Another version of Abandoned photography.
Took a trip to the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyards that closed in the 1990's. The place has been taken over by contractors with a small navy presence. I rode along with some friends who wanted to do some shooting there. I really went for the ride not so much to take photos because in my mind I had already thought there really wasn't anything to get the kind of photos I like to take. I was surprised at all the different vessels stock piled there. Different types battle ships cruisers and the above an aircraft carrier. The carrier USS John F Kennedy the only ship in its class was the last fossil fueled to be made and put into service Sept 1968. Impressive in size but small compared to the new ones. I was drawn to the lines of the ship, the rust and worn paint. This ended up my favorite photo of the day. This was the only time I came home from a shoot and printed the nest day I printed several from the day and now hung on an office wall. I'll be interested in the conversation since you can look at this many ways.
I was amazed on how the ships aligned almost perfectly square and plumb. I always wonder how they don't tip over. I also wondered what fate these ships are destined for. I'm glad I went and there was enough to shoot looking for an artistic look and not something from a vacation. Shooting tight was the key. Shooting tight I started with a 70 to 200 and quickly realized 70 mm is too much. These ships were huge. You need to look for details like lines and shapes or textures.
The bottom line.....When you think a photo shoot isn't for you go anyway and make it you.
As we journey through life we all go places that sooner or later fall in disrepair or ultimately close and slowly fall apart. I went there the other day. An old amusement park that I spent a lot of time at when I was little through teenage years. There are a few buildings left empty mostly however, the iconic roller coaster still stands overgrown as nature reclaims the land. On a drizzly day most appropriate for the subject matter this abandoned place was the explore for the day. Something unusual about this day was there was enough light to shoot off the tripod. I don't always get to do that in the dark abandoned places I normally explore. I climbed around some blocked areas to gain better advantage shots of the coaster tracks. You could hear the creaking wood telling me to go no farther. Everything that would have made great photography like the carousal were gone except the few cars sitting on the track at the start of the ride. Protected by the roof they still looked as if a little maintenance and off they go. At least till they run into the first tree on the incline chain. This place still had a lot of photos to be taken but I didn't take many as I did more thinking about all the good times we had as kids. I feel lucky to have what photos I took because soon it will all be on the ground food for the insects that eat wood. So those of you who take abandoned photos like I do maybe you should look for places you've been as well as new places you haven't.
What do you do when the room your in (in this case auditorium) is literally a black out and you need a flashlight to see your feet. One option is to move on to another location or make some light. Most people think about adding light using a flash mounted on your camera or other means. That will work but the control without any modifiers can spill light where you don't want it. If that's all you have so be it. Another alternative is a simple hand held flashlight and use the beam to add light where you want it. You can create drama or just light it up and show everything. Another advantage of light painting is to light up very dark areas where there is a light source say the moon and a rock or tree in the foreground is too dark. You could take two photos and blend but that is not light painting.
Shooting in the dark will cause you to shoot manual and not just camera settings. Manual settings can be the camera or the lens. Without light the auto focus will keep searching for something to focus on, the camera won't even fire or a very blurry photo. On this trip with a group I ask someone the question on how they focused. Got the look....what? I ask how many photos were in focus because they were auto focusing. Even with light painting the light is moving all the time to get an even look. I told them to light up an area of subject and then auto focus on that spot. Turn off your auto focus. Another way is just manual focus. In this case the subject a piano could be light painted with a single flashlight or what we did was set all the cameras and ready set go, trip the trigger and one person paints. It takes practice on how long the shutter or how much light the flashlight is needed. You will normally get a different look each time. What about a larger area. Get bigger lights. I took along two 2 million candle power lights. The kind people use at night to spotlight deer. The bigger the area you light the more light you will need. Or you can jack up your ISO to compensate the lack of light. Also you need to keep the lights moving or you can over expose an area quickly. Photoshop can add the red but what fun would that be. I want it to have the look of flickering flames.
Who says you need a white light. Red filters were used with the large lights and then just paint as you would normally. I like to do something like this for a series "THE GATES OF HELL". A quicker way to get this would be to use Photoshop and use layers but fun would that be? And light painting is not restricted to indoor projects. It will work anywhere you need to add light to your subject. My series started in a grave yard at night in Philly. I had thought about this for awhile and why not start there or I may have got the idea after I did the red light paint. PRACTICE, PRATICE AND PRACTICE will always lead to better photography. A little secret, go along with someone who does this so you can see first hand instead of reading this blog.
