Archive for the ‘Urbex Tips & Tricks’ Category

Urbex Photography Tips I’ve Found Elsewhere

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On June - 30 - 2009

I’ve written my own article of Urbex Photography Tips but I thought it might be handy to post a link to a great set of hints and tips on Photocritic.org, and article by Haje Jan Kamps with tips from Roy Barker. See the full article here: Capturing Urban Decay.


Incidentally I also found this interesting article 35 Beautiful Examples Of ‘Urban Decay Photography from Smashing Magazine – it’s not a ‘tips’ article but the shots themselves may provide inspiration if you’re looking for it.



Failed Explores: You Don’t Always Have a Good Day

Posted by sickbritain On June - 9 - 2009

Despite what you may think, Urban Exploration isn’t all about the glitz and the glamour – sometimes you’ll hit a brick wall (literally as well as metaphorically) and you can’t carry out the explore as planned or perhaps you can’t carry out the explore at all. There are many reasons why things go wrong, the most common in my experience tend to be:

Site Inaccessible

Sometimes you turn up at a site hoping for a good day out and you just end up frustrated because you can’t gain access, this might be because there’s no obvious route in (hole in the fence, easy wall to jump, etc.) or it might be because the site has been demolished. Obviously there’s nothing that can be done about the latter but in terms of access but be persistent – if you try hard enough you might find a way. I’m not talking about causing physical damage here though, that’s not my bag and it’ll land you in serious trouble if you’re caught – try to think laterally and it usually pays off. Perhaps try going around the back of the site, approaching from a different angle or look for signs that someone else has been around and see if you can figure how they got in (gap in a hedge, footprint on a wall, etc.).

Sometimes other people’s photos might contain hints whether they intended to or not, look at someone’s photos in order of the time they were taken – the first photos will probably be closest to their entrance and the last closest to their exit.

Security

This is a big issue for urban explorers, we all know that in most cases we’re going to be somewhere we shouldn’t be and so security can be a problem but there are ways to minimise your ‘footprint’ and avoid detection. That said, sometimes the presence of security at all may be the issue – some people aren’t comfortable exploring sites with an active security presence (e.g. guards on patrol) and that’s fair enough, you should only ever do what you’re comfortable with if that’s the way you feel. I think most of us feel that if a site has no active security and is truly disused and derelict that our presence isn’t causing any harm since we don’t do any damage but you still have to worry about being spotted and either security turning up or even worse – the police.

If you run-up against unexpected activity on a site the first thing to do is try and figure out who they are, it’s key not to panic and worth remembering that they’re probably not expecting to find you there either so if you’ve spotted them first you’ve got the advantage. Often the unexpected individual(s) end up being other explorers, in this case you could introduce yourself or just carry on with what you’re doing – most explorers tend to be friendly if not slightly suspicious. Another class of unexpected site presence could be thieves or vandals, it’s easy to think that there’s a kind of kinship in this case because you’re both present in a place that you’re not meant to be but don’t fall into this trap. These people are committing criminal offences and even if they’re happy to continue their ‘business’ with your presence you should still leave, if the police turn up you will be implicated in their crimes whether you like it or not, there’s also a risk that they might be upset by your presence and respond with physical violence.

If it doesn’t look like other explorers or thieves/vandals then it’s either going to be security or other people that have genuine business there (e.g. builders or surveyors), though sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart as people on derelict sites all tend to wear high-viz jackets and hard-hats. Once you’ve established that you’ve come across unexpected site personnel you’re faced with the choice of what to do next, you might decide to stay and avoid the occupants or leave and I’ve done both in different circumstances. If you do stay you’ll need to actively avoid being spotted, this is best achieved by stealth and you should take everything slowly and quietly from this point on and you need to think about everything you do – the easiest ways to give away your presence are by making noise or by using a camera flash. It may also be worth limiting your explore, you might have to avoid certain buildings or areas where security seems to be higher (patrol routes, CCTV) or any areas where you’re exposed in plain sight. The other option you have once you’ve spotted an ‘official’ presence is to leave, there’s no shame in this at all and as long as you leave carefully and avoid detection you’re guaranteed not to get caught – if you stay there’s always a risk.

You might end up running into the police even after you’ve exited the site (many will not enter unless asked by security due to health & safety concerns). I once made the mistake of parking right next to the entrance to a derelict site and a local dog-walker called the cops, assuming either that the car had been dumped or that I was up to no good (in my case I think the former because the cop was more concerned with the car than me). If you encounter the police you should cooperate completely, remember that as long as you’ve not caused physical damage or taken any ‘souvenirs’ (which amounts to theft whatever you think) then you’ve not committed a criminal offence and you should be fine. Being obstructive is the easiest way to get yourself arrested, even though you’ve not done anything wrong all the police need is to suspect that you have and they’re faced with no choice but to arrest you. My advice is to explain that you’re there taking photos, just having a look around and that you’re sorry for causing an inconvenience, answer their questions, be polite and you’ll be on your way soon enough.


