This month takes us to Norway to interview a Swedish explorer who has a great interest in the history of abandonments and travels Europe to photograph these locations. Let’s find out more about Canon shooter, Martin Widlund……
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
Hey. I am 31 years old, born and raised in Sweden. In 2001 I moved to Norway as many Swedes have and since then I have lived In Oslo. Now I live together with my girlfriend, two-year-old daughter and my twelve-year-old stepdaughter.
I have always had an interest for photography, but after I bought my first DSLR in 2008 it got a bit more serious. That’s also when my interest for editing began.
2. Where was your first ever explore and how did find it?
My first urbex location was Lier mental asylum. A colleague of mine had been there before and told me about the dark and creepy atmosphere there and I was intrigued. All the hospital equipment was left there, and had been there for a while. I didn’t know much about urbex back then, but after my visit to Lier I got hooked. I soon realised how many abandoned places there is around, and that there is quite a few people interested in urbex.
3.What’s in your kitbag, what’s your favourite lens and what is next on your wishlist?
I have always walked around with a far to big backpack, and carried around way to much gear. This might have something to do that I love having a lot of nice equipment. It’s just lately that I have tried to limit what I carry around, and do the best I can with what I have brought along. And I hope and think that this makes me a better photographer.
This is what I usually carry around:
Camera Canon 5d mark II.
Prime Canon 50mm 1.2L
Wide angle: 16-35mm 2:8L
Fisheye Sigma 15mm 2.8
Tilt and shift TS-E 24mm 3.5L
Cleaning equipment for the camera, some filters, a multi tool, flashlights, remote trigger, tripod, and props (gasmask and such)
I have grown quite fond of my 50mm and prime lenses. A 35mm 1.4L have been on my mind for some time, and is on top of my wish list now.
4. What are is your favourite type of location?
I have to say hospitals, mental asylums and sanatoriums. I like visiting places that have a interesting history. Industrial sights are locations that I haven’t tried out much. I am impressed by the cheer size of some machines, or the complexity of large factories, but they lack the personal touch. Things like chairs, beds and other traces of humans are things I think I need.
5.If you could explore anywhere where would it be?
Must say that I am bummed out that I never had the chance to see West Park in its time of glory. I have looked at many pictures and I wish I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. Cane Hill is another favorite… This is a hard question, don’t you want to see it all?!?
6. What do you look for when composing your images?
Well, I am always working on finding a style that I am happy with. I try to have a main motive in the image that’s in focus. I rarely try out extreme angles, but I like low angles. Light is also an important part I work on, that’s what makes or breaks a photo! I try finding a nice light source, some times natural and some times artificial or a combo. Nice reflections or natural (beautiful) decay are also nice details to capture.
7. Choose a favourite of your own images, talk us through the workflow, and give reasons why it’s your favourite.
This photo I took on a short trip with AndreasS.
It’s some sort of bunker from the cold war. The place itself is not that interesting, really dark with narrow halls and some empty rooms. I got AndreasS to jump in his nice white suit and put on an asbestos mask. We found this steep stairway and put a flashlight behind a door at the bottom, and another one to light him up. Processing are tones, put on some fog and textures to his hand and a few other small fixes.
8. How do you plan your urban exploration tours?
Hmmm, a difficult question. First of I have to thank a lot of people (you know who you are) who have been kind to bring me along on trips. Norway is not the best place for urbex, so usually I travel out of the country. I often get a gps location, some pictures of the place and an entry point on an email. So these trips often consists of planning the best route so we can reach as many places as possible. A location can quickly change, specially regarding guards and closed off entry points. If you don’t have fresh intel, you have to do you own research at the sight. I also want to get to know as much about the history of the location that I can. This makes the visit more fun for me.
9. What is your view on naming locations online?
Not all people have the same view about abandoned places, and information about such places can quickly get in the wrong hands. And this often ends in vandalism; Overlook Hotel and Potters Manor are good examples of this. That is why I am strongly against sharing names of locations online. I have to trust the people I share this kind of info with.
10. What are your top three points for people wanting to start exploring?
I think I have to give the classic answer here, be careful. First think safety; avoid going alone, its good to bring along a friend. Trusting your gut is often a good idea. Advice from other more experience is also good to bring along.
The second thing is having respect for the place. Leave it as it was when you got there!
The third is not revealing the location to people you don’t know or trust. If you try to stay loyal to people you get new friends, contacts and locations. It’s a game of trust.
11. Who would make up your ultimate crew?
I have been fortune enough to travel with a lot of good photographers / explorers during the time I have been doing this. If I was to chose a crew it would be people I trust and look up to.
12. Who would you like to see as the next guest of the month?
I must say Photoportee, a really good explorer and a gifted photographer.
13. Talk Urbex forum member image for critique.
With all the hardcore processing and HDR around I still really like the feel of a single raw shot. Sometimes it´s good to go back to the basics and this is a good example.
Sharpness and light are really nice, but I would have tried to tone down the highlights around the windows. Maybe rotate the camera a little bit more to the left to see what`s on the other side. But it´s a great shot. Congrats.
A big thank you to Martin, for his awesome answers, to check out more of his work go and take a look at his Flickr Photostream.