Welcome, And Enter

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.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Beautiful capture and processing, Mark. I like your selective focus and how you’ve drawn attention to the stairs. And, I can also relate to some of those vision issues. I’m a little older(retired) and after 45 years of photograph, rely a lot on reflex and habit.
    Look forward to seeing more from this set.

  2. My lungs hurt just looking at this. I do want to do more urbex stuff this summer, but it is probably no in the cards 🙁 Nice work here man!
    Chris Nitz recently posted..Here I StandMy Profile

  3. Sweet image Mark, looks like a great place

  4. Nice and gritty! i like it! Can’t wait to see more!
    Jim Denham recently posted..Shaking It UpMy Profile

  5. I do that same thing with the glasses you mention, all the time. We’re not getting older, Mark, we’re getting better. At least I’m going to stick to that story for today.

    GREAT shot here, my friend, I cannot wait to see the results of this adventure you went on. It seems that you and I share the notion of “not being arrested” as being a fairly high priority when out on these shoots. Love your post, my friend!
    Toad Hollow Photography recently posted..Glen Lake Elementary SchoolMy Profile

  6. Really fantastic image Mark. I love the angle at which you shot and the processing is outstanding.

  7. A really “tasty” urbex, Mark. While this is not a genre that I associate you or myself with, it is always a nice feeling when we can step out of our comfort zone, and realize that we CAN do it, and very well.
    Wayne Frost recently posted..Keeping The Lights OnMy Profile

  8. This is a pretty awesome shot. Almost dream-like… Wonderful selective focus and soft blurry bokeh. Nice work.
    Adam Allegro recently posted..Melodramatic MonochromesMy Profile

  9. Fantastic shot! And thanks for the kind words! I’m looking forward to seeing more from this location and you can put me squarely in the “jealous” category.
    Bob Lussier recently posted..The FoundryMy Profile

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