Photography 101: Five Things I Learned on My First UrbEx Trip

A couple of weekends ago I was able to take a day away from all my moving and packing shenanigans to hit an abandoned hospital for a little bit of photography fun. Urban Exploration photography is something I rather enjoy to look at, so this opportunity to go on my very first UrbEx trip was rather exciting, and nerve racking at the same time. While I had a ball, I learned a few very important lessons from this trip.

Ghostly Lights

Ghostly Lights

Lesson number one was to pack plenty of lighting options. When we (there was a group of 12 of us) started roaming the hospital, we started in the basement. If you had no lights, this would be an extremely dark area to play in. I had a headlamp and four flashlights to use as I saw fit. The issue I had was that all but one of these lighting options was LED lights. When you have an opportunity to get creative with lighting like this, being limited to only the cold blues that LEDs emit was a tad frustrating. The next time I go, I plan to either get various colored gels for my flashlights, or bring a few different lighting options.

Lesson number two was that I needed to roam around and pick my shots. Seriously, there is so much stuff to capture in a place like an abandoned hospital that it can all be a bit overwhelming. I most likely could have shot in the basement for hours, but I rushed through it. I missed several shots because I jumped at the first thing that came to mind. Next time, I will roam around, take note of subject matter, and then shoot my highest priority items first.

Lesson number three comes with the group I was roaming around with. We had full permission to be in the hospital thanks to the group leader working with the city. This did a few things for us. First, security personal went through the hospital to make sure there were no unwanted guests in the building, thus making it safer for a group of photographers to aimlessly roam around. Second, it meant we, the photographers, could wonder around without fear of the cops showing up and hauling us off to jail. Lastly, this also meant if an emergency arose, there was a decent sized group of people to help. This all added up to allow everyone to focus on taking great photos, while providing a fair amount of peace of mind.

Lesson four was I needed to pack hand sanitizer so I could eat some snacks. While I may have loaded up on a big breakfast, time can fly quickly while you are having fun in a candy store such as this hospital. However, there is a lot of nasty crud to work through while shooting. This made it less appealing to eat the granola bars I had packed for a snack. By the time I left the hospital, I had gone eight hours without eating and was ravenous when I got to the car. Simple hand sanitizer would have allowed me to at least snack on something when I got to the vehicle.

Lesson five is the most important lesson of all. Have fun and don’t expect to capture everything. Even if I had a full day to roam around this place, I would still have missed a lot of stuff. I kept in mind there was not a chance I’d get everything, had fun while I had this amazing opportunity, and bonded with a few photographers in the process.

I am happy I got to spend the time I did in this setting. I learned a lot and I continue to learn from this experience. The most important thing anyone can do for UrbEx groups out there is to go into buildings with permission, go with at least one other person, and respect the property. Even though the buildings are abandoned, vandalizing them only ruins the experience for other photographers. Don’t forget to have fun while you are at it.

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