(Thomas) a photographer based in Graz, Austria. Thomas explores many of his countries hidden and often neglected landscapes and buildings and is fast becoming well-known for his Urbex (Urban Exploration) Photography.
You can find Thomas on DeviantArt, Facebook
or his website
. Thomas has been on DeviantArt for three years but has only in recent months become more active on the site.
I started Photography about 2 years ago on my 30th birthday because I thought I was now old enough to value photography itself. So I bought a starter camera with kit lens and gave it a go.
I soon got into urbex photography because I always liked to explore something new and understand how things work. I have to admit, that I´m at least as interested in how these buildings were used and the things left behind as in the buildings itself. It´s pretty awesome to see for example a fully equipped production hall of an abandoned paper factory and understand how paper was produced there. Nowadays you can´t just go to a factory like “Hey, I´m interested in what you´re doing, can you show me around and tell me how it works?” Well you can, but they won´t let you because you might see things you should not see or they fear industrial espionage.
And of course decay and nature taking most of these buildings back, adds a bit of a surreal and mystic touch to the locations which makes them unique and even more interesting.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM (because it’s the sharpest wide angle lens currently available, especially in the border areas)
EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM for details.
And of course a reliable Manfrotto tripod.
Your gallery features an amazing collection or Urban Exploration captures, what tips do you have for photographers looking to capture abandoned places like you have?
As the places often have great differences in brightness, I take most of the shots as an AEB (7 images, up to +/- 6 f-stops) on a tripod, and merge them to a HDR in postprocessing. I also shoot the brackets in live view to minimize the vibrations in the camera. I always try to keep the mood of light and if that doesn´t work, I pick a single shot.
As urban exploring as a hobby gets more and more popular these days, I want to take the chance and write a few lines about risks and safety. I know of some people who suffered serious injuries while exploring abandoned places, one of them even died. And I saw so many daredevils on my tours you wouldn´t believe.
The risks are very specific and depend on the locations you visit. I always do risk assessments and prepare accordingly in advance, but just to give you an idea: Places in urban territory, for example hotels or houses, are often mould-infested, contain asbestos or dove droppings with resistant bacteria and parts of the buildings may collapse over or under you. On industrial sites you may come across various toxic substances. While exploring underground bunkers or mines you may lose communication with the outside world, encounter mine gas or just become lost. When doing abandoned locations in the balkan states countryside, I always stay on concrete or beaten paths (there are still some active minefield leftovers from the war, especially around former military locations and border areas) and watch out for snakes, spiders and bears.
Do you have specific safety tips for people out exploring?
- Never go alone and make sure a 3rd person not on the tour knows where you are. Agree on reporting points and if missed which further actions should be taken.
- Do research and a risk assessment on every location you visit and prepare accordingly. Think of risks "normal" people don´t think of, for example poisonous insects or animals, hazardous substances and things like that.
- Test and build up trust in your equipment before a tour. Always have first aid with you and don´t save money on safety gear like glow sticks, triple batteries or communication.
- Dress and equip appropriate. I´ve seen people exploring large underground bunker complexes in shorts and flip-flops with a cellphone display as only light source.
- Trust your gut instincts. If you have a bad feeling leave and come back another day.
This photograph below is so emotive - What's the history behind this capture?
The shot was taken in an abandoned asylum in Italy. Beside quarters and medical facilities, they had a small church and even this theatre there: The theatre of decay. There are some really emotive places out there; Just to mention 3: Chateau Lumiere has a unique light setting due to its architecture - we arrived in the dark and left 3 hours after sunrise. It was just incredible.
Dr. Rossetti´s asylum in Italy gave me some heartattacks
A huge location which sets could be taken from any good horror movie, long overgrown hallways, dead silence, a door slams in the wind and stuff like that. And Noah´s Ark (below) was just impressive, standing in front of such a big ship, just wow.
Does the area that you live in offer much chance for exploring abandoned places or do you have to travel further afield?
I would say in a 100 mile radius around my hometown I´ve explored almost everything worth to see. In 2014 I spent 5 weeks visiting over a hundred locations in 8 different countries and did about ~12.500 miles on the road. Except for the number of countries, I´ll most likely double that in 2015.
Do you ever get caught out exploring places that you shouldn't?
I´ve been “lucky” so far, only happened to me once in Italy – The guy shouted at us to leave, otherwise he would let his dogs after us. But we had some awkward situations on different locations with copperthieves, aggressive masked teenagers, former prisoners or a local biker gang dealing with drugs in the perimeter. They really didn´t want us there especially not with a camera.
Not only have you photographed abandoned places as they look right now, but you've also got creative in some of them. How did you achieve this shot?
First my friends and me placed a few hundred tealights to light up the tunnel. Anne, our “model”, had to stand still for 30 seconds and Christoph was light painting with sparklers around her while I operated our cameras. We made a few different shots there.
This shot below is just incredible, it looks like a posh 'active' hotel - but it's abandoned. What is the strangest or most amazing thing you've found on your travels?
Well it´s hard to say, i come across so many fascinating but also weird things. For example a handcrafted leather book with b/w wedding portraits from the early ages of photography. I also found journals of people who got arrested (and worse) because of their political attitude, patient files and x-rays, hand-drawn porn books from the 60´s or shotgun shells. I even found a single human lower leg bone. But if I got to pick an interesting-looking one, its definitely this washbasin...