The Newtown Pentacle

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unknown spheres

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Archive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shouldn’t have spoken so soon about wandering around with the camera the other night, as one ended up drinking a bit too much wine and went to bed early instead. Accordingly, a few shots from the Newtown Pentacle archives are on offer today. I did go for a short walk last night, but didn’t do too much shooting.

That’s a bee that was having itself a sunflower party in Astoria on a warm summer day a few years ago when I encountered it, one of the many hundreds of visually interesting things you might encounter here in the ancient village. Astoria is quite buzzy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A different day, while walking home from somewhere, I encountered a chicken corpse lying in the gutter. Did this chicken lead a dissolute life? Was this chicken a dick? Was it merely an escapee from one fo the local “Pollo Vivo” abattoirs? Did it not pay its debts? Who can guess?

Lots of mysteries here in Astoria, can’t begin to solve them all. I’m told by the local gendarmes that at least once a week somebody flips their car over within the confines of the 114th pct. Further, as I did inquire, it’s not the same person who is flipping their car over and over. Instead it’s a heterogenous population of lousy drivers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like riding the Staten Island Ferry. One of the things which a humble narrator enjoys during these intervals on the big orange boat are the acrobatics of the seabirds which take advantage of its slipstream for a free ride between Manhattan and… Staten Island. Hitch hikers.

That’s some kind of gull pictured above, but one is always more than hesitant to offer speciation or classification for the avians. I will invariably get it wrong, which then invalidates every other statement I’ve ever made. Thereupon, I will be strung up and pilloried. There is no in between.

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, May 11th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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

May 14, 2020 at 11:00 am

head shakings

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Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned several times during the CoronAstoria period, one is trying to maintain an every other day schedule for constitutional photo walks. I leave HQ late, and well after dark when the rest of you are already snug in your bunkers. Let’s call the nights out “even” days, and the odd ones are when I’m in my personal bunker. Finding a way to whittle away the endless hours has been an occupation for me, one which I’ve been using to sharpen up some of my skills in the controlled environment of home base.

To wit, the shot above depicting a bodega directly across the street from HQ here in Astoria, is a composite of about 9 different images. All were shot “wide open” at f 1.8, using one of my “good lenses,” and “focus stacked.” What makes it different from other iterations of what must be a very familiar scene to long time readers, is that this time around I changed the exposure values of the individual images to try and get a rounder capture of the very bright and very dark aspects of the scene. It’s not an “HDR” shot, however. I did execute an HDR version of it for comparison, if you’re curious as to the difference. I prefer the one embedded above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the ways I’m spending my time involves voracious consumption of technique videos on YouTube’s various photography channels. Most of what you find on there is either aimed at beginners or novice photographers, but there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff to watch wherein you can pick up some tricks to up your game.

I’ve become a fan of British Landscape Photographer Thomas Heaton, for instance. Heaton is pals with a Pacific Northwest Landscape Photographer by the name of Nick Page, who also offers videos that are a bit more technical and also offers insights into digital darkroom methodology. I look forward to both arriving in my inbox. If you’re just starting out, or at an intermediate skill level behind the camera, Brenda Petrella’s Outdoor Photography School is a fantastic place to learn some new skills, and Brenda is pretty great behind the lens as well. Subscribe to any of their channels and YouTube’s algorithm will start recommending videos of similar ilk to you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’m hurting a little bit right now for fresh images due to the nasty weather we’ve recently experienced. All that rain upended my odd and even schedule. If everything went to plan, I was out last night wandering around some industrial zone and will be developing the shots gathered as you are reading this post.

Exciting, isn’t it?

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, May 11th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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

May 13, 2020 at 11:00 am

tool satchel

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Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY Battalion 49 was established in 1928, are known colloquially as the Hellgate Firefighters, and the unit is housed on the northern side of Astoria over on 35th street. The assigned units are Ladder 163 and Engine 312, and the latter is pictured above as it was screaming down Steinway Street toward Broadway the other night. A few blocks to the East, a couple of other fire units were hurtling out onto Broadway and executing a left hand turn, lights and sirens on, and all of this FDNY capability was heading in the direction of the Woodside Houses NYCHA campus. Not sure what was going on, but they were in an awful hurry to get somewhere.

