phelps Dodge, which has long since “left the building.” The Phelps Dodge property has been divided up, sold off, and developed separately. The company, which was in the copper refining trade along Newtown Creek, is one of the “PRP” or “potentially responsible parties” originally named in the EPA’s 2010 Superfund declaration for the waterway. Although there isn’t even a sign indicating they were once here, Phelps was one of the largest employers on the Queens side of the Creek for more than a century. The first incarnation of what would become the Phelps Dodge plant on the LIC/Maspeth border planted heir stakes here in 1872 as “G.H. Nichols and Co.,” later becoming “Nichols Chemical Co.” in 1891 and then “General Chemical Company” in 1899. In 1930, the so called Laurel Hill plant was purchased by the Phelps Dodge corporation. At it’s height, the plant directly employed 17,000 people.

They manufactured several chemicals here, but their main product line centered around sulfuric acid. The Phelps Dodge people were copper refiners, ultimately, and used the acid to free metal ore from the rock it was embedded in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Laurel Hill Plant declined, and in 1984 it was shuttered. The United States Postal Service purchased the site from Phelps Dodge in 1986, hoping to use it as a truck storage yard, but it was soon determined that the property was too contaminated for use as a parking lot and a judge ordered Phelps Dodge to buy back the property in 1996. In 2001, the old factory and acid mill buildings were torn down, and the property was subdivided into lots. At one of these lots, the Restaurant Depot wholesale chain erected a location. On another, the Koscisuzcko Bridge replacement project is playing out, and on yet another a brand new Federal Express shipping hub has been created.

The shots in today’s post depict the last vestiges of Phelps’s long occupancy, the remains of heavy piers which carried terminal railway trackage on them, allowing for barge to rail operations at the acid factory and copper refinery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Phelps Dodge property is found just to the south of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk tracks, along a section known as “deadmans curve.” The nickname for this section of the tracks is due to the Berlinville Rail Disaster in 1893 (two LIRR passenger trains collided at speed, engine to engine) and the habits of Phelps Dodge workers who would routinely attempt to run in front of and outpace the trains when crossing the railroad tracks, resulting in a lot of squished employees.

Modern day 43rd street used to be a colonial era pathway that crossed modern day Queens from the forbidden northern coast of Queens’ Berrian and Riker properties at Bowery Bay in Astoria, then ran south and across the swamps at modern day Northern Blvd. and then over the hills of Middleburgh (Sunnyside) and then down to Newtown Creek through Maspeth. This path was paved with crushed oyster shells, and hence was called “The Shell Road.” It’s a little hard to visualize this in modernity, because y’know… Robert Moses. The Long Island Expressway, BQE, Queens Blvd., Northern Blvd., and the Grand Central Parkway all conclude this ancient pathway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a couple of other businesses on the former Phelps properties, but none of them look towards the water. I can’t speak intelligently about who owns what, but from observation it seems that since Superfund when a property changes hands on the creek the original owner holds on to the sections that directly touch the water. My presumption is that this insulates the new owners against liability for the cleanup costs, but that’s an assumption and you know what “they” say when you “assume” something. It makes an “ass” out of “you” and “me.”

What I can tell you for certain is that these collapsing and rotting heavy piers look pretty cool and make for good lens fodder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That water pouring out of the pipe you see is a permitted “SPDES” outfall, and connected to the Kosciuszcko Bridge project. It was a late afternoon low tide period when these shots were captured. With all the rain we’ve been getting, the “eau de Creek” was particularly strong and inescapable, amplified as it was by a dew point humidity up in the 75% range.

A humble narrator was also cooking in the early August emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, and there were a few times when touching the camera that I was concerned about how hot it was getting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before any of you accuse me of heavily retouching or manipulating these shots to make things look surreal and weird – here’s how I got them:

These are deep focus, narrow aperture tripod shots accomplished via the usage of a ten stop ND filter. This allows for exposure times of (in the case of today’s images) twenty to thirty seconds. This smooths out the water, and renders the specular highlights of sun and wave invisible. It also allows the camera to peer into the shallows and depths alike, offering a chance to observe and answer the oft asked question of “Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?”


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 14, 2018 at 11:00 am

pregnant pauses

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Announcing two free boat tours, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This Saturday is the Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” event, and with NY Waterways, the folks at WA have given me the opportunity to bring two boat loads worth of people to the fabulous Newtown Creek. The tours are free (there is a $5 registration fee during ticketing) and will be 90 minutes long. There’s a ten a.m. and a twelve p.m. tour, both of which will include a fully narrated history of the East River and the Newtown Creek. Navigational issues and timing dictate that we are going to be visiting the first half of the Creek only, which is as far as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge roughly one and a half miles from the mouth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ticketing links for the tours (as well as a couple of other offerings I’ve got going this weekend) are at the bottom of this post. Sights you’ll see up close from the water include the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant, SimsMetal Recycling, Allocco Recycling, the Pulaski and Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, and the coastlines of Long Island City and Greenpoint. The East River section seen and discussed will be the equivalent stretch from Manhattan’s Pier 11 (Wall Street) to 23rd street. That gives you Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Come with? My colleague from Newtown Creek Alliance – Will Elkins – is going to be sharing the microphone duty with me on the Newtown Creek, exploring the meaning and manifestations of our “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” motto at Newtown Creek Alliance.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – City of Water Day Newtown Creek Boat Tours – with Waterfront Alliance, NY Waterways, and Newtown Creek Alliance.

