Day 3: And then there were three

When we met up with Henk, we discussed three possible destinations for the following day. We woke up bright and early and headed out with the intention of returning to our hotel to check out after our first stop. We arrived at the first place, an abandoned chateau, just after 7am. It involved a bit of a stroll through the woods that was made a bit more challenging due to the lack of light and rainfall from the previous evening. We made our way inside, did a quick walk through, and then waited for daylight so that we could begin taking photographs. This chateau also had multiple floors and a grand staircase. It also had a multi-story atrium in the centre with the wrought iron railing still intact. There was an extremely large multi-paned skylight above it. Miraculously, only 1 pane was broken. It certainly made for some dramatic lighting. There seemed to be a lot of marble bathrooms with the majority of the fixtures intact. Our goal was to finish up by 11am, return to the hotel to pack up, and then continue on our way.

Our next location was a villa. It was in rather poor shape. The only room of great interest was a former library that still contained books and documents. Did I mention that they were mostly heaped on the floor? And in this instance, the staircase was not so grand.

Our final destination was a large site that appeared to be a former cold-war era government or military office building. It sat behind a large iron gate. It was three stories tall with long hallways and also had a multi-story atrium. Empty offices faced onto the atrium. Only one section of railing remained intact. There were many rooms that still contained many banks of empty shelving. We also found many stacks of decaying binders piled up on the floors of other rooms. By the time we were done, the iron gate outside had been chained and padlocked shut. Oops. Luckily there were a set of bars that had been previously pried apart by other explorers that allowed us to slip out.

Henk stayed with us for dinner and then we parted ways. We thanked Henk for graciously spending the day with us and we promised to keep in touch. Until we meet again!


Day 2: Au revoir, Paris!

We picked up a rental car and left Paris for the country side this morning. On our way to the rental agency we picked up some croissants and coffee for breakfast. We also purchased a baguette and other snacks for the day. We did not let the drizzly weather dampen our spirits and soon we were on our way. We had very little difficulty leaving Paris. The cars coming in to Paris: well that was another story.

Our first stop of the day was at an abandoned chateau. The majority of the structure was still standing. It was several stories tall. We spent a few hours exploring and taking photos. The rooms on the main floors were almost completely empty, save for a few chairs. Every room on the main floor was different. There was a picturesque grand staircase with wrought iron railings in the main hallway leading to the second floor. The second floor was also quite barren with many of the rooms boarded up. The third floor and fourth floor were stripped down to just the structural supports:  just wall joists and floor joists.

Our second destination of the day did not yield any positive results. Not every venture is a successful one.

We stopped in Reims for dinner at an Italian diner. The three of us ordered the exact same meals: risotto with prawns and artichoke hearts, and a cup of coffee. The waiter was amused. On our way back to the car, we picked up another round of assorted macaroons. This time we came away with chocolate, fleur de sel, and lemon.

We had made plans to meet up with a friend from Belgium to do some exploring together. The journey to meet him was lengthy and also involved travelling a 6-7 km tunnel through a mountain.  The toll for the tunnel was 9 euros. Yikes! We figured for that price, we should at least take a few pictures inside the tunnel to document the experience. The tunnel had periodic pull offs for cars so we stopped at one. Within a minute of us stopping, getting out, and pulling out our cameras, someone started yelling at us over an intercom (in French). We hastily returned to the car and continued on our way. Oh well.

We arrived at our hotel just before midnight. Our friend was already there, waiting for us. We quickly discussed our plans for the morning and then retired to our rooms for the evening. Tomorrow will be another day!


Day 1: Bonjour, mes amies!

Matt and I are off on another adventure in Europe. This time, we are travelling with Bart, a friend who is also an avid photographer. Although we will be together for two weeks, Bart will be staying in Europe when we return home. This made for some unconventional travel arrangements. Matt and I flew out from Toronto and landed in Gatwick. Bart, on the other hand, landed in Heathrow. We would meet at St. Pancras train station and then take a Eurostar train to Paris. Mon dieu!

We were all pretty exhausted by the time we boarded the train to Paris. Matt and I completely missed the tunnel under the English Channel. According to Bart, we didn't miss much. The tunnel had no lighting and we travelled through in complete darkness. When we arrived in Paris, we felt more refreshed and walked to our hotel located just under 1 km away from the station. After settling in and rearranging our bags, we did a bit of quick sightseeing in Paris.

