While fascinating and mysterious, abandoned buildings, places and objects are not usually known for their lively appearance or radiant colours. But apply HDR photography techniques and suddenly the reinvigorated colours and contrasts are enough to bring even the most dreary building or wrecked vehicle back to life.
While Urban Ghosts firmly believes there’s a melancholy mystery swirling around abandoned places, tumbledown cottages in the rural landscape are some of the few that can truly be called picturesque, adding to a rugged view rather than detracting from it. The abandoned cottage above in Donegal, Ireland, is the photographer’s first attempt at HDR, effectively capturing the atmosphere of the scene.
Dominican Hill in the Philippines was built by Dominican monks in 1915. It was used by refugees fleeing the Japanese army during World War Two, and later bombed. Heavily damaged but not destroyed, Dominican Hill became a Diplomat Hotel in 1973 but was abandoned in 1987 after the death of its owner. Locals claim to hear strange noises and screams from the deserted building to this day, but irrespective of any supernatural rumours, there’s definitely life after death here thanks to the wonders of photography.
This photographer discovered an abandoned farmhouse and barn by the side of Provincial Highway 7 in Ontario, Canada, between Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph. Abandoned farm buildings usually look like these collapsing shells, but HDR has reinvigorated the fading walls and even added some sparkle to the junk littering the floor.
The subject of this picture – Telok Blangah Hill Park in Singapore – isn’t itself abandoned, but the photograph, titled Spooky Rendezvous, has a – well, spooky – story behind it. Photographer William Cho and his friend Reggie were trying to snap some pics of the abandoned Alkaff mansion nearby, but couldn’t get close enough. They ventured into the park’s terrace garden, when suddenly an elegant lady in red appeared on the steps behind them, seemingly out of nowhere, before casually walking off. The park has allegedly had its fair share of strange happenings, and the pair were certain there was nobody behind them before they wandered down the steps…
This abandoned hospital would be another spooky exhibition of peeling paint and decaying furniture, but HDR techniques have defined its vivid colours and accentuated the contrast between light and shadow, lending the sinister sanatorium a new lease of life in the process.
Bodie in California is probably America’s best preserved ghost town, existing in a state of “arrested decay”. This means preservationists won’t allow the town to deteriorate beyond its current condition, neither will they restore Bodie to its former glory. Despite its steady demise, the town looks as though its residents left in a hurry. Both inside and out, Bodie is a photographer’s dream.
It takes some imagination – and excellent photography skills – to make a broken down old toilet block and a smashed window look like works of art! Combine HDR photography and Axel Hartmann’s (aka glasseyes view) vision and the results are stunning. Want to see some bizarre toilet conversions? Check out this article from our archives featuring 5 fashionable former public toilets.
Even this dreary abandoned steel mill has come alive once again in an explosion of vibrant colours. To see more industrial abandonments, join us on our Rust Belt Road Trip and visit these foreboding former factories.
While the anti-graffiti lobby won’t be impressed about this sizable scrawl, lime green certainly adds a touch of vibrancy to any surface it touches. Unfortunately this scene won’t be quite as colourful to the naked eye, as the reality of a non-HDR world will render it as nothing more than yet another vandalised wall fronting onto waste ground. Speaking of graffiti, see what you make of this.
A bumpy track in northern Grenada leads to this secluded beach beyond Bedford Point. Derelict houses and boats – some destroyed, others merely abandoned – linger on after Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc here in 2004. The beach and its battered boats have an eerie tranquility about them, as does this former Cuban airliner at Pearls Airport.
Abandoned vehicles are another popular photographic subject, and not just for use as police evidence every time a car is stolen. This old van has been left to the mercy of vandals, but looks like a good clean and some air in the tires would get it up and running again. Regardless, the van has come back to life through the HDR touch, its blue paint probably brighter than the day it rolled out the factory.
Alan Smythee has done a great job of accentuating the colours in these old cars, trains and school buses. The rust and undergrowth consuming the condemned vehicles is no match for their original body colours when brought back to life by a touch of processing.
Photographer Camilo Diez found this old car rusting away in a field. It’s bound to look better here than it does in reality, but surely it’s not just clever photography that can bring this old classic back from the brink? Any car enthusiasts out there?
(Image reproduced with permission of Tim Marshall)
Last but definitely not least, Tim Marshall’s fantastic photo titled “Still on Guard”, showing the last Lightning fighter jet to survive at the abandoned RAF Binbrook. As recently as the late 1980s, this was a front line British fighter base. Today the jet engines have been silenced. But despite the airfield’s sorry condition, the last Lightning remains protected by local conservationists, determined to keep its spirit alive at its former home. (This image is for sale in a range of different formats, and custom versions.)