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0

Creating the image "Event Horizon"

Event Horizon from Walter Arnold on Vimeo.

One pack of steel wool + one 9v battery + one old stone tunnel = an awesome photo shoot! I teamed up with fellow photog A.D. Wheeler one dark night outside of Elmira NY to film this. I can 100% say do not try this at home! We came completely prepared with our equipment and actually did this while it was raining outside the tunnel to be sure there was no risk of fire. It was totally fun and resulted in some great video and one awesome image! Enjoy some dangerously close video and some high speed video as well!

Here is the final result:

Nikon D800 with Sigma 12-24mm Mark II taken at F8 - 15seconds - ISO 100 - :

Also here's a shot of my little GoPro filming at the Event Horizon :)

Event Horizon GoPro

Here is the resulting video and image from A.D. Wheeler:

Spinning Fire from A.D. Wheeler on Vimeo.

2

Project Imagin8ion Hometown Screenings

The whirlwind of excitement that is “Project Imagin8ion” continued over the last month as we worked with Canon to roll out the red carpet in both my hometown of Elmira, NY as well as my current home of Asheville, NC. We held special one night screenings of the final film “When You Find Me” at our local Regal Cinemas and invited friends, family, followers, and everyone else who was eagerly awaiting the chance to see the final film as it was meant to be seen: on the BIG screen!   Asheville, NC Event: (Thanks to Jared Kay of Amplified Media for taking these pictures!)

  Both events were tremendous successes and we had an awesome time greeting everyone in the lobby of the theaters that had displayed huge twelve foot banners depicting the astounding 96,000+ images submitted as well as the final 8 selected by Ron Howard himself. The excitement grew as everyone waited in line for a chance to get a ticket to the film. Local media was on site doing live broadcasts, interviews, and even joining us to screen the film. At the Elmira, NY event we had sold out of seats 40 minutes before the show even started and everyone packed into the theater for a standing room only showing! Movie goers viewed the making of the film, followed by the film itself, and then we held a Q+A session and gave away a large assortment of prints and donations from local businesses. A wonderful evening was had by all. Tears were shed, as well as laughter and roaring applause!

Elmira, NY Event: (click arrows to advance slideshow) - Thanks to Andy of A.D. Wheeler Photography for taking these images! I must say from a personal standpoint it was a both an exhilarating and humbling experience for me. To see so many faces (old and new) show up in support of my accomplishment was such an honor. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people rooting for me and cheering me on. Never in a million years would I have ever dreamed that by simply doing what I love to do would lead to such an achievement. Even today I am still lost for words to describe how thankful and how fortunate I am to be a part of this ground breaking Endeavour. Thank you Ron Howard, Canon, friends, family, fans, and most of all my loving wife Amanda, step daughter Brianna, and my parents. NONE of this would have been possible without your love and support. Now… the big question: What happens next??? - I for one, am eager to find out! Stay tuned!

3

Project Imagin8ion - Film Premier and NYC Trip

Let me start by saying; never in a million years would I have imagined that I would win a national photo competition, let alone one where almost 100,000 people entered, or one where a Hollywood movie director selected the winners and made a movie based around the shots….

I am blessed…honored… and deeply humbled.

These last four months have been a whirlwind of emotions, events, and triumphs, and I am so thankful for every one of them. From Shooting Sigma’s international Ad Campaign, to getting married and going on a honeymoon in Italy, to walking the red carpet at the movie premier for Canon’s Project Imagin8ion… 2012’s going to have to be a pretty epic year to top this one!

Canon flew up the eight winners from the Project Imagin8ion contest from all corners of the country to New York City. My wife Amanda and I came up a few days early since she had never been to NYC. We checked in to the Park Central Hotel, just a few blocks south of Central Park and across the street from Carnegie Hall.

I played the role of tour guide as we visited the obligatory sights; Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Radio City, Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry, Grand Central Station, The theater district, and of course Ray’s Pizza!

We met up with another one of the winners; Chris Wehner, and his girlfriend Sarah, who had also arrived early. We had dinner at the Red Eye grill and afterward, explored the city together at night.

Chris had remembered seeing an old firehouse on a side street nearby so we set out to find it. After walking about 15 blocks we finally stumbled across it! The door to the station barely looked big enough to get a truck through! As Chris and I were admiring the vintage facade, Amanda and Sarah were in the entrance and one of them unknowingly brushed against the doorbell to the station. We were about to walk away when a fireman literally burst through the door, scaring the living daylights out of all of us! He was laughing pretty hard at startling us as Chris and I introduced ourselves. Not only did he not mind us photographing the outside of the building, he raised the garage door and invited us inside to shoot wherever we liked! We explored the vintage fire hall which was built in the early 1900’s and photographed everything we could. Mike, the fireman that let us in told us some interesting facts. Such as, each day at least 3 three people are hit by cars, and that they usually have well over 3000 calls a year! Also that truck that we thought could never make it through the door, really only has INCHES of clearance and they have to back that giant rig into the garage over 40 times a week!

 

 

After two days of exploring the city, the night of the film premier was here! “When You Find Me” directed by Ron Howard and his daughter Bryce, premiered at the American Museum of Natural History on 11/15/2011. The eight winners met in the lobby of the hotel, many of us meeting in person for the first time. We had a few short minutes to chat, congratulate, and take a few snapshots before we were ferried over to the museum.

None of us really knew what to expect. We were all excitedly nervous and anxious to see what was in store for us.

Our ride pulled up in front of the entrance to the museum where a long red carpet was laid out from the curb to doorway. We walked into the museum and just around the corner was the ‘real’ red carpet where 25-30 reporters and cameramen awaited us. ABC, CBS, NBC, E! Tv, Access Hollywood, all there…. With big cameras, microphones, and banks of LED lights and flashes to fire in our faces! This was the point where I had expected I would get really nervous. However, in the second we marched out in front of everyone, the magnitude of the situation overwhelmed any sense of fear or apprehension and I just ‘lived the moment’. It’s hard to describe, but it was so overwhelming that it had the opposite effect on me and I actually calmed down and relaxed. At least that’s how I felt on the inside; I may have looked like a deer in headlights for all I know!

After group shots, we moved aside for the guests of the hour, Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard, as the made their way onto the red carpet. We all watched them talk to the press and take pictures, and then we had our opportunity to get a group shot with the both of them.

After the red carpet we headed towards the movie theater, but on the way we found ourselves in a hallway which (brace yourselves) had all 96,000+ images printed on the walls from floor to ceiling! It was at this point that we all fully realized the magnitude of this project and the enormity of it all. The best word I can use is ‘dizzying’. I had never seen anything like this and it really helped me understand just how lucky I was to be selected out of a sea of images from all over the country.

The gallery progressed to larger images of the top 30 semi-finalists in each of the 8 categories, and then finally large framed photos of the winning 8 images.

Then, the theater…

The winners got front row seats and we took our spots. Moments later Ron and Bryce walked in and sat directly behind us. I mean I could have leaned over and asked for a stick of gum I was so close!

The lights dimmed…

Then…

WOW….

Who knew, that so much emotion and drama and feeling could be packed into a 25 minute time span? Not only did the movie do justice to every one of our winning photos, but we were all blown away seeing them come to life right before our eyes! I am sure I was not the only one in the theater choking back tears during the film. It was very emotional and powerful on many levels. Both Bryce as director and Dane Charbeneau as the writer masterfully crafted our images into a cohesive story that gripped the viewer from the very first seconds of the film. After the film we watched Ron, Bryce, Dane, David Edelstein, (Chief Film Critic, New York Magazine) and the head marketing rep from Canon talk about the movie, the making of, and the inspiration from the photos. It was so cool to hear them talk about our individual photos and call us collaborators of the film. Truly surreal!

Then it was time for the after party!

As a kid I had been to the Museum of Natural history more than a few times, and the one room that I can still remember to this date was the “Whale Room”. This massive two story room held dioramas and exhibits all around the perimeter, but hung from the ceiling was a gargantuan life size blue whale. Who could forget something like that??? So imagine my surprise when we rounded a corner and entered the very same room, now decked out as an upscale NY nightclub. Fancy spotlights cast light and shadows all around the room which was filled with couches and a few standing tables. Digital screens surrounded the upper levels of the hall with “Canon” and “Project Imagin8ion” flashing on them. The center of the room held the (open!) bar, for which they had purchased giant digital touch sensitive countertops which displayed thousands of pictures from the contest that you could swipe and sift through with your hands by touching them. It was phenomenal!

We hung out at a cluster of couches and snacked on some food and drinks. Ron and Bryce mingled nearby and we were able to grab them for a few moments to chat and take pictures. The thing that struck me the most about Ron and Bryce is how unbelievably kind and down to earth they were. They were two of the nicest people I have met. Even though they were being swarmed with people looking to talk to them, they didn't mind to take a few moments to chat and have their picture taken with us.

( Bryce the Director and Dane the writer)

Some of the press were still there and we did a few more interviews one on one. We were also able to hang out and talk with some of the actresses from the film. They were so wonderful to talk with; they were just as excited to meet us as we were them. I complimented them, telling them how impressed I was that they were able to evoke so much emotion in the film in the very short time span they had to film. I met some of the top Canon execs from Japan as well as some of the marketing guys from Grey (the advertising agency for Canon) who actually came up with the idea for Project Imagin8ion. Everyone was so excited to see this production come full circle and be executed flawlessly.

