The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Subway

never cease

leave a comment »

Out on the water with the Working Harbor Committee, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion was billed as presenting “Brooklyn waterfront, past and present” and I was on the microphone for a good stretch of the trip. I was sharing the narration duty with my pal, Capt. Margaret Flanagan of the Waterfont Alliance organization, who I told point blank before the trip started that once the boat got past Red Hook “I got nothing.” Not a problem for Capt. Flanagan at all, as her able narration and vast knowledge of all things NY Harbor allowed me to slip away from the proverbial pulpit and shoot a few photos.

One bad thing about being one of the tour leaders for these excursions is that it has really cut into the amount of time I have to shoot, and since I’m Working Harbor’s official photographer – this has created a shortage of photos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A full harvest moon rose while we were out, and the shot above was captured while our vessel – a NY Waterways ferry – was plying the rippling surface of Gowanus Bay in South Brooklyn. As is often opined, the best times of year in NYC for photography are in the late spring and early fall, when the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself in relation to the City is quite efficacious. Obviously, these shots were captured at sunset and dusk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a tremendous desire to just get out on a boat and shoot for hours and hours during these intervals, and record the glorious parade of maritime industrial splendor out on the sixth borough. I took the East River Ferry to Manhattan’s Pier 11 from LIC to meet the Working Harbor chartered vessel in the City, but since the ER Ferry service concludes its schedule in the early evening, one was forced to enter the sweating concrete bunkers of the Subway system to get back to almond eyed Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 59th street, one encountered this fellow, who seemed intent on blowing his own horn.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

rational position

with one comment

I really need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the fun involved with buying a new lens is testing it out. Doesn’t matter how good or bad the device is, there’s “sweet spots” and contradictory failings which the itinerant wanderer needs to be familiar with if the thing is part of the daily carry. The B&H folks have a fairly generous return and exchange policy, and in my experience, the window in which you can hand them back the lens is a crucial interval for the investment. Accordingly, one has been shooting everything, and everywhere.

I can tell you this, the sigma 50-100 is one hell of a portrait lens, but I’ve had unequal results in certain circumstances. My effort at the moment is to discover where and when those failings occur, rendering them predictable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the places this lens absolutely sings is in the dark. The shot above is “wide open” and was captured while I was waiting for the train at 59th street recently. I’ve been saying it for a while, but the subway system is an absolutely fantastic photography workshop. Worst case scenario lighting, with a reflective subject moving at speed through darkness.

I don’t often “open the hood” on the process I use to produce shots for Newtown Pentacle, but since a bunch of you asked after yesterday’s post…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots above were captured at f2.2, with the lens dialed out to 94mm at ISO 5000. I’ve got a few other “bright lenses” but the sigma 50-100 really does a beautiful job drinking in the lurid shimmerings of pale light, and it literally outshines the other specimens in my “dark” kit. You can discern the lens’s aperture blades in the hot spots surrounding the R train’s headlights, incidentally.

Shots like these subway images are dependent, in my experience on shooting posture. There are US Army sniper rifle manuals out there which discuss shooting postures, and the body posture process which riflemen use to steady and focus their fire on targets is quite appropriate for the capture of light through a lens, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a different commute, the shot above was captured at Queens Plaza, and also depicts an R line train entering the station. There’s a bright, almost cartoony quality to the way that sigma’s “art” series lenses renders primary colors which required some adjusting on the saturation slider when I was working on the shot in Photoshop’s “camera raw” window.

For those not in the know, RAW format is essentially an uncompressed digital negative which allows a great deal of fine tuning to the captured shot as the file contains ALL of the information which the sensor saw, whereas JPEG is an image which is compressed and all the decisions have been made for you by the camera. Those decisions include color temperature, depth of shadows/highlights and so on. Every RAW shot can therefore receive a bit of a tweak, and I always shoot in that format.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I engage in when testing a lens is trying to push it to fail. Architectural detail does not work well with a wide open lens, due to the shallow depth of field. Even an infinity focus will produce unacceptable “bokeh” in this context, or at least it’s unacceptable to my eye. I want to see every rivet.

Saying that, the two shots of the Manhattan Bridge in today’s post were shot at f2.2 on a sunny afternoon.

I think I’m going to keep this lens. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

attic seclusion

leave a comment »

A travlin’ man, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Astoria, Queens’s 31st street and the elevated subway tracks which both distinguish and curse the spot once known to a newly consolidated City of Greater New York as Second Avenue, and to the Village of Astoria section of an independent municipality called Long Island City as Debevoise Street. These particular tracks, which are known to the MTA as the IRT Astoria Line, opened for business back in February of 1917, and today carry the N and Q lines between Ditmars Blvd. and the Queensboro Bridge.

