The Newtown Pentacle

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After an interminable number of days wherein a late July into early August heat wave saw me sheltering in place at HQ, August 10th saw atmospheric temperatures and humidity drop to comfortable levels. Thereby, off I went on a walk. After all the sitting around at HQ, my joints were creaking from a lack of exercise, and the camera was anxious to capture images of the wonders of Western Queens once again.

Alright, the Q66 bus ain’t exactly a “wonder,” but it’s still pretty cool. There’s a real disconnect in Queens regarding the bus system for a lot of people, and it’s one of those places where you encounter the “economic and cultural privilege divide” thing that the kids talk about. Neighborhoods where the primary form of transit service takes the from of Subway Train Lines are generally richer and more gentrified than those that are served primarily by buses. Buses, therefore, are fascinating to me as they represent a clear borderline between the social and economic classes. Personally, I make it a point of using all forms of available public transit, which – as my mother would have pointed out – “you’ve already paid for it with tax, don’t be an asshole.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve famously been riding around the northeastern United States on Amtrak, since getting vaccinated for Covid, but I haven’t ridden on their “high speed” Acela service. I’m not in that big of a hurry to get somewhere to justify their premium pricing and ride the slower and cheaper service, and am entirely satisfied to just grab shots of their Acela trains at the Sunnyside Yards.

As stated hundreds of times, the 183 square Sunnyside Yards coach yard and rail complex is a few blocks from HQ, and sits squarely betwixt a humble narrator and his beloved Newtown Creek. I cannot resist utilizing the multitude of federal fence holes to record the elaborate heavy industrial ballet that is observable below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad was rather busy on this particular evening, but then again I was passing by “hole reliable” about 6:30-7:00 p.m., and that’s literally LIRR’s busy time – so…

This was going to be a relatively short walk for me as I had an early morning assignation the next day, and the plan was to wander towards the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek and eventually end up at the 7 train at Hunters Point Avenue. My habit these days is to use the 7 to get back to Queensboro Plaza, and then transfer to an Astoria bound N or W. It’s more efficient for me to take the 7 to 74th street in Jackson Heights and then transfer to the downstairs R or M lines which offer a stop just two blocks from HQ. Saying that, I really don’t mind the ten blocks or so that I have to walk from 31st street after riding on that line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always wondered about “hiding” something by attaching it to a train. You build a train car that’s securely lockable, paint it up to look like any other bit of rolling stock on whatever line you’re going to use, and the thing just travels from place to place and never stops moving. You want to fully fund rail travel in the United States, you say?

Here’s what you do – prison cars. You lock your felons up in locomotive passenger cars that are set up internally with jail cages, and then they spend their sentence traveling the country in a windowless steel box. How’s that for an abrogation of civil rights? Got to be cheaper than the current prison system we already have. I have several other suggestions for the sort of authoritarian dystopia that seems to be just over the horizon, many of which involve reclassifying “child labor” as “mandatory national service.” How’s that for cruel and unusual?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the authoritarian future, I favor Dante’s Inferno style punishments that are designed to be cruel, ones which are also inherently ironic in nature. You’re a drug dealer? Then your sentence involves Pfizer and Eli Lilly testing out new drugs on you without repercussions to their stockholders. Home invader? Well, my dear fiend, your mailing address is now a Rotary Jail. Capital crimes would be punished in a specifically cruel and unusual fashion – mobs of crazed Chimpanzees come to mind for pederasts. Americans would happily tune into to watch the Chimps dismember thought criminals and child diddlers, so there’s profit to be had in selling ad space on the broadcast to Taco Bell or Coca Cola. The ancient Persians reached great heights in this sort of arena – “The boats” torture comes to mind. Come on, America, we can do worse if we try.

In this near future of unfettered and profitable cruelty, men will become wild and free, and unattached to any previous morality. Society will learn new ways to enjoy itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sigh…

One continued his scuttle, and since the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was hanging pregnantly in the western sky, headed over to Queens Boulevard where shelter from the emanations of the vast radioactive fireball would be shielded by the aqueduct veranda of the 7 line subway tracks.

