I love urbex, or urban exploration, but there is so very little that lay in ruins in my local area. My life situation as it is doesn’t afford much time for wandering around in old abandoned places even if there were such places. It’s nearly an unthinkable way to spend my time. This locale though is one that I have been itching to pay a visit to for a very long time.
Location, Location, Location
I see the place all the time. It was only recently that I acquired my Swedish driver’s license, and so, sitting in the passenger seat on the way to the next town for so many months and a year, I was afforded the best view to look out and down a particular hill along the way. I made sure to look down there, because I saw through the trees, in the middle of the woods, this odd, old, and unused building. I won’t tell where it is, as I see there is quite a lot of active artistry being produced there. Out of respect for that sub-cultural code of ethics, I have no wish to squeal about somebody’s spot. It was clear from the road up above that it was no longer in use for its original purpose, but was instead a tapestry of creativity.
Each time I saw this building, some new story would come to mind on what it was and what it used to be. I had read of the military drills of World War II down by this lake, and so, invented fables connecting the abandoned building with WWII, the former military airport in the area, and the abandoned warehouses in the woods I formerly shot. These were mere inventions however, though they certainly added to my thinking about the place.
My friend Per and I finally made an appointment in February to head down to this spot to do some urbex. The wives consented. We drove down to the lake, parked the car by the outlet stores and factory buildings in the area. The walk in the snow was easy enough, and there was an old access road to the location. Footprints in the recent snow told that others had been there of late. The building itself sat flush against the edge of the hill, with a wide open area in before it. Entering in, we discovered a simple building construction, with two floors, one room apiece, and a stairwell. Metal doors in the roof of the first floor opened to the second. A metal beam extended from the ceiling of the first floor, out through large doors (now bolted up) and overhanging the open yard outside. This was some sort of mechanic’s garage. A truer picture of what went on here came to mind, with cars and engines driven in, engines lifted, repaired, mounted.
The mystery solved, I focused my attention now on the contours, the angles, the graffiti, the bottles of spray paint, the trash. There is an active culture going on here. Someone has signed their latest wall mural on the back side, painting over former years, 2015. Spray paint bottles line the floors, fill the shelves above the stairwell. The place is filled with science fiction themes. The facade, a helmeted creature whose tattooed arm ends in a cybernetic hand. Inside, events taking place in another galaxy “far, far away” are portrayed. Outside, the space theme continues with images of star fields blended with tag pseudonyms.
About The Urbex Series
I have made every attempt to document this building visually, from various angles, distances and lighting situations. I did so in three parts: the building; the textures; the art. Because of the wide variety of images involved, from overcast daylight outside, to the near pitch black of the inside of the two large rooms, I have used four separate VSCOcam presets to both highlight the unique environs of the place, as well as bring the set of images together as one series. The N1 (New modern) preset was used to lighten those images that were in some ways slightly too dark to be fully enjoyed. The 05 Legacy preset was used to give a moody feel to those places that were fairly well lit. This is especially the case with the various portions of graffiti art. The 02 preset was used to push some images into a soft black and white, this, simply because I couldn’t resist seeing these images in monochrome. To add contrast to these monochrome images (and I did this with some of the color images as well), I applied a slight purple to the shadows and tinted the highlights ever so slightly to the yellow. On some images, I used the A4 (Analog) preset to bring out a red tone, as it fit the mood of certain pieces of wall art. I used VSCOcam’s new copy-paste preset feature to apply presets to entire groups of images. From these four presets I deviated in their strength, sharpness, brightness, etc., all based on the individual characteristics of the image at hand. You can see a selection of the monochrome images by themselves on my VSCOcam Grid, mobilography.vsco.co.
I used my Joby GripTight GorillaPod to mount my camera for dark shooting. To avoid the slight blur caused by the shake from touching the camera shutter button, I used a three second timer.
Necessity is the mother of invention. This dark environment caused me to test, on a whim, the possibility that my phone could both run a flashlight or torch app, while the camera was open and shooting. This seems to work on the Galaxy S5, but not on some other Android phones. VSCOcam has this torch feature, but I wanted to have more control over other aspects of the shots. This allowed me to lower ISO to reduce some of the pixelation in darker images. Why a torch and not a flash? I’ve found that using the flash creates both too strong a light, and in many cases my phone camera re-focuses to places I personally am not satisfied with. This way, I could focus where I wished to. Combined with the timer and GorillaPod, it made for great shooting. The added bonus was that in those dark environments, some of the graffiti work was in silver paint, so that there was some reflective beauty involved.