It’s the end of the year and I could only think of one name for this months, GOTM!
The guys who runs this Talkurbex show, Mr Sophos9! Thanks for youre time to answer the questions! And offcourse a big thanks for all the time and effort you put in to running the forum & website!
And thanks to the modteam for youre help with the questions!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well I hope to make this interesting read like all the others
I’m Dave, 32 and live in the UK and have an awesome 6 year old son. Occupationally I work in management consultancy with a major global blue chip company running ubergeek projects. Outside of work, I have many hobbies from marine aquaculture, geek coding, electronics/engineering and motorbikes/cars, of course photography is there
I’ve recently developed a taster for horror prop work and there will be more coming in 2011, so apologies in advance
When did you start exploring and what triggered your interest?
I grew up in a rural area where there was a high degree of abandoned things from train carriages through to a large stately hall. Exploring was natural, I would take long walks, finding and exploring everything I could. I once found a house in the middle of a large heath, it was like something out of a film, the house looked lived in however turned out to be a holiday home. I can also remember a large stately hall which was massive, walking the corridors and seeing the old artefacts left in there. It was converted to 30 flats a few years later. Really cool have been the places I’ve seen as a kid wondering what happened in there, in years gone by they have closed down so I’ve gone back and explored them – what satisfaction.
Exploration is natural for us, its in our DNA to find out and make the unknown known
How and why did you came up with the idea to start an urbex forum?
When you are interested in something, its natural to seek out others like minded. Part of the experience carries expectations on what you are after based on your own experiences. I went on the journey seeking out others and had some expectations. Each community had differing aspects some of which were good, others that were not so good. In times like this, if you cannot find what you are looking for, you must create.
Talk Urbex was founded on a simple principle, “exploration not BS” and that simple principle will stay for the existence. I wanted to get a great bunch of friends together to share amazing places in their own style and with other people that appreciate their work. We have aced on that one!
Everyone wants different things from the forum they call home. Talk Urbex offers another aspect so if you have not tried it out, give it a look
What are your thoughts about the whole HDR vs single shot discussion?
Is this like Nikon vs. Canon? I have a pretty simple view on this which I’ll share…there is no discussion. Personally I don’t like Picasso’s work but that does not make it shit, it just means I like different things. Would Picasso have changed his style if people moaned to him about it? Doubt it, he done what he done regardless.
I do laugh at what I’ve read on the net about HDR haters and all that stuff. I laugh because most people involved in the argument do not even know the difference between dynamic range and tone mapping. Most of the arguments are about tone mapping, if you are going to try and impose your opinions on people then at least take the time to get your argument correct.
I process the images that I imagine when I’m there , that means manipulating them to suit. If I’m the only person thats happy with my work then thats good enough for me, no amount of people saying that are crap will change it. Many people produce many differing styles or work, its important to remember that there is no ‘bad’ art work, only different work. Just because you dont like it does not make it shit, we should burn our effort on appreciating other peoples styles instead of bitching about it.
There are so many great straight out of the camera photos I’ve seen, some of ‘Rules’ work comes to mind. I’ve taken a fair few also and for me its about using the right tool at the right time.So my view is really simple, we should be open minded enough to appreciate the differences
What has been your best urbex experience to date.?
There have been so many awesome explores with awesome people – I know how this question goes so I’ll answer straight. The one that comes to mind is the crazy trip from the UK to Holland then to Germany with Frits, Bas and Jeremy. Why? Well the entire experience was a complete crazy memory and to pack so many amazing locations into a road trip frenzy could only increase the experience.
Some of the locations that come to mind are as follows…
Following a drive through the night from Holland to Germany we got to this place just as the sun was rising – seeing the amazing architectural masterpieces standing in front of us drove the adrenaline off the scale. Followed by finding out Bas had forgotten his tripod so we drove to Potsdam, grabbed a tripod and a Starbucks before heading back the Beelitz to carry on the shoot. We had an awesome crew meet with UK, NL and DE coming together.
NSA Radar Station
Getting to the top of this place was awesome, a cool structure which can over see landscape to the 6 mile limit. We got a great crew shot up here with Frits pulling the ‘right on’ stance
Amazing location, Frits managed to fall through a basement. We saw some of this location however not enough as we had a schedule. We grabbed some shots of the high lights then had to ‘march and shoot’ the way back to the car.
