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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Forbidden Places to Photograph...

As you know, I love photographing abandoned and derelict buildings, spaces, locations.... There is something really wonderful about them. These hulking relics sit in silence as time slowly erodes their existence away. The rate of decay varies, but guaranteed.
While there are many sites dealing with this subject matter, Forbidden Paces is one of my favorite bookmarks. There are some wonderfully composed images- not a snap shot approach- which brings out the haunting expressions of these subjects.
Finding these locations is not difficult. They are in every city regardless of it's size. You just have to look with a different set of eyes.
I've been doing this kind of imagery since my college days. Once was a time when my buddies and I would load up the cars on Friday, drive all night to some abandoned space across the country - we once drove from Oklahoma to Oakland Cali to photograph a decommissioned naval yard ( this was in 1987 -pre 9/11 days when you could go near military bases) - and then head back in time for Monday classes. Amazing adventures and stories.
How you approach photographing these locations will depend on the person. For example, whether you want to trespass or enter buildings is a personal choice. But here are some cardinal rules I stick to:
1) Never move any object to "make" the shot. If you can't get it in, then you can't. Great article on the infamous FSA photographs.
2) Use only available light. I don't bring flashes. This really forces you to examine the source and fall of light to create your shot. You start paying more attention to shadows and contrasts.
3) Compose with a single focus- I hate the snap shot look. This ties back to #2. You can't compose unless you have evaluated your light source and how the light is falling.
Then I look for a single focus for the image- door, window pane, bolts etc... I religously use the thirds rule to compose my shot by keeping the subject of the shot on one of the 3rd planes. It really makes a massive difference.
4) Travel light- I don't bring tripods or big camera bags- 1 camera, my 85 1.8, and
24-70 2.8 L .
5) Never risk your life for the shot- whether it's going into mines, high crime areas, or buildings that seem to have a certain element living in them- I always evaluate the situation. The adrenalin rush is a big part of the thrill, but everything in moderation.

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