Firemen, firemen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has had an awful time trying to get out and about in the last week, what with all the rain and the sudden return to colder climes. Additionally, I’ve been struggling a bit with my mood, which has been generally sour. It has finally set in that the likelihood of conducting any of the walking or boat tours that I normally offer during the warm weather months, or collecting the significant percentile of my annual income which is derived from such activities, will be impossible while COVID 19 is still rampant. I’ve been holding off on producing virtual tours, but it looks like that’s going to be the only option as far as keeping Zuzu the dog well stocked with milk bones.

Additionally, I kind of miss riding the subway, which is something I never thought I’d say. Well, technically, I wrote that statement and didn’t say it out loud… but, you get my gist. Evolve or die, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing proof of my theory that the NYPD owns at least one vehicle of every type which has ever been manufactured was encountered recently nearby a training facility which the gendarmes have set up for their K-9 unit. On Northern Blvd. at Honeywell Street, you’ll notice tall green fences with concrete barriers set around them. The fences are adorned with admonitions warning passerby not to attempt entry to the gated lot as there are Police Dogs within. Occasionally, you will be barked at while walking past the fence, which hides a few buildings and is surrounded by a variety of parked police vehicles whose markings indicate that they belong to either training or transit division personnel (presumptively, one of those is what “TD” stands for) or are specific to the K-9 unit and it’s special needs. A few of the SUV type cop cars had decal lettering on their windows advising caution as to the presence of interior dogs.

What that truck pictured above looks like to me is a “kennel carrier,” and it’s designated as being TCU 7017. TCU 7018 was parked right behind it.

Now, about that Dermot Shea action figure…

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, May 11th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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

May 11, 2020 at 11:00 am

breathing stertourously

with one comment

A few odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turns out that the NYPD has a wrecker tow truck stationed in Woodside, all kitted out with their colorways, logos, and flair. The coppers have all the good toys. I think we, as a City, should license out and sell toys of all of the municipal vehicles the way that the Star Wars people do. Have you got the limited edition mobile oppression platform? How about a Dermot Shea talking action figure? You pull a string on its back and it makes excuses for the Mayor’s policies while resisting the urge to call him an asshole.

The cops have aircraft of all types, drones, tanks, boats, cars, trucks, buses… someday I think there will be an NYPD branded Mobile Suit Gundam deployed on the mean streets of New York. Now, more than ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is absolutely startling to see Roosevelt Avenue empty. This is the corner of 58th street, which is one of the busier intersections in the borough of Queens under normal circumstance. A short burst of rain had just broken out. There were cops driving around with their lights off, seemingly looking for someone. The 7 train rattled by on the overhead tracks, puncturing the quiet. I did see a pair of guys carrying a whole lot of beer back to their apartment. Also, I had to pee.

That burst of rain occurred after a period of sweaty humidity and a subsequent ground fog had built up, when a strong cold wind began blowing through in a northerly direction. I can tell you this first hand, as I had actually been roaming around Queens for hours at the moment that this shot was gathered, and I was sweaty and rain soaked and growing steadily more chilled. It had been a warm night, so no filthy black raincoat, just a sweatshirt. The need to urinate had nothing to do with the weather, rather it was normal renal function at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

38th Avenue runs between Woodside Avenue/58th street and 61st street. It mirrors and follows the path of the Long Island Railroad tracks which are elevated up on a berm and surrounded by vegetated slopes. The section of it between Woodside Avenue and 54th street is spooky. There are homes on the north side of the street, but their back yards and driveways are what face 38th. It’s dark, and a few of the people who live here have not very high fences and excitable dogs. It’s a creepy street, for some reason. I instinctively don’t like walking down this stretch during the daylight hours, either. Can’t tell you why.

It’s a Queens thing.

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, May 4th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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

May 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

mental disturbance

with 2 comments

Flowing water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, I was just saying to a friend of mine that I’d really like to find some flowing water and photograph it. This was part of me pining for a walk in the woods, or the sort of natural setting which I’m currently unable to reach due to the shut down. Pedestrian distances, for me, involve a lot of interesting things to photograph, but flowing water? Not so much.

My beloved Newtown Creek must have heard me, as I discovered during a recent midnight walk through my happy place – Industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the industrial lots seemed to have a broken water main or something, and what must be hundreds of gallons of water an hour are pouring out from under their fenceline onto the street. The DEP sewer grates in this area are nearly always clogged up, and street flooding is fairly ubiquitous here on the corner of 58th road and 47th street, nearby the DSNY’s Queens West 5 Garage.

