Last week I was invited by a group of New York area photographers active on Google Plus to take part in an excursion to an abandoned community on Staten Island. The trip was planned and led by Jose Vazquez, and also included Angel Figueroa, Howard Gaines, Mike Marin, and kora foto morgana. It was a great morning of exploring and many thanks to Jose for setting it up and including me.
This is the stairway at the entrance to the first building we came upon, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I immediately thought of my friend Bob Lussier, “The Stair Whisperer.” I ended up shooting a lot of stairway shots that morning — they turned out to be some of the most interesting elements remaining in each building we entered. By the way, Bob is running the Boston Marathon today. Best wishes to him and all the runners for a safe fun day, and fast times.
A few other notes, from what was my first such urbex excursion going inside abandoned structures:
- I put my Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens on as soon as we arrived and I almost never took it off. The one time I did switch I almost immediately put it back. The wide angle distortion is a feature, not a bug, in such an environment.
- Similarly, this was the first time in my photographic life I wished I had a fisheye.
- I’m even more impressed with some photographers I already admired such as the previously mentioned Bob Lussier and Jacques Gudé, because they are, oh, roughly my age I believe and frankly, this was hard to do with middle-aged eyes. I’ve got a pretty bad case of presbyopia, which is the inability to focus at a close distance, and it also limits the ability to read in low light. It’s the reason people need bifocals or progressive lenses and why some people read holding their arm out fully extended, or take their glasses off to read. It can make it hard to read the settings on a camera sometimes, and I’ve developed this little juggling act where I pull off my glasses, look at my settings, put them back on, look through the viewfinder, etc. Well, doing this inside a building with no lights and while wearing an asbestos-rated gas mask is almost more trouble than it’s worth. The image payoff is big, but the process is rough.
- On top of that, I’m inherently cautious about personal safety and things like getting arrested, so I’m really not sure how often I’ll keep doing this. If that makes me a wimp, I can live with it.
- But for all that, I’m incredibly glad I went on this trip, and love the set of images I captured. If I maintain the discipline I intend, it might be a year or so before I finish publishing them.