Detroit Graffiti

Here is another picture from my trip to Detroit last summer with Jay Cassidy.  Work and my volunteer activities have had me very busy lately.  Sorry I missed posting anything the last few days.  And tonight’s blog post will be short as well.  Have a great weekend.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Urbex Mecca - Detroit

This article was originally posted on NikonRumors.com on December 28, 2014.  You can see that post HERE

I am reposting my article on my blog tonight. 

Urbex Mecca: Detroit - by Brook Ward:

About me: Let me start by introducing myself.  I am photographer based out of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and enjoy underwater, sports and HDR photography.  Since I don’t get to scuba diving as often as I’d like, most of my photography is focused on landscape and architecture HDR work.  I know, I know….you don’t like HDR.  I get it and I understand it isn’t for everyone.  I practice HDR on the “softer side”, which I think gives it great color but isn’t over saturated.   You can see more of my work at http://brook-ward.com

Thanks: I’d like to thank Peter at Nikonrumors.com for featuring me a second time on nikonrumors.com.  The last time my post was about Shark Photography.  You can see it here: http://nikonrumors.com/2014/01/11/guest-post-shark-photography.aspx/.  Anyway, I truly appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts, my experience and some pictures with you again. 

Before I get into the main article, I have a few additional housekeeping items around location sensitivity and safety/danger:

Location Sensitivity: There is a very real sensitivity in the Urbex community about keeping abandoned facility locations a secret so that individuals don’t go to these spots to destroy the properties.  Everyone I know who participates in this kind of photography, loves and respects the sites.  They see the real beauty in the buildings, enjoy the history, and don’t want to see anyone destroy the site any faster than Mother Nature’s progress.  Basically the old phrase of…”take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but foot prints” fits Urbex photographers.   So normally, I wouldn’t give details on an abandoned building location unless it is already well know.  In this article, every spot I am talking about is very well know and a quick Internet search will provide anyone the location within seconds.  So I am okay with providing you some details here.  If you go, just respect the site and be safe.

Safety/Danger: Abandoned buildings, structures, facilities and campus’ can be very dangerous places.  Here is a incomplete list of concerns that everyone should know about, be prepared to deal with, and avoid:

·      Unsavory elements of society who also hang out at these locations.  These can range from homeless individuals with mental illnesses to gangs using these locations as a base of illegal activity. 

·      Police who sometimes monitor these locations for the community’s safety, protect the land owner and to watch the individuals in the first bullet point

·      Wild animals…enough said.

·      The buildings themselves can be very dangerous as they are falling apart and may have substances that are dangerous to your health such as asbestos and hazardous chemicals.  So use common sense to avoid falling through a rotted floor, into an empty elevator shaft, or getting a substance on you or in you that could cause harm.

This list isn’t even close to a complete list of the dangers, but it gives you the big items to watch out for while at an abandoned facility.

Detroit Urbex: One element of architecture photography that I really enjoy is abandoned structures.  I just love exploring sites that haven’t been used in years, checking out the old architecture and construction styles, and discovering their current state as Mother Nature works toward restoring the land.  So I’ve want to hit Detroit for a few years.  Due to the economic crash in 2008, Detroit was devastated with massive unemployment, population decline, infrastructure issues, bankrupt city, and thousands of abandoned homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, factories, etc…  Before Detroit started to make a come back (which I hope will happen), I wanted to get there and experience what has become the worldwide mecca for urbex photographers.  Below you’ll find what I hope is entertaining and a summary of our experience photographing this once great city (and maybe great again some day).

Last summer I had a few vacation days to burn, so I contacted a fellow photographer friend and urbex admirer to see if he wanted to join me on this trip for safety reasons.  I didn’t think it would hurt that he is a former football player.  He was willing, able, and excited about it, but I warned him that I wanted to do some serious shooting.  I wanted to use every possible moment we had to capture as much as possible.  His response was perfect; he stated he was “prepared to work”.  And we did! 

In advance of the trip, we did some scouting via the Internet and I contacted some local Detroit photographers to get some tips.  Armed with a photography shot/location list, some history on the sites, and local advice we hit the road.  We arrived in Detroit around noon on the first day and quickly checked into our hotel.  We left within minutes to hit the first and our highest priority location…the abandoned Packard Automotive Plan, which is a huge (3.5 million square feet on 40 acres) site.  This is the former automobile-manufacturing factory where luxury Packard cars were made and later Studebakers’.  It opened in 1903 and closed in 1958, although a few other businesses used parts of it until the late 1990s.

