Urban exploring (or urbexing for short), is the exploration of man-made structures that are abandoned or off-limits.
Three friends – Alex, Theo and Alistair bonded over the hobby for many years, and eventually banded together their resources to create their joint YouTube channel Urbandoned.
The trio discuss their favorite places to shoot, as well as the ideal gear to take along when venturing off the beaten track.
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How long have you been exploring abandoned buildings?
We’ve been exploring for a fair number of years now, since 2015. Our first exploration was a local abandoned theme park, where a lot of kids used to go. It was quite simple and exciting to avoid the security; hiding in outbuildings that were once off-limits to the paying customer which just a few years before was ourselves. Alex and Theo have known each other since they were born and have always matched each other’s hobbies and interests. It was in college where we met Alistair, after recognizing his face from the urbex YouTube videos he was putting out at the time. We started exploring multiple times a week, attempting every location within our reach. That is when we decided to put all our efforts together.
What made you decide to collaborate together?
As we continued to explore, our passion for the hobby grew exponentially. We got better at it, and it became an addiction. Each time we completed a successful day of exploring or an overnight-to-sunrise excursion, we were fuelled for the next trip. Initially, Alex and Theo were filming videos for our own channel ‘The Excursionists’ for fun, as we saw others in this niche on YouTube and wanted to give it a go. It wasn’t long until we met Alistair. Every time we went out, we decided to go together. It felt silly taking turns recording certain areas, so we all made the executive decision to merge our efforts into one channel. Looking back, we think this was one of the best ideas for all of us as we can now produce content utilizing all our skills, efforts, and time.
How do you find the buildings?
There are many ways you can find locations to film. For example scanning news articles for keywords such as demolition, mothballing and closure, joining forums, and surveying Google Maps. For new explorers, I would recommend involving yourself in the scene and keeping up to date on what places are being visited in the community. In addition, just simply driving or keeping an eye out whilst you travel around doing your day-to-day business is also an effective method. You’ll be surprised at how many buildings you can spot.
What’s the most interesting place that you’ve visited?
We get this question a lot and it’s constantly changing the more we explore. I think our current favorite that we have posted is an abandoned military aircraft graveyard, due to the fact it allowed us to film in a different style and at the time was a unique place for us to visit. For an abandoned place, it was very special, but the entire experience was one we will never forget.
How has the urbex scene changed since you started? Do you ever fear that you’ll ‘run out’ of places to explore?
The fundamentals of the hobby have not changed much since 2015. There is a code that all urban explorers follow and I don’t believe this will ever change. Since we started exploring there has definitely been changes in terms of the popularity of the hobby and we have personally seen that certain places burn out quicker than others mainly due to social media impact. There are certain types of abandoned places that are becoming harder to come across due to the world progressing. Certain architectural styles along with dated artefacts will eventually die out, however, the modern developments that are being built nowadays might be considered old in 30 years or so. With this, new locations will always arise for explorers to find and as of yet, we are not struggling to find varied spots to film. For example COVID-19, although a tragic circumstance, has resulted in the closure of many leisure and industrial sites.
Do you find that some types of videos perform better than others? Does it ever impact the types of places you decide to go to?
Spots where lots of people have connections to — for example hotels, leisure centers and cinemas tend to perform well. However, this does not impact us, as individually we all have our preferences when it comes to exploring buildings. Some genres of the hobby don’t particularly appeal to the general public however we still take a huge interest in being able to visit these sites, such as industrial explorations.
Your videos have a beautifully cinematic quality. What equipment do you usually carry in your backpacks?
Thank you. Funnily we don’t carry a lot of equipment with us to be able to film our videos, we could easily film a full video with just a camera and a tripod for photos. However, we do carry camera peripherals such as different lenses and lens cleaning kits. Powerful torches tend to be a must. We have started to upgrade our arsenal with now two Sony A7 iii’s and other specialized camera equipment, such as electronic camera sliders and drones, yet we have to take into account the climbing and physical activity necessary to access some of the buildings, meaning we have always got a limited range available to us.
How do you coordinate working together on videos as a group?
We all have our specific responsibilities whilst exploring and back home. Exploring wise, Alistair and Theo film the walk-ins with live narration whilst Alex focuses on the drone footage and recording cinematics. Basically, we attempt to get as much quality footage as possible, sometimes in time-restricted conditions. Apart from exploring, Alistair edits the videos with creative input from Theo and Alex. Theo focuses on Patreon and Discord. Alex does all the admin work for the channel, website, and sponsorship deals.
Do you have any tips for budding creators wanting to put out videos on YouTube?
The main piece of advice we would give is to remain consistent with your uploads. Consistency is key to gaining an audience that will keep returning to your videos. We would also suggest straying away from filming and editing features with the sole purpose of earning money. These won’t be true to your values and characteristics. If you like the videos you are putting out, there is a better chance that your viewers will see your passion in the productions which makes them miles more personal and immersive.
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