This month we interview a Belgian explorer with a passion for architecture. Some may know him for his images, others may know him as DJ ‘Havoc’. Let’s meet the photographer behind the book ‘Lost In Time’, Jim Van Loo, also known as Aimed…..
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in 1977 and from a very young age I started listening to my dad’s rock & roll records which makes music my first love. In 1992, I started playing in an old school hardcore band (Victims Of Society), recorded a few CD’s and toured in Europe. In the meantime I graduated in 2000 in Electromechanics and started working for an engineering company. Next to my love for old school hardcore and punk rock, I began to collect old school jungle and early drum & bass in the late nineties. And although my band splitted up in 2006, my addiction to collect records of early nineties UK dance music (jungle, hardcore, breakbeats) continued. From 1998 I DJ as ‘Havoc’ and founded Ruffskool in 2007 in order to promote this music by organizing parties and hosting a bi-weekly radio show on Sundays on jungletrain.net. Furthermore, I love travelling and hanging out with friends. Last but not least, photography became a big passion in 2006, mainly focussing on architectural photography.
2. What’s in your kit bag? What’s next on your wishlist? And if money was no option what would you buy?
My first camera was a Nikon D50 but 2 years ago I bought a Nikon D300s. When I go out exploring I take these lenses with me: Sigma 10-20mm, Sigma 18-55mm, Nikkor 50mm, Nikon fisheye. With the wide angle being my favorite lens. I also take a flashlight with me, tripod (Vanguard) and level (hot shoe).
Next on my wishlist would be a tilt-shift lens and a full frame camera (Nikon), if I ever get that money together.
3. What came first for you, photography or urban exploration (UE)? Where did your love of architecture come from?
When I graduated in 2000, I started working in an engineering company. This company employs engineers and architects. We work as a team and construct schools, hospitals, factories, apartments and so on…
I’m responsible for the library of lightening products so I get to see a lot of modern architecture daily in magazines, books and via our own projects of course. My passion for architectural photography became pretty intense so I bought my first camera in 2006 to start shooting buildings myself.
Later on I got in touch with a friend who was into urban exploring and photography so we started hanging out together in the weekends to hunt for decay. Over the years urban decay and derelict buildings became even a stronger passion than shooting modern architecture. I use all my knowledge obtained through shooting architecture in my urban exploration work. This means photography comes first then urban exploration. To me the architectural image is more important than the location.
4. When you document a location, what do you look for in your images?
As a big fan of architectural photography, I find it important to get my shots as straight as possible.
I rarely tilt my camera and always use a level. I try to look for interesting points of view, search for lines, angles and depth. Furthermore I try to look for interesting colors in the scene as well as the use of natural light while I try to avoid direct sunlight or sunbeams in my UE work as I believe overcast skies or even rainy days bring out better colors and excellent contrast in my images which are totally in control by the HDR technique. I also think moody clouds suit perfectly the urban exploration scenes. Therefore I prefer to explore from late September to March.
5. Can you pick your favourite image and talk us through your set-up and processing, and why it is a favourite.
It’s hard to pick my best shot I ever made but it might be this one:
This photo was taken somewhere in Austria on a short UE-trip. It was winter and a cloudy day, my favorite light for UE. As I walked through this castle and came into this room I was amazed by the whole scene: the curved ceiling, the fallen wooden beams, the open doors, the corridor, the window on the floor, the colors… I tried to find the most interesting composition to get everything well balanced in one shot. I used a tripod and level (hot shoe) and shot with different exposures. Photomatix was applied for HDR and LR for post processing. I rarely use photoshop. I reduced/increased local contrast, added vignette (I like vignette a lot but some don’t) and desaturated the colors a little bit. Moreover, I added some yellow in highlights to create a warm look. This picture was printed in big size and has been exposed on a previous exhibition of mine. Most people liked this picture the most so I guess it was a good choice. I should mention and thank Mr. Mechanical Monster and Frits Vrielink for this beautiful day too!
6.What is your favourite type of location? And what is your most memorable explore?
My favorite locations are big, mostly industries or castles because of their interesting architecture. I’m not really into close up shots or details so it won’t be easy to bump into me in the next residential if you know what I mean. I try to look for locations that’ve been abandoned for a long time. There needs to be decay too, I won’t join on a trip to a hospital that’s been abandoned last week by figure of speech.
My most memorable explore? Tough question!! I have a lot of good memories from my trips abroad with some of the members of TU going to the UK, Germany, Austria or even in my own little country.
But one of the most interesting places and most shocking will be either Detroit where I was last October 2011 or Pripyat (near Chernobyl). I can’t describe what Pripyat does to you nor Detroit. The history of both cities are quite shocking and being able to take pictures on these locations, made these experiences parts of the most memorable moments of my life.
7. Why does urban exploration appeal to you?
Abandonment, being in a place that’s been forgotten for ages, the silence, the dust, the atmosphere, decay and mother nature taking back what belongs to her. The size of buildings, the whole community of UE, get to see derelict buildings from all over the world, hanging out with friends in the weekend, looking for an entrance, scouting, the danger and excitement, travelling and networking, meeting new people with the same spirit and feeling and so on…
8. What advice can you give to new explorers?
First of all, be careful. Don’t explore alone. Look for locations in your own region, I bet there’s more than you think, you just need to look for them. Try to take original images, even at well known spots. Start using google to look for locations and install google earth, it will be your best friend soon. Get in touch with other explorers, they might help you but don’t ask: where is this location? Be low profile each and every time. Respect any location, brand new or trashed. Don’t make your locations public, a cook won’t give you his recipe either unless he knows you very well. Don’t park your car in front of the location you’re visiting (it sounds stupid but it’s really not). If you get caught, don’t worry, explain what you do (take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints). Never break in or trash a place, you’re a photographer, not a demolisher. Last but not least, have a real good time and lots of fun post-processing!
9. What is your favourite place/country for urban exploration?
I don’t want to sound chauvinistic but it’s Belgium, haha. Although there is also great stuff in Germany, UK, Italy, eastern Europe and so on…
10. What are your urban exploration plans for the rest of 2012?
I was trying to plan a trip to Italy but this will be postponed to early 2013. I’m going to try to hit Luxemburg and Germany again soon.
11. You have a book published, can you tell us a little about this?
At the end of 2010 I decided to publish a book with selected works of my urban exploration photography. I called the book ‘Lost In Time’. The book is printed by blurb and it’s also my portfolio. It contains images from abandoned places in Iceland, Germany, UK and of course Belgium. For those who would like a preview, please go to my website.
12. Who would you next like to see as guest of the month?
I think many photographers will agree with me if I say Bousure is able to surprise anyone of us with his insane shots of abandoned buildings. He creates a unique style by the combination of persons together with incredible points of view. His images are perfect in any detail and he travels all over Europe to get that one shot he already made in his head way before. Would be nice to read all about him and his urban explorations.
13. Talk Urbex forum member image for critique.
- great use of the fish eye lens
- great view and use of symmetry
- good post processing, no halos or overdone HDR effect.
- great location
- burned out highlights on both sides of the back wall, local fine tuning in post processing could do the trick.
- pity of the graffiti on the wall, too much attention.