 We started at the southern end of this site and waited for an opportunity to enter the massive campus when the coast was clear.  While in the buildings, we ran into a homeless guy who wanted to give us a tour, a few other photographers and a small group of college kids who looked scared of us….  We didn’t end up leaving this site until after sunset at around 830pm and saw less then 10% of the complex.  We had an amazing time exploring the multi-level buildings (most at around 7 stories tall) that go on and on for about 10 large city blocks.  The campus is probably a mile long and quarter mile wide.  Most of the campus was originally used for manufacturing of automobiles, but it also had administrative office space.  This history of this facility is outstanding and as an Urbex photographer, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Package Automotive Plant:

 

Following that experience we ran back to our hotel to clean up and get something to eat quick.  I was careful not to track elements of the abandoned facilities back into my hotel room and bagged my dirty clothes so that nothing evil got on my clean items.  Then it was back out into the city for some night photography.  We went straight to the General Motors World Headquarters on the Detroit River facing Windsor Canada on the other side.  We explored the main level of this massive building, taking photos as we went.  Until…we were stopped by security that informed us it is okay to photography the artwork and cars, but not the building interior.   I guess they thought we looked like terrorists or something……  So we did what any photographer would do, we went outside to photograph the exterior of building.

General Motors Headquarters:

It was at this point, around 1am that disaster struck.  My urbex partner dropped his camera and destroyed his D610 DLSR body and Nikon 14-24mm 2.8f lens.  Double ouch!!  So we called it a night and went back to the hotel.

Early the next morning, we hit the streets to visit the legendary Michigan Central Train Station.  My buddy was using his backup camera and lens at this point for obvious reasons.  The Michigan Central Train Station was fenced off and we couldn’t get access (if a place is locked up, we don’t break in), because they were filming portions of the new Batman movie inside the building.  To bad, it looked cool from the outside and I’d love to see the inside.  Who knows, maybe the owner will see this article and contact me to provide access.  Call me!!

Michigan Central Station:

 

Immediately behind this building there is a neighborhood that’s in rough shape.  We explored it primarily to photography some of the wonderful graffiti on the buildings and walls. 

Graffiti:

At just before lunch, we went to St. Agnes church on the west side of Detroit.  At this site another friend, local Detroit photographer, joined us.  This site had a number of explorers already inside when we arrived.  We all did our own thing and had a great time photographing the inside of the cathedral, rectory and the abandoned catholic school behind the church.  Again, Detroit didn’t let me down.  These structures were beautiful in their own way and I enjoyed every minute we spent here.  We finished here mid afternoon and we were starving.  So we made a quick run to Mexicantown for lunch.  Along the way, we spotted several abandoned buildings that we wanted to go explore.  And we did after lunch.  That’s the beauty of Detroit, you can’t go anywhere without finding some abandoned structure worth exploring.  At least, I think that’s a cool thing.

St. Agnes School:

Following lunch, we went back to the locations we spotted on the way to lunch.  We started with another abandoned church called King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church.  This church had a school attached to it and we explored both portions of the building.  At one time this church must have had massive expansion needs, because we discovery that it was a church within a church.  On the outside it was a church like you’d expect to see with the school attached.  But once you got inside, we discovered that it was once a smaller church.  The original church was built and then later they expanded the facility by just building a larger structure around the outside of the original church.  So on the inside you could see the walls and architecture of the original church.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Cool find.

King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church:

Once we were finished at that church, we stopped at a 15 story abandoned Lee Plaza Hotel and spent about 4 hours here exploring every floor except for the last four floors.  That’s my only regret with this trip, we should have gone to the top.  This hotel has an awesome ballroom.

 

Lee Plaza Hotel Ballroom:

We wrapped up here at dusk and went back to the hotel for another quick stop to clean up and get some food.  Then it was right back out into Detroit to photograph Comerica Park, while the Detroit Tigers were playing.  We wandered around the outside of the stadium and went to the top of numerous parking garages to photograph Detroit from higher angles. 

It was another late night of capturing as much as possible with our limited time.  The next and last morning, we got up early again and went straight to an abandoned meat packing plant.  We spent a few hours here and captured some photos, but it wasn’t my favorite spot.  Basically, it didn’t have much character left after it was cleaned out.

Following that spot, we went directly to the Eastern Market.  This area has a huge farmers market and lots of cool businesses of all types in the surrounding area.  The really cool thing about this location, is that they actually invite the best graffiti artist from around the world to come here and do their magic.  So you can walk around for hours looking at one huge, outstanding graffiti spot after another.  They were just one right after another and I doubt you’ll find many places in the world with this many high quality graffiti paintings.  They were unbelievable.

