Thursday, December 31, 2015

Abandonment: Antelope Valley Homes - Lancaster, California

Abandoned In Antelope Valley - Lancaster, California
I found a couple of abandoned homes in the Mojave Desert in the Antelope Valley just outside of Lancaster, California. They're right next to each other and on the same property, sharing the same driveway.

A couple of years ago I remember driving past this property looking for abandoned homes, and this place wasn't abandoned. Someone clearly lived there. But now nobody lives in these homes. They're empty. They are abandoned.

When I entered the first house I quickly discovered why no one lives there anymore. There was a house fire that did some significant damage. Some rooms were heavily scorched. My impressions are that the house wasn't in great shape to begin with, but after the fire it most certainly was unlivable.
Abandoned Homes In The Yellow Desert - Lancaster, California
The second house wasn't the most well kept place, either, but it wasn't damaged by the fire. A third structure, a detached garage, was also unscathed by the flames. These buildings were not well maintained, but even now someone could move in.

Not much was left behind. A couple of small couches. An electric stove. Some old tires. A few small odds and ends. Most things left when the people who lived here left. Not many clues remained as to who lived in the house and what life was like.

My impression is that the house burned, insurance money was paid, and the people split with the money. Perhaps the money wasn't enough to fix the house. Or perhaps it's exactly what was needed for a fresh start somewhere else.
Abandoned Green House In The Desert - Lancaster, California
Sometimes abandoned houses are thoroughly ransacked. I don't think that I'm the first to enter these buildings, but I don't think that too many have visited. It seems pretty intact and undamaged (other than from the fire).

I captured all of these photographs using a Sony RX100 II. Even though this is a small pocket-sized camera, it did an exceptional job. Even hand-held in low-light the camera did just fine. Honestly, if I had used a bigger, more expensive camera, I would have captured the same images.

Gear is not what's important in photography. Photographic vision is what matters most. It's what you do with your camera that makes a photograph what it is, and never the camera itself.
Too Hot - Lancaster, California
Cobwebs In The Kitchen - Lancaster, California
Abandoned Lane Bedroom - Lancaster, California
The Bathroom Door - Lancaster, California
Obscurity of Neglect - Lancaster, California
9040 Door - Lancaster, California
Taped Window - Lancaster, California

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

American Resilience In Redlands

On December 26th, my family and I traveled to Redlands, California to visit some family that we weren't able to see on Christmas Day. We loaded up the car and drove the usual way. As we approached, on the same street that our family lives on but about two blocks away, we drove past some apartments that we'd seen many times before.

This apartment was recently made famous by a horrible incident not far away in San Bernardino. Yes, this is where the husband and wife lived who were Islamic extremists that shot up a Christmas party. We had driven past these apartments just a couple of days before the shooting, but, like everyone else passing by, we had no clue of the evil being plotted inside.
American Flag Nailed To The Door of Barbarity - Redlands, California
I'm not going to rehash the gory details that have been endlessly repeated on the news networks. I'm not going to say the names of the husband and wife involved, because they don't deserve the attention that they wanted. I don't want to bring any additional fame to them and what they did. It's not worth my time or my words.

After the shooting in San Bernardino, the President of the United States came out and said, "We will not be terrorized." I said aloud in response, "Too late."

Islamic extremists are targeting workplaces, commuter trains, rock concerts, holiday parties, and normal places where everyday people exist. This is where we live, work and play. It's in the back of my mind as I go about my daily routine. Is this the site of the next terror attack? Am I safe here?

I am already feeling terrorized.

We will be terrorized because we've already been terrorized and because we're not doing enough to prevent future terrorism. Our system is full of gaping holes. Unfortunately, there will be more attacks and attempted attacks.

It's not politically correct to stop terrorism. There are politicians who won't even verbally acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place (at least they won't say it in public). Or, if they do acknowledge that a problem exists, they'll never say what the problem actually is. There is a bigger fear of how some people will personally respond to violent radicalism than the evil plans that are being devised right now to kill innocent people.

Political correctness (which is a nicer way of saying censorship) is a big problem. The neighbor of the shooters who knew that those two were up to no good did not report it to authorities because of fear of backlash. The authorities, who already knew who these two were and that they were up to no good, did nothing because of fear of backlash.

It's not politically correct to say that most acts of terrorism worldwide are committed by those practicing Islam (even though this is true). In fact, there is a bill right now in Congress (currently in the Judiciary Committee) that makes it illegal to say so--it would be considered "hate speech." I suppose the 1st Amendment doesn't exist anymore.

There is also a general decline in morality in America. Earlier this year Vladimir Putin criticized our nation's lack of morals, and, while it may seem like a case of hypocrisy, he actually had a very valid point. We don't hold dear the virtues that once were our foundation, and on occasion have down right rejected them. In addition, we don't have the same fortitude that once made us strong.

Yet, despite the political correctness, despite our immorality, despite our cowardice, we still somehow have resilience. A whole bunch of it, in fact. I was surprised.

When we drove past the now-vacant apartment that the shooters had once lived--the place where they plotted murder and constructed bombs--which is now boarded up, some anonymous person has nailed an American flag to the door.

It was such a simple yet bold statement. And it really struck me. We will bounce back. We will recover. We will survive. We will overcome. We will move forward. We are tough as nails. We are Americans.

It doesn't matter if nobody superimposes an American flag over their Facebook profile picture (like so many did for France). That's not real. That's the fake world of social media.

People rarely consider what the colors--red, white and blue--of the American flag symbolize. Over the years it has meant different things, but in 1986 President Ronald Reagan put it this way: "Red for courage and readiness to sacrifice; white for pure intentions and high ideals; and blue for vigilance and justice."

That definition is what America is all about. That's what we celebrate. That's is why we are so darn resilient. You may be able to wound us, but we will most certainly overcome your hate and destruction.

There are plenty of people who don't like Reagan's definition. Some people ask what their country can do for them (instead of what they can do for their country). Some dislike our high ideals, or, at least resent where the high ideals came from. Some would argue that vigilance is narrow-mindedness and that justice isn't about character. These people sabotage our resilience.

The American flag is nailed to the boarded-up front door where two barbaric individuals once lived. Their actions are despised. Their names will be forgotten. Thanks to courageous people who are ready to sacrifice with pure intentions and high ideals, with vigilance for justice, we have a strong resilience. And, because of that, it is true, we will not be terrorized.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This Blog Has Been Abandoned (Or So It Seems)

Lost Truck Hood - Tehachapi, California
The Urban Exploration Photography Blog has been very quiet lately. It seems like it's been abandoned, much like the places featured here or the old hood in the photograph above.

I haven't actually abandoned this blog. I've been extraordinarily busy lately. In fact, I just moved across town a couple of days ago. There's work, family and holidays. And in five months I'm moving my family from California to Utah. I just haven't had the time to regularly post updates.

I will occasionally publish articles and photographs. I haven't called it quits. But until I get settled in Utah, don't expect more than a handful of posts per month. It's just not going to happen. Eventually, though, I plan to bring the content and quality of The Urban Exploration Photography Blog back up to what it was earlier this year.

Your patience and understanding through all of this is greatly appreciated. I cannot thank you enough for checking in, sticking with me, viewing the posts that have been published. It means a lot, and it's the reason that I'm not giving up on this blog (even though at times it seems like I have). Really, thanks!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

This Place Looks Abandoned, But It's Not...

Abandoned With Joshua - Mojave, California
Along a quiet road in the harsh Mojave Desert, a little outside of the small, dingy town of Mojave, California, among Joshua Trees and near a silver mine, sits what at first glance appears to be an old abandoned gas station. But this place is not abandoned. This is the Mojave Tropico Filming set.

The website says that this location has a "classic desert ambiance" which, in fact, it does. Boarded up, broken down buildings are common in this area. Forgotten cars, tires and oil drums can be found among the creosote and cactus. And this ambiance can be rented for your movie, television show, commercial or music video.

Even though it looks like a dilapidated mess, it's actually all make-believe. It's all carefully orchestrated. This is Hollywood, only out in the lonely, wind-blown dusty desert.
Toilets - Mojave, California
I couldn't find any information on what exactly has been filmed at the Mojave Tropico Filming set. This area is a popular filming location and has been for many years. But specifics on this particular set didn't come up in a Google search. It seems familiar enough that I'm sure I've seen it before in something, but I just can't put a finger on what.

There's a small fence that surrounds this set and signs warn not to trespass. I didn't see anyone around watching, but I decided not to cross the fence anyway. It's obviously private property and they don't want people poking around. I was able to capture these images from behind the fence.

I used a Sony RX100 II to capture these photographs. I post-processed the RAW files using Phase One Capture One Express, exported as TIFFs, then further edited using Alien Skin Exposure 7.
Tire Pile - Mojave, California
Vintage Truck & Joshua Tree - Mojave, California
Blue 55 Gallon Drum - Mojave, California
Deserted Desert Dreams - Mojave, California
Vintage Truck In The Desert - Mojave, California
ERV - Mojave, California