Abandoned Factory – Part 1

After a short-notice invitation from a friend, I went on my second urban exploring adventure yesterday.  I’m intentionally not going to share many details about the type of place or the location, except to say that it’s an abandoned factory on the Southwest side of Atlanta.  I will say, though, that I learned after the fact that it’s a contaminated site that’s on the EPA’s Superfund list.  Yikes!

ISO 400, 19mm with 4 exposures of 1/6, 0.6, 2.5, and 10.0 sec at f/11

Unlike the abandoned school that we visited in February, we didn’t have to climb through any windows or search for an entrance — we just walked in.  Also unlike the school, this location was pretty much a big, wide open space, with a few rooms here and there.  There was an upstairs, with a cafeteria, etc., but I pretty much kept to the main floor.  I guess I’ll have to go back again so I can explore the upstairs.  🙂

ISO 400, 25mm with 3 exposures of 2.5, 10.0, and 30.0 sec at f/11

I still have plenty of photos to process from this excursion, but so far, the photo above is my favorite.  The moment I converted it to b&w, I felt like I had something special.  This was taken in a shower/locker room area where the workers must have changed from their normal shoes into shoes that they wore just for work, because there were several shoes (not sure about pairs) in this room.  It was one of the few places in the building where there was any remaining connection to the people who actually worked at the factory.

Another one of my favorites so far is the one below.  I just love how the colors play off each other, as well as the position of the desk compared to the main graffiti on the left wall.  There’s just a lot of visually interesting stuff in this one.

ISO 400, 30mm with 3 exposures of 0.4, 1.6, and 6.0 sec at f/18

If you’d like to see the rest of the images from this shoot, please check out the set on my Flickr site.



The Goat Farm – Part 3

February was a month of photo outings just about every single weekend.  March, however, has proven to be the opposite.  I don’t think I’ve had a chance to pick up my camera once this month, and the month is almost over!  I also got so sidetracked working on my images from the abandoned school that I never finished working on the photos from The Goat Farm — until now.  🙂

If you haven’t seen my previous posts on The Goat Farm, it’s an artists’ community located in an old industrial neighborhood in Atlanta.  To call the buildings dilapidated is probably a compliment — some have just downright collapsed.  All of this, of course, makes for fascinating photography!

ISO 640, 25mm with 3 exposures of 1/320, 1/80, and 1/20 at f/11

My second post on the Goat Farm was focused on the little, impromptu coffee shop that exists on the site.  Yet again, I find that my favorite photo has come from that coffee shop.  I’m just in love with the photo above.  I don’t know why, but I find myself going back to it over and over again.  I encourage you to look at the larger version of it on my Flickr site by clicking on the image.  I think there are just great details in the shot that only come through when viewed larger.

I don’t think the following shot is one of my best from the day, but I wanted to share it because it reminds me of Frank, the rabbit, from Donnie Darko.  Anyone else think that?

Anyone else see Frank from Donnie Darko?

The next shot is the result of some experimenting with the onOne Perfect Layers app, which allows you to add layers to photos you’re editing in Lightroom.  I guess in hindsight, it’s silly that I bought it, since I have Photoshop and can do layers there, but I guess I got other useful tools as well out of the onOne bundle, and it gives me the freedom to not be tied to Photoshop forever.  Anyway, this shot is layered with a couple textures.  I just really wanted to give it an aged look.  Do you think it’s overkill, or does it work?

ISO 400, 30mm with 2 exposures of 1/160 and 1/80 at f/6.3

Lastly, below are some broken windows on one of the many warehouses on the grounds that were not safe to enter.  I loved the way the sun highlighted the texture and age of the windows, and how the blue sky peeked through where the glass was broken.

ISO 400, 30mm with 2 exposures of 1/320 and 1/80 at f/11

I wasn’t using a tripod due to the location, so some of the shots were shaky.  I managed to do HDR with just two of the images, and it still turned out well.  If I had been shooting JPG instead of RAW, I might not have been able to pull this one off with just two shots.

Of course, if you’d like to see the rest of the images from this shoot, please check out the set on my Flickr site.


Abandoned School – Part 3

Today I purchased and installed Lightroom 4, and took it out for a spin by working on some more photos from my excursion a couple of weekends ago to an abandoned elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia.  So far, I’m not seeing any tremendous differences between Lightroom 3 and 4.  There’s the addition of the Highlights and Shadows in the Basic section of the Develop module, but I’m doing HDR with these photos, so I’ve used it very little.  There are also new Map and Book modules, which I haven’t explored yet.  I’ll probably post a more extensive review once I’ve had time to play with it.