Urbex Accessories: Cyba-Lite Explorer Head Torch

Posted by sickbritain On May - 12 - 2009

Every Urban Explorer needs a torch to help navigate around the dark, dank places we tend to find ourselves in but as a photographer you need both hands free in order to properly handle your camera gear. The natural solution is to buy a head torch, they’re available in pretty much all outdoor shops and cost as little as a tenner but unfortunately 95% of all the models I’ve seen in shops are rubbish for urbex photography.

The reason most head-torches are unsuitable is that they sit smack bang in the middle of your forehead which might be perfect for a caver but if you’re an SLR user you’ll find that when you bring your camera to your eye you’ll end up banging the body (or attached flash) right into the torch.  The other problem is that you’ll need the torch for exploring and to aid focusing but unless you’re light painting you won’t want the torch light to come out in your shot and trying to switch off a head torch whilst wearing gloves can be a pain.

Given all of my whinging above you’ve no doubt realised that I was getting fed-up with the situation but luckily I came across the Cyba-Lite Explorer, it’s effectively a small pen-torch (like a mini-Maglite) that comes with a clip-mount and an elastic head-strap…

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From a general standpoint this is handy because you could clip it to a tripod, a baseball cap or whatever you like but the most useful part to me is that the clip mount swivels.  This means that I can wear it as a head torch but mounted on the side of my head, meaning that it won’t get in the way of my camera and that rather than fiddling with any switches I can just point it away from the subject of my photo if don’t want to capture the light.  My only criticism so far is that it could be brighter, it does well enough but there’s no way I could use it as my sole torch in the really dark places but hey – I carry my 4-cell Maglite as much for defence as for light!

You might think that I’m gushing with compliments about something pretty simple but having this torch has made exploring and taking photos so much simpler and hassle free that I just can’t help it – especially seeing as you can pick them up for less than a tenner (I paid about £14 though).  If anyone’s interested in picking one up there seems to be an offer on at 7dayshop.com where it’s going for £8.99 delivered.

Book Review: In a Landscape by Paul Osborne (Compound Eye)

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On April - 4 - 2009

ial_coverI’d been following Paul Osborne‘s photostream on Flickr (under the name Compound Eye) for some time before he released his book on Blurb and given that all of the photos are available online under Creative Commons you might ask why I’d buy the book in the first place. The answer is that books are nice, especially photography books – it’s just nice to have the book to leaf through, somehow it gives you a better sense of the photograph to see it there in the page and explore it with your eyes without feeling the need to click on anything.

The book is titled In a Landscape and aside from brief introduction it contains no significant text, there are over 100 individual shots broken into chapters by site. The book is printed and published by the print-to-order service Blurb and the price isn’t cheap (starting at £31.95) but the quality you get for the money is extremely good and there’s little to distinguish this from a commercially produced book as far as I can tell.

One of the main reasons I decided to purchase the book is that a lot of people I know just don’t ‘get’ what urban exploration is and what I mean when say that there’s beauty to be found in decay, I think being able to show them a copy of Paul’s book and they’ll instantly see what I mean. So if you fancy splashing out on a treat for yourself, or maybe for someone you know who’s into Urban Exploration then I recommend In a Landscape, I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite shots from the book…

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Urbex Quick Tip: Appropriate Footwear

Posted by sickbritain On March - 21 - 2009

As an addendum to my comments in my earlier Urbex Safety post, I just wanted to say that choosing appropriate footwear is essential for a successful (undetected, uninjured and not soiled) urban explorer, I would offer the following advice when select footwear…

  • Wear wellies where practical. Wellies will offer the maximum protection from grime and scrapes and also allow you to tread in some really mucky places, the downside is that they’re bulky and can be hot/uncomfortable if you’re doing a lot of walking.
  • Wear something with a soft rubber sole. You might wonder why but earlier today I was on a site doing a recon mission to scope the place out and I was wearing my smart going out shoes which have a hard soul.  These things were clip-clopping extremely loudly on the concrete floor in the big empty rooms, if there had have been any security or any miscreants on site they sure as hell would’ve known where to find me!
  • Whatever you wear, protect your feet. Don’t be daft and wear sandals or even fabric trainers, if not wellies you could always try walking boots or if you have them try steel toe-capped boots for ultimate protection from falling debris.

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About Me

If youre into Urbex or youre trying to find out what its all about you may find yourself needing some help finding out about the art of Urban Exploration.  Here at Sick Britain Im planning to put up original content like my What is Urbex? and Urbex Safety articles as well as posting links to other community sites such as 28 Days Later or Derelicte.

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