#ModesofFlight #Art | II

Hamilton Ontario Canada contemporary urban photography URBEX urban exploration urban decay

Remembered for an Honest Day’s Work

There are basically two ways to do URBEX. One is by gaining illegal access to a shoot location, the other is by gaining access lawfully. As much as I love the work of my fellow shooters who sneak into various places they really shouldn’t, I’m not inclined to take such a risk. Not just because I can get busted but because I can’t be certain that I can protect myself against all of the hazards and risks to my personal health and safety if I were to enter a place that no one knows I’m there.

So, I am thrilled when the Ontario Heritage Trust puts on events that enable the public to legally explore edifices that would otherwise be inaccessible to the average person. Doors Open Ontario is such an annual event in which the “Trust works with communities across the province to open the doors, gates and courtyards of their unique and most fascinating cultural sites so you can explore the stories inside.”

I like to check the Trust out each year to see if they have spots that I’d like to venture into. Good creative opportunities. Gordon Pim, Senior Web Communications and Marketing Specialist for the Trust tells me, “While the Ontario Heritage Trust coordinates the province wide Doors Open Ontario program, we have no say in which buildings are opened . . or even which communities participate. We invite all communities to participate each year, but it’s up to them to decide if they have the infrastructure and volunteer base to support an event. Once registered, the communities are then the ones that select the participating sites. The Trust doesn’t play a role in that process.”

In any case, there are still forbidden places in Ontario cities that I’d like to see someday.

Openings are spread out over much of each year. Registered spots in my city of Hamilton are always open during the first weekend of May. Two locations that I toured for the 2018 showcase was the Cannon Knitting Mills, and the Gibson School. Both are old, and virtually unused buildings that are earmarked by Stinson Properties to be converted into lofts.

I was overjoyed walking around in the knitting factory at 134 Mary and Cannon Streets. Especially the dark ground floor parts that are partly flooded by rainwater that leaked in. I spent hours shooting in there on the first day of the opening and went back the next day with a few radio slaves and a couple strobes.

That’s how I made this panorama. Another image that I’m inviting critique on. I’m especially interested in finding out what others think this picture might be good for.

There were many other pro and amateur photographers that captured this rusty and dusty old belt-driven lathe but I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one who lit it up like this. So, I’m pretty sure that I’ve made a unique image.

This picture is comprised of two lowlight images stitched together in Adobe Lightroom. Each with the following settings:

  • Exposure: 0.8 sec @ f/3.5
  • Focal Length: 21 mm
  • ISO: 200

When I photographed the lathe on the first day, I liked the warm, natural woody and rusty colours that I picked up but I felt the image would be best conveying the coldness of the dark warehouse. So, the next day I reshot with a white balance set to tungsten to bring out the natural blue light wavelengths, and while firing a single off-camera Speedlight at ½ power.

As you can see, I placed the strobe on the floor between that lathe and the wall instead of trying to light the accessible side of the lathe. I directed the flash up against the far side of the machine so that it would reflect and scatter upward and outward on the brick wall. The combination of long exposure and reflected backlighting creates a 1930’s cinematic appearance. Like you might see in something like James Whale’s ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’. That’s what this lathe is like to me. An intriguing resuscitated corpse that is still of value.

As I shot the lathe just after midday each day, I wanted a strobe effect to counter the overwhelming but needed brightness of the nearby doorway to the outdoors.

The rest is post-prod in Lightroom to create not quite a true panorama but a shot with a very wide aspect ratio, alter exposure, contrast, shadows, clarity and sharpness.

Self-critique? Sure, I wish that the sharpness was sharper. I seldom trust the AF feature on a lens, and even less so in lowlight conditions. So, I think I overcompensated in the manual focus.

I’m not sure that I’ll keep the title. I feel it’s a bit long-winded. “Once Progressive” is another possible name. I’m always looking to celebrate the heritage of people who have worked or still work hard with their hands or with machines and equipment that still require human elbow grease. That too is a part of the story in this picture. You can tell me what you think or if you have any other suggestions. Have fun!

9 thoughts on “#ModesofFlight #Art | II

  1. A wonderful initiative for the public to access buildings that are normally closed off. Sure you might be able to sneak in any other time but as you mentioned, there’s a risk and if you took photos people would then really wonder how you got in. Here in Melbourne we have something similar each year called Open House where buildings normally closed are open to the public. Some you can book spots, others you have to go into a ballot and hope you can get in by luck of draw.

    Wonderful photography as usual, and I thought it came out quite crisp.

  2. I think I mentioned to you sometime back that I love to photograph old buildings, the more abandoned the better. In my youth, I would take the risk to explore such treasures without the proper authorizations, but I am ‘older and wiser’ now and might not take such risks today. How cool is the concept of Doors Open Ontario? I love your inspired creation. I think I would simply call it ‘Progress’.

    • I actually like those elements. Especially the shaft of daylight coming through the doorway. I deliberately planned for that. Maybe it would look better as a contrasting BW image, which is what I originally didn’t want to do for this image.

      I’ll at least consider cropping or erasing the bucket.

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