Saying that, the predecessor of what we know as the Q Line (which is part of MTA’s “B” Division’s BMT service) began coming to Astoria at the end of April of back in 1950, after the purpose built IRT platforms were modified to accept the BMT trains.

It’s actually called the Brighton Line, the Q, and that should tell you everything about where I was going last Monday morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the MTA website, it was only going to take me 45 minutes to cross the western tip of a Long Island, from North to South by South East. This calculation proved somewhat true, and the journey took me around 50-55 minutes. On the way, I listened to an audiobook of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” just to get into the mood.

One had finally found the time, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of my journey from Astoria, the first thing I noticed were the elevated tracks which lead to the Coney Island Stillwell Terminal. Normal people call that the F, but not me. What I see are the tracks of the IND Culver line, and a rapid transit connection that runs between southeast Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

So… lessee… that means that even without the proposed BQX streetcar system, you can connect from two wildly separate sections of Queens to the same locus point in Brooklyn. It also suggests that since you can go further and faster using this already extant path… bah, what does logic have to do with De Blasio’s New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the 1980’s, when a humble narrator was still a youth, this was one of the best spots in the City to spot graffiti clad subway cars, as they exited out of the terminal. This was also an area infamous for the presence of crack dealers and prostitutes. It wasn’t quite “do or die” around here, but the area in which “The Donald’s Dad” Fred Trump made his fortune was pretty rough “back in the day.”

And that’s before the Russian mobsters arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My little journey was spurred on by the NYCID card which was obtained back during the winter, and more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ve read of my desire to visit all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons. In particular, the one that’s found here in Southeast Brooklyn which I haven’t visited since grade school.

This area, less than an hour from home in Astoria (where I’ve lived for around a third of my life), is close to the part of Brooklyn which I spent the first third of my life in and is the outer edge of my old stomping grounds. Specifically speaking, my family lived about 2-3 miles east of here at the Canarsie/Flatlands border, but in the broader sense – I felt like was returning to my home town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lenape tribe which lived here called this barrier island “Narrioch,” which means “land without shadows.” Given that I spend most of my time in North Brooklyn and Western Queens along a waterway which the Lenape referred to as “Hohosboco” or “the bad water place” and which modernity refers to as the Newtown Creek – seeing Jamaica Bay rising on the horizon beyond Coney Island… it got me all nostalgic.

That’s when I dropped the Lovecraft audiobook and started listening to Iron Maiden.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

tried every

with one comment

I mentioned this over the weekend to my Facebook peeps, now it’s your turn…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An old friend of mine recently hit a bit of a health crisis. Surgery ensued, and she’s having a bit of trouble with the purely existential part of her life during recovery – food shopping, laundry, the lifting and carrying sort of stuff. Our Lady of the Pentacle and I volunteered to help her out, and last Saturday our plan involved an afternoon trip to Hunters Point to help out with “whatever.” Before you ask: a) my old friend doesn’t live in one of the new buildings (it’s one of those century old and quite rickety walk up jobs on Jackson where she has lived for literally decades), and b) there was no connection between Court Square and the IND station at Queens Plaza due to maintenance work so we took the R from Astoria and hoofed it the rest of the way.

That’s not the story, though, that’s just the setup.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, this was Fourth of July weekend, of course. The news was abuzz with the news that NYPD was operating a full scale and City wide security operation, and that Hunters Point in particular was going to be focused on due to the gathering at the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I call it the Homeland Security Kabuki show, for various reasons. Pretty standard stuff, in the age of the Terror Wars.

What wasn’t standard was the steel cylinder, which appeared to be some sort of garbage can, sitting on the 46th street subway platform. Having “seen something” a humble narrator thereupon went over to the MTA Station Agent housed in the booth and let her know that the incongruous item was there. She indicated that the authorities would be alerted, and I boarded the incoming R train having “said something.”

As a note, when I arrived at Queens Plaza, I walked over to the NYPD office at the end of the platform and informed the on duty officer of the situation – and also showed him the picture positioned above. He seemed concerned about it.

I was thanked and told that it would be investigated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the 114th precinct being what it is, when Our Lady of the Pentacle and I returned to the 46th street station some three and change hours later… the curious cylinder was still there and clearly unmolested or investigated. That’s when I posted about my experience, and made sure that our local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was tagged in my missive. He let me know that he had contacted the precinct and that it would be dealt with. In my neighborhood, JVB is the motive force of all things, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, the council member has a unique ability to twist the dials and move the levers of the municipal machinery.