Graffiti in the Eastern Market Area:

That took us to around lunch and we had to hit the road to get back to Pittsburgh.  We had a great time, saw some wonderful sites and captured a ton of photos.  I hope you enjoyed reading about this trip, as much as I did sharing it with you.  Even better, I hope (if you like Urbex) you get a chance to visit Detroit yourself.  Stay safe

Gilbert Arizona Temple

When we booked our Hilton DoubleTree Inn hotel room in Gilbert Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix), I had no idea it was near such a cool location.  For our trip to Sedona, we booked over night stays in Gilbert on the first night and the last night of the trip.  In between we spent our time in Sedona.  But these nights in Gilbert, allowed us to attend a Cubs vs. Reds spring training game, prep for our flights home, etc…  On our first night, I saw this temple and knew I had to go back before we flew home.  So on the last morning, I got up before sunrise and went to the temple to catch the blue hour and sunrise.  Basically, I wanted good light for this photo.  This photo is the result of getting up at 530am in the morning.

A little about the temple:  This is the Gilbert Arizona Temple, which is a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).  They announced their plans for this temple in 2008 concurrently with the Gila Valley Arizona Temple.  It took about two years to build and they had a formal public open house in February 2014.  It is the 142nd temple of the LDS Church and was built to ease the load of the nearby Mesa Arizona Temple. 

On a personal note, this isn’t a huge building but it is an outstanding structure and example of wonderful architecture.  I hope you enjoy the photo and video as much as I enjoyed seeing the building in person.   

Scroll down to see the 'how to' video.

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To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Beer

In the last few months I’ve had some outstanding trips to Barbados, Wisconsin, Seattle, and Sedona.   Because of that, I haven’t rotated by photos much.  You’ve gotten a healthy dose of photos from Barbados and Seattle specifically.  But Sedona is going to start making a run towards the top.  With that in mind, I have another Barbados photo for you tonight.  Here is a photo I took on Pebbles Beach in the Carlisle Bay area.

By the way, this was a great local beer.  

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Balloon Shadow

At the risk of boring you, I am posting the 3rd photo in a row from the Sedona Arizona trip.  On our 2nd day in Sedona, we got up very early to enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon ride through the mountains.  It was an amazing experience and I liked this photo of our balloon’s shadow as we got down toward the ground at one point in our trip.  At times the sound of the balloon inflator (I have no idea if that’s the correct term for that) would scare animals out from under the bushes. 

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Not only was it a great experience, but it was even better because we got to spend it with our close friends (Kris & Scott).  

MJ and I....If you look close you can see Scott behind me.   Kris must be hiding.

MJ and I....If you look close you can see Scott behind me.   Kris must be hiding.

Broken Arrow Trail

MJ and I went on a Pink Jeep tour with our friends Kris and Scott while we were in Sedona Arizona.  This specific tour took us to Chicken Point towards the end of Broken Arrow Trail.  This is our jeep at the top of Chicken Point.   What an excellent area.  Just beautiful!!

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To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Thunder Mountain

I like this photo a bunch.  I took this at sunset from the Cultural Park in Sedona Arizona about 15 minutes after sunset.  The sunset was behind me as I took this photo.  I was actually facing the sunset (falling behind the mountains to the west) and I happed to look the opposite direction back at Thunder Mountain.  It was at this moment that I realized the sky opposite the sunset was cooler then the sky looking into the sunset.  So I ran over to reposition myself to get this shot.  The colors in the sky lasted about 5 minutes and then it was over.  “You gotta be quick” as Lenny Haise has said.

Have a great Sunday.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Space Needle

I loved the Seattle skyline.  You can’t have the Seattle skyline without the Space Needle landmark (single most recognizable symbol of Seattle) included in a photo.  I don’t know if it’s a law, but it should be.  I’ve seen it on TV and in a thousand photos.  But until I stood there from sunset to past dusk, I didn’t appreciate how wonderful this city looks.  It was worth the trip, just to sit there at sunset watching the city.  Put that activity on your bucket list!!

Space Needle:  I thought you’d like a little information about this structure.  It was built in the Seattle Center for the 1962 World’s Fair, which had over 2.3 million visitors.  It is 605 feet high, 138 feet wide, and weighs 9,550 tons.  It was built to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitudes.  The observation deck is at 520 feet with the gift shop and rotating SkyCity restaurant at 500 feet.  