MT MORIAH "GATES OF HELL"
I consider myself a seasoned photographer. I know my cameras, use the best gear, shoot many different types of photography and learn as much as I can from many sources. Of course one of my favorite things is trying to capture the essence of abandonment. Lighting is the subject, dancing along an object sometimes so little of it that you have to really know how to set you camera to make a great image. You just can't buy a camera and shoot auto everything. Why not? Each function of the camera shutter speed, F stop and ISO plays an important role. They all control light but in a different fashion. The longer the shutter the more time the film or sensor has time to gather light. A long enough shutter maybe seconds, minutes or even hours will make a dark room look like daylight. A tripod is a must. Keeping your camera still for a 30 seconds is almost impossible without it. Shutter speed is usually the easiest to understand. Not really when shooting in the dark. Slowing down the shutter causes things to happen that an inexperienced person will wonder why the photo is blurry or out of focus. The above photo taken in an abandoned silo caused me a lot of problems till I figured out why. Parts of it was out of focus and parts where fine. I was close to the subject and was using a slow shutter speed, F stop at F8 and ISO of 100. The exposure was fine. At first I started looking at the depth of field which is the Aperture. I went all the way to F22 taking several photos checking to see if the problem was solved. No luck. Large numbers on Aperture reduces the amount of light so a even longer shutter speed is required. The longer the shutter speed after 30 seconds requires a bulb mode and you need a timer you can buy or time by a clock. A good way to see this problem is on a bridge. Bridges move and if that camera moves, BLUR. My camera wasn't moving so that wasn't the problem. I kept looking at this problem till I took a step back and moved a little and then I saw it. A very small air movement made the pulley swing just enough that the rope became blurred while the pulley itself was sharp. Too slow of a shutter speed. To get a faster shutter speed you have to decide aperture or ISO. ISO should always be the last resort. Cameras are better the lower the number and even though the manufacture gives high ISO on the camera it may not look good in the end. So if not ISO, aperture is the first thing. I said ISO last, well maybe not. If you are shooting a scene as I mentioned above going to a lower number on aperture F2.8 will cause the background to be out of focus. That is good when shooting portraits but if you want to tell a story F2.8 may blur the background to an unacceptable level. ISO is like a window shade and when you open the shade you get more light allowing the aperture to remain at the higher number. The higher ISO may cause the photo to be unacceptable in the end.
There is another option. LIGHT PAINTING. This is adding light much like a photographer using a flash. Light painting is a more controlled method lighting only what you want. A flash is not going to give you that rim of light on the arm of a chair because it will be much broader spilling on everything. I'll take on the light painting for another day.
Working in cold damp conditions in a dark building takes practice using your camera. Go in the garage or basement and practice on something.
Abandoned photography comes in many forms. There are Photographers that go into empty houses key word is empty and take a snap shot of the rooms. I prefer places that remain full of things that were left behind decaying or layers of dust. Because of this these places are hard to come by because of the owners worrying about liability. You can gain access by booking a workshop with a group. I have done the workshop thing just to gain access to places I couldn't go any other way. Somewhere in-between this is places like Eastern State which is really a museum of sorts with restoration going on. These places are usually well kept and lack a lot of the things I look for when exploring. There are many things to photograph but you will have a lot more people to contend with. You are limited to your access to objects with do not enter or locked doors for employees only. You won't have to worry about getting caught trespassing because you pay a small fee and they let you take your photos. I went twice. The first time it was billed as a photographers tour and it was, too many. There was little to shoot with all the equipment and models. I then went back on a photography work shop that offered some access not open to the public. It also was too crowded because prisons weren't built for comfort. I got some photos but I don't think I would have done it knowing what I know now. I did get an advantage being in the building first because the mirror shot would be very difficult with the general public milling around. However, if you are just starting out a workshop, the right workshop is extremely helpful. Another thing about abandoned places is darkness. No one is paying the light bill anymore or people trash the places by doing scrapping. Before you go if you are fairly new to abandoned photography brush up on long exposure or what you need to know about it and a tripod is your best friend. You will need to trigger the camera in a way that you don't bump it. I have done a few blogs on what a work shop should be and It pays to do a little research because they are not all created equal.