Zebulon Abandoned School – Part 1

Last weekend, some friends and I finally had the opportunity to check out an abandoned elementary school in the small, rural town of Zebulon, Georgia.  I knew someone who knew someone, and was able to get permission and the keys to the building — the best of both worlds!  We were also told that there was supposedly a ghost that haunted this school — predominantly in the auditorium — but I can tell you (very thankfully) that none of us encountered it.

I’m most of the way through processing my photos from this location, but the three below have surfaced as my favorites.

paper towel holder

Unlike the last two abandoned buildings I’ve explored, this one has been locked up and the windows boarded up, so there was really no graffiti to be found.  While this allowed for a more pristine environment, the windows being boarded up did mean that the place was pretty dark.  With very few exceptions, shooting hand-held here would have been close to impossible.  (As much as I hate lugging my tripod around, I keep finding myself at locations whose environments pretty much require it.)

lone lightbulb in weather-worn room

The photo above is my favorite, and I actually knew it would be the moment I walked into this room.  There was wonderful natural light coming in from one of the few windows that wasn’t boarded up, and this bare lightbulb was just hanging there — begging to be photographed!  And then there’s the chair rail and the texture on the wall….  I’m not a people photographer (I wait for people to get out of my pictures :-)), but I so badly wanted to photograph someone here.  If I ever do a portrait shoot, I know where I’m going to do it!

pencil sharpener in classroom

Lastly, there’s this shot of the old, rusty pencil sharpener and a wonderful growing bokeh down the length of the weathered chalkboard.  All of the rooms were painted different colors.  Clearly, this was one of the blue rooms, which contrasted nicely with the brown of the pencil sharpener.

If you’d like to see more photos from this excursion, please check out my Zebulon Abandoned School set on Flickr.

Thanks!

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.