Virgin Exploration

General Thoughts

In the last post I included an image from last spring when traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway and stumbled upon an old store that had been pretty much abandoned. Some photographers I know actually search for places like this to record the history that still inhabits them, so I stopped to see if it were possible to get inside and discover its secrets. With a bit of effort, I was able to get inside and was inspired enough by the tattered American Flag to go back to my car and get my camera gear. It wasn’t much of an exploration, but it did kindle an interest in me to try again in the future if the opportunity ever came along. Well, that opportunity came by about a week ago when I was invited to tag along with two photographers who have had a few years experience doing these “Urban Explorations”. So we headed off to an abandoned textile mill about an hour away and I began my first entry into this new (for me) field of photography. While it was certainly interesting to discover all the things that were left behind when the mill was shuttered, photographically I was having a difficult time trying to extract some compositional interest amongst all the dimly lit machinery. Happily, along the way there, we made a quick stop at a grocery store and picked up a dozen roses that I thought may play well against the grit and decay of these buildings, and I worked mostly with that idea.

Then we moved on to another building adjacent to the first, and having more windows and better lighting, I began to find my footing a bit although continued focusing mostly on the flowers. Then a few abstracts of pealing and fading paint layers before finally finding something that would include a broader view. There was even a loom that still had the fabric in the midst of being produced, suddenly terminated on that last day long ago. But, it seems we over stayed our welcome a bit and “retired” to a nearby local eatery for a bite to eat.

After lunch, we ended up traveling a few back roads and came across a house surrounded by tall, overgrown weeds that showed some potential as a subject and found it accessible. Unfortunately, it appeared to have been trashed somewhere along the line, but there was quite a bit to spark some ideas, being sure to respect the place as we searched the rooms to photograph. I guess the presence of an old organ was a bit unusual from what they told me, but it’s surroundings were a bit difficult to work with since so many things were thrown about and piled up that getting a clean, unobstructed image proved difficult if not impossible. I did feel connected to the place though and ended up with a few decent images, most of which needed to be HDR because of the great difference in light values between the windows and dark corners of the rooms. By the time we decided to head back home, we had all sweat enough to soak our shirts pretty thoroughly twice and one of the “experienced” explorers had a pretty bad day having fallen on his tripod leg, bending it enough that it was deemed unusable for photography when we were in the house. And he had the additional insult by falling through the floorboards of the back porch as well! Luckily, no serious injuries reulted.


Being in these old, abandoned places did stir the imagination quite a bit to visualize the day-to-day history that occurred within them. Everywhere you turned were clues as to what transpired, the lives that were led there, and possibly the end of a life which led to its eventual abandonment. So many stories are left to be discovered before these places fall into complete disrepair or succumb to either gravity or progress.

Funeral Cross_No Dish

Funeral Cross – Abandoned Home, NC — © jj raia


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