Below are a few of my favorites from this latest batch of photos of an abandoned elementary school.

ISO 400 with 5 exposures of 1/8000, 1/6400, 1/1600, 1/400, and 1/100 at f/2.8

The photo above is a great example of what HDR can do.  Even though it was overcast, there was still a tremendous amount of light coming through those windows.  Without HDR, I’d never have been able to get this shot.  Since I have a Nikon, I can only bracket 1 stop apart, so I bracketed the maximum of 9 shots, and used every other shot for the HDR.

1/400 sec at f/2.8

This is the fourth of the five exposures I used for the HDR — the one that’s [mostly] properly exposed for the interior.  Even with a raw file, it would have been difficult to get all of the detail I got with HDR.

ISO 400 with 3 exposures of 1/200, 1/100, and 1/50 sec at f/2.8

This one is not very typical of my style.  My approach is usually a little more straightforward (read: few crazy angles), but I really wanted to emphasize the spray can, as well as the fact that the color spread all across this really long chalk board.  Then, of course, there’s the naked woman on the far wall.  Again, not a normal subject for me, but it was really colorful and different from the rest of the graffiti in the place, so I just had to capture it.  All in all, I’m really pleased with how this one turned out.

ISO 200 with 3 exposures of 1/4, 1.0, and 4.0 sec at f/16

Even though the place was teeming with color from all the graffiti, I think there’s always a chance to slip in a b&w shot here and there.  In this case, the tiles walls were a pinkish flesh color and not terribly appealing, so turning this into a black & white was really the best way to showcase the drama of the scene.  It also allowed me to highlight the reflection of the light on the shiny tile walls.  I created the HDR, then used one of the new b&w presets (“B&W Look 2”) provided by Adobe with Lightroom 4.

ISO 200 with 5 exposures of 1/4000, 1/1000, 1/250, 1/60, 1/15 at f/3.2

Another 5 exposure HDR shot due to the extreme lighting.  There was something about this room and this green chair; I think it was my favorite location in the entire place.  The chair was one of the few things left in the building that gave any indication of the building’s former life.  You could imagine someone using this at their desk while grading papers.  It humanized the building, particularly in contrast with all of the graffiti.

Believe it or not, I’m still not done processing photos from this excursion, which means that there will at least be an “Abandoned School – Part 4” in the near future.  In the meantime, feel free to check out the other photos from this batch on my Flickr site.

Abandoned School – Part 2

I’ve just uploaded another batch of photos from my recent trip to an abandoned school in Atlanta, and I’m really thrilled with how they’re turning out!  Below are my two favorites from this batch, and some of my favorites so far from this trip.

The photo below was the result of three exposures — 1/160, 1/40, and 1/10 sec at f/5.6 — all shot at ISO 400, 35mm focal length, then processed using Nik HDR Efex Pro and a custom preset.  I was also using a feature of my tripod (Manfrotto 190CX3) that I hadn’t used before where the center column can be turned horizontal for shooting from straight above the subject.  I guess it worked!

I just love the tones in this picture!

For the second photo, I took nine exposures, but I only used four — 1/125, 1/30, 1/8, and 0.5 sec at f/16 — shot at ISO 400, 17mm focal length, again processed using Nik HDR Efex Pro.  This image just popped so much by default that I did very little to it after creating the HDR image.

Again, I love the tones, as well as the reflection of the windows in the glass and the way the white graffiti pops off the wood panel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these as well as the other photos from the set on Flickr.  Thanks!

Abandoned School – Part 1

Yesterday, I had a photography first — my first urban exploring experience!  A friend who does this on regular occasion was gracious enough to invite me along, and I couldn’t be more happy that he did.

The plan was to shoot at an old paint factory that was known for having some fantastic graffiti, but a few minutes away from my destination, my friend calls to tell me that the factory we were going to shoot was being demolished as he spoke.  As I pulled up, I saw him speaking with someone from the demolition company who said that they’ve been working on demolition for about a month.  Thankfully, my friend had a Plan B, which was an abandoned elementary school not too far from our original location.

It was cold and incredibly windy, but from the moment we climbed through a broken window into one of the classrooms, I knew it was going to be a great shoot!  The graffiti in the photo above was on the wall of the room we climbed into.  I couldn’t help but just grin from ear to ear at how excited I was and how much I was looking forward to checking out the rest of the building if it was anything like this room.