Around midnight we made our way back to the main entrance, claimed our gift bags which had a large framed print of the 8 winning images, a signed screenplay by Ron, and a Project Imagin8ion hat! We joined the winners and a few of the folks from Grey and Alliance Agency (the PR company for Grey) at Columbus Tavern a few blocks away for an ‘After After Party’. We celebrated some more until 2am when we hailed a cab back to the hotel.

Words cannot express all of the emotions and moments of the evening. Suffice it to say that it was a once in a lifetime experience and one that I will never forget!

Best of all, it’s not over yet! The film will air online in December 2011 for a few weeks, and then it will be coming to each of our regions in 1st quarter of 2012. Also it will be shown at Sundance, Tribeca, and will be screened by the Academy for a potential nomination for an Oscar!

So a big THANK YOU to Canon, Grey, Alliance Agency, Ron and Bryce, all the 8 winners, and all of my fans, friends, and family who have been so supportive, cheering me along every step of the way. I thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart!

Now… On to the next big thing!!!  
9

The Adandoned Hotel Adler - Sharon Springs NY

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“The Adler Hotel was a 150-room, five-story hotel in Sharon Springs, New York that was operated from 1929 until 2004. Known for its therapeutic sulfur baths, it catered primarily to a Jewish clientele who travelled to Sharon Springs in the summers. Ed Koch (congressman and former mayor of NY) worked as a busboy at the hotel in 1946.” Over the last few years a company has purchased the location with plans to renovate it, but lack of recent news/plans may indicate that the renovation has been put on hold for reasons unknown. -From Wikipedia The Adler Hotel was the fourth and final location that we traveled to on our week long Urban Exploration trip in July 2010. Some last minute research by my brother yielded this gem of a location. We drove almost three hours from Elmira to Sharon Springs and had no problem finding the Old hotel on Adler Drive. We parked and walked up to the hotel and made our way in.

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The lobby had three beautiful sets of double doors with a windowed arch above each. The drapes softened the afternoon light that streamed through boarded up front doors.

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The front desk held many interesting relics from years past. An old switchboard that once routed calls for the hotel still had patch cords running everywhere and listings for local businesses that had long since closed their doors.

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The main lobby divided the ground floor in half and separated the entertainment and the dining side of the hotel. The entertainment wing had a small game room with a few old puzzles and board games scattered around the floor.

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The main room on this side of the building was a small theater complete with an old curtained stage which was home to the bulk of the hotel’s old chairs.

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On the opposite side of the building was a very large dining room and kitchen area.

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We started to make our way up to the second floor and the guest rooms. The rooms were an unbelievable sight to behold. Every room had wallpaper and decorations from the 60’s and 70’s. The various designs of wallpaper in each room always were unique and quite humorous. Some had brightly colored garish designs, others had a silver reflective surface that was almost mirror like.  Whoever was the wall paper supplier for Sharon Springs must have had a hay day installing all these wacky designs.

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Another thing that none of the rooms lacked was a vintage telephone. Most were jet black and only dialed the front desk’s switchboard; a few in the larger rooms had options when dialing out.

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Quite a few factors came together to make the Alder a fantastic place to shoot. The color coordination of the room’s carpet, sheets and bedding, and wallpaper, and the obviously recent use of many of the rooms by squatters and homeless. People who had used these rooms recently had taken the blankets and hung them up over the windows (presumably for privacy and also to keep out drafts in the winter). So in an already green themed room, the sun streaming diffusely through a heavy green blanket, made for magical color tones and light in the scene.

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We continued through each room in the hotel, some rooms appeared more inhabited than others. We worked our way up floor by floor. It was in the upper 90’s, one of the hottest days of the year so when we arrived at the top floor the temperature became unbearable and we back tracked down the stairs.

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After shooting for a good 2-3 hours we headed back outside and shot a few exterior shots of the building and swimming pool before packing up our gear and waving farewell to our last stop on the 2010 URBEX trip.

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-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

An Art by Decay production


16

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort - Revisit

Day three of the 2010 Urban Exploration trip: Return to Grossinger’s Abandoned Resort in Liberty NY.

In October of 2009 my fellow ArtByDecay.com photog Andy and I had visited the abandoned Grossinger’s Resort (you can read the original photo-blog here). The haunting beauty of a bygone age echoed from every crumbling room and we were dying to go back and revisit the location armed with flashlights and walkie talkies. This time around my brother Will and friend Dave joined us for the abandoned goodness. Last year the golf course was fairly desolate because of cold October temperatures, and sneaking in was not a problem. This time in July the golf course was in full swing (pun intended). We opted to simply park on the back road and enter from the side. Slipping in undetected always gets a sigh of relief. We headed for the outdoor pool first and presented to Will and Dave their first taste of the massive abandoned glory that Grossinger’s has to offer. It was a balmy 97 degrees and exhaustion from the previous two days of exploring was catching up with me so I didn't take any serious pictures of the pool while we cooked under the summer sun. We walked around the complex then entered through a side entrance that we had not used last time. We found what might have been a large lobby at one point. The room now held only a scattering of random detritus. On the far side a grand staircase made its way up to a second floor balcony.

