Archive for May, 2013

Crossing the Line

Nature knows no boundaries, and given the opportunity will always cross the line between the areas designated by humans as to be “for humans”, and the areas where it tolerated.  Often in the context of an industrial site this means the patch of grass along the drive and a shrub or two by the office door as “landscaping”.  I often find urban plantings quite depressing for this very reason.

A large part of the magic in the Grief Brothers factory is where natural forces have crossed the artificial boundaries we have placed.  Tabula Rasa took a photo here that is the embodiment of this concept.

I found myself rather entranced with this tree that has managed to reach quite far into what was once part of the main hall of the factory.



Yet in other places the greenery has mostly stayed on the other side of the line.  It is biding its time, awaiting the failing of a key roof support perhaps.

ivy wall


No where was the demarcation between inside and outside more obvious than at this point.  One wonders if the tree that grew there was once planted by some industrious squirrel  40 years ago then forgot about it, or if the wind bore the seed there to take root in a small crack in the pavement.

exit snb

As for me, I found a different exit to use that day.


Grief Brother’s Boiler Room


This room is the single most frustrating room to get a good photo in, in all of the factory’s many buildings it has the most equipment in it and the least amount of space.

While in this shot I captured the objects I wanted, the lighting and limited places to stand just didn’t work out for an interesting composition.  The HDR flattens the light too much and the natural light is not helpful at all for a direct photo.  Of course, I have an idea for next time.

boiler room



I was very lucky that when I walked into this room the light was falling perfectly on the front of this boiler and fallen bricks.  Of course since it is a dark room I went with HDR so you could see more than just the central object, but retain some of the spotlight effect at the same time.  Still, it isn’t a big winner.  This room drives me mad, mad I say!

boiler and bricks


I spent a little more time fussing about attempting to get a photo of the gauges, but wasn’t feeling very inspired by them.  Then I looked up at the ceiling since I was wondering where all the light was coming from.  I saw something when I looked up.  Then I had an idea.

snb boiler room ceiling



Looking up became a bit of a theme for me in that location.  This is that annoying passageway that Tabula Rasa got the great photo of and I couldn’t seem to capture for the life of me.  So I looked up.

boiler room looking up


As TR mentioned in his last somewhat cheeky post we have a healthy competition when it comes to our photography.  I knew walking out of this building that I had him beat for this location, possibly even for the day.  There was no gloating, just a sense of pride in a job well done.  He had me beat good on the last trip (amusingly enough, in the same locations) so it was nice to know I could turn the tables on him this time.

You Gotta Know When To Fold ’em.

(To get the full camp value of this post, feel free to listen to this while reading.)

The Idiot Photographer and I have a healthy competition going when it comes to photography and covering all there is to see at the sites we visit. We push each other to look at things in new ways, to find new locations to see, or just to find the energy to get up on a midwinter morning when it’s still dark outside. We cheer each others successes and offer constructive critiques. There is also the sense (for me, anyway) when we finish a day’s shoot that each of our sets of photos on our respective memory cards are much like poker hands. We know roughly what the other has, and the question becomes, what sort of ‘hand’ is the other holding? Who got the definitive shot of some room or object? After going through my pictures of the Grief Brothers plant, I thought I had a winner. It is a winner, I would say, in the way a straight to the ace in your poker hand seems to be a winner. Unfortunately, I’ve already had a sneak peek of IP’s hand, and she’s got a full house.
The silver lining of this post is twofold: one, I do have a nice hand, though it might not be a winner. Two, I get to imagine IP reading this at her computer, shaking her fist at me because of the pressure I’ve now put on her. Mwahaha!
Without further ado, I gotta run.






One of the most striking things about the Grief Brothers factory is how empty it is.  The main building is massive, and yet there is not one bit of machinery left behind.  In one of the smaller outbuildings I came across this floor mount and breaker box for 460volts, yet another hint as to what might have once been here.

460 volts


In another, larger outbuilding which is curiously wedge shaped, I found Number 4 sitting next to an office.  What Number 4 is I don’t know.  I  find myself wondering how many other numbers there were, or if there were multiple machines with a giant “No. 4” on them?  I also wonder who made the machines.  It is a curiosity to me, the manufacturers of manufacturing machinery.  All these things have to come from somewhere, and who made the machine that made this machine?  Were I a little more capable of conducting research I’d look all this up.  Somewhere out there is a company that not only makes machines for other companies to make stuff on, but manufactures their own machines.  And that would be super cool to see.

old number 4


Next to the wedge building there is a mysteriously uncovered and mostly wall-less building.  Here one can find large steel barrels not just sitting in the open but also hidden in the undergrowth to either side of the building.  Why are these here, what were they for?  They are the little hints that speak of the time when this place was a busy, bustling industrial location.

4 barrels



The light we work with in the sites we visit varies, but it often has a drowned, underwater quality. Filtered through dirty windows and foliage, it is diffuse enough to light a scene well and strong enough to make the highlights glow. Some places in the Grief Bros. plant had just that light, great for photography. A picture taken can have the seeming of a Ribera painting; work it in HDR, and you get closer to El Greco. The blueprint room in the offices had just this light.






Blueprint Display



The machine shop had a workbench strewn with stencils and paperwork in deep shadows.




Ambassador Redux

I think I know why my first trip to Ambassador was so, well, unrewarding.  It has been a while since I’ve photographed a derelict apartment building, and something like that you have to approach very differently from a large industrial derelict like Grief Brothers.

Apartment buildings tend to be pretty empty and the same on every floor; you may get a coat hanger here and there, perhaps the odd couch or armchair, but nothing to make a focal point.  With Ambassador you run the risk of making your focal point the great outdoors, especially when you’re shooting HDR.  This obviously runs counter to the idea of photographing the building itself.  This time around I thought things out a little better.

This is the Ambassador Arms Apartment building, seventh floor.

ambassador falling down


One of the most striking things about Ambassador is, of course, the large gaping holes on the exterior of the building.  The fact that part of the west face and all of the  south face of the building wears no facade and sheds terra cotta in even the most gentle breezes is hard to convey in an interior shot.

gaping holes


This time I think I managed to take the shot I had wanted the first time around.  There are no walls in this apartment, only the doors remain.

no walls only doors


I also managed to quell my fear of tiny yet mostly open staircases and climb up to the penthouse.

ambassador penthouse



I even wandered out onto the rooftop to check out the little garden there.   This was once the dream apartment, huge with a private rooftop garden looking out from the tallest building in the area.  Now it could easily double as a set for a post-apocalyptic horror drama.



Last week was a bit of a wash for me.  Honestly in my eyes it was damn near a total failure, sure I got a couple of decent photos but nothing that really evoked any emotion in me.  It was more of the “I was there, I saw that” photography that I have been striving to rise above.

This week we took Bent Bottle along with us and decided to repeat locations since he had been to neither.  We started at what is now my favorite location to shoot in, the Grief Brothers Cooperage Company, Screw and Bolt Division.  Great name, right?

sat view grief bros


As you can see from the satellite image this is not a small location and our first visit was insufficient to explore it fully.  The three of us split up pretty much right from the get-go and it was hours before I saw anyone again, it is just that big.  It was this location that offered me my redemption, while some of shots didn’t go as I had planned them I still managed to capture some of the weird beauty this place has.

Like where the trees have grown up against the windows  and even crept inside through the broken panes of glass.

nature invades


Or the delightfully creepy old office with the canvas shrouded insulation hanging from the ceiling.

yellow office

This location is going on the yearly visit list, as well as my “locations to photograph while it is snowing” list, though that will have to wait for a few months for obvious reasons.





It seems I have limited time recently to edit photos. Are my responsibilities encroaching on my photography, or vice versa? While I figure it out, here’s a shot of trees encroaching into an office hallway (see what I did there?).


Screw & Bolt Factory Offices

Mission Do-Over

Mission: Do-Over

Hopefully I’ll manage to take more shots like this, only better.

Ambassador Arms door to sky

We’re on the 6th floor, so I’d not step outside here.

Ambassador Arms hall face

The face at the end of the hall.

Ambassador Arms stairs and chair

Next time chair, next time.

Ambassador Arms facade

this gives me an idea

Ambassador Arms the walls are melting

the walls are melting, I’ll prove it to you tomorrow

The Downtown Sheraton

As exploring goes, there isn’t much to this gutted, fourteen story tower that is a must see. The city in recent months has gotten more thorough in trying to seal the building off; signs warning of asbestos are on every padlocked gate and door. They might be true, but could only apply to the dank first floor. From the second story up, the entire edifice is stripped bare to its concrete skeleton. That might be the most remarkable thing about this hotel, that everything from the interior walls to even bathroom floor tile has been taken away. Here is the second story pool deck.


Sheraton Pool Deck


As you head upstairs, monotony sets in. Every floor looks the same. Occasionally, a bit of graffiti provides some relief.


Graffiti in Sheraton



It is the roof of this, the tallest building in Gary, that provides some of the best views. Up here, I dispensed with camera and tripod and turned to the iPhone, whose panoramic camera function comes in handy in places like these.

073 (2)

Looking West From Sheraton