The Clickyfish Blog
Detroit Urbex Tour
I booked an Urban Exploration tour in Detroit, Michican and planned a weekend road trip. I researched a few extra locations to shoot on my own the night before, and also the day after the tour.
There's a few things you need to know up front before booking one of these tours. You will have to sign a waiver for the tour company as technically it's trespassing, though none of the venues we visited had a no trespassing sign posted on them. These buildings really are falling down around you, there's broken glass everywhere, holes in the floor etc and you will need to watch your step. The waiver that you sign also indemnifies the tour operators against any injury you might sustain.
You have to be kitted out to deal with the conditions you will encounter. Strong boots, preferably up over your ankles for walking through dirty water. Speaking of water, make sure that you have a bottle with you at all times. Not just for drinking, but in case you need to flush your eyes if you get a face full of grit or dust. Bring a flashlight, both for navigation through dark corridors and for spotlighting areas inside your target images. A tripod is going to be a lot more useful than you might think as a lot of the buildings are very dark, so you will be shooting more than a few images with night photography settings. The tour takes about half a day and stops off at three or four locations. We visited an abandoned church and school, a derelict maintenance depot, and the old Chrysler headquarters.
I set out on the road trip to Detroit expecting to shoot a stack of grainy, black and white images of post industrial desolation. But as soon as I stepped foot inside the maintenance depot, it was apparent that every inch had been used as a blank canvas for graffitti artwork. I changed my mind about shooting in black and white, and focused on getting the best images to showcase the unexpected colours.
Everywhere that I went in Detroit, I found the most amazing wall art. Eastern Market is a great spot to shoot, especially if you show up at first light, preferably the day after scouting your shots. The market had been packed with shoppers when I had walked through the on Saturday afternoon, but at 5am Sunday morning, all the art walls that I wanted to shoot were completely unobstructed.
A visit to the Heidelberg Art Project completed my Saturday evening in Detroit. This art project had been on my bucket list for quite a while. Several city blocks of derelict ruins or boarded up houses, all converted into art projects. I highly recommend this location, but be quick as the project is getting smaller every year.
Sunday morning I managed a quick trip onto Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit river. Unfortunately, much of the island was flooded, but I did manage a few shots of the Victorian conservatory and the abandoned zoo.
With a little bit of research, Detroit is a truly great photography road trip location. There are so many options, you really do need to plan your trip in detail.