October is normally known for halloween and autumn however October 2009 will be about a great Talk Urbex interview with another excellent urban explorer, Shexbeer. So here goes, its time to go into urbex mode with Shexbeer…
Roman, what got you started in urbex – Are you photographer, or an urban explorer?
I feel 50% as an photographer and 50% as urban explorer. When the photography has became my hobby in the year 2006 I used to take shots of absolutely everything, perhaps except peoples’ portraits. I have always been fascinated with industrial environments and I live in a city with a few shipyards and factories.
One of the locations we found accidentally with my friend was the abandoned building used for school projects in the past. Everything went great, all the photos were successful, and after I tried post processing them using HDR technology I decided that this is what I want to focus on. And this is what I do since then till present time.
Your portfolio shows some amazing locations, can you tell us your favourite location and why?
There are many locations that they like and which I liked very, for example huge abandoned slaughterhouse or small Fischer’s Mansion. You can find photos from this locations in my sets on flickr
I have a great fondness for my first urbex trip into abandoned building used for school projects. Photos from set called Rzeznicka 90
Most explorers have a plan when they enter a building, some start at the basement, the attic, some really document every room and some just take random shots – what is your game plan?
I haven’t any special plan, well maybe one thing, I try to always check whether a site or building does not have anyone before I start take pictures. Attics hide beautiful treasure, strongly desire to start a trip from the top down.
I try to document as many rooms I can and I definitely prefer to make photos with very small group of people, I don’t like when someone accidentally enters into the frame, but who likes that …
I usually try to make all the required shots in one photo session. Of course there are places where this is impossible – sometimes because they are simply so big and sometimes just because there are so many interesting details. There are places that are worth going back to if only to take photos at different time of day in different lighting conditions.
What’s the thing that will catch your eye when you are looking for when you go for a shot?
I try to find some nice places for impressive captures. I like for example old doors or stairs. First and important thing is the place can’t be clean, it has to present the signs of its own downfall. The more messy it it – the more beautiful it is.
Basic elements I look for are thins like old crusty paint going off from the walls, dirty windows, destroyed floor, or beautiful fungus on the ceiling. When I find it I say “Sweeeeet!” ;D Composition cannot be monotone, but it had to have one element that the person viewing it will focus on the first sight.
Whats the worst thing that has happened on an urban exploration location?
So far nothing terrible happened to me, and let him remain. When I photographed an abandoned bakery (no longer exists ) had to be very careful exploring the top floor because there was a faint light and the hole in the concrete allowed to fall several stories down
What are your recommendations to new urban explorers?
The first and most important principle is the idea of its safety, sometimes in places that are better not to enter if you have a suspicion that the floor would not hold the weight of your … do not do that.
Life is too beautiful and short to lose them through ignorance or naivete, even the best picture is not worth it. Take care and don’t destroy anything, just take photos and leave.
Can you give some hints on how you process your photos?
I usually take 5 photos using my Nikon camera and exposure bracketing with 1EV steps. It is also enough to get all the details from both shadows and highlight areas of the scene. If the scene has very high contrast it happens that I take series of 7 or 9 photos. I work on an iMac and use Photomatix Pro.
When it goes to processing photos basic stuff that I usually do is sharpening the image in Lightness channel. Then I play with curves for lightness, colours, shadows, highlights, I sometimes use Orton technique, to get the effect of darker scene I use many layers with different blending modes (multiply, overlay, screen etc.) At the end I convert 16-bit TIFF to 8-bit and save as JPEG with maximum quality.
Remember the important rule “training makes master”. I suggest to start with some ready tutorial that you find in the internet just to get to know what all of this is about. Once you understand the basic ideas behind making HDR photos then try to experiment with different settings in Photomatix as well as your image processing software. Experiment, try different stuff, and create your own unique style in time. And then feel great when someone notices your photos.
Big thanks to Shexbeer for taking the time to share his experiences and thoughts on urban exploration – please take a second to share the thanks