As part of the Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” event, I’ll be conducting two free 90 minute boat tours heading to Newtown Creek, leaving from Pier 11 in Manhattan. We won’t be visiting the entire Newtown Creek, as a note, due to time constraints and navigational issues, but we will get a good mile and a half of it in.

Tickets and more details

Ten a.m. departure here.
Twelve p.m. departure here.

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

vast armful

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Artsy fartsy at Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the derisive things people say about me is that it often seems like I’m exploring some random tangent with no apparent goal. This cannot be further from the truth, as there are overarching strategic goals which can sometimes take years and years to play out and are expressed by following various tactics along the way. Part of the reason that you have seen so much in the way of long exposure night photography in recent months, here at your Newtown Pentacle, has been in pursuit of familiarizing myself with the techniques and foibles associated with this particular discipline.

I’ve also been slowly accumulating “kit,” on a tight budget.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent addition to my camera bag is a ten stop ND filter. For those not familiar with such photographic nitty gritty, an ND filter is essentially a very dark sunglass for your lens, which allows you to slow – or stop – down the daylight exposure process to something approximating night time exposures. Thirty second or longer exposures are made possible with the little chunk of semi opaque black glass.

Of course, the day after I picked up the filter, that heat wave we all so enjoyed kicked into gear. This sort of thing happens to me all the time… get a new lens?… weeklong blizzard… tripod?… two weeks of rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I finally was able to make the time and endure the weather, I took the ND filter and the rest of my camera bag over to my happy hunting grounds at the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek and got busy. I kept on having to shoo away angry geese, as a note, but I’m pretty happy with my initial results and look forward to drilling down into and exploring what I can do with this new tool.

Geese are dicks. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Research is essential when purchasing anything camera related, otherwise you’re going to end up spending a fortune. All camera tripod mounts use a twenty turn quarter inch screw, for instance. If you buy that screw at a camera shop, it’s going to cost you $5-7 for just one screw, whereas the same amount of cash will buy you a bag of fifty of them at Home Depot. At home, I’m constantly improvising this or that for table shots and other needs rather than buying something expensive from BH Photo that I’ll use just once.

I bought a screw on type filter, rather than the filter holder arrangement of the type offered by the Lee company. I avoided the variable type, instead getting a “regular” ND filter manufactured under the ICE brand name for about thirty bucks. The thing you have to watch out for with these devices is color cast. They’ve all got a color cast, I’m told, whether they cost $30 or $300, so I opted for the most affordable option after doing my research. As a note, the BH Photo and Adorama organizations have uploaded hours and hours of video to YouTube that discuss the usage and nature of the gear they sell. Some of these are instructional videos, for those possessed of all levels of photographic acumen. Worth a look.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with something this dark on the front of your lens is in composition and focusing, but that’s where some of the online research came in handy. The traditional manner (and best practice, admittedly) to handle the ND process is by doing a filterless “master shot” and then calculating the extra exposure time needed when the filter is applied. Instead, on the advice of a vlogging landscape photographer, I activated the live view screen on the camera (which I almost never do) and this gave me a somewhat inaccurate preview of the shot which also allowed me to set the point of focus. The trick is in setting the screen to show you the histogram of the shot while you’re composing and fiddling with settings. Since these shots were gathered at narrow apertures (f8-f18) the only thing I really had to worry about was “hyperfocal” distance, focus wise.

Hyperfocal distance is the theoretical field of acceptable sharpness which starts at five to seven feet from the lens and then extends out to infinity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a fairly full schedule for this coming week, but I’m anxious to find myself at an opportune point of view with flowing water to take advantage of the time stretching aspects of this ND filter. First chance I get, I’m heading to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park, with my fingers crossed that the fountains will be turned on.

I’m glad that there are no fountains on the Newtown Creek, actually.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Saturday, July 14th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

Sunday, July 15th – Penny2Plank – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

There are eleven bridges crossing the modern day Newtown Creek and its tributaries, nine of which are moveable bridges of one kind or another. Other bridges, forgotten and demolished, used to cross the Creek. The approaches to these bridges are still present on the street grids of Brooklyn and Queens as “street ends.” Newtown Creek Alliance and a small army of volunteers have been working to transform these “street ends” from weed choked dumping grounds into inviting public spaces. This walk with NCA historian Mitch Waxman will take you there and back again, discussing the history and current status of these street ends and the territory in between.

The tour will start in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and end in Queens’ Maspeth nearby the Grand Street Bridge.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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