Abandoned Buildings – Photography and Exploration Guide
Sometimes, travel is about night-life, food, and partying. Other times, its temples, cultural sites, and smiling local kids. Then, there is the exploration of giant abandoned skyscrapers, or abandoned art-deco era power stations.Urban exploration (urbex) tourism?
All of my life, I have been fascinated with ruins – the temples of Angkor Wat, the Acropolis, and Borobudur are some of the beautifully decayed sites I have already visited. However, in every city on earth, there is a hidden world of modern ruins – abandoned buildings just waiting to be explored. Skyscrapers, factories, stadiums, hospitals, I’ve visited abandoned versions of them all. There’s a reason Detroit is my number one destination to visit, next time I’m in the USA.
At the end of this article is a photo series of some of my favourite abandoned buildings (so far). But first, this is article is not a how-to – it’s more a don’t-do. There have been many brushes with danger for me in the past. My advice is based upon experience, I’ve been doing this for years, all over the world. Are you sure you want to explore abandoned buildings? Here’s a few tips and suggestions, before you do (or, don’t):
1. Abandoned Buildings Are Dangerous.
Really, dangerous. Some of the hazards include, but are not limited to:
- Rusted steel, and concrete decay. Steel, the material that holds buildings together, rusts. Concrete, with time, decays. This is known as “concrete cancer”. Together, they make most abandoned buildings unstable. You can fall through floors, or floors can fall on you. Sharp, rusted, dirty, objects are everywhere.
- Holes. Abandoned buildings don’t have lights. Some holes, including elevator shafts, and service vents, can be very, very, deep. If you fall, it will ruin your whole day.
- Asbestos fibres and other pollutants. These can cause long term health issues, even with short term exposure.
- Wild animals. From packs of dogs, to poisonous snakes.
- Wild people. Homeless people, junkies, scrap metal salvagers, and graffiti writers are all very territorial of “their” turf. You will be alone, the police won’t be too interested in attending “tourist in trouble whilst trespassing in abandoned building” calls.
2. Entering Abandoned Buildings is Illegal.
Have you heard what it’s like at the Bangkok Hilton? No, not that Bangkok Hilton. This one. Feeding the inmates daily, is very much an optional activity. Your consulate or embassy won’t save you, you were doing something illegal. If you’re going to break the law in a foreign land, be prepared to face the consequences.
3. When Exploring Abandoned Buildings, You Will Need the Following Items, at Minimum.
- A torch/flashlight. It’s dark inside most abandoned buildings. There is usually no power. Don’t even consider entering without a light source.
- Water. There are no 7-11’s inside abandoned buildings. They’re bigger than they look, and there will be a lot of walking and stair-climbing.
- Your camera. Consider taking your cheapest camera, or at the very least, a camera you are prepared to lose, break, or have stolen.
- Money. This is a tricky one, but you may just need to bribe your way out of trouble. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Exploring abandoned buildings is illegal and dangerous.
Abandoned buildings are incredibly dangerous sites. Urban exploration is one of those activities where you never know what is going to happen. However, if you’re like me, you just can’t resist. There is a special kind of beauty in abandoned buildings. My other suggestions, if you’re reading this far – never vandalise, steal, or damage anything you see. Leave it all as you found it. The journey through an abandoned building is enough of a thrill for anyone, if you need more, take a few photos. Photographers, you these buildings are amongst the best photo opportunities you will ever encounter.
A few more tips:
- Consider asking for permission to enter and abandoned building.
- Scope out the site several times before entering, do some research both online, and in real life.
- Don’t go alone. If you do get in trouble, you don’t want to be alone.
“Urbex”, or urban exploration, is an increasingly popular past-time. If you choose to take up this “hobby” please keep in mind that these locations are incredibly dangerous, and you will be breaking the law just by entering the premises. Do some research, take it slowly.
Below is a small selection of photos, taken in abandoned buildings around the world.
26 thoughts on “Abandoned Buildings – Photography and Exploration Guide”
Great post and awesome photos. You’re right, there is something beautiful about these abandoned buildings…Glad Stumbleupon brought me by!
Cheers D.J… I have had thousands of stumbleupon visitors in the last day or so, it’s clearly a popular topic!
Very cool! We just went exploring last week in the ramshackle shell of Buenos Aires’ Hotel Majestic… There was a security officer at the first floor, but Ted sweet talked our way in, and we spent quite a while wandering story after story of old marble and stained glass windows. Much fun, and nice to be away from tourists and busy streets for a bit…
I bet that hotel was spectacular! Yes, it’s amazing how peaceful it can be inside these types of buildings, when you are just metres from the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m now going to google the Majestic hotel… ;) Also, Ted is my kind of guy – sweet talking goes a LONG way with these sorts of adventures.
See, I might be inclined to add firearm to that list of things to take. What scary adventures, but those are some awesome pictures!
Thanks Amberr, I have some more photos of other buildings, one day I’ll do another post. As for the firearm…having very little gun experience, I would probably end up doing something I would regret, so, not for me!
Such a fab post. I’m glad you included all the warnings as well. My friends organized the Couchsurfing Detroit CouchCrash, and the photos from their urban explorations were unbelievable, as are yours! When I get to Detroit it’s on the top of my list… safely of course. =)
Thanks Dayna. Yes, the warnings are important! Looks like we have something in common…Detroit!
I’ve been looking forward to this post for a while now. Those photos are great and looking at them I can just imagine the quiet in the building being disturbed when you step on some broken glass and then wonder if anyone else heard that. Or getting freaked out when you hear a can tipping over and then the relief when you see the cat responsible for it.
Hi Eugene – so right! Even though there is normally not another soul inside these buildings, I constantly have the feeling that somebody is going to jump out from around a corner. Everything is very echo-y and I often feel a bit “on edge” ..but it is worth it!
Such a unique topic! Love that photo of the ghost tower in Bangkok
Cheers Andrea, yes, it’s a very photogenic building!
Fantastic post and photos. Never heard of urbex before but as a fan of all things ruin, this is certainly of some interest. We have one which is really famous in KL – its called Highland Towers located on a hill near the fringes of the city. Looks very freaky indeed especially knowing the fact that its neighbouring building collapsed years ago to a hill slide.
Thanks Amer… looks like I have something new to check out next time I’m in KL!
Abandoned anything is great—buildings, planes, junk, entire towns. There is just something so creepy, yet strangely beautiful about it all. At one time, people occupied that space, perhaps even enjoying it. Now it stands alone and neglected.
Have you been to the Salton Sea in California? If you’re into abandoned stuff, that place is a trip.
Cheers Eric. Never been to Salton Sea, I have seen photos, it looks like a very unique place.
Nice Post and Hobby Nate!
I love Eric’s comment. “Abandoned anything is great!” I agree!
I could wander these places on edge all day.
Cheers Justin… maybe you should get the whole family into it? ;)
Wow Nate…wow. You just keep feeding this bug. I love the abandoned and ghostly atmospheres, especially how some are moments frozen in time. I need to hit up an adventure with you sometime!
Anytime Ryan, if you make to the West Coast of Oz, if I’m around I can show you the “sites”, if not, I’ll give you all the info you need.
These are so intriguing! I don’t know if I would have the guts to go in, but love your photos from your urbex-ing! Such strange beauty in the state of the buildings!
I don’t know if it’s guts, or just a little bit of lack of common sense, that makes me enter these places ;) But yes, these are incredibly intriguing,and strangely beautiful locations.
so no police will help you, so you can do graffiti?
No, no graffiti. Leave nothing but your footsteps, my friend.
not even a tiny little dot that no one will notice????
Sure, tiny little dots are fine.