The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Project FIrebox

puerile extravagance

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of several great things about the new camera system I’m working with is that I can pretty much leave the tripod at home when going out for a night time walk. What’s cool about that is that the somewhat laborious process of “stop/set up/shoot” has now been replaced with “hey, look at that, take a picture.” I still use the tripod occasionally, but it’s kind of an intentional thing rather than a necessary thing. For those of you who might not be photography obsessed gear heads, carrying less and doing more with it is kind of the name of the game when you’re on the street. Studio photography, as in the standard three light portrait shot you were likely the subject of during school photos or family portraits, still requires a bunch of gear. Saying that, you can’t instruct a passing Q104 bus to hold still, smile, or say “cheese.”

So, when do you need a tripod or other camera support when packing one of these very modern mirrorless cameras? When you want to do a long exposure, or a time lapse, or any number of photo genre’s that you want to play with which require an absolutely static relationship between camera and composition – that’s when.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Forgive me for rattling on about this at least once a week, but I’m still absolutely astounded by the set of capabilities which Canon has baked into this new gizmo, and am still exploring its limits. Hell, the biggest feature and selling point on this new generation of Canon cameras is face and eye based autofocus tracking and I haven’t even turned that one on yet due to the pandemic and my avoidance of other people. Just the other night I found a tiny button on the thing by accident – that I didn’t even know was there – that allowed me to toggle back and forth between manual and automatic settings. The only reason I found that was because I was wearing gloves and accidentally activated the thing.

The gloves are a step up for me as well, as I’ve finally found a pair that incorporate some sort of material into the finger pads which smart phone and other touch screens can acknowledge. If this process continues to its logical conclusion, I’ll be wearing an Iron Man suit by July.

Actually, I’d love an Iron Man suit, but they don’t have them in the husky department at Alexander’s. Now, how’s that for an obscure reference?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, while presenting a Sunnyside Yards shot gathered at a fence hole I refer to as the “old reliable,” I mentioned that whomsoever it is at Amtrak that’s been put in charge of fence holes at the rail complex during the Biden era has been busy. A couple of new ones have appeared, including one that allowed the shot above, depicting a Long Island Railroad train heading towards Manhattan.

Now, that’s a shot which my older camera would have categorically required a tripod to get. What I would’ve been unhappy about would have involved the train being motion blurred due to the shutter speed. The new unit had zero problems operating at low light and offers the use of a shutter speed which allowed me to produce a sharply defined and quite frozen moment.

See y’all tomorrow 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, March 8th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 10, 2021 at 11:00 am

untrammeled land

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It’s Wednesday again, say its name.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Firebox, firebox, firebox. The one pictured above, encountered on Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, is telegraphic. You pull the handle, a circuit is broken within the thing, and the bells go off at the local firehouse which brings out the lads and ladies who drive the big red truck. It’s likely a product of the Gamewell Company, which controlled about 95% of the market for this product at the start of the 20th century when the modern day FDNY was being formed and the Tammany crew were writing the checks. This, in my observation, the most common encountered form of fire alarm box you’ll find in NYC. The mount it’s sitting on is far more modern, but the alarm box itself probably dates back to the 1930’s or 40’s.

There are so many features of our New York streets that thoroughly blend into the background, and do it so well that you barely notice them. Manhole or access covers, utility poles, weird antennae… there’s all sorts of gear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Midnight wanderings, especially with all the bars closing early, can be a lonely affair. What with the quarantine and such, it’s been hard for me to find a few minutes to myself for “psychic butt scratching time.” The phone keeps ringing, Our Lady of the Pentacle requires company, there’s all of these Zoom meetings… I’ve really come to value these little snatches of nocturnal freedom more than I can say. Also, whereas in a spot like the one pictured above I’m quite obviously masked up, it’s been a sincere pleasure to forego the thing while marching about in the cold solitude of a January night.

If everything went to plan this week, as you’re reading this it will have been some 24 hours since a humble narrator received his first of two vaccination shots. If, by this time, you’ve received news of a humble narrator toothsomely tearing into passerby in pursuit of consuming their brains – you’ll know that we have arrived at a Walking Dead sort of scenario and you should avoid me. Who can say?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s, NYC began retiring the old Gamewell Telegraphic Fire Alarm Boxes in favor of a dual duty fire/police telephonic unit. This was during the crime wave which too many of you believe to have been a myth, or caused by “systemic racism,” or whatever other political terms you’re enamored with. People just like you, and Bill De Blasio, were in charge back then too. If crime, and being a victim thereof, is an intellectual concept for you rather than an ironclad memory that involves spitting out the bloody shards of your teeth, you really need to rethink your stances. I’m not advocating for bootlicking, nor for taking the Cops at their word and not holding them to account for every little thing, but very few of you “new people” have any idea what NYC was actually like prior to the current day. These new people have coined new lexicons, so the disconnect is logical.

Allow me to translate the recent past for you – “sex workers” controlled entire blocks, and all night long cars driven by “clients” would trawl around the neighborhood. In the mornings, used condoms and empty or smashed liquor bottles littered the sidewalk. Beyond the skin trade – school playgrounds were covered in broken glass, drug dealers operated with impunity and owned entire blocks, the Mafia controlled construction and private garbage collection as well as a bunch of other things and if you were smart you didn’t pay much attention to them. The cops did nothing but respond to 911 calls, and otherwise wouldn’t leave the safety of their cars to be proactive. The FDNY alarm boxes would alert fire houses of burning buildings, but FDNY wouldn’t be able to start fighting fires until armed Cops showed up to protect them. Rape didn’t involve being made to feel uncomfortable because somebody said something ugly or pointed at you. It was a world without bike lanes, if you can imagine such a 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, March 1st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

prismatic vistas

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier this week, ye olde Project Firebox is once more receiving a bit of my attention. Nobody notices these bits of street furniture, so I make it a point of doing so. Fire alarm boxes, technically speaking, used to operate using the sort of technology you’d associate with telegraph lines, but my understanding is that the vast majority of them now use the telephonic copper wire network to report trouble to the FDNY.