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We photographed this room and a few side rooms before continuing deeper into the building.

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We passed a bank of elevators filled with debris. We walked up a small set of stairs and came out to the infamous (in my mind) “Bar Stool Room”. I took a few shots but didn't think I could outdo my work from October:

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Armed with a flashlight I felt braver than before and pushed further into the building in the direction of the indoor pool. I had only gone about 50 feet when my flashlight beam revealed a fog of humidity and particulates in the air. It was so dense that I was concerned about even removing my camera from the bag. Andy cautioned us to put our masks on as a precaution. As we walked around we realized we were actually below the massive indoor swimming pool. This area at one point was a spa. Directly below the deep end of the pool was a cracked and grimy glass window that looked into the swimming pool. In the adjacent rooms were a shower and changing area for the guests, and a locker room. The giant white shower curtains with the signature Grossinger’s “G” just begged to be taken for souvenirs, but our URBEXer’s credo of leaving things untouched and unharmed resonated in my mind, and I opted for a silly portrait to remember instead!

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The remnants of a salon complete with vintage hair drying chairs stood haphazardly in a dark corner of the particulate clouded sub-level. This area was completely devoid of outside windows was almost pitch black. We set up and shot long exposures of 15+ seconds and ‘light painted’ the chairs with LED flashlights to get the desired effect. It was an interesting photographic experience shooting a subject that we could barely see, while wearing masks, in potentially hazardous environment. We shot for about 10 minutes until we got the right combination of shutter speed and light from the flashlights. Will and I took the opportunity to get some atypical portraits of ourselves sitting in the antique chairs.

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After 30 minutes in the Grossinger’s underground we headed up the stairs to the indoor pool.  Grossinger’s pool is truly a sight to see. Even after our first visit, the indoor pool took our breath away.  There is something about the massive space of the area that makes everything feel vast yet confined at the same time. Strangely, I felt a sense of intimacy when in such a large enclosed and derelict space that is hard to describe. We spent a good 45 minutes shooting, composing, and yelling, asking if we were in each other’s frames as we shot. It was a feast of a scene and we devoured it!

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We headed back out and around the building the way we came in then continued around to the far side. We passed an entrance to a portion of the complex where I rememberd a nasty prank that Andy had played on me during our last visit. Now that my younger brother was with us, I figured it would be a perfect time to play a mean ‘older brother’ prank on him! As we neared the entrance I stopped and acted excited saying “Oh! Will, you HAVE to step inside that entrance and look into the room to your left, you won’t believe what you see in there!” Given that it had been more than 10 years since I had played prank on him, he naively obliged and walked about 5 steps into the darkened entrance. As soon as he was fully inside the building, I picked up a medium sized rock, and hurled it through a broken window a few feet to his left! The rock nicked a shard of broken glass still hanging loosely in the window and made a beautifully loud and scary bang followed by the shattered glass clanking to the ground. Will bolted from the hotel, eyes wide and saying words that I can’t mention here! Dave, Andy, and I were cracking up and he soon realized that the joke was on him. I laughed even harder since Andy had done the exact same thing to me during our first visit! Since the golf course was open we didn't want to risk being seen by walking out near the road. We were headed to the one location that we had not visited the first time around; the ice skating rink. We crossed through the gigantic dining room. (We had thought this room was the ballroom but a reader of my first blog who had worked at Grossinger’s for many years corrected our assumptions.) We left the dining room and walked up the steep embankment towards the old wooden building next to the ice rink. As we approached it, we could easily see just how bad of shape it was in. A back door hung from its hinges but we pushed our way through and into the building. The wooden floor boards had rotted away over the years. The floor was very soft and we stepped gingerly. At one point my foot actually broke through the floor. The room was lined with old benches that were shedding beautiful flaking paint in bright red and yellow colors. A large old sign read “North American Invitational Barrel Jumping”. Mosquitoes and high temperatures drove us back out into the hot summer air after 15 minutes.

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We left the ice rink and went back through the old dining room. As we reentered the dining room, we noticed a gap in the ceiling that permitted a very thin beam of late afternoon light to enter the darkened space. The beam shone brightly through the dust and debris hanging in the air and made for a beautiful shot.

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One of the members of our team (I will withhold names) happened to have a pack of cigarettes on them and we took advantage of the opportunity to make an interesting artistic shot with the wafts of smoke flowing through the light beam. We headed back towards our car, stopping at the old club house near the tennis courts to snag some last minute shots.

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We walked back to the car and bid a fond farewell to the “Titanic” of Urban Exploration. The return to Grossinger’s did not disappoint and we captured some new scenes as well as re-shot some of our favorites parts of the resort in a different season. Even in the killing heat of summer, Grossinger’s was alive in spirit. Countless ghosts, memories, and stories lurked around every decaying corner of the complex. Hopefully the images captured here will spark your own memories or conjure up stories even if you have never been to Grossinger’s. Grossinger's Abandoned Resort from Walter Arnold on Vimeo.

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

An Art by Decay production

27

The Castle on the Hill - Jackson Sanatorium

"Founded on rock. For suffering ones and weary. A home, secure from worldly care and strife. Nature, the healing mistress, tends its portals. Beckoning with gentle hand to paths of life."
-K. J. J.
After exploring the amazing ‘modern ruins’ of Grossinger’s Resort, Andy and I had Urban Exploration fever! So a few days later we made plans to go explore Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville NY. Here’s a short history of Jackson:
The Jackson Sanatorium was founded in 1854 by Nathaniel Bingham and was established 'for the scientific treatment of invalid, and for the recuperation and rest in cases of overwork and nervous exhaustion.' Jackson, 'The Castle on the Hill', was conducted as a Health Institution and not as a 'fashionable resort'. The surrounding wooded area, temperate climate, and sources of natural springs and mineral waters were what drew the founders of Jackson to that area. The natural mineral waters were prescribed for many kinds of chronic ailments. The main building at Jackson was made from brick and iron and was marketed as "Absolutely Fire-Proof. The cost of renting a room in the main building ranged from $17.50 - $35.00 per week for an individual. Jackson could accommodate only 300 guests.
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The morning we left, Elmira had its first snow of the year. In town there were light patches of snow on the ground, and flurries floating through the air. As we passed through Corning and Painted Post, the snow picked up and the hills were covered like “Frosted Mini Wheat’s”. We had high hopes of being able to get some snow shots at the sanatorium, but those hopes were dashed as we descended into the Dansville valley where the snow faded, and everything was just wet.
We parked in a parking lot about a quarter mile from the sanatorium, and loaded up our gear. This time we remembered flashlights! We walked up the hill, ignored a no trespassing sign as we walked around a locked gate and followed a grassy path. On the way we passed several abandoned decaying houses that were slowly rotting and crumbling away. As we walked along a grass path the sanatorium came into view: a beautiful 5 story red brick building, perched majestically on the side of the hill looking down at the small town of Dansville NY.
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Rain drops trickled out of the sky on to us and our gear as we setup outside the building and shot our exterior shots.
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We marveled at the beautiful arched windows and wrought iron balconies that evenly dotted the outside of the building.
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The building was 300 feet wide, but its depth was relatively shallow, maybe no more than 40 feet. On the short side of the building we noticed a massive scar; from the fourth floor down to the second, a large gash was cut into the brick. As wide as the windows and two stories tall, the wound opened up to show empty decaying rooms inside and provided an interesting glimpse into what a cross-section view of the building might look like if you sliced it in half.
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After making good use of our wide angle lenses, we walked up to the front door. We walked up the wooden stairs and entered into the main reception hall of Jackson Sanatorium. On our right a set of stairs led downwards into the pitch black basement. Above us, an iron railed staircase began its circling upward journey, dizzying us as we followed it up to the fourth floor with our eyes.
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In front of us a set of columns and arches presented themselves as remnants of what once was front desk or receiving area of the building.
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We immediately noticed that whatever material the floors may have been made out of at one time, now consisted of many inches of packed dust and dirt that revealed old footprints of other fellow urban explorers.
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As we slowly walked around the lobby we could already taste the gritty dusty dirt that had become airborne as we paced around. We donned our masks and broke out the flashlights. Slowly we walked down the main downstairs hall, peeking in closets and old debris filled rooms with the narrow beams of our lights. The right hall ended in what must have been a large den or community room. All the first floor windows were boarded up tight, only allowing slivers of dim overcast light from the outside to enter.
We headed up the stairs to the second floor:
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Andy in action:
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We began slowly walking down the main hall, looking in the old rooms. Many rooms were completely bare, some were in great condition, others looked like the floor or ceiling might collapse at any moment, and in others, the floor/ceiling actually HAD collapsed! We spent a good deal of time exploring the first three floors, shooting the beautiful decaying hallways, rooms, and objects that we found.
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I had seen some pictures taken from the roof so I really wanted to find a way up there. Andy stayed below and shot some more scenes while I slowly ventured up the next three flights of ever-decaying stairs. The floors of the upper level seemed to progressively get less stable. I could feel soft areas all over the place and was very careful to move slowly and spread out my body weight as much as possible. As I arrived on the roof level I noticed the significant damage of the upper level rooms. Ceilings had collapsed, walls had fallen over, and there were signs of major fire damage all around.
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I emerged on the wide open roof and took in the breath taking panoramic view of Dansville NY.
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I was alone, 6 stories up on the roof of a crumbling building, and my heart was racing with excitement! After hours of shooting and exploring the abandoned hallways and rooms of Jackson, I stood on the roof feeling victorious as if I had conquered a massive giant in battle!
A large tower still stood on top of the roof:
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After taking in the view I headed back down to Andy.
We returned to the first floor and explored the left side of the building. We found a very large, long room lined on both sides with pillars. This was the old dining room. Boarded up windows lined either wall allowing the smallest slivers of light to pass through into the room. We set up our cameras at the entrance to the room and just had some fun running around with our flashlights and 'light painting'.
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After exploring Jackson for at over two hours, we were chilled to the bone and wheezing from the dust we had breathed in. We packed our things and headed out of the building. We walked back to our car but not before stopping to turn around, and admire once more the giant, looming ruins, of the Castle on the Hill.
Ariel view of Jackson Sanatorium:
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To view more of my work and purchase prints, head over to The Digital Mirage.
16