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Carnegie Music Hall

Here is an oldie.  I took this photo back in 2012 of the Carnegie Music Hall in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh.  I processed it but never shared it with the world.  Last night I was digging through my files and found it…but I didn’t like it.  So I took my original 7 exposures from that day and re-processed it last night.  I like it much better.   

You can see some previous photos from that day at the links below:

http://brook-ward.com/blog/2013/8/9/new-development-part-ii

http://brook-ward.com/blog/2013/1/17/carnegie-music-hall-2nd-floor-lobby

Have a great Saturday.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Seattle Central Library

This facility is the flagship library of the Seattle Public Library system.  It is an 11-story glass and steel building that opened in 2004 with over 362,000 square feet.  It can hold over 1.45 million books, has an underground parking for 143 vehicles and has over 400 public computers.  I was one of over 2 million visitors in 2014 to this very modern looking building.  On the day I visited, the place was packed with people using every area of the building.  I’ll have to post more photos of this facility later, because it is so unique….just totally different from anything you’ve probably ever seen.    

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Curves

This is the Alcoa building on the North Shore of Pittsburgh.  Alcoa Inc stands for Aluminum Company of America and is the 3rd largest producer of aluminum in the world.  From the Pittsburgh operational base, they conduct operations in 31 countries.  Alcoa produces primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum, and alumina combined.  Basically, they are all things aluminum.  You get the point.  Anyway………

It’s a cool building with the unique curves, shapes and style.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.   

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Barbados Radisson

Short post today…….basically because I don’t have much to say about this photo.  As you can tell, it is from our last trip to Barbados.  This is a relatively small hotel and pool, but has a great location on the island.  It wasn’t difficult to take this photo with an empty pool.  Why would anyone spend time in it when 10 feet away was one of the best beaches in the world?

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To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Detroit - Abandoned Classroom

I took this photo last fall while I climbed through abandoned building after abandoned building in Detroit with Jay Cassidy.  This classroom was in a catholic school behind the matching abandoned St. Agnes Church.  I’ve typed up information about the Detroit trip in some of my older blog posts.  Feel free to scroll back and take a read.

By the way, you can see Jay’s version of this spot here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1003265633034194&set=a.327461460614618.91042.100000523010696&type=1&theater

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

The Door

I apologize for posting two pictures from the Washington National Cathedral in back to back posts.  Between work and the Baldrige Quality Award Program, I’ve been busy.  With that said, my post will be short.

Here is a picture from within the Washington National Cathedral.  I loved this door.  It has a history around what, why, who, etc….  I am sorry I don’t remember any of it.  But that will give you a reason to either do some research and/or go visit this outstanding example of unique architecture.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery,

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery,

Washington National Cathedral - 2

I posted a picture last April from this location.  You can see that post and a lot of information about this church by clicking here:  http://brook-ward.com/blog/2014/4/26/washington-national-cathedral

So I won’t retype the details about the church you can read that using the link above.  But I will say that it is an outstanding example of English Gothic architecture.  Whatever that is….  I’ll rephrase.  It is an outstanding example of architecture.  Just wonderful and there are many levels with different rooms to explore.   I am not an expert in architecture or churches, so please forgive me if I get this wrong.  I found it interesting that there are several chapels throughout the Cathedral that have different styles and décor. 

Anyway, regardless of whether you are religious or not….go visit this amazing place.  You won’t regret it.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

Seattle At Dawn

Here is a 25-exposure panorama of Seattle At Dawn.  I went to this spot the night before and took some pictures after dark.  I liked it so much, I returned the very next morning before sunrise to get this picture. 

To see the nighttime version click here: http://brook-ward.com/blog/2014/11/24/seattle-panorama

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, please click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, please click the photo above.

Sunset at Neptune's

Here is another picture from our Barbados trip.  I might be over doing it with Barbados pictures, but my gosh it was an amazing place.  I can’t help myself.  If you like warm, tropical, islands, beaches, the ocean, Caribbean, etc…..  Barbados has to be at the top of your visit list. 

We’ve been there a few times before on cruises.  So this trip was the first time we spent more then a day there.  I’ll have to tell you that after that visit, I’d move there for good in a heartbeat.  There are tons of other great places in the Caribbean (and we’ve visited a bunch of them), but this place is just outstanding.  It’s clean, safe, beautiful, calm, friendly, stable, on and on and on…….  Just outstanding!

Neptune’s Grill is the restaurant on the left in this photo.  We hung out at this spot playing in the pool, swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach, having cocktails in these beach chairs, and eating at this grill.  Every night, people gather here to watch the sunsets.  I’m ready to go back right now.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.

To purchase a print or view the entire gallery, click the photo above.