At the end of the street is the Maspeth Plank Road historic site, which I had walked over from Astoria to visit this particular evening.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flowing water was following its natural gravity driven course, towards Newtown Creek. Not wishing to soak my shoes, a short scuttle saw me on dry land along… the temporary tributary? Let’s call it Furman’s Creek for now.

About three people are going to get that reference, so here you are – this part of Maspeth used to be an island called Furman’s Island. Another island in Newtown Creek called Mussel Island was demolished at the start of the 20th century, and its spoils were used to connect Furman to Maspeth.

Below is a section from an undated map of smell nuisances that was likely drawn in the 1890’s depicting Mussel Island, Maspeth Creek, and Furman’s Island. As you can see, the coastline of Queens was VERY different in the relatively recent past.

Just as a point of interest for my fellow NYC history nerds, the shaded in smell nuisance site labeled as #17 was Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here, I negotiated my way over to the flowing water which I had so desired to photograph, and set up the camera in what was fairly pitch darkness. From the look of it, this flow of water has been going on for a while. Normal rainfall flows have long created a hydrologic “shape” in the ground at Plank Road through which street precipitant runoff has been flowing for years.

The constant flow of water off of the industrial compound has deepened that “shape” into sort of a gorge. There really isn’t any sort of firmament to the soil here – it’s rip rap, boulders, gravel, and the only thing holding all that together are the shallow roots of self planted weeds and grasses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Furman’s Creek, now flowing through Furman’s Gorge, was carrying a lot of street litter in its flow towards Newtown Creek. This is normal, unfortunately, but until we start putting social pressure on each other not to litter…

There was a soothing sound coming from the flowing water though, so that was nice. Quite tranquil, really. I said Industrial Maspeth is my happy place, and I mean it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have noticed, there’s a lot of photos on offer today, as opposed to the usual trio. Just couldn’t stop myself. As mentioned, I was desirous of finding a bucolic waterfall in the middle of some pristine forest to point the camera at.

Then along comes Furman’s Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flow, as mentioned, had created a gorge of sorts for the flowing water. Unfortunately, the gorge has made getting down onto the concrete bulkhead at the Maspeth Plank Road impossible without the usage of rubber boots. There was a good 4-8 inches of rapidly flowing earth juice moving towards the fabulous Newtown Creek in this section, surrounded by either gravel or super slippery mud.

Super slippery, not just slippery. Also – Now, more than ever.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From what I could see, there seemed to be a buildup of material in the mud flat to the right of the shot above. Saying that – it was dark, after midnight, and I was as socially isolated as you can get here at the Plank Road, so the discretion/valor internal discussion I had with myself determined that I wasn’t going to try and negotiate a path down to the edge to find out.

Under normal circumstance, I’d probably have tried, but given that I still had to walk back to Astoria…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I did scuttle over to the eastern side of Plank Road for the shot above, looking roughly westwards towards Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section and the Kosciuszcko Bridge. The large tanks in the center of the shot are on the National Grid property, and the dark shape in lower right foreground are pieces of wood that have somehow survived there since 1875, during the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

No, really, here’s an illustration of this scene from Harper’s Weekly in 1881.

I’m fairly sure I’ve got other shots of the Plank Road throughout the decades, but just can’t seem to find them at the moment. Back tomorrow.

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, May 4th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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

May 6, 2020 at 12:00 pm

chill wind

with one comment

Floop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an often photographed and displayed Bodega here in Astoria, found across the street from my house, and the image is simply a “wide open” f1.8 test of a new lens I found myself having to purchase last week. My old “nifty fifty” is so full of dust, and has grown rather “cranky” after more than a decade of use that I needed to replace it. It seems that Canon has redesigned the thing since the iteration I’ve been carrying was issued, and I can report that they have improved it in several ways. Luckily, this is another one of the “cheap” lenses, so it didn’t eat up too much of that stimulus check I received. A Christmas present I received from a friend last year was a Yongnuo knockoff version of the original Canon lens formula, but it suffers from a series of defects in terms of chromatic aberration and missed autofocus which I cannot describe as being “charming” or “uniquely characteristic.”

