Time’s up

I’m enjoying the heck out of shooting lots of non Urban Exploration (URBEX) stuff at the moment, but I have to be honest: I miss URBEXing!  That’s about to change, I think, as I learned from a fella I met here in Redding that there are plenty of URBEXy things to explore here in the Redding area, what with abandoned mines, old mills, junk yards and old Ghost towns.  So, in anticipation of a little California URBEXing, I’ve decided to post a shot from one of my last URBEX adventures in former East Germany.  I photographed this neat hall in the an old Kraftwerk (powerplant) in Vockerode.

A breath of fresh air

For those of you paying close attention, you might have noticed that I had actually posted to this blog earlier today.  Problem was that I was posting a lame shot, rather than something I had created with great care.  Well, that’s just not right.  So, I’ve deleted that post, and replaced it with the shot you see here, which is the one I had intended, since yesterday, to post for you all today.  I can’t describe how amazing it was to stand in this room and just stare at the curtains billowing in the wind.  It felt like that scene in the movie “America Beauty”, where the dude is filming the red plastic bag floating around in the air… absolute peace and beauty; a breath of fresh air.

Won’t you come and save me…

The name of this post means more than meets the eye, at first, at least to me.  While I was initially captured by this scene because it reminded me of one of my all time favorite movies, Cool Hand Luke, it was one particular scene in the movie that screamed “shoot this scene now”!  Yep, you guessed it: the scene in which the warden discusses the various infractions that would cause a prisoner to have to “spend the night in the box”.  And, of course, once you’re in the box, you can’t forget Alice in Chains’ ‘Man in the Box”.  While all of that song’s lyrics are perfect for what it might be like to get locked in this particular box for a night or two, it is one line in particular that spoke to me as I processed this image tonight: “Won’t you come and save me…”

So now all of you are scratching your heads, “what in tarnation is fotofreq talking about, ‘won’t you come and save me…’, anyways?”  Would you believe I am talking about HDR photography (both capture and processing)?  Well, I am.  I’m talking about saving a photograph from relative obscurity.  Sure, many of us can shoot an image of a scene and call it a day.  But the work is not done until you have “saved” or “rescued” that image from being boring.  And how do we do that?  First, you start with a vision:  what do you “see” and what it is you want your intended audience to “see”.  You the frame (or compose, if you prefer) your shot in such a way that the elements you “feel” are most important are included in the shot and are “placed” in such a way that they will grab the viewer’s eye.  Then, you shoot your brackets (I usually prefer 9 exposures, each 1EV apart from the other to cover a wide dynamic range and to keep noise levels at a minimum).  Next, you run those shots through your HDR software of choice, and tone-map.  Now comes the fun part, ’cause you’re not done!  You take what the HDR software gives you and you pull it into Photoshop to make the image what it was you “saw” when you were first captured by the scene.  BTW, listening to some cool tunes to put you in the mood helps, a lot, at least it does me.  For this particular image, I listened to the aforementioned ‘Man in the Box’ while running the brackets through my HDR software of choice, but I switched to Bassnectar’s Timestretch to finish it off and to write this blog post.  Once I was done with Photoshop, you should end up with an image that ROCKS your world!  And, if it rocks for you, it will probably rock for at least one other person out there! Thanks, mom, for digging my work!

Kraftwerksdenkmal Vockerode

I recently had the opportunity to visit Kraftwerk Vockerode, which is now known as Kraftwerksdenkmal Vockerode, and certainly worth a visit if you can swing it.  My guide for the visit, a former East German crane operator who worked at the Kraftwerk until the day it was shut down in 1994, was a wealth of great information and a downright wonderful person.  She gave me a bunch of brochures and asked that I recommend the tour to other, as she is only to happy to share with others her memories of this impressive facility, and of the people who lived and worked there.  If you are interested in calling to make a booking for a tour, you can reach Kraftwerksdenkmal Vockerode at Tel. +49 34 905 52-473 (or 52-317).  Tours run Monday through Thursday at 10:00 am, 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm, and Fridays at 10:00 am.

Foozballus Giganticus

It took the Germans only one and a half years to build Kraftwerk Vockerode, which was brought on line in December 1938.   And, it was built to last, suffering only minor damage during World War II.  In 1945, immediately following the war, the Russians dismantled and removed most of the major equipment to the the Soviet Union as war reparations.  It was not until 1953 that the German Democratic Republic (DDR) began to rebuild, completing the reconstruction in 1959.  The powerplant then consisted of 12 boilers, and 12 turbines, and put out 384 megawatts of power.

Zeroed Out

Kraftwerk Vockerode was the life’s blood of the town of the same name, and fed power to untold thousands for kilometers away.  That all changed when the wall between the East and the West came down.  According to my guide, reunited Germany had to make some tough decisions related to the reintegration of its people into the unified nation.  Kraftwerk Vockerode, whose operations produced significant negative impact on the environment was on the chopping block.  It was, therefore, closed down in 1994.

Light & Dark

Asked what happened to all the employees of the plant when it was shut down, my guide explained that some moved on to other jobs, while other (like herself) were put on Hartz IV unemployment.  My guide explained that it was for this reason (that the German State provided for her well-being), that she was felt honored to be able to lead tours of the facility, AT NO CHARGE!  She spent three hours showing me the ins and outs of this wonderful site, and expected nothing in return.  I did promise to bring her prints of the photographs I had made the next time I was there, so I hope to visit again soon to make good on that promise!

The Master Control Room

Erika! Take a memo!

End of the Dream State

The way we were!

Last one out...

It’s all under control!

One of the great things about living here in Berlin, Germany, is that you have a LOT of great sites nearby (mostly in what was once East Germany) just crying out to be explored.  I am only happy to oblige. One site I visited recently, in Vockerode, Germany, is about an hour’s drive from my home, and it’s an UrbExer’s dream come true.  As one of very few protected “heritage” facilities, Kraftwerk Vockerode is a superb location for HDR photography (heck, any kind of photography, actually).  Unlike many abandoned buildings, Kraftwerk Vockerode is completely unmarked my graffiti, and has suffered none of the vandalism that has plagued the legendary abandoned sanatorium at Beelitz-Heilstätten, Germany.

I have already posted several shots from this location on in my Flickr Photostream in the Kraftwerk Vockerode set, if you’d like to take a look see, and I do have a few more sets of brackets to process from that same shoot, some of which will show up in this blog.

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