What do I know, I’m some schmuck with a camera wandering around in the dark in Queens, not an alarm box technician.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember when movie theaters were a thing, in the before times? Check out the lobby of one, with its snack bar, pictured above. This is the largish multiplex operated by the AMC company as part of the so called Kaufman Astoria Arts District, which is a dark and somewhat dangerously disconcerting area to walk through at night. One hopes that the same people who created this abrogation of the principals of urban design never get the chance to expand their empire of empty glassine storefronts and forbidding streetscapes.

Seriously, there are sections of industrial Maspeth which are friendlier to visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has been mentioned repeatedly – whomsoever it is that is in charge of poking new holes in the fences at Sunnyside Yards – I love you. I’ve never seen a Pennsylvania RR branded locomotive here before – normally, it’s New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and Long Island Railroad you see at Sunnyside Yards.

Thanks, Federal Hole Director, or Chairman of Holes, or perhaps Minister of Holes.

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, February 1st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 4, 2021 at 11:00 am

further liberation

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can have Manhattan, Long Island City is the most visually interesting part of New York City’s center core. Center core, you ask? If you’re in Bay Ridge, you ain’t in it. St. George on Staten Island is core, but a half mile back from the water ain’t. Everything west of Jackson Heights, west of Bushwick. Everything south of the Bronx Zoo, except for Manhattan above about 150th Street. A big chunk of western New Jersey is also core. I have spoken. Are you core? I’m hard core, here in Astoria.

Like Police cars, yellow taxi cabs are vehicles which seldom stop moving, with the exception being the last 11 months of this interminable pandemic for the taxis. I’ve been seeing entirely inert cabs all over the place, and a lot of them have had their medallions and other TLC flair removed. I have no idea how this industry in particular is going to find a road to recovery after this is all over. By my estimate, we’ve got at least another year of this ahead of us, by which point I’ll have watched everything Netflix has to offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One mentioned both Project Firebox and the native art form of the Borough of Queens – illegal dumping – in yesterday’s post. Here on Skillman Avenue, you’ve got both. That’s value for money right there, lords and ladies, just like dinner theater.

This particular stretch of Skillman Avenue, found between 39th street and Queens Plaza, is a favorite for the race car boys to meet up along. I’ve seen them drifting and fading multiple times over the last year, sending up plumes of tire smoke. The asphalt is scribed with black spirals and figure eight donut patterns. It’s a madhouse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another fence hole I’ve recently been able to exploit allowed one a view of this Amtrak train set moving itself around at Sunnyside Yards. One good thing – for me – about the pandemic period is that since I’m not rushing around to get to work or something important anymore is that I get to photograph the efforts of people who still have jobs.

Fun for me, who is little more than a whirling mass of filthy black clothing concealing a wandering mendicant.

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, February 1st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

close correspondence

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has often been asserted, illegal dumping is the unofficial art form of the Borough of Queens. Nowhere else, even in that runner-up section of Brooklyn which the children call Greenpoint, do you see the careful attention to arranging your junk so carefully. Composition is the difference between the amateur and professional leagues in most of the visual arts, and if one considers the sculptural qualities of these ad hoc installations… the mind boggles at the implication. One should spend a moment contemplating their navel – the omphalos of their very soul – right here.

Really, this is a growing problem, and 11 months into the Corona Pandemic a humble narrator can report that there’s observably a LOT more illegal dumping going on. Good news is that the art galleries of Manhattan haven’t figured out a way to charge you admission for this sort of thing yet, so get out there and look for a stack of tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m quite fond of this Sunnyside Yards/Amtrak shot. I’m also fond of the official at Amtrak responsible for poking holes in the Yard’s fences just big enough for me to maneuver a camera lens next to. It’s also the first shot I made a 35mm lens I picked up that made me say “huh.” The new camera I’ve mentioned a few times in the last month has been quite busy as I’ve been teaching myself how to use it. There’s a few things – like the fold out touch screen, for instance – that I’ve had to keep on reminding myself to use and that “I can do now.” That touch screen is how I was able to shoot through a fence hole that was maybe 3/4 of an inch square, and in a spot I’ve never been able to get a composed shot through before. The 35mm also easily sees through the diamond shaped apertures of standard chain link fencing.

I’ve also solved an annoying photoshop problem which was plaguing me a month or two back – a distracting cross hatch pattern manifesting in low pixel density parts of photos, specifically skies and water. Turns out that modern adobe camera raw has a weird default which turns off a certain form of “luminance noise” suppression. Suppression of noise used to be a default, but somebody at adobe decided to give you granular control over it with three sliders and set the default state on all three to zero. Sigh.

Y’know, I literally installed photoshop off of 16 floppy disks onto a Mac at my first advertising gig as “Stat Boy.” It wasn’t Photoshop with any numbers or letters after that, just Photoshop. I’m old. Kids these days… changing things for no reason so they can tell their bosses that they fixed something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Project Firebox. Remember when I used to do that, and there was a sixth post every week at Newtown Pentacle? Wow, those were the days, huh? Seriously, this project spun wildly out of control for me, and I found myself weeping while wandering through the City for miles and miles looking for fireboxes I hadn’t shot yet. Also, there’s only so many portrait shots you can do of fireboxes. Saying that…

Project Firebox is low key underway again, and we’ll be checking in on a few old friends to see how they’ve been weathering the storms of time.

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, February 1st. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 2, 2021 at 11:00 am

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