So how did I get into this whole exploring malarky?
Well, it all started off by discovering my local site – Barrow Hospital. I saw some photos on Facebook of a friend in the hospital, with a few others whom I also knew. This instantly got my curiosity, and I began to do some research into the exact location, and became obsessed with looking at photos of it. This soon led to me taking a detour on one of my regular cycle rides nearby, with a little compact camera. Being too afraid to go in alone, I just snapped a few photos of the main gatehouse and was on my way. Later on that week, I was speaking to a friend who was in the process of taking photos for his final project for his Photography studies, and said he was thinking of going to an abandoned place locally. As luck would have it, it was Barrow Hospital! Who would have thought. No less than a week later, we’d got a trip planned and off we went, into the Wild Country. After spending a whole day here, I was hooked. I spent hours in the weeks that followed, editing and looking at the photos that I’d taken, and just wanting to take more. To this day, I’ve been back to Barrow more times than I could even begin to imagine, with so many different people I’ve lost count. After joining 28 Days Later that same week, I went on to visit more and more places like this, and have never looked back.
Why do I do it?
Well, there is more than one answer to this question; Some people do it for the adrenaline rush. Some do it for the photographic opportunities. Others do it because they’re interested in the history of a site. I personally do it for all three of those reasons! For the infiltration of live sites, the rush that can be felt is often far greater than the interest in the site or the desire to take photos. For the exploration of old Victorian asylums, the interest in the historic value of the site can be key. For the exploration of old factories filled with various pieces of vast machinery, the main reason for going can be to take photos. It all varies. I will always take the camera out exploring, wherever I may go, but that doesn’t always mean that I’ll take photos. And even if I do, those photos might be of no interest to anyone but me, and in that case, I’ll be the only one who sees them.
Isn’t it dangerous?
To a certain extent, yes. But at the same time, no. You are more likely to get injured walking across town on a busy day than you are doing many of the things that urban exploration involves. When out in town, you could get hit by a moving bus, hit by something falling from a height, or mugged by a group of local chavs. None of these are likely to happen in the majority of the places we visit.
Drains: Some areas of exploration are more dangerous than others obviously. For example draining. Draining is dangerous, and there’s no way of getting around this. Drains are not designed with the presence of people taking photos in mind. Some work automatically and can change very quickly with little or no warning at all. When deciding whether or not to venture down a drain, it is key to make sure you know what the tides (if any) are up to, and check that the information is from a legitimate source too. There’s a saying that is well known in the community – ‘if it’s raining, don’t go draining’. Whilst this doesn’t have to be, and isn’t stuck to religiously, if you are not sure, just don’t do it.
High stuff: Other areas, however, are not so dangerous. Cranes and scaffolding are not anywhere near as dangerous as drains. Providing you stick to the same route up them that would be taken by the crane driver or workers, it really isn’t that bad. It’s when you start climbing around different ways or pushing boundaries that it becomes more dangerous, but as long as you know what your limits are, you should be fine.
Derelict buildings: With regards to buildings, it is different from building to building. If the building only has half of it’s original floors, you know that the ones that are left are likely to be rather unstable and caution should be taken. Most buildings however, are usually alright structurally, and if they aren’t, just use common sense.
What are the legalities?
First of all, you need to remember that trespass in itself is NOT a criminal offence, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are areas, of course, that do have more severe consiquences if caught there. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t do them of course, just be very aware of the consequences and take extra caution all round. These are: – Airports – Railways – Ports – MoD Property There are four categories for protected sites, and only sites which meet these criteria can be designated. These are: · Crown land; · Land privately owned by the Queen or the Prince of Wales · Land which requires the designation on the grounds of national security; · Licensed nuclear sites.
What exactly do you mean when you say ‘a days exploring’?
Well, for a start, most of the things we do are spontaneous. That’s how I like to live my life in general. I’ve always said that the best kind of nights are the spontaneous nights. The kind where you text a friend at 6pm say, and within the hour, you’re seeing them face to face in the middle of the city with the rest of the night an uncertainty. I’ve travelled many many miles for this hobby, and wouldn’t change that for the world. A typical day where we’re out for the entire day usually consists of one of us getting in the car, swinging by one or two others’ places, hitting the motorway racking up the miles. All shenanigans are fuelled by much fast food and many hot caffeine filled drinks, naturally.
What do you need to wear and take with you?
Whilst some people make a big deal of what they wear/bring/do/don’t do/take/leave etc, I don’t really have any rules myself. If I want to go wandering around a derelict building in shorts and a t-shirt, then that’s exactly what I’ll do! Most of the time, I don’t wear anything different to do this than I would to go shopping or to the cinema. The only thing I religiously take with me is my camera. That being said, sometimes I don’t even take that. Phone, wallet and car keys, now we’re talking. Phone to keep up with the usual social media happenings (being in the ‘Instagram generation’ that I am) and just incase we need to contact someone, wallet to buy lunch & keys to be able to drive there. Another item that features fairly regularly is a torch. I personally use the LED Lenser P7, which is the choice for many people who do this. They’re not the cheapest torches ever, but they do the job seriously well. I’m currently on my third, having left one in an old asylum, and another in a morgue elsewhere, but 10/10 would buy a fourth if needed.
What camera do you use?
Some of my older photos were taken on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS62. I used this until about mid 2012. After that I moved onto Nikon DSLRS; starting with the Nikon D3100. After using this for about six months I decided to upgrade to a Nikon D5100. In February 2015 I ended up falling into a river with the camera around my neck and it came to a soggy end. Gutted is an understatement. Ever since then, I’ve been using a Nikon D7100. It’s a fantastic bit of kit and I have no intentions of changing it any time soon. Lens wise I usually use either a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 or a Samyang 8mm T3.8 fisheye.