Modern Ruins - Grossinger's Resort

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While making plans to visit my family in upstate NY this October, fellow photographer Andy Wheeler and I began concocting ideas for our ideal photo-adventure. Andy did lots of research and by the time I flew in to the Elmira airport he had a nice sized list of places we could go. One location however jumped off the page at both of us: Grossinger's Resort in the Catskill mountains. The history of Grossinger's is a long one, so here's the short version: “Grossinger's was founded by Asher Selig Grossinger who moved to the Catskills in the 1900's. The location grew and he turned ownership over to his daughter. The resort thrived for many years as a prime vacation spot for the rich. Grossinger's daughter died in 1972, but by this time the resort had grown to a "sprawling complex of 35 buildings on 1200 acres that served 150,000 guests a year. It had it's own airstrip and post office. But in the late 1970's and 1980's, resorts like Grossinger's... could no longer attract younger guests. Grossinger's closed in 1986, and only the golf course remains." (Quote courtesy of http://www.catskillarchive.com/grossinger/index.htm) To us, the prospect of exploring the abandoned decaying ruins of a massive location such as this was too good to pass up. My plane flew in on Saturday night, and first thing Sunday morning Andy and I headed out to Liberty NY to go explore the resort. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive from Elmira NY to Liberty, but we spent about 45 minutes driving back and forth across Liberty until we were able to track down the location. Not really sure about the legality of potentially trespassing on the land, we spent a few minutes driving around the surrounding areas trying to figure out the best place to stash our car and make a subtle sneaky entrance onto the property. We parked behind a large utility truck next to a warehouse on the back side of the still functioning golf course. We unpacked our gear and followed the road to the back edge of the golf course. We headed towards the looming buildings in the distance as the grass and shrubs grew taller and denser. The first building we passed was a club house for the tennis courts. Peering through the shattered windows we could see trash and rubble all around. Old tennis ads from the 70's/80's still adorned the walls. We continued on down the hill towards the ever growing complex. Waist high grass, debris, and downed electrical wire covered the ground which was swampy in places. The first large building we came to, part of the old hotel, was about 4 stories tall.
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An open emergency exit revealed little to the naked eye but rubble in darkness. It was at this point that Andy realized that we forgot to pack flashlights. After deciding not to enter that particular part of the complex we continued around the outside of the building. About 50 yards away we came to another entrance that opened up into a large two story open room. Our best guess was that this area must have been a lobby for the banquet hall. Shattered ceiling tiles littered the floor, cracked and split, but undisturbed from the time when they had once fallen.
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Other rubble was mixed into the piles of debris that we stepped through to get a good view of the room. Hundreds of old bowls and dining accessories from the kitchen lay strewn about.
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We explored the immediate area without delving too far into the darkness. We didn't spend too long there as we had seen some amazing pictures taken from a decaying indoor swimming pool, and we really wanted to find that location and explore it. Looking out from the door we entered through, we saw that the brush was extremely thick around the outside of the building. We chose to cut through a large room, crossing over to another door on the far side where we saw some daylight shining in. The room was massive, two stories tall, and about the size of a football field. As we crossed through the darkness towards the daylight emanating from the exit on the other side, we speculated that this must have been a ballroom, used for huge events and parties. The room was mostly free from debris and the floor was a solid concrete foundation. We exited the building and made our way up a steep embankment, crossing a small paved road that led up to the golf course. Careful to not be seen, we jogged towards a small greenhouse farther up the hill. The small anteroom was strewn with trash. We poked our heads through the door into the greenhouse itself and viewed a beautiful scene of plants, vines, and weeds, growing out of control, up to the ceiling of the room.
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An old phone and scattered papers lay strewn about the room.
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After shooting the greenhouse we back tracked down the hill and came upon what seemed to be a loading dock area next to the old boiler room building.
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A monstrous pile of junk and debris was heaped between the buildings here and as if beckoning for a photo-op, an old wooden chair sat out in the middle of the courtyard in front of the junk pile. You can tell we are hardcore because of the wicked cool font I chose for our names! There are SKULLS in it!
Walt and Andy
We were having a blast, but at this point we were really getting anxious to see the fabled indoor swimming pool. Not knowing exactly where it was we continued around the outskirts of the complex. Just as we rounded the corner we saw it! The Pool!!! Magnificent two story glass windows surrounded three fourths of the pool. We rushed to the main outdoor entrance only to find it fully blocked and boarded up. As we began walking around the outside of the building we noticed an emergency exit door on the far corner of the building. The only problem was, there were no stairs. The door opened onto a small ledge that ran the full length around the building; however the ledge was easily 10 feet high and less than a foot wide. With all of our camera gear and the lack of good sturdy climbing trees, this was not going to be an easy option. We opted to fully circle the building to see if we could locate any other access. There were no other simple ways to get in from the ground level that we could see. It was at this point that we realized that up to now, we had not seen or heard any animals of any kind. Then, as if taking from a Hitchcock movie, a murder of large crows began circling above us, cawing loudly, as if to warn us that this was their domain and we should be warned. As we pondered our next move we noticed a glass entry way leading into an adjoining building.
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The glass entrance gave way to a large vacant room, with large 'trenches' running the full length of the room that revealed pipes lying in the bottoms.
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We crossed some planks over the trenches into what at one point, was the Coffee Shop and soda fountain area. A row of beautifully decaying green bar stools faced the wall of the room. The chairs were all still bolted in the floor and were textured with rust, mildew, and grime from years of neglect. Tattered red upholstery peeked from beneath the chairs offering a beautiful compliment to the vivid green vinyl of the chairs.
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Comparison shot of what the bar area used to look like (different angle): CORRECTION: The room pictured below is the Pink Elephant Lounge and not the same room as the bar stools (above) which were located in the Coffee Shop.
