Nobody passed on these rules to me. I never had an Urban Explorer mentor. These are simply the rules that I’ve developed over the years as I’ve done my Urban Exploring..
- Have Good Intentions– always go into a place looking to document it and to bring the beauty out of it. There are many people who love abandoned buildings like I do. My pictures and videos enable them to be able to go to these places without having to take the risks that I do. I also always hope that my work will contribute to a place being bettered because of the attention that I can draw to it.
- Always Seek Permission– it is ALWAYS better to have permission to enter, explore, and shoot in a location. It’s far safer, far less risky, and you can take your time and be better prepared for the experience. Are there times when I enter places without permission? Yes, but that’s only when I can find nobody to grant me access, and also when it’s public property. I think it’s a pretty risky proposition to knowingly go onto someone’s private property as they might mistake you for an intruder and shoot you. There are many times when I’ve walked right up to the owner of a property and asked him/her for permission to shoot there…many times they say, “Yes.” Check out my video from the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park to see this happen live on video…:) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwn6qIYuows&index=5&list=PLoF2D82DHfipbXXEbtMhELAet15RMYyDG
- Never Steal Anything- most people hate thieves, I despise them. Just because it’s abandoned and nobody has claimed it, one thing remains true…it isn’t yours. Leave everything untouched and don’t take anything unless you have permission.
- Never Break Anything- don’t behave like an idiotic 16-year old boy who’s Breaking Bad. There’s no room for people to go in and start kicking holes in walls, ripping pipes down, throwing chairs through windows etc. I’ve seen idiots do all of those things. Part of the thrill for me is to capture a piece of history, not to destroy things. Act like an adult and not a teenager on a bender.
- No minors– I don’t believe that minors have enough life experience in locations like the ones I enter. It’s just a really bad idea. Plus if you’re going to enter a urban exploration location you should be able to assume all the associated risks. If you’re a minor you aren’t legally able to assume all these risks. So you need to wait until you’re an adult.
- No Breaking and Entering– if you have to cut a lock, pry open a door, hop over a fence, don’t go. The place has to be open for me to enter. If it’s locked up that’s a sign to me that people want to keep me out…and I listen.
- Assume Responsibility for Your Actions– if you get hurt..it’s your fault. Don’t go and try to find someone to sue. If you are stupid enough to enter a place that ends up getting you hurt, it’s your fault, not the property owner’s/city’s fault.
- Be Situationally Aware– know what you’re getting into, where you’re going, and what the risks are. If you plan poorly you could end up in a very dangerous situation where you could find yourself needing help. Are you going to be there when it’s dark? Do you have lights? Do you have enough water? Are you physically fit enough to make it? Will a cellphone work where you’re going? What’s your backup plan in case you encounter trouble? Do loved ones know where you’re going in case you go missing? Do you need a breathing mask? Do you have the right shoes and attire to handle any kind of situation you encounter? Are you going alone or with a group? I highly recommend always going with a partner. Do I sometimes go by myself? Yes I do, but I’m also a very experienced Urban Explorer…but I still really prefer taking a partner with me. I know this will sound sexist and make some people mad, but I’d never let my wife go Urban Exploring alone. I’m not a chauvinist at all…I just care for her deeply and know that there are many situations that would have been much harder for her to handle, most notably encounters with unsavory individuals. PLEASE. BE. SAFE. Also something that can really save you is if you SHUT UP! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a location and I’m keenly aware of where the other individuals are in that location, but they have no idea about me. They are running around the place acting like a fool and if I had bad intentions it would be very easy for me to surprise them and whack em on the head with a pipe etc. If you watch my videos you’ll see I’m very low key, I speak in a softer voice, and I’m constantly listening for anything that sounds out of the norm. I’m wearing a very sensitive mic when I’m recording videos for my Youtube Channel, so believe me, what you hear on the video is actually much louder than I am in real life in these situations. Keep your head on a swivel, always have 1 eye on your work, and the other on your surroundings. Don’t lose yourself in your work at the risk of losing your life over it. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but people have gotten hurt doing Urban Exploring.
- Carry Legal Protection– each person will interpret this differently for their needs. But I highly recommend carrying some sort of protection as long as it’s legal to do so in the area you are exploring. Whether that be a can of mace, a knife, or for some folks a firearm. It could also help you potentially with a wild animal of some sort. I just think it’s a good idea to have something on you should the need arise for you to use it.
- Know Your Limits– one thing you might note in my Urban Exploration videos is that I truly am very methodical and take my time. I don’t waste energy running around the location when I first get there and then have nothing for the hike/walk back to my vehicle. There are times when I’ve had to park as far as 2-3 miles away from the location and then carry a backpack and other gear all that way to the location…and then BACK! Getting there is easy, getting back can be miserable. Know your limits so you can make the journey back safe and sound. If you struggle with any injuries or medical conditions, make sure you have proper medication on you.
