Thursday, January 1, 2015

How I Find Abandoned Locations To Explore & Photograph

A common question that I get asked is, "How do you find all of these abandoned places that you photograph?" The answer is as varied as the locations that I find.

Sometimes I find abandoned structures along normal travel routes. You might be surprised at how many abandoned places you pass every day as you drive to and from work or shopping. They could be obvious, but they might be hidden quite well.
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
A good example of this is the photograph above. I'd passed the place probably a thousand times before I ever noticed it because some trees blocked the view from the road. It wasn't until I was actively looking for abandoned sites that I noticed it.

Other times I take roads-less-travelled to find abandoned buildings. These are roads near normal routes that I might take. They are a little out of the way, but are more-or-less going where I'm headed. It may take me longer to get wherever it is that I'm driving to, but I'm often rewarded with a new place to explore and photograph.
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
The photograph above is an example of that. I took a road that paralleled the freeway about a half-mile over. Along that road I came across an abandoned truss company. Inside of one of their buildings I found the scene seen in the photograph.

Another way that I find forgotten structures is using Google Earth. I have studied satellite maps to discover places that look like they've been abandoned. Perhaps it looks old and overgrown. The buildings might look like they are falling apart. There might not be any cars. Perhaps debris are scattered across the property. Not all places that look abandoned on Google Earth are actually abandoned, but most are.
From The Past - Mojave, California
From The Past was captured at an old farm that I found using Google Earth. It was down a dead-end dirt road that I would not have otherwise taken. It sat between two occupied properties, and when I arrived I wasn't 100% sure that the place was actually abandoned--that is, until after I got out of the car and began exploring.

Still another way is simply searching Google. Other urban explorers have been to different abandoned sites and have posted all sorts of information on the world wide web. There's tons and tons of information out there on the internet.
Hall Loves You - Newberry Springs, California
I captured the photograph above at an abandoned water park. Although this park is located right off of an interstate freeway (and, with time, I may have stumbled on it on my own), I found it by searching for abandoned locations using Google.

I have also found some places by following other urban explorers on Flickr. Occasionally they'll post a photograph captured at an abandoned location that's within driving distance. And a few times I've visited the site myself.
The Turned Table - Boron, California
An example of this is the abandoned Boron Air Force Station and Federal Prison. I saw others visit the site first. Then, a month or so later, I was able to see the place first hand and capture the above photograph.

Finally, I have found some books that are good resources for urban exploring. In California, Death Valley Jim has several books that feature good locations to visit. I've visited a few of these places, but most remain on my to-do list.
Old & Dilapidated - Rosamond, California
The image above was captured at a place found using one of Death Valley Jim's books. While his books are helpful for those in southern California, it's worth finding out if there is someone in your area that has done something similar.

I find abandoned locations to explore and photograph all over by using different methods. There is no one-stop resource (at least not in my little area of the world) to show me exactly where to go. But, perhaps, the "finding" is half of the fun. The journey is just as interesting as the destination.


  1. I'm glad to hear that my books have been helpful! BTW - Your photography is outstanding!

    Best regards,
    Death Valley Jim

    1. Wow! I didn't expect to get a comment from Death Valley Jim. Your books are a great resource. I really appreciate them and refer to them often. In fact, one is in the car right now. Your website is a good resource, as well (it's for anyone who may be reading this and are unfamiliar).
      Also, thanks for your kind words. It means a lot.