Blank stares or a “that’s cool…?” is the response I get more than half of the time when I tell people I have a blog dedicated to mostly abandoned buildings. It’s grown to incorporate to nature photography, pictures of interesting structures in general, cute photos of my friend’s farm animals, but at its foundation are abandoned buildings. I’d like to think I have a special skill for being able to pick them out everywhere I go. Whether it’s a rural or more urban area, I’m able to zero in on them right away, it’s like being drawn to them. I feel like I understand these buildings, I can recognize their beauty and sadness because it’s what I see in my own life. I empathize with that feeling of the world moving on around you and you feeling left behind. I’m always curious about what led to each building’s vacancy, about the lives that played out behind doors.
There is small but growing community of fellow explorers who share the same curiosity and passion when it comes to documenting forgotten treasures. In no particular order, the following are my top ten tips that I’ve gathered and created for myself when it comes to getting out on the road and starting to photograph these decaying relics.
1. Respect ‘No Trespassing” Signs - Seriously. This is the point where exploration crosses into trespassing and the law could be involved. I’ve also heard of plenty of situations where landowners take the law into their own hands and have chased people off of their property.
2. Take Nothing - This is also called stealing. Leave wherever you’re exploring just as you found it for future explorers to enjoy.
3. Leave Nothing - For the very same reason as above, except for the reason that it’s also called littering.
4. Take Back Roads - Google Maps has the option to get you from point A to point B while avoiding highway travel. Lesser traveled roads are the best places to find areas to explore and photograph.
5. Get Lost - On purpose. Turn left instead of right. Take that road you’ve always wondered where it led to. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of gas in the tank and a maps app to get you home.
6. Playlist - All events need a playlist. I love a drive where I can sing along to every song, really belt it out and get excited the moment the song starts. Yes I put the playlist together, but I still cry out, “ooh, this is my jam!” at the start of each song. That’s a good playlist. It’s also a great time to get caught up on podcasts.
7. Be Prepared - Anything could happen. You never know for sure what you’ll encounter. It’s best to be prepared for that. I keep a backpack in my car at all times filled with a rain poncho, a compass/whistle/thermometer, water tight containers, a headlamp, a water bottle, extra socks, pens, Swiss Army Knife, bug repellent bracelets, and first aid kit.
8. Research - It’s not always aimless driving. There are times that I’ll have a particular type of location in mind that I’ll want to check out, or I’ll see photos from another explorer and feel inspired and need to figure out where it is. A note about the exploring community: fellow explorers aren’t always willing to share their locations, instead choosing to guard them as to not become more popular, more frequently visited.
9. Be Mindful of Conditions - Anything can happen, you could encounter anything. Abandoned buildings often times are unstable structures or could be in a less than desirable area and just having awareness of these types of things, preparing yourself, you could possibly avoid some seriously dangerous situations.
10. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going, or Bring a Partner - More than once I’ve been in a situation where I’ve realized that no one knew where I was and if something were to happen, no one would know. I joke about having a James Franco in 127 Hours type situation, but it’s not a joke, it’s a real possibility. If you’re out on your own, give a friend or a loved one a heads up on, at the very least, the general vicinity of where you’re going or are so they’ll having a starting point of where to look if you don’t return home. Or there’s always the buddy system, tried and true for a reason.
About the author:
Rachel Black is a wanderer and wonderer herself. She curates a beautiful visual blog capturing her travels and inspiration found along Ohio's back roads and in parts of the midwest. To follow her adventures, visit her blog at http://littlegirllittleadventures.tumblr.com/