One of the challenges I’ve set for myself is to see how many photos I can acquire without leaving the house, here in CoronAstoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bird on a wire? I’m told that what you’re looking at is a Morning Dove, which is a cousin to the more common Pigeon. What I can tell you, given my legendarily bad skills in describing the Ornithological sphere, is that when this particularly skittish bird gets excited and flies around it makes a sort of squeaking sound. I’ve been trying to catch a shot of a hawk which has been patrolling the neighborhood in recent weeks, but haven’t been able to make that happen. I really don’t know where the wildlife photographers of the world find their patience. A humble narrator gets bored easily.

I sing rhyming nonsense songs to Zuzu the dog all the time, and am almost ready to unveil a Broadway show worth of tunes with lyrics like “yellow sigma three, that’s what dogs say, dee dee dee dee.” I’ve also got a novella I’m working on with the dog which I call “Flippity Floppity Floop, it’s a lot of good to gloop.” You have to find ways to fill the time you’d normally be spending out there in the big old world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My next door neighbor is a shut in, seems to own a couple of dozen cats, and has a plugged up drain on her roof. Additionally, the owner of the building next door to hers has been allowing his yard to go feral for several years – hence the dead tree slipped over her roofline. That’s the circumstance, but… you guessed it, more experimentation with esoteric camera technique is on display.

There are actually two shots combined into one up there. Both were shot with a wide open aperture of f1.8, and I used a technique which is common in macro photography to get it sharp throughout called “focus stacking” to combine them. The wide open aperture of f1.8 allows a low iso to be used, and also promulgates a quality of light capture which I find pleasing. Problem is that a wide aperture like f1.8 produces a narrow depth of field which is most easily explained as “if you focus on the eyes, the tip of the nose and the ears are blurry.” Stacking allows you too work around that.

Back tomorrow with something different, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

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, May 4th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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

May 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm

time subsided

with one comment

Well, still here…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week’s schedule of rain put a real crimp in a humble narrator’s wanderings, and the end of the week warmup here in Astoria was accompanied by an explosion of people getting out and about, which was followed by a ludicrous amount of NYPD activity… so advantage was not taken of Saturday evening as I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Apparently, two morons over by the nearby Woodside NYCHA campus decided to settle scores and shoot each other on Saturday night, which were Chief amongst the logical decisions made by the community at large. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be in a hospital right now?

NYPD was seemingly busier last Saturday than they’ve been in a couple of months, and one observed the neighborhood manifesting its particular annoyances as if there wasn’t a plague. Observed: Curbside liaisons for amorous adolescents, sidewalk somnambulism for the liquor enthusiasts, the revving of engines and gunning of the gas pedal for the fast and furious crowd, lots of casual littering. For some reason, people are now drinking in their parked cars, and discarding the liquor and wine bottles along the curbs. One particularly annoying lady has been sitting in her running car in front of HQ, drinking and smoking while on the phone (said phone is plugged into her car sound system, of course) for 11-12 hour long conversations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given all of the time spent here at HQ, one has been using the “controlled environment” to sharpen up some of his skills. The shut down has affected the amount of atmospheric and light pollution here in the ancient village of Astoria significantly, and given my night owl life style I’ve been marveling at the number of visible stars in our skies. Clicking on the image above will take you to Flickr and the larger sized iterations of it, wherein you’ll see something approaching constellations, visible from Astoria Queens and less than 5 miles from Manhattan.

Astrophotography is its own “thing” and not something I’ve ever really had the patience, opportunity, or inclination to experiment with. The plague cleared skies and all of this time on my hands has allowed for all three cautions to be abandoned. Of course, saying all that, it seemed to rain or was overcast 6 out of 7 nights last week. This isn’t “proper” Astro, of course, just a stab at exploring the technique.

It really feels like we’re settled into the trough of “the event” right now, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been happily surprised by the creation and sudden appearance of a new hole in the fences around the Sunnyside Yards, something which has occurred in recent weeks. Whomever is in charge of fence holes at Amtrak had recently sealed up three of my old “go to’s” and a humble narrator has been feeling bereft. One is always in search of a good hole, especially one large enough to allow access to a camera lens.

Holes. Now, more than ever. Also, it’s May 4th, so may the Force be with you.

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, May 4th. 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 as we move into April and beyond, 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.

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