Archive for December, 2013




Galata Bridge

One of the most remarkable sights of Istanbul are the fisherman lining the bridge, shoulder to shoulder, at all times of day and night. I only wish I had had a tripod when I was there, I think there would have been some great night shots to be had. Always an excuse to go back…


Galata Fishermen 1


Galata Fishermen 2


Galata Fishermen 3


So tomorrow’s weather forecast is calling for a delightful 31F with snow showers and I’m totally geared up for an explore.  It is going to be cold and we’ll have a couple of buddies along to do something we haven’t done in too long, a scouting trip.

Scouting trips are always exciting as we never know quite what we’re going to find, there is that wild hope that we’ll come across something totally wonderful and unusual that will warrant a return trip despite knowing the reality is that it often ends with something a little more like this.

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Usually scouting trips tend to be just Tabula Rasa and me but this time we have a first timer and The Spaniard with us.   Hopefully this will not lead to a repeat of the “dogs.  Dogs!  DOGS!” incident a few years back when Tabula Rasa’s son joined us on his first trip.

Instead of dogs and lost chairs, I will hold out the hope we will find something a little more like this.

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The Red Castle

This “castle” is actually a prestigious Greek school located in the Fener neighborhood of Istanbul. Its presence illustrates some unique aspects of the Greco-Turkish history of this this city. As Constantinople, it was the capital of a huge Greek empire for a thousand years. After it fell to the Turks in 1453, many Greeks stayed and continued their cultural and linguistic traditions. Ottoman rule was enlightened compared to medieval European counterparts, and cultural minorities were tolerated. Though the Red Castle itself was built in the late 19th century, the school itself dates to 1454, just a year after the Greek Byzantines’ fall.

The school, whose proper name is Phanar Greek Orthodox College, is built into a hill, and surrounded by a dense residential area. As a result, the castle alternately looms into view and disappears around corners as you approach. These shots were all taken the same clear January day.










Main Entrance.


In 1973










That Time of Year Again

As seen in the Packard complex


Remember, Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season!  I wish you all the very best and a happy celebratory season.

Blue Mosque

As I mentioned a few months ago, I had found a trove of pictures from a trip to Istanbul which I had thought I’d lost. The task of editing them has been sporadic, so related posts have been random and occasional. The recent lull in fresh photo trips has given me a bit of time to catch up, so hopefully I can put up a few of the better shots now. Incidentally, this was the last trip I took with my old film camera. Given digital’s instant results (at least on a small LCD screen), I don’t miss the Schrodinger’s box aspect of film photography, where you are uncertain of your results until long after taking the shot. So maybe I’m deluding myself, but I found myself really enjoying the grain in these photos. The digital counterpart to grain, noise, seldom adds anything to a shot. But I will leave it to the viewer to decide whether the pictures below have a pleasing graininess, or are just tourist-level soft-focus snapshots.

These images are all from inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly called the Blue Mosque for the predominant color of Iznik tiles which decorate its interior. It was built in the early 17th century, partly to provide an Ottoman answer to the Hagia Sofia, a massive Byzantine church the victorious Turks converted to a mosque after capturing Istanbul (then called Constantinople, just like in the They Might Be Giants song) in 1453.


Ceiling tile.




Stained Glass and Light Fixtures.







gary churchThis is the result of a little experiment Tabula Rasa and I did with some high intensity glow sticks.  While it is far from perfect it has inspired us to try more night shots in the future.  The nice thing about glow sticks is that they don’t emit too much light and draw too much attention, but at the same they also don’t put out enough light to overcome the street lamp illumination during a long exposure.  I’ve got an idea or two that involves being cheaper than buying professional gear while also offering us more portability and the ability to run on batteries.  We’re working on another couple of ideas and may be scouting some new locations as we enter the new year so I promise the blog will pick up sometime in the next week or so.  We love Gary Indiana to bits, but we’ve run out of new locations and are looking for something new to explore while we investigate some of our more artistic approaches to our favorite places.

Damen Silos II

Yesterday’s post offered some views of the exteriors; today, we go inside. Unfortunately, only the basement and ground floor were accessible, the stairs being nonexistent above a certain point. The basement offered some fantastical sights, with each room crowned with a silo bung.


Silo Bottom and Hallway.


Silo and Chair.

Other areas showed clear signs of recent occupancy. It was clear, too, that these were no ordinary homeless or drug addict squatters. Certainly the extent of housekeeping in the picture below speaks to a more organized presence, with food on shelves and clothes on racks. My guess would be that these were the anarchists/hippies/primitivists of the recent Occupy Movement, which had a presence in nearby downtown. On the metal stove in the foreground is the clearly visible scrawl, “their end is our beginning.”


Anarchist Den?

Finally, in some truly hard to reach catacombs in the subbasement we found this, painted carefully across the dank wall.


Slumdweller Manifesto.

What I still can’t fathom is the motive for this graffito. Only the occupants themselves or rather determined explorers (ahem) would ever see this. Is it a mission statement? A warning? Whatever the case, it would certainly be ironic if these people, so determined to live off the grid, were ultimately forced to move so as to make way for Hollywood filming the latest Transformers vehicle here.

Damen Silos

A well known urbex site in Chicago are the so-called Damen silos, just off the Stevenson expressway and Damen Avenue. They’ve gained notoriety recently after filming was done here for Transformers: Shia LaBeouf: ReBeouf. At least I think that’s what it was. Some elements of the silos were removed during the filming, making for a tougher explore, but they were still worth a visit.



Skyline Framed.






In the next post I’ll have pictures from the interior, which include some rather creepy evidence of recent squatters.

A Return


Tonight we return to St. Louis for the final entry in my record of our October adventure.




The party is indeed over folks, and soon the hunt will begin for yet more new locations.  In the meantime Tabula Rasa and I have some plans to play in the winter wonderland while the snow lasts.

STL Lutheran Church men's room

Arch and Alcove

Sometimes I take a photo that I really hope will come out well but am convinced that I am just wasting my time at.  Both of these images are exactly that.  In the case of the arch and vaulted ceiling I was battling the annoying dust inside of my lens that tends to show up quite well when the light hits it at a certain angle.  Of course, the ideal angle here was exactly the one which would show the most lens dust.  After I don’t know how long shooting angle after angle of this little alcove I came up with the arch detail which you’ve all already seen but failed to show off the vaulted ceiling.


Then I found this little alcove on the opposite side of the altar (or stage, as I tend to think of it).  I had to do a quick clean up of the floor, which is something I rarely ever bother with, but in this case I just couldn’t leave it.  I was convinced that this shot was going to fail horribly but liked the idea so much I spent a good 10 minutes fussing about with it even after Tabula Rasa said he was ready to go.  I’m glad I did too, because it is on the top my list of personal favorites for the whole trip.


I have a confession here, I had a really hard time admitting that I really like this shot.  Normally I’ll avoid mentioning which photos of mine I like the best, because in my experience the ones I like the most are not the most popular shots among my viewers.  Indeed I often find the shots I like the least get the most attention and I’m pretty sure that there is a trope for that, Old Shame is the closest thing I found to though given that it is the context of early work versus older it doesn’t quite fit.  In the case of this trip the one photo people have consistently given an overwhelming positive response to is the water tower reflection[ on the rooftop puddle, and I actually really dislike that shot.  A lot.  Don’t ask me why because that is just how it is.

Goodnight, Detroit

IP may have a bit more to share, but I will close out my contributions to the Detroit series with a look at some of the more “conventionally” pretty parts of the city. Though the gritty and the abandoned were our primary focus during our visit, there is more to the city than that. Not that Detroit’s reputation for blight is undeserved; entire swaths of the town have a post-apocalyptic look. But there are areas where, if you squint a bit, you can see the Motown of the 1950’s in all its glory. Those areas provide hope for the future: redevelopment and gentrification, though dirty words in some cities, may be the key to bringing the affluent back from the suburbs.   Lest this come off too much like a neat little bow with which to tie up a photo series, I’ll add that it’ll take a lot more than nostalgia and hipsters to bring back Detroit. There will certainly be painful fiscal decisions, the recent municipal bankruptcy being perhaps the first. It may never come back, or at least not as the industrial juggernaut of the last century. But I love gritty American cities which are so unlike cities elsewhere, with their steel, glass and brick downtowns on display like a peacock’s fan; the ten-lane highways which seem like canyons; the neighborhoods which become home to a new ethnicity each generation; and the now rusted and neglected industries which propelled this nation to superpower status almost a century ago. Unlike some cities which grew up later and became nothing more than faceless sprawl (hello, Phoenix), these older towns have a character you can feel just by driving their streets. And none of these are more American than Detroit.


Ambassador Bridge.




Belle Isle clock tower.




RenCen looms.




Skyline at dusk.


Goodnight, and good luck.

The Maze


We really didn’t spend enough time in this location, perhaps in part because it was so close to where our car had been broken into the day before and we were feeling a little jumpy.  We even went so far as to park inside of the building but still, paranoia is a powerful thing.  Perhaps if it is still there next time we go to Detroit we’ll take a bit more time to wander properly as it really is a weird maze of building and there are a couple of smaller areas we never made it to.



The Power Plant

Standing near the complex in Tabula Rasa’s last post was the old power plant that once served the factory.  It was not totally barren inside, the ivy had made great headway across the floor.


The single most remarkable aspect of this building was the amazing light contrast between rooms.


A Nod to Kafka

A couple shots from the roof of the odd, castlelike factory in which the hallway shot from a couple posts ago was taken. In much the same way as Kafka’s novel The Castle is… well, Kafkaesque, such was the layout of this building. At one point, the Idiot Photographer was a floor above me, and called for me to join her. After much wandering, I was unable to find access to the next floor, became convinced the floor did not actually exist, and that my friend was quite possibly a figment of my imagination. All that was missing was a couple Czech bureaucrats to materialize and serve me with a summons for a vague and undefined crime. *sigh*
The rooftop was quite nice though. Once I found it.



Rooftop Vista.






School Murals

Perhaps one of the saddest aspects of abandoned schools are the murals left behind on the walls.  In the case of Best Academy, the hospital turned school, there were only three.  First we have the the mascot, which is the most sheepish looking “fierce” bulldog I’ve ever seen.

best bulldog


Down another hall was a reminder that dreams can become reality.  I was also a little ashamed that I can only identify a couple of these people.


Had a Dream


But the one that made me smile the most and the saddest was this.


not waiting

Hallway to Hell

(feel free to enhance your enjoyment of this post with a suitable soundtrack by clicking here.)

On Detroit’s east side, just off Jefferson Avenue, we found a curious old plant. The ground floor was crisscrossed with dead end hallways, and the roof was so covered with sheds and outcroppings as to give the entire structure the appearance of a castle. This is an HDR shot of one of the few hallways that had a way out at the end.



Hall of Coils.






Chandler Classroom

Blown out windows, trash, ruin, but brand new condos visible in the window. Detroit is weird.



Doing my best.


Chandler School- part 2

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I had a really hard time placing how long ago Chandler was shut down.  It was very obviously an elementary school and oddly enough I suspect it was closed because it was too small for the neighborhood’s needs.  Just up the next block a shiny new elementary school had a teeming play lot full of shouting, shrieking little humans enjoy recess.  It made for an odd experience; hearing the sounds of children playing while wandering a trashed and abandoned school.

gym rope


The room in the building we explored was the gym, with climbing ropes still intact.  It actually took a little doing to find it, as it was tucked away behind the main building and connected by a neglected hall.  We actually made it down to the basement first where we found more evidence that overcrowding was an issue here as several basement rooms had been converted to classroom use.  But the gym was still more interesting, as while I’ve seen some massive floor failures before this one was the most interesting.

gym floor






Chandler School

chandler school2

Like most of our Detroit finds we found this school simply by driving past it.  Where the last school building I posted about was pretty wrecked and had been emptied of most everything this one still had a lot of books and supplies that had been left behind.   More importantly, there was very little graffiti here and there murals were almost untouched.

Hometown Heros


One thing I loved about this building was that they never installed drop ceilings here.  Too often these older buildings get infested with drop ceilings because it is slightly more expensive to heat a room this tall, but Chandler School never did.

One of the weirdest features of this elementary school were the leather bound doors to the class rooms.  It is one of those things that you don’t expect to see, much to see so many of them in fairly decent condition.  They had to be original to the building which just makes it all the more impressive to me.

leather door


Abandoned School

Same location as Idiot Photographer’s previous post. Judging by the aluminum and cinder block design, I’d guess it was built sometime around the 1960’s. Not an exceptional find, but it did have the feel of a sci-fi movie set in places.