More next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

August 3rd marked the beginning of a protracted heat wave here, in a City that never sleeps but certainly appreciates the value of a quick nap. Having seen the dire predictions of a week long spell of heat coupled with sky high levels of atmospheric humidity, one desired to get one walk in before things got truly life threatening. I also wanted “something to do” while waiting out the weather, and since I enjoy developing photos…

Saying all that, the dew point when I was shooting these photos was up in the high 60’s and it was truly a shvitzy night. The “urban heat island effect” coupled with high humidity levels – even at night – is an absolute killer and super difficult to do anything during. Accordingly, I opted for a short walk, one which carried me past “hole reliable” at Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got fairly lucky. They’re doing all sorts of track maintenance further east of Sunnyside Yards, the Long Island Railroad people are. That means that the train dispatchers are grouping east and west bound traffic much closer together than normal, in order to maximize the length of the intervals between, when the track workers can do their thing.

Normally, it’s one train every twenty minutes or so. On August 3rd, there was a gaggle of traffic flowing through the Harold Interlocking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Difficult and technical, that’s how I describe my methodology for getting shots at “hole reliable” at night. The train is cooking along at a good clip, it’s dark, and where the scene is bright – it’s super bright.

F2, ISO 256,000 (!), and 1/125th of a second is the formula I used for these. As usual, you shoot for the edit, and I noodled these a bit during the developing process for contrast and managed to gain back about a stop of light by being careful with how the contrast ended up in the final render of the camera’s RAW file.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m quite happy with the way that the light from the train showed up in the gravel surrounding the tracks. I’m also pleased as punch that you can see the engineer driving the train behind the windshield.

The shot above was composed with the idea that “you need to do a few that leaves room for setting type into, for presentations and videos.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The heavy industrial ballet just kept on coming, and as LIRR 421 was leaving the frame, another train appeared and was making its way east.

Sometimes you get lucky, even when it’s a steamy August night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rest of my walk was pretty uneventful. I scuttled up the hill to Queens Boulevard, hung a left, and then walked back to HQ in Astoria along 43rd street. These were the last shots I accomplished before the heatwave set in and the 85 degree temperatures at midnight began for a week. I hate “reverse blizzards,” so I hung around the air conditioner for several days.

Something different tomorrow – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th of July, I planned to get shots of the Macy’s Fireworks show on the East River, but didn’t want to go anywhere near the water. I had two spots in mind, and was debating which one to gravitate towards. Luckily, both spots had a common corner where my paths diverged, so I chewed on the decision while walking towards it.

The shot above and the one directly below are actually from July 3rd, when I took a short walk around the neighborhood just to stretch my legs.

Along my way, nearby Sunnyside Yards, I spotted this van. A Holy Roller, indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When walking past Sunnyside Yards, it’s impossible for me not to crack out a few shots of the trains they have on display.

Amtrak does a whole lot of maintenance work here. Cleaning, stocking, mechanical stuff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th of July, I finally had to make a decision about where I was going to shoot the fireworks from. I initially considered the area around Dutch Kills.

As mentioned previously, the trick with fireworks is to create a “sense of place” in the shot. Given that the 4th of July fireworks will always have the Empire State Building in the center of the display…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I set out from HQ a couple of hours in advance of the scheduled show, and actually changed my mind while en route.

Greenpoint Avenue at the Long Island Expressway would be my spot!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, I passed by an FDNY maintenance facility and they had just opened the roll up door as I was walking down the street…

Firemen! Firemen! Firemen!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fireworks, as described at the beginning of this week regarding another display at Astoria Park, require a simple exposure formula. F8/ISO 200/4-8 second exposures. I claimed a spot, and believe it or not, I was soon surrounded by Blissvillians and Sunnysiders here on the onramp for the Long Island Expressway at Greenpoint Avenue.

I intended, therefore, to include the crowd and the traffic in my shots. It was a part of the show, after all.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

The YouTube video above is what I got. No sound on this one, so no point in headphones. It’s a series of still images strung together in a slide show.

Back next week.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 5, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday the 18th of June, my trick left foot was singing a song. Baleful and rich with lament, this arthritic melody informed my night’s journey and thereby I decided that it would be a fantastic evening to “ride the train.” Accordingly, my toes were painfully oriented in the direction of Queens Boulevard from Astoria.

