There’s something hauntingly beautiful about derelict or abandoned scenes.
Perhaps it’s the thrill of the intrusion to catch a glimpse of the last moments of a place, captured forever in poetic limbo, or perhaps it’s creating one’s own stories about what happened back in time that appeals to the spectator.
In any case, the visual documentation of timeless scenes is not as straightforward as it seems. It is up to the vision of the photographer to reproduce the mood or induce one, and a more experienced photographer knows exactly how to make good use of lighting, lenses and camera angles to evoke the emotions they are looking for.
However, entering derelict premises can carry their fair share of dangers and the tips below might seem really obvious, but the excitement of finding and exploring a time-forgotten location might just cloud over our better judgement.
Since many abandoned buildings are not structurally reliable and would usually have objects and debris strewn all over the place, you can never be too cautious about protecting yourself from broken or rusty objects, floors or ceilings giving in, foul air and dust, insects and wild animals, and occasionally, other people.
A good pair of weather-resistant, covered-toe shoes is a good place to start. Making sure your clothing are not too loose will also help prevent them from getting caught on protruding objects (or being pulled back by “invisible hands”).
Tying up long hair or hiding them under a cap doesn’t prevent concussions, but it does keep unwelcome insects or falling dirt from invading your scalp.
A simple disposable face mask will come in very handy for very dusty places or to soften the stink of dead animals, unless you are visiting hardcore radiation zones, then you’ll need really heavy-duty gas masks and radiation suits.
If you’ve ever seen the film Gerry, you will agree that you should never go exploring unknown territories without any basic survival items.
Always bring along a bottle of water to prevent dehydration or to clean up any cuts or wounds obtained in the battlefield. Besides, you’ll never know when you might need the bottle…
And food, a day of hard work deserves to be rewarded with food. You can also use it to strike up good rapport with any homeless people you are intruding on in the premises. Remember to leave no trace of your being there, you don’t want the waste you generate to be part of the scenario for the next visitor.
Flashlights are a must to help you see your way in dark, spooky interiors, and besides, it’s a great lighting tool for when you need a focal point of light, or to create moods for your photos, (or communicate with spirits, if you’re into this sort of stuff.) Remember to put in fresh batteries and bring along replacements.
Having a Swiss army knife in your pocket wouldn’t be a bad idea. The tweezers will come in handy to remove lodged splinters, and you’ll never know when you might need to cut yourself free from vines and whatnots. In case of emergency, your tripod can also serve as a weapon.
Finally, a fully-charged phone and an external battery pack would be a good idea in case you need to call for help, and if your phone has a camera, way better! You can play with the variation of cameras to create more interesting perspectives for your session.
Now that your bag is fully equipped, it’s time to go bear witness to places where time ceased to exist.