Given all the texture and color, shooting HDR (high dynamic range) was a given for me.  I have a Nikon D300, so I was bracketing anywhere from 3-9 shots with 1 stop between each shot.  For the most part, like the shot above, I was taking three shots and using all three for the HDR shot.  For shots like the one below where there was very strong backlighting, I shot 9 exposures and used every other one.

Just to give you an idea of how much of a difference it makes, I’ve also included the original middle shot (5th of 9) of the set.

When the day was done, we’d been there about 3-1/2 hours, and I’d taken over 700 shots!  Needless to say, it’s going to take me at least a couple days to go through them, and there will probably be “Part 2” and “Part 3” posts for this location.

In the meantime, please check out the 33 photos I’ve posted so far to my Atlanta > Abandoned School set on Flickr.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre – Part 2

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had much time to continue working on my photos from the Fox Theatre.  On top of that, I went on a fantastic shoot today in an abandoned elementary school, and now I’m totally into working on those photos, so it’ll be a little while before I get back to the Fox photos.  In the meantime, though, I thought I’d share a couple of the less serious photos — at least from a subject-matter perspective — from the Fox Theatre.

One of the many things the Fox is known for is it’s interesting restroom architecture, which is why I was shooting in the restroom.  (Just felt I needed to explain that.  :-))  These photos were taken in the women’s restroom.  There’s a very elaborate lounge attached to the women’s bathroom but, clearly, these are not from there.  (I believe I do have some of the lounge, though they’re still in the unprocessed pile.)

Lastly, when you think of the Fox Theatre, you think two things:  architecture and color.  Just to be a little contrary I suppose, I went with two photos that pretty much don’t fall into either of those categories, though you certainly might be able to argue that the shot of the sinks is an architecture photo.  Yes, but not “architecture” in the same sense as the rest of the Fox Theatre.

Let me know what you think!  And if you’d like to check out what I’ve posted so far, please check out my Fox Theatre set on Flickr.  Thanks!

The Fabulous Fox Theatre – Part 1

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to be part of a photography group that was allowed to photograph the interior of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.  If you’ve been to the Fox, you know what a great photographic opportunity this is.  If you haven’t, “Grandeur” (with a capital “G”) is the word that most comes to mind.

The Fox Theatre started it’s life in the 1920s as a Shriner’s temple.  It was designed to look like a mosque, with an indoor Arabian courtyard, a sky of flickering starts, drifting clouds, and canopies overhanging the balcony.

A shot of the second floor lobby of the Fox Theatre.

Throughout the years, it was an active movie house, in addition to hosting concerts and operas.  In the 1970s, however, the industry had declined and the Theatre was slated to be torn down to make way for the local telephone company’s headquarters.  Since the ornate theater had been such a part of people’s lives in Atlanta, a “Save the Fox” campaign was started, and they were successful in raising the funds to keep the Theatre alive.  In 1976, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and today it’s viewed as one of the premier venues in the country.  (If you’d like to read more about its history, please visit the Theatre’s website.)

Back in 2008, I’d had an opportunity to photograph the Fox as part of a photo outing hosted by Showcase School of Photography.  I learned at that time that it’s very, VERY difficult to get into the Fox to photograph it.  Showcase had been trying for years to get in.  The trip this past Sunday was the first one I’d heard of since the 2008 trip.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure to make the most of the opportunity.  It’s not always easy to find inspiration when the pressure is on, and the interior is very dark and difficult to photograph, so I was a bit disheartened by this shoot.  I left not feeling very confident that I’d taken many good shots, and that I’d done myself a disservice by not utilizing the four years of photography experience that I’ve gained since the last time I was there.  There were some obvious shots that I didn’t get, and some places that I simply missed checking out.

Tonight I started working on the photos, however, and I’m pleased to say I’m getting more out of the photos than I thought I would.  I’m about half way through, and while I’m still not sure they’re going to turn out as well as my photos from 2008, I’m pretty happy overall.

The Egyptian Ballroom in the Fox Theatre.

Want to know what two things made an absolute difference in being able to get decent shots?  A tripod, and shooting RAW.  Some of my exposures were well over 30 seconds, and even 1/30 of a second is risky without a tripod.  And even with such long exposures, without RAW files, I could never have gotten the details in the shadows without blowing out the highlights.

Anyway, I’m hoping to finish post processing this week and will probably post some more images.  In the meantime, you can check out what I have finished on my Flickr site.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I may have a chance to go back again this year.  If I do, I’m going to focus on those areas that I missed this time, and hopefully remember the lessons I learned from this experience.