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We walked back outside, pondering our dilemma of gaining access to the indoor pool. As we walked back around the pool building we passed under a second story hallway/catwalk that ran about 100 feet from the second story of the decaying hotel to the top level of the pool. This was going to be our only option. Nervously, we inspected the bottom of the raised hallway, we noted that it was made completely out of wood. Luckily for the most part it showed no signs of water damage save for one 5 by 10 foot segment that looked very rotted and decayed. We headed into the hotel building and climbed the stairs into the second floor. I poked my head in one of the hotel rooms on the second floor only to be smacked in the face by an overwhelming stench of mold and decay. I also noticed some graffiti which read "Jesus took LSD and thought he was ME"...Interesting... A pair of steel swinging doors opened up into the raised wooden hallway which was littered with planks and boards which had fallen off the walls and ceiling.
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We knew the decaying area was close to our end and we figured going one at a time would be a wise idea. Andy volunteered...me....Suddenly wishing I had not eaten those super-sized fries on the drive out, I timidly inched my way out into the hallway. Staying as close to the wall as possible I crept forward...one foot at a time...listening, and feeling. After I had made it about 10 feet, I put my foot down and felt it SINK as the floor flexed under my weight. Since I had already transferred my weight to that foot, I was committed, I screamed like a little girl (just kidding) leaped forward past the decaying area on to what I hoped was a sturdier part of the hallway. At this point, with my heart racing, and legs shaking, I was not about to stop moving, and I speed walked safely to the other end of the hallway. Andy was able to cross safely, now knowing the treacherous spots. Still, I am sure it was a little more than nerve racking for him to cross that same area. We stepped through the doors at the end of the hallway and feasted our eyes on a truly magnificent scene. What we saw was the epitome of beauty in decay.
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The massive indoor pool sat in the middle of the two story room surrounded by 20-30 feet of red and white checker board tiled floor, out of which grew lush moss, ferns, and grasses. Lounge chairs still adorned the green outskirts of the pool like broken Christmas ornaments on a tree hastily thrown out on the curb. From floor to ceiling, the still intact giant glass windows shone the mid day sun, which glowed off everything giving a warm nostalgic feel to the entire room.
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Comparison shot of the pool:
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Gigantic wooden beams ran up the walls and across the ceiling leading the eye to the rows and banks of lights that at one point lit up the room at night. From the ceiling hung beautiful art deco chandeliers straight out of the 70's. As we walked around the pool gazing at the decadent beauty that surrounded us, particularly the vegetation, we noticed that for the most part, the moss seemed to grow only on the red tiles. This made for a strange checkerboard effect, the likes of which we had never seen before!
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As we shot the room from all different angles, we heard noises echoing through the building. What must have been parts of the building falling and breaking off on distant floors, occasionally echoed through cavernous room, giving the feeling that the building indeed was alive and aware of our presence. Water trickled down from the leaky roof spattering on the floor around us.
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Before we left I could not resist getting a picture of myself sitting in the bottom of the pool!
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We successfully crossed back over the decaying hallway and continued our circle around the outskirts of the complex. We passed by another few large hotel buildings on the west side.
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Another shot to compare:
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As we neared the first building we entered on the way in we discovered the outdoor swimming pool on the north west side of the complex.
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Outdoor pool comparison:
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Inside the power box at the outdoor poolside bar I discovered that the only breaker labeled was the beer cooler! This must have been party central!
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Andy led us down some stairs at the end of the pool and we discovered the pool's pump room below. We figured this was a good time to don our masks. We entered the room which was filled with decaying pool chairs stacked all around. Giant pipes, pumps, and tanks lined the far wall of the room.
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Large industrial sized canisters sat on the floor in front of the tanks. Presumably at one point they held chlorine or other pool cleaning chemicals, but they had long since leaked out onto the floor, leaving a powdery snow-like substance which made us glad that we had masks.
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We walked back up around the pool and headed towards the tennis courts and clubhouse. The office part of the clubhouse was utterly destroyed with papers and junk littering the floor, but the 'den' area was open with a few old couches and random junk spaced around.
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An old pay phone hung on the wall next to the entrance.
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We found an old panel that at one point controlled the lights and heat(?) on the tennis courts.
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Stairs leading out of the clubhouse:
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We headed up to the tennis courts and were witness to an amazing sight of birch trees growing up through cracks in the court. The interesting thing was that there was a straight line of trees growing directly across both courts where the tennis nets used to be!
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We headed back to our car, thrilled and exhausted from an exciting afternoon photographing these amazing modern ruins. While exploring and observing the decaying glory of what was once a beautiful thriving location, we could not help but feel that Grossinger's was still alive. While it was obviously in a state of decay, it was autumn here. It was past the point where its shiny facade glistened in the sunlight, but it had yet to arrive at a state of complete entropy and ruin. If the resort was a living being, it gave the impression that it was still waking up each morning, still putting on its makeup, still trying to look good for its guests, but all the while slowly falling apart. Around every corner we could still see and imagine the beauty that once was. We could envision guests strolling around walkways lined with gardens and flowers, we could see people lounging in deck chairs next to the pool and jumping off the diving board. Grossinger's physical beauty was slowly crumbling and dying, but its spirit was still very much alive. This is an aerial map showing the path we took while exploring Grossinger's:
1000x SatelliteMapWALKTRACK with notes
View more of my work and purchase prints at The Digital Mirage Map Provided By Andy Wheeler Studio@dragonnote.com Comparison Photographs provided by Joe Lehman http://www.joe4speed.com/grossingers.htm
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The Land of Broken Dreams

