10 Safety Tips When Photographing Abandoned Buildings

I wrote a post like this before. This one has more points about being prepared and bringing stuff with you. I don’t really do either of those. I wear totally the wrong shoes and I only bring the map book and my camera. These days I usually have another person driving, which is a big help and means I’m not exploring alone (even though she stays in the car).

But, I’m still probably not a great example to follow.

The following list is from Geary LeBell. The site is now gone, as well as the other links given for his photography.

As my interest with taking photos of old, abandoned structures and buildings has increased over the years, so has my awareness of my safety. Many of the buildings that I enter are NOT structurally sound and present a risk to your safety when exploring.

Here are 10 tips when out exploring and taking photographs of old abandoned buildings and other structures.

  1. Always be cautious with the steps you take. You need to be reasonably sure that the floor or surrounding structure is going to stay intact when exploring. There are many places where I’ve made a conscious decision not to enter because I felt my well-being was at risk. Entering an unsound building is a risk to your safety. Use common sense every time you make a decision to explore.

  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Walking on uneven and weak flooring; being surrounded by loose brick, drywall, plaster and other building materials; and surrounded by sharp and ridged objects is a recipe for disaster if you do not exercise caution. Caution, balance and awareness of your surrounding are key to increasing your chances of not being injured or worse.

  3. Make sure your gear is accessible and safe. The ability to quickly access your camera, lenses and other equipment will not only provide safety for you, but your gear as well. Brining too much equipment or not being properly organized for transport creates frustration when trying to switch camera bodies or lenses and put you and your gear at risk. When exploring, I either leave my camera case in the car; bringing only what I need, or always wear it around my shoulders or neck when exploring the interior of a structure. Accessing my equipment can be done without ever taking the case off as it can go from behind me to in front of me by sliding the shoulder strap around my person, which provides easy access to all my equipment.

  4. Wear the proper shoes. Wearing a solid shoe with good tread is critical when exploring old buildings. I would even go so far as to recommend work boots; even though I never wear them. The point is that you need to have a solid grip on the ground and ankle support for uneven ground. I wear a good quality running shoe with good tread and have never had an issue. Sandals, high heels or bare feet will surely get your injured!

  5. Wear proper clothing. Don’t wear tight, bulky or expensive clothing. You’ll need to be able to manoeuvre in tight spots and in awkward positions to get that amazing photo. Wearing tight jeans, a bulky jacket or a $800 dollar leather jacket is not ideal for this kind of photography. Think cheap, light and comfortable fitting.

  6. Have a method of communicating with the outside world. If possible, carry your mobile phone in a secure but accessible location. The last thing you need is to get injured and/or stuck, having no way to notify someone.

  7. Tell someone where you’re at! Always tell a friend or family member where you’re going. Accidents happen and you can take comfort in the fact that, if you’re missing for some time, someone will know your location and eventually will find you. Remember the movie 127 hours?

  8. Be calm, polite and understanding to property owners. Chances are, at one point or another you will be approached by the owner of a property you have not been given permission to be on. In my experience, being polite, understanding explaining your purpose usually is responded to in a positive manner. Always be accommodating, even if they tell you to get the #$#ck off my property!

  9. Be aware of other people’s presence. 99.9% of the time when you happen to cross paths with another person while exploring an old building you will have no issues. Just be aware if there are people in the area, you should use good judgment to avoid a situation you don’t want to be in. Use your gut feeling and common sense to avoid suspect individuals! Be wary of causing injury to them and vice versa, them to you.

  10. And finally, get permission. The best thing you can do to relieve the stress of being in an abandoned building without permission is to get permission. Sure it’s fun and gets the adrenalin pumping, but to have permission from a property owner will set your mind at ease and provide you with a more pleasurable, un-rushed experience. Some ideas on how to get permission: talk to a neighbour, investigate the place online before heading out, check with local Land registrars.

Source: 10 safety tips when photographing abandoned buildings :: Photographs inQuinte by Geary LeBell

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