The thing about Queens which drives me absolutely mad is why it is that when someone “sees something” and “says something,” you still need a high government official to cajole the freaking cops into doing their damn jobs. As far as the MTA station agent goes, she probably didn’t have the union certifications for dialing the phone.

I think it’s the International Brotherhood of Button Pushers, Local 5, who does that. You also need three Union carpenters on duty, but you always need three carpenters for some reason.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

rotarian path

leave a comment »

Burnt, literally and figuratively.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator feels a bit swollen in the brain today, a sensation which is coupled with a mild case of sunburn. Yesterday found me onboard a boat for the Waterfront Alliance’s annual conference, and one took advantage of the fantastic weather as much as possible by being out on deck after I had captured the photos which the WA asked me to get. Accordingly, my skinvelope is exhibiting the characteristic radiation burns one might expect after exposure to the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier posts, a sudden flurry of activity has occurred in the last few weeks, which has been quite a distraction.

A recent event which I attended was here in Astoria – a visioning session conducted by the NYCEDC in pursuance of the BQX Street Car system as proposed by Mayor De Blasio – was actually quite interesting. I’m working on a fairly in depth series of posts exploring the idea, and next week I plan on walking the 16 mile route of the BQX to provide some sort of tangible visual documentation of the plan and route.

More on this one is coming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two events which I’m looking forward to will be occurring the weekend and week of the 21st – a walking tour of the Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint with Atlas Obscura, and a boat tour of the Brooklyn waterfront with the Working Harbor Committee on the 26th.

Come with?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 13, 2016 at 1:15 pm

into which

leave a comment »

I been everywhere, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fully “back in action” after a long hermitage. In the last seven days – I’ve conducted three walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed, visited the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project, attended and partcipated in a Working Harbor Committee tour, and have also found myself cathechizing elected officialdom about the dangers of CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfalls). I also shot and developed a few hundred photos, and you’ll be seeing some of them over the next few days.

I also got to take the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines the other day, which is the IRT Flushing or 7 line, as evinced by the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two of my walking tours last week were private affairs, and involved exposing groups of students to LIC. I brought the kids down the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, then along the main stem of the Creek itself, and we eventually ended up along the East River waterfront in Hunters Point.

The counterpoints between “America’s Workshop” and the “Modern Corridor” are jarring, and seeing the post industrial section contrasted with the gentrified residential sections really seemed to hit home with them. I love taking out groups of students, incidentally, as ultimately our world will be theirs someday, and they have to start thinking up the solutions to the colossal mess we’re going to be leaving behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, what with all the running around, I ended up walking close to forty miles last week as I scuttled around from place to place. This weekend, I’ve got another private group tour on Saturday, but on Sunday there’s a free event I’m helping to conduct with my colleague Will Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. Details are found below for attending the “North Henry Street Project,” which will meet up at 11 a.m on the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint.

This one is part of the citywide MAS Janeswalk event, and I’m hoping you can come along and check out the plans NCA has been concocting for the “Unnamed Canal,” a minor tributary of Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

heavy features

leave a comment »

A few shots from NYC’s most photogenic subway line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a post was offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – describing the 99th anniversary of the opening of the IRT Flushing Line’s Corona Extension. That’s the 11 stops between Queensboro Plaza and what’s now called 103rd Corona Plaza on the 7. My intention for that post was to show you every station, which I did in fact visit and shoot… but you know me… a week late and a dollar short.

Speaking of, I’m running a bit late today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Large groupings of photos – in the case of the 7 line shots, I came home with something close to a thousand individual captures which have been boiled down to around 200 – create a sort of roadblock for me. They need to be treated as one continuous shoot during the developing process (I shoot in RAW format, so every shot gets a little love and attention). Procedurally, it works like this – an initial pass to cull out over and underexposed or just junk shots, followed by key wording and then cropping. At the end of the procedural stuff I finally get to do the “developing” stage which is the photoshop equivalent of what you film people used to do in the dark room when pulling prints. Once that’s done I can finally start spawning the final incarnations of the things you see, and upload them to the web for dissemination.

When you’re starting with a thousand individual images, this ends up taking a lot of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ended up riding the 7 for several hours last week, between Willets Point and Queensboro Plaza. To me, at least, it was worth the effort.

Speaking of transit, tonight at 6:30 at Riccardos by the Bridge in Astoria, there’s a meeting to plan a centennial celebration for the Hell Gate Bridge which I intend on attending. Come with?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: