A few weeks ago, some photo friends and I planned to meet at a home we rented for a few days just outside Charleston, SC as a kind of mini-workshop where we would photograph a variety of things, help each other with our processing and critiquing, as well as enjoy each others company. One of the things I researched before we went was an abandoned hospital that I had seen on You Tube that I thought might be an interesting urban exploration for the group if others were interested, or on a day of rain since it would be inside. I wasn’t able to get an address, but I searched maps and thought I came up with a general vicinity and decided to try to locate it before I arrived at the house. When I got to the area in which I thought it might be, I came across a few familiar landmarks I had seen online, and with a bit more driving in the area, I found it!! I was super excited because of the photographic possibilities that may lie inside, but when I drove around to one side, I found everything boarded up completely, with the addition of several steel bars bolted in place across each door and window! The ground floor was totally sealed shut, but I could see through some broken and open windows on the second floor, that it would definitely be something worth exploring. So I ended up taking some pictures on the outside in a small area of the complete complex, all the time hoping I would find an entry point, but none materialized. Finally, a bit disappointed, I packed up to head to our rental and driving away, I noticed the main entrance to the building and thought I’d take a look so I parked the car. Then I noticed a door off the main entrance that was slightly open, with the metal bar removed and I peeked inside. What a place!!
I took a few shots with my cell phone just to take back to see if anyone would be interested in returning during our trip, and headed back to the car. Then I said to myself, “Well, I’m already here, so I should really explore it with my camera.” So, I went back in with my camera and on up to the second floor where there was light since it wasn’t boarded up, and ended up spending quite a bit more time in there because I found so many interesting things throughout the labyrinth of corridors and rooms, but of course, not everything was photogenic and most of the rooms were completely empty. I found what appeared to be a small courtroom(!), two in fact(!!), several very long hallways, a large, open room with windows completely surrounding it on three sides, and finally a big room with artistic graffiti!! Not like most of the other graffiti I’d seen throughout, this room was really well done. For any images that included windows, I bracketed three frames 1-stop apart for use in HDR software later to balance the variations in values of the inside and outside light. Eventually, I had to tear myself away because it really was time to go and meet up with everyone at the house in time for a sunset shoot, so I made my way back to the door where I got in and was totally stunned that the door had been closed, locked and the metal bar bolted across it!! I searched everywhere, but there was no way out I could find. I was trapped inside!!
I finally had to call my photo friends, to come and try to save me, luckily being able to remember pretty detailed directions and managed to get them to me, even though they originally went in the opposite direction, but they still had to deal with the bolted bar across the door! When things were looking pretty dismal, they saw two people with cameras and went over to ask if they knew of any way to get out and amazingly, they knew of a “secret” open door; one I would have never found since it was down a very long corridor that was completely dark. Somehow I started heading in the direction they were walking, me on the boarded up inside, they on the outside. Lucky again, I saw a flashlight at the end of that long, dark corridor, turned on my cell phone light and headed toward the flashlight on the other end, and I was out!! They mentioned that I was pretty lucky to get out without calling 911, because if I had, I most likely would have been prosecuted.
So many thanks to my friends who came all that way to come to rescue me, found me, and managed to extricate me from my predicament.
With my new-found freedom, we went to a spot for sunset which included some fishing boats but no clouds, and everyone managed to come away with some good work that included the boats while afterward, we enjoyed dinner together at a cheery restaurant right next door. This first day was a far cry from my usual photo trip where I would more than likely have had a freeze-dried backpack dinner alone in the dark SUV rental, before retiring to a sleeping bag in the back rather than a warm bed in my own private room and bath at the rental!!
The next morning, the clear skies were gone and clouds had rolled in, so the short walk to the beach did not look promising for a good sunrise. But somehow, just when we thought the time had passed for even the possibility of some sunlit clouds, a small area grew pink for just a few seconds before it was gone (top photo). We all clicked away in our own attempts at recording that fleeting moment and left a bit buoyed by that special bit of communal photography.
We went into Charleston to see all the wonderful architecture and charm of the city, including a recently burned out shell of a very interesting home. Although I definitely felt out of my element trying to photograph an urban environment, especially at times without a tripod to keep things in sharp focus, I came away with a few images that gave a sense of what I saw and felt; but there was also a bit of a disconnect I felt as well. I suppose each of us has a preference to what we choose to photograph, and what truly gets our creative juices flowing which then reveals itself in our work. Later we stopped into a neat little spot for a good lunch with us all sitting around talking and just having a good time. Another far cry from my usual small can of tuna, crackers and cookies alone in the car. Afterward, a second cloudless sunset floundering to find a suitable location, another good dinner with the group, and then looking forward to sunrise the next day.
Again, the clouds rolled in overnight and this time, they seemed thicker, with little evidence of a break for the sunrise. But amazingly again, the sunlight reached some clouds and gave us a dramatic scene that unfortunately, one of us just missed, arriving after the most dramatic light.
Then the fog rolled in and stayed with us along the coast and we spent the better part of the day shooting along the beaches and marshes within it’s mysterious grasp until the rains came and we were done for the trip since the heavy rains continued into the next day. While most of us cleared out early and headed home along varied paths, I continued south to Florida in heavy downpours and tornado warnings for a visiting/photo trip. To be continued…