Some of you may remember my article ‘Ely Urbex’ from back in May 2008, where I photographed areas in and around Ely that are normally ‘off-limits’ to the public. Recently, I have found I have been running out of ‘unseen’ areas to photograph. Then I came to the realisation I was only looking above ground, and that there must be a whole other world beneath our cobbled streets.
Even with some ambient light pouring in, my camera struggled to focus. Our technologically advanced eyes were also feeling the strain, and my iris’ dilated to let in any available light.
A Self Portrait, and my favourite shot of the evening. Taken with a 20 Second Exposure
We came across this chamber where three large drains met. This exposure was done with ‘light painting’. Setting the exposure to 8 seconds and rapidly ‘painting’ the walls with torchlight. In reality only a small spot of light was visible at any time. Hundreds of years of mineral growth, and erosion on the red brick walls had created a beautiful mural of colour.
In life, you have a choice. You can stay in bed and take no risks, or you can go out and have a life which involves the taking of risks, telling of yarns, breaking various laws which restrict your freedom, finding out things of an unusual or interesting nature. Now, some people take drugs, some people watch TV, some people drive cars faster than the recommended speed limit, some people get heavily into tupperware, some people even play golf.
Since I find these things not very interesting, well, maybe the driving, I have taken to exploring drains. I like the dark, the wet, humid, earthy smell. I like the varying architecture. I like the solitude. I like the acoustics, the wildlife, the things I find, the places I come upon, the feeling knowing so few have seen what I am seeing.
The tunnels are beautiful, and teeming with wildlife. Spiders, bats, and even some pretty hefty carp which swim blindly into your legs.
Making our way back was harder than we thought. You have to walk against the current which batters your thighs. The floor was mirror smooth from 100 years of water erosion, which was coated in just enough algae to give it the quality of an ice rink. This proved a paranoia nightmare for me holding my expensive DSLR & tripod as high as I could in one hand (which didn’t help my centre of gravity one bit) and torch in the other. If I slipped the whole lot will be going under.
With the city sleeping, blissfully unaware of the night time explorers walking the streets beneath them, we emerged. Drenched, exhausted, and with a rancid odour we stripped from our ‘drain’ clothes into normal street clothes, and made our way back to our warm cosy, clean beds. The splash on the right is where I stripped off…
Cheers for looking.
More adventures can be found on my site: www.urbanXphotography.co.uk