We ventured out and made our way to Paris' Metro. After quickly consulting the maps, we made our way to the Louvre and spent a little bit of time taking some photos. We continued our walk and saw Notre Dame Cathedral. We were making our way to the Eiffel Tower when we decided to stop for dinner. It had been quite a few hours since any of us had eaten. We stopped at a cafe and ordered our meals. As soon as our food arrived, it started raining. And boy did it rain. We were quite lucky that we had stopped when we did. The rain came down harder and harder. Since there was no sign of the rain letting up, we decided we would end our sightseeing and return to the hotel. Quite by chance, there was a chocolaterie right beside the cafe. We picked up an assortment of French macaroons. Oh la la! Very tasty. We joked on the way back to the hotel that we should get up early in the morning and have a baguette fight and eat croissants. Did I mention our dinner also included French fries? ;)

Tomorrow we will be picking up our rental car and leaving Paris for the country side. Our new adventure begins!



Downtown Toronto has been in a residential construction boom for quite a number of years.  As a long time Toronto resident, I've been a witness to the continuously increasing density.  The Toronto skyline has changed a great deal over the last decade and despite suggestions that a construction down turn is coming, there are yet to be any signs of it.

If only our city council was stronger in its urban planning efforts to ensure that the density growth was managed in a efficient and thoughtful way, we could take this opportunity to create new communities and enhance existing ones.



UrbEx Multiplicity

Inspired by a friend's (Alexander Hosking) multiplicity shots, I was inspired to try my hand at it, and along the way, give myself a little bit of a post-processing workout.  This was shot inside an inner courtyard at an abandoned Detroit school.

UrbEx Multiplicity



One of the things I love about Toronto is just how diverse the city is, even its downtown core.  We have a mix of buildings zoned for residential, retail, as well as commercial use.  I think that variety makes the city quite lively and allows Toronto to not suffer the urban desert that occurs in so many other large cities after 5pm.



Sometimes things take a while...

Those who know me personally are aware that my photography of abandonements has very little to do with documenting the places I visit.  While I definitely have an interest in the history of the sites, I try to recreate the feeling I had when I was at a particular abandonement.  Sometimes, doing so takes some time and you've got to let the image and your treatment of it perculate.

I took this image in one of Buffalo's grain elevators a few months ago.  While I liked this image from the moment I shot it, I was never 100% happy with the mood evoked by it.  Every now and then I would go back to the image and work on it some more.  It wasn't until recently that I finally got to a final product that I think captures the mood I felt when I'd taken the image in the first place.

Grain Elevators


Commercialization of Urban Exploration

It's not uncommon for me to run into other people while exploring.  Sometimes they are other explorers, sometimes scrappers, other times maybe the odd homeless person or two.  This particular instance at a church in Detroit was very different.

While exploring this church for the first time with a few friends, we heard the sounds of other people entering the site.  Imagine our surprise when we saw they were carrying cases upon cases of lighting gear.  It turns out, they were going to be doing a commercial advertising photoshoot.

I had mixed feelings about this.  It's certainly cool to see abandonements used for advertising, after all, their aesthetic is what draws so many of us to explore them.  What bothered me about this though was how this group was going about their business.  Large moving truck parked outside, front door ripped wide open.  Not much to be said about being discreet or respecting the location.  I fully expect the location to get re-sealed in pretty short order, making it inaccessible to other explorers.

Commercialization of Urban Exploration


Packard ... in Slow Motion

I have shot parts of the abandoned Packard plant in Detroit on several occasions. I say 'parts of...' because the site is so huge I'm not sure it's possible for anyone to really say they've shot the entire thing. On my last trip there, I decided to do a little bit of experimenting and shot with some of my Neutral Density filters. I've used Neutral Density filters in the more traditional scenarios before (moving water, etc) but this was the first time I've used them in bright bright daylight.

While I'm not overjoyed with the results, the experimenting was a lot of fun. Even though I shoot purely for myself, there's always a bit of pressure I feel that I want to walk away from the locations I visit with at least a few images I like. None of that pressure I put on myself was present when I was messing around with these long exposures. It was liberating.

Moral of the story? Go out, experiment. Make time to do it. Seriously.

Packard... in Slow Motion


Grain Elevator

Another view of an abandoned grain elevator in Buffalo from a trip sometime ago.  There's always a little bit of extra excitement when I get to explore a new type of building.  This was the first grain elevator I'd ever had the opportunity to explore.

Grain Elevator