urban exploration

Urbex Collaboration

To prep for 2016, I did something different on New Year’s Eve: I urbexed with other people.

Jamie and Seth are two of my local photo buddies. We haven’t done a ton together, but we know each others’ work from Facebook and Twitter, and did a Kelby photo walk two years back. Seth has been a good guy to talk to about some artistic goals I have this year, and Jamie is someone I’ve wanted to go exploring with for a long time.

So we picked a place and made it happen on a cold December morning. We had a lot of fun – especially with shooting portraits of each other.

Seth wrote up a little post about our adventure on his photo blog.

More collaboration and adventures – it’s what I hope to do in the new year. Most of my abandoned work is solo: I find something, I explore something. This time, it was fun to explore something with other photographers.

Shadows & Light

As a photographer, shadows and light (along with maybe color) are your paint and paintbrush. You are a recorder of light, or the absence of light.

It’s what I love about taking urban exploration photos: finding those areas where light meets dark, and creates mystery. What’s in the corner? What lies waiting in the shadows? What can’t I see?

I found a great abandoned warehouse in mid Michigan where these big, bright windows let in a lot of light. But as usual with window light, it falls off in such a great way. There’s just enough illumination to highlight details on the interior, and just enough shadow to make some mystery.

I’m drawn to these areas when I find something to photograph. Where just enough light leaks in to make something magic.

Abandoned Ann Arbor

I try to keep a running list of places to photograph in my head. But that doesn’t always work, because my memory is terrible.

What usually works is taking a photo of the place as a reminder, and then returning to the spot when I get a chance. Such was the case with this abandoned garage in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I drove by this place in December and immediately pulled over to do some quick exploring. I caught a glimpse of the inside, and thought, “I must return.”

So I did. A quick climb through the shattered window (and torn pant leg) later, I was inside and “urbexing.”

It’s hard to tell what the place was before the roof caved in. The weird part was the all the stuffed animals strewn about. Bags and bags of them, and they were everywhere: on the furniture, on the floor, on the balcony.

The place had just what I look for in photos: strong, deep shadows with shafts of light showing some intense color. It was a lot of fun.

Besides the torn pant leg, of course.

At the Drive-In

You can see it from the road, clear as day, when the leaves are gone. It’s right off the side of the road after the highway exit.

It just sits there.

I drive by an old drive-in movie theater in Albion often. By the road, there’s a pair of old abandoned houses, with a drive next to them that leads to the drive-in.

The drive-in concession stand sits way back in the weeds, surrounded by a rotting wooden fence. The speaker poles are still out there – an invisible grid to a long-ago torn down screen.

As soon as the snow melted, I ventured out there to see what it was all about.

Years ago, the drive-in did pretty well. It drew in people from all over, thanks to its handy interstate location. But then things took a downturn, and the drive-in had to specialize. What did it pick?

Porn. Of course.

And much like anything else, you know you’re on the downturn when you resort to smut. So the drive-in closed. And rotted. And the screen was torn down and turned into scraps.

One story says that cars would pull over on the side of the highway to watch the on-screen smut. So the drive-in owners installed spotlights to shine into the roadway, blocking the view.

Now, there’s no shining. It’s all dark. The snow is melting, and everything is dripping and peeling.