Photographing Abandoned Places

I talk a lot on here about how to photograph abandoned places. I really enjoy it. I have an odd perspective, but if you look at the scene not as a viewer but as a participant, you can come up with some crazy shots. Here's how I tackled Vulture Mine:

Something about the sun hitting this lonely bed makes you think of a sick room, doesn't it? Sitting there in bed, the rest of the kids playing outside while you aren't allowed out. I think this makes an emotional statement off the bat.

Little chair lost: Less is more. Tiny chair: Big space--over accentuate it by showing how small it really is in the void.

This is an overbearing piece of equipment in a dark warehouse--take advantage of the light to make that imposing piece of metal look almost weightless. It's already big and dark--we know that, but look how differently it comes across when lit.

This shot took my breath away as I took it. Standing in the guts of a building, there were "windows" creating a very geometric man-made pattern and in the distance, nature--soft, fuzzy, pastel tones. The contrast was amazing. The building becomes a frame for the beauty outside.

I could have stood back and taken a shot of a wooden building, but getting beneath it and looking up the length of those aged boards made it imposing, dark, and went with the grain. The building intimidated me as I stood beside it and this shot showed just why.

Take advantage of lighting, comparisons/contrasts, ways to accentuate what strikes you about the place. Try not to shoot like a tourist who stands back and gets the entire building in one shot. The exception to this would be to get up close looking up at it making it imposing or lying on your belly on the ground shooting it to make it look wide. Do not attack your subject as if it is a model posing. Interact with it!

I hope this inspires you to shoot places around your hometown and find beauty in things that others overlook. I can tell you that, like the elderly, these buildings have history and content. They are infinitely more interesting than the smooth baby faces of the youngsters.


  1. These are beautiful.. I actually worked with photographer April Love as a model for some shots she took in an abandoned mental instituition before they ripped it all down. So I love work like this!

  2. There are a few of the shots on her website too.. this is one of my faves....

    I bet she would love your shots!

  3. Damn LDGN! That was the coolest pic! Now, I would have gladly done that kind of modeling instead of fashion and swimsuits. That is very very cool and it makes such a statement.

    Thanks! I have a basic camera, but when I take shots, I want to remember how I felt somewhere, not that I was there. Some people might step back and photograph the White House, but I'd be more likely to get a squirrel racing across the front veranda or a guard staring down intruders.

  4. The one with the chair... There's something scary to it.
    Like, if you stare at it long enough, you'd realise someone's sitting in it.

  5. Great advice. You neglected to mention the nerves of steel you need to not get the shakes or have to look behind you..!

  6. My Day In a Sentence; that was sitting across from the bed. I got a reading on the bed. A man died of a lung disease in it in his middle aged years. He was scrawny and his neck was really badly burned from the sun and everyone jokingly called him "Sunshine."

    Thanks Jessica. It's easy to do in such a rich setting.

    Porky; I did feel as if I were being watched, but I welcome visitors from the other side, I never ever fear them. I certainly never felt alone even when standing in abandoned buildings alone. There is something to the very geology there that I hope to put in my book about Spirit Vessels. It was rich in retained history and perhaps even some spirited miners.

  7. Very nice Sis, you have a great eye for seeing the most appealing shots. I have learned lots from hanging with you at all the cool abandoned places. I feel like my photos are getting better and more interesting.

  8. Ein;

    That's what I love about photography. Six people come to a place and see six different locations. You have captured some truly amazing pics. I love to see us evolve over time as we get exposed to more and more cool places. Really, it's hard to miss with such complex and yet demolished sites.

  9. I love these! Shooting the abandoned is one of my favorite things. I have a whole folder of that stuff on Flickr.

  10. Cullan;
    I bet you have wicked awesome places in your state! Lucky bastard! Well, we have quite a few here too, but I'm sure your settings are better with more variety. Next, I'd like to hit ones in the green areas of the state where plants overgrow abandoned spots.

  11. great photos! your composition is very good.

  12. Zoe;
    Thanks. I seriously only started taking pics the last few years, but I guess I instinctively make a relationship with my surroundings and notice things like a kid does, so it helps make up for technically being untrained. Anyone can do it. Beauty is everywhere. We just have to stop and notice.

  13. I like the wood picture taken from a reverse bird's eye view.

  14. Israel;
    Thanks! Most of these buildings are one bad storm away from no longer standing. It was amazing to wander in them.

  15. Great pictures,place looks like a feast for ghost hunters.

  16. Echo;
    It was a real playground for us.

  17. Wow, those are some great pics! I'm a sucker for some old rusty machinery.

  18. Les;
    Yeah, I'm a steampunk lover, so big old mechanical machinery--wicked cool. There's a huge power room in one of the buildings that was amazing. It even had a ladder to climb up and tend to the machines.

  19. SOOOOO excited you finally got to go there! You've been talking about that place for a while now. (Shoot, ever since I started blogging back in '09. You got me all hyped up on that place. You were the first to bring it to my attn.) And then you even got to take neat pics. WOOOHOOO! Good job. Another nice post.

  20. Hey Court;
    You might enjoy the earlier posts that have lots of video of the place. Julie also caught something weird on her photo there that is unexplained. I am going to go back soon hopefully.

  21. Do you get permission to get into these places? Nice work on the pics. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  22. MM;
    Yes. This was Vulture Mine. You pay $10 and can walk through the whole property of the mining town.

  23. Oh! I love them all!
    I love taking pictures and learning as I go.
    My Fav of these is definitely the last one! I adore it.
    You can almost "feel" the texture of the wood and the tones of brown against the blue...FANTASTIC!

  24. Thanks Cindi!
    I look at that one and I can smell the warm cedar, dusty wood smell of it.

  25. Yes, you indeed take very good pictures. It is not always the camera, it is the way that you can inter act with your surroundings.

    This kind of images are intriguing, because you always think how it was the place who where the people that lived there? Were they happy? Or not?
    You can imagine a million of things about the place.

    Well, I really know a bit about Washington DC I took some pictures there some years ago. The capital is a picture heaven. Yes, if you miss home you can have a bit of it in my blog.

    Thank you always for your visit and kind comments.

  26. Adrian;
    Our subject matter differs a lot but I love seeing your area through your eyes. Perspective is everything. You can tell a photographer with a lot of wonder in his eyes and not jaded or bored by the subject. Keep the pic's coming.


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