At some point around 2008, I started noticing a lot of photo sites with pictures of places I’d never seen before.
Construction sites, abandoned buildings, tunnels, and any number of other forbidden things – locations that “normal” people never get a chance to see. Maybe because they’re too busy or don’t keep an eye open, perhaps because it never occurs to them, or possibly as a result of being taught to respect barriers, to see “no entry” signs as rules not to be broken without giving more than a passing thought to what lies behind.
I used to do this kind of stuff as a kid. Time to give it another go.
In particular, disused buildings fascinate me. I’m only now beginning to discover the marvels that can be found when you peel back the layers of civilization and the cities it builds. One doesn’t even have to look very hard to find treasures. All around us are castles, villas, factories, bridges, railroads, hospitals, and other man-made structures, often rusting and decrepit, sometimes sumptuous, dangerous, frightening, elaborate, infused with history. But while there will always be locations that are forgotten and left to rot, the magnificent, sometimes even artistic constructions of days past are increasingly either repaired and opened to the general public, or more frequently, torn down to make space for warehouses, office blocks, or other urban expansion. That is, if they are not left to decay outright, to be consumed by nature, leaving barely a trace.
It’s been a learning experience, becoming accustomed to just hop that fence, or to contact more prolific, experienced explorers for tips with the knowledge that I’ll probably be told to sod off, or more likely, just ignored. I’ve stood in front of locked gates numerous times, knowing very well that even if someone did pass by, they wouldn’t spare more than a passing glance at the freak hopping the fence to go snap pictures of ruins, but struggling to overcome my irrational reluctance to, in the words of this gentleman, “explore everything”.
I’m getting there. The thrill of being by myself in a majestic, open space, full of the ghosts of history, or of sneaking around a restricted area to enjoy views reserved for only a select few, who are most likely blasé about their privilege as they go about their daily business, more than make up for the frustrations of lacking time, finding exploring partners, and standing in front of impenetrable bricked-up corridors.
I don’t care if I’m not the first to see a place, often the graffiti of years of bored teenagers is marvelous in its own right, and even the extensive destruction inflicted on some sites by vandals and decay can be a fascinating thing to see. My rules are,
- remove or destroy nothing
- never identify anyone I explore with unless they explicitly agree
- don’t give give away entry points…unless I know you reasonably well
Taking pictures is a hobby for me; I’m neither a rabidly enthusiastic photographer nor particularly skilled when compared with some of the real artists out there. For me, the fun lies in the process of discovery, and of documenting what I find for myself and those curious enough to have a look and share the wonder.
I’m just listing this in case anyone needs ideas.
Canon 5D Mark II – my main body. Big and heavy, but takes amazing photos. I highly recommend camera armor by a company called Made if you can find it.
Canon EOS 350D – mainly for use with an M42 adapter ring and the Industar pancake lens
Zenit 12FS – only with the Helios lens, usually with Kodak Tri-X 400 b&w film. I use an Epson Perfection V700 scanner – this is an amazing piece of gear.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM – ultra wide-angle, my main lens. Very flexible. It’s hard to find good UWA lenses for full frame bodies.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM – incredibly clear, fast lens for details and composite panos. Small enough to lug along in a pocket.
Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 – I don’t take a lot of fisheye pics, but this is also a very fast, good and versatile lens for enclosed spaces.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM – my favorite lens. Heavy as hell, but amazingly clear, fast enough for dark spaces, great for composite panos when you have the space.
Industar 50-2 35mm f/3.5 – you can pick these up for a song on eBay. Nice, clear manual focus and aperture lens.
Helios 44M-4 58mm f/2 – came with the Zenit Fotosniper kit, a nice quality manual focus lens.
Canon Speedlite 580EX II – a good flash gun, with a diffuser. I don’t use flash that often, but when I do, it’s almost always bounced off something as a manual strobe.
Cree C8 XML T6 1000L torch – probably not the best, but a great deal, tremendously bright, and cheap as chips.
Batteries: Eneloop AAs with a Powerex charger, Sanyo 3200 MaH 18650 cells with a Tenergy charger (hasn’t exploded yet, so must be a good deal)
JK Dey carbide mining lamp – old school, pretty, with a very warm light. Get carbide on Amazon (it’s sold as pest control in large bags)
Petromax HK500 pressure lantern – cantankerous bitch.
Any colored lighting was done with Strobist color gels, about $15 on Ebay for a full set.
Manfrotto 3-segment 055 tripod, Manfrotto 804RC2 pan & tilt head – the tripod is massive but almost immovable and indestructible, the head takes a bit of practice, but the same. Protip: make a shoulder sling for it.
Accessory Power cheapo generic remote. Incredible range, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Order the CR2 batteries from kaidomain, they are very cheap and reliable.
Not to mention good boots, heavy construction trousers because I keep ripping pants otherwise, a 10m steel cable caving ladder (vital!), rappelling gear and rope with plenty of carabiners, a good camera bag (Domke F-2, indestructible, but unfortunately not big enough for all my secondary gear), and of course, heavy gloves. Most important of all – a lens cleaning brush and lots and lots of heavy black electrical tape. Just trust me on that.
And always bring extra camera batteries.
Software & Licensing
Processing is with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and the occasional whatever-else-strikes-my-fancy.
This site uses
Allan Cole’s AutoFocus+ Pro doitmax’ Invictus theme. All images on this site are hosted on Flickr and are licensed via Creative Commons BY+SA+NC license. That means, anybody can use anything I create for this site as long as I get credit, any content you make out of mine must have the same license, and you only get to use my content for non-commercial purposes, unless you have my permission.