DISCLAIMER: The following pictures were from one of my first explorations, and you might say this location helped foster my interest in abandoned places. These photos were taken back in 2007 when I was still trying to learn the ropes of my digital SLR so don't critique them too hard!  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Land of Broken Dreams

   

In NY, north of Syracuse, off the interstate in the woods behind Robert Smith's AKA "The Birdman of Exit 39" humble house, lies a fascinating place called:

"The Land of Broken Dreams".

 

Over many years, Mr. Smith built and expanded upon his labor of love, creating a entire world in the woods. Small huts and crude shelters along makeshift "streets" once housed birds, peasants, ducks, peacocks, rabbits and other such wildlife. He decorated these streets and buildings with children's toys, statutes, lights, and what he lovingly calls junk. "It's all junk" he told us when we arrived at his house to explore and take pictures of the "ruins".  

"Why would anyone be interested in this old junk? Are you from the big city?" he asked, his voice barely audible above the roar of the interstate just 100 feet away that was put in years after he built his house. Walking around this place that was literally falling apart as we ventured around corners and in and out the small huts, one could not help but imagine the former beauty and the staggering enormity of this 'land' that Robert Smith had created.  

As we walked underneath a two story structure built up with plywood and fiberglass roofing materials, a large part of the structure abruptly collapsed onto the group just feet behind us, driving home the notion that what remained of this fascinating place might not be around for much longer. Toys and yard sale junk adorned the boards and shattered glass that we traipsed through looking for...for what I don't know, but simply exploring and wondering at the sheer size of this world he had created and the years of work he had put into building and acquiring the components required to make this surreal place come to life.  

These are just a few of the literally hundred of pictures I took that day, and most of them are microcosms of this place. There was too much to take in so I focused on the small intricacies of this decomposing dilapidated world. Robert Smith took "folk art" to epic levels with the creation of his "Land of Broken Dreams" and I wish I had been around to see it in all of its glory. However my fascination with abandoned and decaying locations was piqued with the exploration of this one of a kind place.