Last Friday we went exploring once again to the Fisher Body Plant on one of our Advanced Urban Outings through Motor City Photography Workshops. I have been to the Fisher Body Plant probably eight times at least. It is one of my favorite places to shoot, but after exploring so many times it can be a challenge to shoot something new. And that is what I did this day – I used my Canon 100mm macro lens to shoot some abstract images. I tend to rely heavily on my Canon 10-22mm ultra wide angle, and while I love it, it is a nice change to do something a bit different. I like to flex my creative muscles when I can
Instead of heading towards the usual places I shoot inside the building, I explored areas I had never been to before. Who knew there were areas I hadn’t seen? I walked around shooting some of the exhaust pipes (at least that is what I am calling them, not sure what they actually are) and the interesting shapes they were making.
I have been playing with the idea of creating a composition workshop. I love composition and trying to find a texture, shape, play of light, whatever it may be that will make an interesting subject. You will see what I mean in my images below.
Back in April, through Motor City Photography Workshops, I was able to get inside and shoot the Michigan Train Station. And this time, we had permission from the owner of the building for our photography group to take a tour through the first floor of the building (I am part-owner of MCPW if you didn’t know that already).
Now, this was exciting because it was through one of our members that we received permission to visit, with her connection with a Channel 2 news anchor. It was to be a surprise for our group, so we kept it a secret. You see, we already had an outing planned to shoot the OUTSIDE of the train station. No one knew that we were getting access to shoot the inside.
As you can imagine, people were very surprised and happy to be allowed to see inside the station. We wore hard hats and signed liability waivers, but that did not detract from the experience. The security company foreman took us on a tour and gave us a very informative historical rundown of the building itself. I learned many things I didn’t know about it.
Below are a few of the photos I captured while inside. With the work that is being completed on the building, who knows when or if I will ever get access again. Even though I had been inside the station twice before, it had been over a year since my last trip. I was once again astounded by the impact that building had on me. It is just so big, and even with it’s deterioration, still so beautiful.
Jesse Welter and I recently made another of our trips to downtown Detroit, this time along Jefferson Avenue to explore an old warehouse he came across while looking for new abandoned places to explore. The warehouse is located on Meldrum Street, almost to Belle Isle. The opening was covered by an old piece of metal siding, but we managed to move it back to gain entry.
To say it is an old warehouse is putting it mildly. I am not sure how long it’s been abandoned, but much of the roof had already fallen, and there were many old rusted trucks and other vehicles strewn about. The only sound was of pigeons flying around up in what was left of the roof.
It was an interesting place to poke around in to see what was there, but I could not help but be a tad nervous, wondering if one of the steel gerders was going to pick its time to fall on my head. Luckily we had no incident, and did not run into anyone else while inside the building. Below are photos I took while inside:
Since we were so close to Belle Isle, we decided to head over to the island to take advantage of the golden hour light that was left. We first stopped by the Detroit Boat Club, which seemed to be hosting a rowing event. We headed around behind the boat club to walk out on the docks. I have to say, walking on those docks was scarier than being inside that warehouse. I can safely say I will never go out on those again – they should be condemned! It’s too bad, there were some good views of the Belle Isle bridge from there.
I hadn’t photographed the fountain before, and was happy to see it lit up with several different colored lights – very pretty! After capturing the fountain we headed to the western-most tip of the island to take some photos of the Detroit skyline. It’s a great place to capture both the Ambassador bridge and the RenCen together in one shot.
All in all it was another successful exploration of Detroit, and look forward to our next one.
On Tuesday, August 23, I went on another abandoned Detroit building adventure…but this time, we had permission to be in the building! The Book Tower building is currently vacant, but the owners of the building employ a building manager to keep watch over the building (this is who gave us the thumbs up to go inside). From the sounds of it, there are developers who are planning on converting the building to lofts. We’ll see if this turns out to be true. I hope it is, as the building has amazing views of Detroit, with lots of windows, which would be perfect for loft apartments.
The tallest part of the building is 34 stories up…I thought I was going to be in for a looooong and exhausting walk to the top! But, we stopped every few floors to explore. I am still amazed to this day what I find left behind in abandoned buildings. This time, we found a “bar” of several bottles of alcohol, records (we came to the conclusion several of the offices must have been occupied by a record label or music manager), a bowling ball, a woman’s red business suit hanging in a stairway, and employee files (with social security numbers in them – yikes!). Below are some of the offices we found:
We pushed on to get to the top levels of the building, and stopped at the 33rd floor to get some views of the city. The stairway had some great peeling yellow paint. I was told there used to be large arched windows on this floor, before they were removed and replaced with “modern” square windows. We found a couple of them still intact in areas without offices (like the stairwell):
There were some fantastic views from the Book Tower, which has some of the best views of the city in my opinion. Here are some photos I took as we were heading up to the top of the building:
When we walked up to the 34th floor, it felt like stepping back in time. It was a large space, where several of the large elevator turbines were housed. An old desk and ladder were also on hand – it felt to me like I was at Greenfield Village. The door to the roof was found and we stepped outside, but instead of finding a large, flat roof, it was just a narrow walkway. When I looked up, I could see the green copper roof that rose up into the sky. There were also these great old windows that pushed open that I took some shots out of.
At this point, we were starting to get hungry and made our way back down to the main floor, where retail shops used to be housed. I liked the large windows in some of the areas.
We headed over to the new Fountain Bistro restaurant in Campus Martius area. The photos below are a few I took as we walked around downtown on the way to the restaurant:
While it was a long and exhausting day, I had a great time exploring and spending time downtown. The weather was great, and really, there is nothing else I would rather be doing on a nice day than shooting!
Recently, I went on an urbexing trip with a small group of photographers to the Packard Plant, and the trip to the Lee Plaza Hotel was part of the same outing (my blog post of the Packard Plant can be found here).
The Lee Plaza Hotel is an art-deco structure that stands 15 stories high and was a beautiful, popular hotel back in the day. Apparently the hotel is in quite a stage of deterioration, despite being placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1981. Many think it is too far gone to ever be brought back to life. Now, it sits boarded up, it’s only inhabitants are those who find a way in (probably mostly photographers and scrappers).
The Packard Plant is easy to get to, and to get in to. No boarded up entrances, open to anyone who cares to enter. The Lee Plaza Hotel, not so much. We had to be creative to get in to the building, but it was worth it. I had not been in there before, and was happy to have the opportunity to take some photos of the ballroom, which tends to be the most photographed room of the hotel.
One of the things I find interesting about urban exploration is that you never know what you are going to find once you are inside. I knew there was an old piano in the ballroom which I have seen in many people’s photos of the place. But we also found two old TVs, a chair, an old radio with a record player, a typewriter, children’s toys, a purse. Even old film reels. Things no one cared to bring with them when they left.
Below are photos of what I saw while at the Lee Plaza Hotel. Many of these photos were processed using HDR techniques.