We found the Chemical Labs with some help from our DE friends, we also fell into another lab which was awesome shooting. Once in the main chem labs, we were shooting in the dark of night however broke out some lighting backs to help us.
The above roadtrip was awesome, I fully recommend getting on a roadtrip with our exploring friends and meeting up with other explorers at locations, its what the experience is about
How much time, effort and money go into keeping the forum up and running?
LOTS! I’m always geeking about with something, one of the key things is to stop security co’s snooping so I’ve built some custom modules to deal with that, also the same with Euro police. Typical other things is keeping code up to date, working search engine optimisation and researching new/better ways of doing things. Then there’s design work, coming in 2011 is a design revamp of the forum to integrate the main site design with the forum – its not hard work, just requires time.
Forum running costs are around £250 per year on a shared server. I would like to upgrade to a dedicated server at some point but thats circa £50 per month so we need sponsorship. We have great members that contribute donations to the running of the site which helps and is a very kind gesture. The community plays every part of Talk Urbex, I’m just the spanner man
If you could select youre ultimate crew to go on a 5 day urbex trip, who would be in it?
haha – difficult question to answer, if you are a kid in a sweet shop, how can you chose only 5? I would think about building a European crew, with people representing UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Denmark. It would be awesome to combine the differing photographic and exploring skills from differing countries
You just recently bought yourself some new gear, what’s new in youre kitbag?
During the earlier days, things got way too complex with the kit bag. Photography is about buying, selling, trading kit for experimentation so I ended up carrying stupid amounts of stuff to learn with. Now my kit bag is much simpler, its as follows
Nikon D700 FX (big up for the Nikon crew whahaha)
Nikkor 14mm f/2.8
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8d
Giottos tripod gear
Thats about it really – I want a simple and reliable kit, I think I’m there
How is your workflow when it comes to processing your pictures?
Ah man, this is difficult to describe but I’ll do my best. My workflow starts from the shot in the location, when I look for places/frames and lighting, I’m picturing in my mind the finished article. I always shoot RAW and until recently, I always shot a 9 exposure bracket however now I usually shoot just 1 with correct lighting.
RAW goes into Photoshop and I start with every step as an experiment. I know how I want the image to end up so I just make it happen. Sometimes, images shot in the same conditions get the same treatment however its usually bespoke per picture. RAWs are subjected to a mix of sharpening, blurring, HSL layers, many many layer masks etc etc. Its very rare for me to show a raw photo, for me this takes away some of the fun – a magic trick is never the same once you know how its performed however here’s a couple (well one is nearly RAW)
How do you “tackle” a location? Do you just shoot at will or do you really document a building?
First thing is get inside as quick as possible, once in spend some time listening. Then typically I reccy the place looking for potential shooting places from top to bottom then gear up, kit out and start shooting. Its easier to stay nimble with your gear packed if you come across a situation where you might need to get out quick. Once I’m geared up, I like to get lots of angles of places, shooting many Gb’s – the majority dont make it from a RAW but I create myself choice when it comes to processing
Are there any tips & tricks you would recommend to starting explorers?
Yea sure, I mean top ones have to be have respect for the places you visit. Don’t ever steal or rip these places off, once you do that you are into common burglary and are no longer exploring.
Meet up with other explorers and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Community is kicking, for me its a big part of exploring. Don’t get sucked into the mindset that this is all some uber elite special operation, its about seeing some amazing things, grabbing some great photos and having some fun. Practice your photography, shoot everything and its important for you to realise that your style is your style – if you get people saying they don’t like it, don’t worry about it – stick with your conviction.
If you were given a plane ticket to anywhere in the world to visit a location, were would you go and why?
I don’t know what I dont’ know and based on that, it would have to be somewhere with some serious underground technical infrastructure like in the US, the private metro system for the White House and underground nuclear labyrinths where you can get lost for days. Any place you could get lost for days in is well worth the ticket
Who would you like to see as the next guest of the month?
I would love to see Midnight Digital from flickr. His post apocalyptic work is awesome – great inspiration!
You can see more of Sophos9′s work here. Do check it out, it’s freaking awesome!