Numbered List: 25 “Must Learn” Urbex Lessons


Book Tower, Detroit – [Sony NEX-5R: ISO 5000, 18mm, 1/60 sec @ f4.0]

Book Tower, Detroit – [Sony NEX-5R: ISO 5000, 18mm, 1/60 sec @ f4.0]

Urbex Lessons Learned. Some specific to Urbex, some general photography observations, some  general life lessons:

  1. They really don’t build ’em like they used to.
  2. The safest place in any building is a stairwell. The entire building can collapse in a heap around them and those suckers will still be in tact (disclaimer: see #3).
  3. Nothing lasts and nothing is safe. Nothing. Not even stairwells.
  4. “Beauty” has nothing to do with being “new” or “well maintained”.
  5. Watch your step. No, really. Can you say “elevator shaft”? Sure you can.
  6. Look up and/or wear a helmet. Or get a big ole knot on your noggin’. Your choice.
  7. Pigeons may surprise/scare you, but they’re nothing to be afraid of. Peregrine Falcons, on the other hand…
  8. As beautiful as that huge abandoned skyscraper or church might be, sometimes your best photos will be of a single coffee cup or hymnal half buried in the rubble.
  9. Just like mountain climbing, there is safety in numbers. IF you’re with the right people (see #15).
  10. Everything looks great from 15 stories up. Everything looks even better from 38 stories up. Go big or go home.
  11. PSA to property owners: If you’re trying to secure a building by using a lock box, you may want to avoid using 1-2-3-4 as your code. Or two digits for the month and two for the year. Don’t ask me how I know.
  12. If you come across a homeless person, don’t freak out. You just walked into THEIR bedroom.
  13. When you get out of your car to shoot some amazing scene that caught your attention, be thorough and get shots from all angles. Then be sure to look behind you because that’s where the really cool shot is. Every time.
  14. Exploring an abandoned building is an education. History is taught within its walls. Engineering becomes somewhat understandable. And an appreciation for architecture is cultivated.
  15. Have good instincts. If you keep getting caught, hurt or can’t get into the “best” places, you have crappy instincts. Find someone who has good instincts and make them your friend. But don’t pay them. That’s pathetic.
  16. Knowing the names of the buildings you’re in and some of the history behind it makes the trip much more edifying. Google is your friend.
  17. Having an extra battery, memory card (with you, preferably) and the necessary equipment to clean your camera lens is good. Knowing how to work your camera is also good. Removing the lens cap before that epic shot is even better. Don’t ask.
  18. Praying in an abandoned church building feels right. Praying on the roof of an abandoned skyscraper also feels right.
  19. One word: Flashlight.
  20. Scrappers are not playin’, man. If you look up and there’s a huge piece of steel beam missing above your head, you may want to bail.
  21. If rats the size of small dogs freak you out, you may just want to stay home and watch Disney movies. Note: This one also applies to feces and dead things.
  22. You don’t have to answer the question: “How did you get in there???”
  23. Light is like gold.
  24. Don’t climb the rickety ladder that leads to the top of the water tower unless you have the guts to climb back down. There’s a big difference.
  25. Never carry more equipment than you can run with (thanks to Ted Grant for this one).

Happy exploring, friends.

To see more, visit: John Natiw Photography