What is Urbex or Urban Photography?

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Urbex or Urban Exploration

Urbex is extremely popular these days. Almost every day you can read about it or you come across the most fantastic photos on facebook, instagram or even on TV. The idea itself makes the heart beat faster for many people.

I am going to tell you all about this impressive and exciting activity on this page. When you have read this article, you know exactly what Urbex is, how to find the best locations, what you need to take into account and how to prepare. So read on quickly!

What is Urbex?

Urbex is visiting and exploring abandoned locations. These locations can be castles, houses, mines, bunkers, tanks and sometimes even jet fighters. Usually pictures are being taken when exploring these locations. These photos make urbex so popular. They are often posted on facebook and instagram and attract the attention of the general public. People can not imagine why these beautiful and impressive places are ever deserted!

This page is about this form of urbex, namely urbex photography. What could be better than hanging a fantastic picture of a deserted location on the wall or making your friends jealous of facebook or instagram!

When visiting locations you sentence impressive experiences that you can then tell to your friends. You can tell how you found this location and what happened at this location.

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There are urbex locations where the most terrible things have happened. There are stories about a large monastery that was occupied by the Germans in the Second World War. This monastery was used as a hospital for children with a mental illness. These children were subjected to the most horrible experiments that often ended with only one thing, death.

Today this huge monastery has been abandoned and you can still find a beautiful chapel. Only a small monument at the back of this monastery reminds us of the horrific things that have happened.

By telling the stories about these locations you can transfer the urbex virus to friends, acquaintances or colleagues. Maybe they will go with you and you can share these fun and exciting experiences together. Who would not want to visit these exciting locations.

Is urbex dangerous?

Urbexing is not entirely without danger. Some locations have been abandoned for years. Because mother nature can take its course, castles sometimes collapse or there are holes in the floors. It can sometimes be very dark so you do not see a hand in front of you. You will not be the first who drops a couple of meters down through a hole in the floor!

It often starts on the outside. High walls with vicious sharp barbed wire, broken glass of broken windows. Loose boards can fall down and cause bruises or painful wounds.

A good preparation is therefore very important! On these pages I tell you what your preparation looks like. What do you take with you and what should all think about.

Is urban exploring legal?

This question can not simply be answered with yes or no. That depends on the location you visit. The type of locations can be divided into a number of types. Here you can read which these are.

Public urbex locations

There are locations which are located in public areas and where you can just walk around. These kinds of locations can for example be bunkers hidden in dunes or forests. They are not managed and nobody takes care of them. I find these locations a bit less interesting because they often have a lot of pictures taken and many people know them.

Paid urban locations

These locations can only be visited by appointment. For some of these locations a small fee may be requested. There are people who do not find this a real urbex because they would be too easy to enter. Whether this applies to you is of course completely up to you.

Eventually such a location can often produce very nice photos. This is because paid locations are often managed and secured. There is sometimes less vandalism in paid locations. Many locations are unfortunately plagued by vandals which use graffiti. Examples of this are a lot on social media nowadays.

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For the novice urbexer these two types of locations are the easiest. You can take all the time for it and do not have to be on guard for security. A great opportunity to get to know your photo camera well.

The next two locations are for the more advanced urbexer. There is more preparation in it. They are harder to find and are also more dangerous than the public and paid versions.

Urban locations which are easy accessible

This type of locations refer to the ones which are actually closed. There are fences around it. There is barbed wire and most doors are closed. These locations often have the following two characteristics, namely:

You will not see signs pointing to private property and;
sometimes a door is open and you can go inside or;
there is a hole in the fence.

Because these locations are fairly easy to enter, you can say that you are welcome. If any police or security visit you can tell you you could not know that you should not come there. Whether this is a valid reason depends on the security officer or agent you catch.

It is possible that the security guard lets you go. Then you’ll get off well. It is also possible that the security guard transfers you to the police. In that case, the police will determine what happens to you. In the most favorable case, the police will let you go.

There are also people who have to pay with a fine or even have to come to court. The amount of the fine can vary from hundreds to sometimes thousands of euros.

Closed urban locations

Closed urbex locations are often the most exciting. They are difficult to enter. There are often signs that indicate that you should not enter. There are high fences with barbed wire and are often very difficult to find. These are the locations where most urban explorers like to explore.

