My first interview for Talkurbex, guest of the month January is Dr. Baab aka the Château Hunter.
Hope you guys will enjoy it!
First I want to say that I am honoured to stand among these great names! I’m Bob, 24 years old and live in Sittard / Geleen in Limburg (Netherlands). I study animation (3D, special effects etc.) and work on weekends at a regional TV station there and make graphics and animations.
How and when did you start with urban exploring?
Urban Exploring always appealed to me from when I was little.
As a small child, sitting in the back of the car looking at an abandoned and decayed monastery that was fairly close to my home, unfortunately I have never been here.
As a teenager is started visiting old houses and little factory’s, and I loved it.
Urban Exploration, I had never heard, which came on a warm summer evening in 2007, when my brother just bought an SLR.
He was on the internet to view pictures and came suddenly on a Urbex site.
I immediately jumped at the computer for research, and the next day I got into the car, heading for St. Jozefsheim, with a normal digital camera.
Once there I was quite impressed by the size and the atmosphere that was there. A new global world was open for me, and a new hobby was born.
Yet I in 2007 and 2008 in explored in a lesser degree, this because lack of time and my former hobby, where all my money went to, Autotuning.
My lowered car with polyester bumpers was not suitable for the Belgian roads.
From the beginning of 2009, I really started researching and went out on explores.
And just recently started to use Flickr, because I wanted to keep a low profile.
You’re known as the “Chateau Hunter” but you also visited some very cool industrial sites, What kind of location do you prefer and why.
If I really have to choose, castles, but only if there were more personal things to be found.
I find it very cool to walk around in a castle where important people have been and lived, and all the stuff is just left behind en you can even enter!
Unfortunately castles full of stuff are very rare. When you enter an empty castles you are more limited and less creative with photography, usually you have only one staircase and fireplace. On the internet you see the same photos over and over again.
I really like industry too, you really almost only have advantages, there is always an entrance, no one cares about the building any more, deserted means really deserted and you can unleash your creativity.
What is your worst / scariest experience during your trips up to now?
These are actually two,:
Lucky Strike Lanes (no longer exists)
I was with Roel aka rule at the back of the bowling alley (dead end), when I suddenly saw a man standing at the bowling alley. I thought it was Roel, but soon I saw him hiding in a corner.
I ducked and the man walked right past me at 10 cm. He just disappeared and I crawled to Roel.
We squatted down with our equipment next to us. Then suddenly the man came back in our direction! We were like a rats in a trap. At 6 ft from us he stopped. He picked up a bowling pin and I thought he was going to hit us with it . We were sitting motionless. The man looked straight into my eyes.
After 10 seconds he suddenly turned around and walked back … We still do not know whether he saw us or not.After that we had to search the whole building because Roel left his coat somewhere. When we finally jumped out, I fell through a wooden pallet in the pit. I could barely grasp. The camera hung 5 cm above the water, what luck!
Hof Ter Meeren (no longer available)
I had little information about this castle and was lucky to find an entrance, I was there with my brother.
When we finished shooting, some people were at the door.
We could just make it into the basement, which was flooded and waited. We heard several people, a seller, buyer and a policeman with 2 dogs. We realized that they would look in every room and I went into the flooded basement were the water was 20 cm high, hoping that they would not come down there.
When they came into the basement. They stood on the other side of a 2 ft high, really thin wall. We tried not to move because, so they could not see any movement in the water.
The buyers wanted to see the basement, but the seller said it was not possible because of the water, so they just had a quick look and didn’t see us! But now we had to leave!
We ran to the nearest door and took away all the barricades.
Once outside we ran in the wrong direction (towards the police car), so we had to return to the other side. Once on the road once again, you can relax and laugh about it.
What is your most favourite to date location?
A very stupid and standard answer but I have to say … Château dans le Foret.
When the first pictures appeared on-line, my suitcases were already packed because we left on a holiday that day.
I was gutted!
I wanted to go so badly that I even dreamed about.
When I finally made it there … unreal, this place had it all, a magnificent castle, full of stuff!
Not many people had been inside, and it took a few hours to feel at ease in there. (A jeep with no dust in the garage and an enclosed area filled with tire tracks)
There are so many beautiful locations, each location has something special, and can not be matched.
Furthermore, it also depends on the rush, trying to enter and if a location is unknown, it is extra exciting for me.
The variation is what keeps urbex so great!
How much time you plug in research and exploring potential sites.
It really takes a lot of time, money, patience and understanding .
Research takes the most time, it is increasingly difficult to find something new again.
When I’m not out exploring, I’m researching pretty much every day.
If I have a large number of potential sites in one region, I take my car and drive past them all.
A few days ago I went out to check some potential castles. The first 10 were not so deserted as I had expected (often only temporarily abandoned castles), the day was almost over and my fuel tank nearly empty. I think that most explorers had already gone home frustrated, but I went through. My patience was rewarded with the last 2 locations. Two cool and unknown castles. I can’t explain the feeling I get when I arrive at a location where you have never seen any pics of. You can compare it with unpacking gifts. It is also much more exciting, because you have no further information about security etc.
It was so worth the effort!
What gear do you take on a full day exploring?
My standard gear contains a Nikon D70 and 3 lenses, a Sigma 10-20mm, a Nikkor 28-100mm and a Nikkor 50mm 1.8, which I just received. In the future I will change a bit more with overview and detail shots.
I also have a small flash light, a screwdriver and a door handle with me in case I need it.
And in the trunk is always a boat and a long rope, haha.
Which location tops the wish list?
Well, I’ve found some amazing German castles and can not wait to go there!
Furthermore, Pyestock is very high on that list. What a wonderful location !
Do you Urbex with a crew or do you fly solo?
I never fly solo for several reasons.
The crew with whom I go out will vary somewhat, the problem is that I must work weekends, these are the days on which other explorers go out. I usually go during the week and just see how can tag along.
Sometimes I take a weekend off from work and go exploring with known explorers.
Is your preference for single shots or HDR?
I myself started with HDR, but I personally think that a lot of work.
Therefore I switched to Lightroom because it goes a lot faster.
But I always shoot HDR, so I can always choose how I edit.
Personally I find it nice when a photo is edited in HDR, it provides more atmosphere.
What programs do you use when editing your photos?
I used to HDR with Photo Matrix 3.2 and for the rest I use Lightroom, nice, quick and easy.
I edit the photos fairly quickly, I would actually have to spend more time!
What tips or tricks would you give to novice explorers?
I think most beginners do know the standard tips.
When you start, get in contact with other explorers in your neighbourhood, it’s better to go on a trip with some other explorers than with friends, they have more experience and patience.
A research tip: if you have a specific location, try not to search only on that location, look in general. This is much less frustrating and you will find many more locations in the process. Good chance you will find the location you were looking for in the first place.
And perhaps most important of all: go your own way, don’t care what anybody else says and have fun!
That’s all folks. You can view more of Dr. Baabs amazing work here