Turn up your volume and listen to this funny noise the big red button makes.
Today I want to talk a little bit about networking, how to do it and why it is important for anyone looking to get into the Urbex hobby. People often ask how I find these abandoned places and aside from maybe two exceptions, the answer is networking.
A little bit of background about how I got into the hobby, my first explore was maybe four or five years ago at the abandoned Rosewood Center for the feeble minded. Basically my friends asked me if I wanted to go to a haunted house, thinking they meant one of those haunted attractions that you see flyers for around Halloween, I eagerly agreed to go. When we got there it was obviously not what I had expected but was amazed to see something like this place existed. It was like something right out of a horror movie. After that I was borderline obsessed with the place and researched everything there was to know about its history. Eventually the part of the facility that was still in use got shut down and security was stepped up. Eager to find another abandoned place like Rosewood to explore, I turned to the internet and eventually found a website (http://www.henrytonforgotten.com/) run by a local historian named Amy who has since become a good friend and has opened the door for me to meet tons of other explorers all along the eastern shore.
So why am I telling you this? If it wasn’t for meeting and talking to all these other explorers out there, I probably never would have seen anything more than Rosewood. Since I met Amy I have lost count of how many other explorers I have met and learned about amazing new locations that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to see and photograph. If you really want to see some amazing lost and forgotten places, you need to branch out and talk to people.
There are a few things you need to know, most explorers do not like to freely give away locations because they are worried that you will go out and vandalize or get yourself hurt and draw attention to these places (meaning security) and ruin it for everyone. What you need to do is earn their trust first; Amy did not give me anything aside from what was already on her website at first, so I did my research and found a local place to explore called Henryton State Hospital. After I went there a few times and posted some photos, she eventually saw that I was not a vandal, just someone like herself who was interested in the history of these forgotten places as well as an avid amateur photographer. I also left lots of comments on her Facebook page and website to get my name out there and got some dialog going. She later invited me to some Urbex groups online who were all local explorers talking to each other and that is when I really started to meet a lot of great people.
So get out there and start talking to people. Go on social networking sites and look for groups having to do with urban exploration and engage in what they are talking about. Try to focus on one or two people who look like they know what they are doing and try to communicate with them a lot and eventually they might open up to you and help you with finding new locations that you never thought existed.
I briefly mentioned what type of gear an Urban Explorer uses in my last blog post but I wanted to talk more about what you should take with you on an explore. With my experience I have learned that it is a good idea to pack light but at the same time you need to be prepared for all kinds of situations, especially if you are exploring a new place.
Here is a list of the essentials that you should bring on every explore:
- Warm Clothes/Old Clothes
- Water Bottle
- Flashlight (with extra batteries)
- MSA Safety Respirator
- Protective Gloves (gardening or construction gloves will work)
I have a few things I want to elaborate on about some of the essentials. First off, I have heard a lot of debate between explorers about whether or not it is a good idea to bring ID with you. I would strongly advise that you do carry ID with you every time you go exploring because if you get caught and you don’t have identification on you the situation is going to look a lot worse and you will probably end up being held until they can verify who you are and take up more of your time. Under most circumstances if you are caught and you be completely honest with security they will just let you off with a warning. Just make sure you aren’t carrying anything like weapons, spray paint, or other things that would make you look like you are up to no good.
Secondly, always dress appropriated, year round I would suggest wearing old long pants and boots even in the summer when it gets hot just as a precaution because there can be a lot of dangerous things on the ground that you probably shouldn’t be getting on your skin. A lot of the time there will be a lot of dust on the ground from insulation, chipped paint, and who knows what else. You could probably get away with a t-shirt but I usually will bring a light sweatshirt in my backpack in case I come across a situation where I feel my arms should be covered. In the winter be sure to wear plenty of layers or pack extra clothing, I have been in situations where I didn’t bring warm enough clothes in the winter and it made for a terrible trip, a lot of my photos ended up coming out blurry because I couldn’t stop shaking too.
The other thing item that I want to further address is the MSA Safety Respirator, a lot of these buildings are old and have lead paint, asbestos, or other dangerous particles that you should protect yourself from breathing in. I got mine for about $25 at Home Depot and I wear it every time I go into a structure of any kind. Even if there aren’t any dangerous particles in the air, it also protects you from breathing in all the dust as well.