Because these locations are so difficult to find and enter, it gives a kick to get in anyway. Once inside you are always on your guard. You can be caught at any time by a security guard, an observant local resident or even the police.

What you can do best when you are caught I tell you later. So keep reading!

Caught, what to do?

It can always happen that you are caught by the police or a security guard. It happens to the best urbexers. You never know in advance how the person you caught will react. You also do not know what the consequences may be. How you can prepare and what you can do therefore differs per situation.

If you are caught, you can do two things. You can run away and make sure you are not caught or you remain calm. In the first case you will have to run very fast. The security guard often knows the location better than yourself and that gives him a head start. Because you run away you often make the security officer even more angry, which means that he will transfer you to the police sooner. With all its consequences!

If you are caught, you can probably just stay there. That gives you the opportunity to tell you that you are not a thief or vandal. If you yourself remain calm and friendly, the security guard will usually be. Probably he or she has long seen that you have a camera with you.

Most security guards want a lazy  day. They often want to continue their work as quickly as possible without too much hassle. If they turn on the police, their day will look very different. So most security guards will often let you go again soon.

It is possible that the security guard asks for your identity card. So make sure you always have this with you. If you do not have this with you, this can be a reason to call the police.

He can also ask you to delete your memory card. So keep this in mind and take care of a reserve ticket. You usually have the option to swap out tickets so that your precious photos are preserved!

Never go alone!

When visiting urbex locations it is important that you go with several people. There are many dangers such as collapsing walls, holes, barbed wire and glass. It can also happen that you meet people with wrong intentions. Maybe you get hurt and need help. Usually you are far from home, sometimes even abroad. A fellow urbexer will then be able to help you.

How to find locations

Finding urbex locations can be done in different ways. If you are lucky you get a tip from a friend. In most cases you will not get information about a location that easily and you have to investigate.

You may have seen some photos of a location somewhere. These photos often say more about a location. Always pay attention to instructions on the photos. These can be newspapers where a place name can be seen. A magazine or sometimes even a receipt from a supermarket. With these instructions, you can often find on google in which region or place you can continue your search.

If you have found the place you can sometimes find the exact location via google earth or streetview.

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Another source of information can often be found on urbex pages or facebook groups. With the photos sometimes stories are written where you can find more information about the location. So be creative!

It is often not appreciated to ask for locations on facebook. Do not do this in a group but speak to people personally. It helps of course if you already have some locations. You could then exchange.

What kind of camera can I use?

You can shoot with every camera. It is preferable to work with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. With these kinds of cameras you have more options to edit your photos afterwards. This is because they write the photos in RAW format. This is a file format that does not compress the photos.

By using these types of cameras, you can also choose your lenses yourself. Most urbex photographers use wide-angle lenses. These are lenses that have a wide viewing angle so that more of a space fits a picture. Whether you like this yourself is personal. More about this can be found on google.

HDR or High Dynamic Range

Many urbex photographers use HDR. This abbreviation stands for High Dynamic Range. This means that several photos of the same room are made with different exposures. By editing these afterwards you get an effect that comes close to what your own eyes perceive. Normally cameras only see a certain number of gray values. This means that certain details are lost in a photo with very light and very dark hues.

Tripod

If you take HDR photos, it is necessary that your camera does not move while taking the photos. You can prevent movement of the camera by using a tripod. A tripod therefore usually belongs to the standard equipment of a urbex photographer. Most cameras can now be operated with a remote trigger or remote control. This prevents movement blur due to the manual pressing of the shutter button. Try to take it with you when you go out.

What do you take with you on your urbex trip?

If you visit one or more urbex locations, it is important that you prepare well. By going through the following checklist you will not come up with surprises afterwards:

  • camera
  • lenses
  • tripod
  • extra batteries
  • remote control or remote trigger for your camera
  • flashlight with some extra batteries
  • powerbank
  • cleaning cloths for your lenses or a blower (it can get very dusty)
  • band-aid
  • a good quality camera bag to put in all your gear
  • fully charged phone

 

Anything can happen when you visit urbex locations. Do not forget to tell the home front where you are going.

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