- Know Your Location– sometimes this is difficult to do, especially if you’ve never been there. What many people don’t know because I don’t show it in my videos, is that I will stake out and survey a location while sitting in my car to see what goes on there. Are there people entering and exiting the building? Is there security? If there is, the best thing to do is to go up and ask them who you can contact about exploring the location. There have been many times I’ve been mentally and physically prepared to go urban explore a location, but after sitting in the car for 20-30 minutes and watching it, I’ve changed my mind due to some reason. Sometimes it’s just that I don’t have a good feeling about it. When it doesn’t feel right, I don’t go.
- Comply with Law Enforcement and Security Guards- Don’t try to run away from cops or security guards. That’s just plain stupid. There have been times when I’ve hidden away because I’ve heard a noise. That’s mostly because that noise could be coming from anyone including unsavory characters. So I don’t make myself known until I know who the other party is. If I see law enforcement way off in the distance I’ll just leave the location without an incident. But if they are looking for me, see me, contact me, engage with me, etc. I immediately comply. There was a time I was exploring an abandoned hospital in Detroit and I saw the cops circling the parking lot. They shined their light into the building and caught a glimpse of me. What did I do? I immediately exited the building and went to speak with them. They were so surprised at my level of compliance that they told me I could stay and explore as long as I was being safe. I even have a ritual that anytime I have an encounter with a police officer, I ask them if I can take a picture with them so I can show people that you should cooperate with law enforcement. Out of the many times this has happened I’ve only had 1 officer refuse to take a picture with me. So when people think I’m being a hard-core criminal, they are just dead wrong. Many times the cops will let you explore as long as they can gather that you aren’t being destructive.
- Bring Back Ups- batteries, memory cards, etc. The absolute worst thing that can happen for your shoot is to get out there and your gear falls short because you didn’t plan properly. I also highly recommend that you use cameras that have a built in video function as that can be highly effective in obtaining both stills and video. My rule of thumb is to bring triple of everything. So if I plan on using just 1 camera battery and 1 card, I bring three of each. Why? There have been many times where I’ve gotten to a location and end up staying there MUCH longer than I expected. You will thank me and yourself ten times over when you find yourself in this situation, and you have plenty of back ups to keep you shooting.
- Document Your Trip– whenever possible I ALWAYS keep the video camera rolling, even while I’m just walking from one area to another. Why? Well for one thing, you never know what could happen in a place like this. Maybe some crazy animal or person comes out and you will have caught something that will be very valuable to you later. The other reason is for documenting your activities while you’re exploring. What if you get caught there and get accused of stealing or doing something that you never did? What if someone else is there and does something stupid and you get blamed for it? I’ve actually shown cops my footage on a few occasions to show them what I was doing at the location. They were there based on reports that someone was trashing the building. After showing them a little footage they let me be and went on to look for the real culprit. Documenting what you’re doing is pretty important. So invest in some extra batteries and memory cards. You can always delete the card once you’re home and know the coast is clear.
- Know Your Exit Strategy– Last but not least, know how to get back to your vehicle safely. Know what you would do and how you would get back should an unsavory character come into your proximity. Plan and follow your absolute drop dead MUST LEAVE BY THIS TIME marker. If you know you’re a 45 minute walk away from your car and you need to get their before it gets dark, make sure to plan ahead and to know when it’s sunset, and how long it will take for you to get back before it’s too dark. Many people are surprised at how fast it gets dark after sunset. You shoot all day with the sun, then you put your camera on a tripod and shoot the sunset, then shoot a little after sunset, and by the time you have all your gear packed up…you’re there in the dark. Not a good idea guys and gals. I also highly recommend packing all your gear up before leaving and not just trying to carry it all in your hands because you’re in a hurry. Unless you’re leaving prematurely due to an emergency, pack up your gear. This will make sure that you don’t forget anything (trust me I’ve left things in abandoned locations earlier in my career and had to go back at 2am to look for all my memory cards and it SUCKS) and that all your gear is packed up for safe transit. It also makes you less of a potential victim. If you’re in a bad neighborhood (and let’s face it a lot of these locations are in bad neighborhoods), walking out with a ton of gear wrapped up in your arms kind of screams, “Hey, come rob me!” If you watch my videos you’ll note that I pack it all up before I go. Many times I’ll also bring a coat or jacket just to rest on my backpack or camera (if I’m going strictly handheld) so it doesn’t show what I’m carrying. If bad people know what you have, they will try to take it from you.
So I hope all of this has helped. Just trying to share a little knowledge from my experience from Urban Exploring all over the world for the past 8 years. It’s been a thrilling ride and I’m so happy I get to share my adventures with all of you on my Youtube Channel http://www.youtube.com/jasonlanierpros. So if you haven’t subscribed, do so now! And if you are just finding out about me for the first time, you can check out the Playlist below that has many of my Urban Exploration adventures that have been captured on video….Make sure to share, like and subscribe…
Jason Lanier aka Fedora