Other gear you might want to consider bringing:
- Camera Accessories: Extra batteries/Tripod/Filters/Lenses/Gels
- Small Backpack
- GPS or Smart Phone
- Hand Sanitizer
- Ziplock Bags
- Extra pair of Socks
Use your common sense, do your research before you go and think about what the weather will be like, what type of conditions the structures will be in, etc. If you would like to see what I personally take with me on most of my explores check out my You Tube video about it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upnHj8qzKEw&feature=plcp&context=C4b814b7VDvjVQa1PpcFOmB1hR2N6ezLh9pbh4oTN-jkqIJqOY7hk=
My urbex team and I recently explored the Richmond Generating Station in Philadelphia, P.A. We were amazed by how photogenic the buildings innards were, at first we didn’t know where to begin considering how huge the place was. Thankfully our new friend, Brendan had a suggestion, he excitedly said, “I need to take you to the generating room, you guys are going to flip when you see it!” So we walked further into the power plant, fighting the temptation to stop and take photos of every little interesting thing we saw, eventually we made it to the generating room. As we walked through the heavy metal doors our jaws dropped. The room was enormous with the glass dome we had seen earlier right above us. Brendan mentioned that they used the room to film a scene in Transformers: Rise of the Fallen. In the movie Optimus Prime crashes through the glass dome to save Shia Labeouf’s character from being tortured by Megatron. Still standing in awe of the wondrous architecture above us, we saw in front of us, four colossal dilapidated turbines with the control room window visible from across the room. It was a photographer’s gold mine!
Urban exploration or “Urbex” for short is the exploration and investigation of off-limits, often abandoned, and seldom seen areas of man-made structures like the abandoned power plant we explored. The typical urban explorer carries equipment such as flashlights, gloves, boots, water, cameras, and respirators to protect against toxic particles that are present in many of these old decaying buildings. Urbex is not a new thing but it has become increasingly popular in recent years with the rise of the internet and social media.
Just about anyone could be an Urban Explorer. For one, I’m not the only explorer going to Stevenson University, I have already met two other individuals online who just by coincidence, go to the same school as me. It’s not just something college students do though, one of the explorers that I have networked with, Amy, is a 46 year old housewife who got into Urbex after her teenage daughter showed her an abandoned tuberculosis hospital located down the road from their house. A lot of the time urban explorers are people you wouldn’t expect to be doing this sort of thing.
Though the type of person you might find exploring these dank old structures could be anyone, there are a few categories that explorers tend to fall under. For instance, amateur and even some professional photographers are often drawn to the hobby. There is also usually a sense of adventure and curiosity that is often associated with urban explorers, which is why a lot of people who are into hiking and other outdoorsy type stuff tend to turn towards exploring man-made wonders. Finally paranormal investigators usually double as urban explorers since most hauntings take place in man-made places. Whatever the reason, these people have a passion for what they do and are always on the lookout for their next adventure.
Urban explorers are frequently misconstrued as vandals and trouble makers but in reality that is not the case. Urbexer’s follow an unwritten code that basically comes down to take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. They do not vandalize or create graffiti; in fact, most explorers do what they can to protect these extraordinary structures by keeping them as closely guarded secrets and sharing them with only those they can trust. There is somewhat of an initiation process where you need to prove you will do no harm to the places you explore and that you can be trusted not to ruin it for everyone else or be an idiot and get yourself hurt.
Great tips on photography and great reviews on cameras! The Nikon D3100 is the camera I’m gonna get soon thanks to Jared’s great review on it.
Tome School for Boys: Nevermind the massive size of these buildings, the architecture is truly a sight to be seen.
My Urbex team and I explore an old abandoned service tunnel that runs beneath the decaying Tome Institute for Boys.
In the article about the next step to social networking, I found it to be very interesting where social media is going beyond Facebook and Twitter. If you thought we couldn’t get anymore connected than we already are now, your probably dead wrong. Perhaps one day there wont even be any official social media platforms exactly, instead the internet will just be one big social media platform and everyone will have their own social network that connects to other peoples’ social networks.
Ning seems to be a very useful social media tool too. It mentions on the website that they are affiliated with the online email marketing program called Constant Contact. I use Constant Contact all the time for my internship and they just came out with a new feature that basically allows you to do what Ning does. Maybe not quite as efficiently, but they will eventually work out the bugs.