It’s just turned March, and a new month means a new guest interview. This month we head over to Norway to interview a photographer with a passion for exploring care institutions, many of you will have seen his work on Flickr….. let’s find out a little more about AndreasS
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself.
Hi! I’m 31 years old and live just outside Oslo, Norway, with wife and two kids. I’ve worked with 3d computer graphics illustration, visualization and animation for the last 10 years in the oil and gas industry.I have photographed since as far as I can remember, but it’s just in the last couple of years I have really started to skip the Auto program and to try to learn all the camera settings. I’ve learned a lot these last years from other photographers and other explorers I meet.
My urbex career sort of started when I borrowed a book from a friend in early 2009 about abandoned places and was instantly hooked. I read it in an hour and start searching the web for places like that in Norway. I found it really strange that people would just leave their buildings left to decay. The first place I found with a bit of size was Mental Asylum Lier and went there a short time later, was shocked by the beautiful decay and how much stuff that was left, and made my first shots from inside an abandoned place.
2. What’s in your kit bag when you go exploring? If money was no option, what kit would you buy?
I try not to bring too much, in case I need to move in a hurry, but I always have a small backpack with my camera, Canon 5D mII, and lenses. I actually never go exploring without a camera. My standard lenses are a Sigma 12-24 wide-angle, a Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye, a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens and a Canon 50mm f1.4. I have a Canon 70-200mm f.2.8 too, but usually leave it at home… To large, and doesn’t find it useful on explores. Other than that I have a few flashlights, mobile phone, toilet paper for different uses, a Canon 430EX flash (rarely used), a ton of different remote triggers, a dust mask and sometimes my Gp5 gasmask and my white protective suit. I also carry around my Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.If I had the money I would probably upgrade to a Canon 1D IV and maybe a macro and tilt shift lens too along with a GoPro camera. And a whole arsenal of gas masks and props of course.
3. What do you look for when your composing your images?
Hm… I have gone through a lot of phases in my shots and naturally learned a lot on the way. Now I would say that a picture I can be satisfied with is a picture which either have a very tilted angle or no angle at all. I try to add an element like at least a chair or something if possible to make a little history, and like to find some nice symmetry. I try to avoid perspective distortion, or fix it in PS. Light and reflection is important too. Nothing beats some nice evening light through a broken window making nice light rays in the dust.
4. Can you pick a favourite of your images and give your reasons why?
Too me it has some kind of happy apocalyptic feeling to it. Even if things look bad, the sun will rise again. The camera with fisheye lens was placed on tripod close to the floor and tilted with an angle to get the sun in the corner of the window, I pressed the trigger with 10 sec delay, jump in the chair, posed, smiled and there you go.
5. HDR is a widely used in postprocessing urbex images, what are your views on it?
In my opinion HDR is widely used in urbex photography to exaggerate the mood. The creepy mood of an abandoned mental asylum can be difficult to show with ordinary traditional photography. It can also, when it is done correctly, make the pictures feel more like art than photo. I hear people say that HDR makes the picture look fake, but that might just be the purpose too. I use HDR a lot, but can’t really decide what I like the most. When I want to make an unusual picture that doesn’t need to look real, I use HDR. These shots are uploaded to flicrk, 500px, 1x, tumblr and other photopages. I also have my blog site where I post documentary pictures – the shots that just show the place the way it is. If there is one type of photography that suits HDR it must be urbex shots.
6. Which is your favourite type of urbex location and why?
Since the amount of urbex locations in Norway is pretty low I can’t be too picky about places and restrict myself to just one kind of location. But I really like hospitals, especially mental asylums (who doesn’t?) with surgery lamps and creepy atmosphere. In Norway I really miss large industrial sites and haven’t found any decent places yet. Smaller places like a cabin can be cool as well as long as it has old stuff inside which nobody have seen for years.
7. What’s the scariest experience you have had whilst exploring?
I haven’t actually experienced anything really scary. But one of my most intense experience was when we entered an old mental asylum in the UK through a pitch black underground maintenance tunnel with water on the floor and we had to climb over and under a lot of pipes. An intense entry point with no mobile coverage and I felt we had crawled for an eternity when we suddenly stood at the stage of the main hall. Not to mention how we escaped the place after setting of PIR sensors, crawled through a window, down a high scaffolding and got out while security was looking for us. It was a really cool mission.
8.What are your top three points for people wanting to start exploring?
First I have to go with the boring answer – safety. Don’t run around. Use common sense and you should be able to spot possible hazards and dangers and avoid them. I your gut feeling tells you that a place is really dangerous don’t go there.Second – Don’t steal, destroy things or vandalise places. That’s not in the spirit of urbexing. If you find a nice spot, be careful to whom you reveal the whereabouts of the location and online you should conceal it well.
The third point might be a matter of taste that doesn’t suit all, but it adds another dimension to an explore if you know a little bit about the history of a place like when it was abandoned, why, etc. It is often quite interesting and building becomes more than just an empty building.
9.What is the urbex scene in Norway like?
Honestly there aren’t a lot of abandoned places here like in other European countries so the amount of explorers mirrors that. We have some forums and the ‘Urbex Norway’ flickr group and we even had a meeting last year were 6 people showed. The most famous place is Asylum Lier which I have visited many times and is actually one of my favorite places. There is also a big abandoned sanatorium in the mountains overlooking the fjords. We also have huge amounts of bunkers from the war along the whole coast. One of the problems for urbexers around here is that places are demolished or converted to flats pretty fast. But the urbex community is growing and new places frequently show up.To experience more places I have so far traveled to Sweden, United Kingdom, Austria and twice to Germany to photograph abandonments and meet other explorers.
10.What are your UE plans for 2012?
11.Who would make up your ultimate crew?
I have met many great people in both Norway and other countries since I began with urbex. It is a surprisingly social hobby. But when it comes down to hardcore urbex and really inspiring photographers, which I’ve met, I have to mention:
I hope I’ll meet more of you fantastic explorers out there soon!
12. Who would you like to see as the next guest of the month?
13.Talk Urbex forum member image for critique.
This image was submitted by mothman, can you give any advice on how they can further develop their photography/processing?
I like the dark atmosphere in the image and the processing is very well done. The main things I find disturbing in tonemapped HDR shots are the “glow” effect especially between the light sky and other objects and if the shots are far to light and over saturated. This shot doesn’t have these flaws. I always keep in mind that I don’t want my shots to look like HDR even if I use tonemapping and HDR techniques. Sometimes i succeed, and sometimes I don’t.For this room the composition works well and there is little visible perspective distortion. An even more interesting picture can perhaps be created if a particular object is the main subject and some areas have more light to create a more dynamic shot.