That’s the Standard Motor Products building, whose frontage is on Northern Boulevard at Steinway Street. There’s an urban farm up on the roof, which is just plain old cool.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Steinway Street becomes 39th Street when it crosses Northern Boulevard and passes over the Sunnyside Yards, but to members of the cult of historical specificity here in Western Queens – this section of 39th street will always be known as the “Harold Avenue Truss Bridge.”

Nerd.

The sunset was setting up nicely, and it seemed like I had actually timed things right for once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Queens Boulevard, a Manhattan bound 7 line subway was coursing along its tracks. My plan was simple, and it involved hopping on and off of the 7 line between Queensboro Plaza and somewhere east of there. At some convenient point, I’d transfer down onto one of the underground lines which move through the 46th street stop nearby HQ in Astoria.

It was a warm night, and somewhat humid in Long Island City. My name is Waxman, I live here and I carry a camera. Dum de dum, dum.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Queensboro Plaza, there are two iconic shots always available for the passing photography enthusiast to gather. One revolves on variations of the shot above, depicting a Manhattan bound 7 line train entering the lower level of the station.

I should mention, a recent update of the software on my camera introduced a “vehicle tracking” feature for autofocus into my tool kit, and I’m currently working out the nuances of the new feature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other “iconic” subway shot at Queensboro Plaza is found at the extreme end of the platform, where the Flushing bound trains make their turn into the station on the high elevated steel of Queens Plaza, with the old Silvercup Bakeries signage in the background.

Figured I’d do a portrait format one for a change. I’ve been trying to remind myself to do this more often these days – turn the camera 90 degrees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I began hopping on and off at various stations and popping out train photos for about an hour. On the 7, at least, ridership seems to be back to pre Covid levels.

Tomorrow- something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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

July 20, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 19th saw me taking a short walk around the Sunnyside Yards and cracking out a bunch of shots of passing trains.

That’s a New Jersey Transit train set on the so called “turnaround” track nearby 43rd street which allows the operator to reorient the thing towards Manhattan as opposed to heading into Queens via the East River tunnels. On another siding of the turnaround track is an Amtrak Acela train set, which was just sort of sitting there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Honeywell Street, I noticed the train cars on the lower left hand side of the shot above. They’re done up with “New York Central” heraldry. At first I thought I might be accidentally traveling in time, but no. Turns out these are “heritage” passenger car units which are operated by some private outfit.

One of the Facebook groups I’m subscribed to is for train enthusiasts, and the “foamers” filled me in as to what these cars are, who operates them, and so on. Turns out you can ride on these heritage cars if you’ve got money to burn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on Honeywell Street bridge (which is found at Queens’ 35th street), one of the many hidden fence holes allowed a view into the Acela maintenance facility at Sunnyside Yards. This is a particularly hard thing to get a shot of, incidentally, and the shot above is heavily cropped in.

I headed back to HQ in Astoria, as the 20th was meant to be a fairly busy day that started early.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 20th I was back at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section for a sit down meeting with a friend who was volunteering business advice to our little non profit that could. It may be a non profit corporation, but it’s still a corporation. When advice and wisdom are on offer from somebody who runs and has run far larger entities is on the table, you would be foolish not to absorb as much of it as you can.

Of course, I had to excuse myself a couple of times to wave the camera around as a strong front of thunderstorms approached.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Creeklands were suffused with a heavy fog, being pushed by the pressure waves of that line of storms. This kind of urban atmosphere is absolute candy for a photographer.

Saying that, after the meeting ended, I needed to “get out of dodge” and start heading home quickly lest I get drenched when the storms arrived and all of that fog suddenly condensed and dropped to the ground. A scuttle of the rapid type ensued.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan was to cut through the Newtown Creek Nature Walk at the sewer plant in Greenpoint, then to surmount and cross the creek at the Pulaski Bridge. Luckily, I was carrying an umbrella. Managed to get this one of the Empire State Building framed up all nice before the sky opened and it started pissing down in torrents.

More tomorrow.


“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

June 30, 2022 at 11:00 am

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