About Opacity

Urban Exploration

Once a building no longer serves its purpose, and all of its previous functionality ceases to exist, it becomes truly fascinating. Each room is transforming into something new at its own rate, yielding to water, ice, wind and gravity as they reclaim this man-made space.

The corrosion and decay paint vibrant colors across otherwise dull surfaces, lit only by natural sunlight spilling into rooms at unaccustomed angles. Each object left behind becomes more significant than it has ever been, hinting at the life prior to its disuse. Moldy folders full of psychiatric evaluations hold clinical analyses regarding a patient's drawings in a dripping wet basement with no light. An opaque pair of square-rimmed glasses sit upon a dark grid at the power station control room. A dusty pile of papers hastily stapled together documents a tuberculosis patients life at the hospital, from admission, to death, to autopsy, to burial.

Floors collapse and walls cave in without care; if you get hurt, no one is here to help you. This is a lonesome alien world whose dark corners and peeling walls have gotten a hold of me and many others; this affinity for derelict structures and often dangerous excitement is the core essence of exploring that drives me to photograph these spaces.

Photo of abandoned hospital collapsing

The Site

This site, started in 2003, is basically an account of the various abandonments I have explored and the photographs I have taken. I have become quite interested in the history of many of these places, and include a short summary of each location from whatever sources I could find. This site was originally going to focus mainly on photography, but many people seem to express an interest in the act of exploring, so descriptions of the images and personal accounts of the trips made their way into the site, although I'm by no means a great writer.

Many of the places on here are given pseudonyms for various reasons, mainly:

  • to prevent this web site from becoming a "shopping list" of places for illegal scrapping
  • honoring the request of an explorer friend, confidant, or property owner
  • preserving my own legality

I'm aware that the publicity of these places is sometimes a controversial subject in the urban exploring communities, however I feel I have the freedom to make as much information public or private as I would like on my own website.

This site would not be possible without my closest partners in crime and good friends Nick and Hilary, and also the helpfulness and insight provided by Lynne as well as the other moderators of the forum who are generous enough to donate their time and effort. The cost of server maintenance is balanced out by the contributions made by benevolent visitors and regulars, as well as the small advertisements at the bottom of the pages.

I created the website as a custom-built PHP-MySQL site, running off the CodeIgniter MVC platform. It also includes responsive CSS for a mobile-optimized view, load balancing for speed optimization, dynamic page caching, and the jQuery, Modernizr, lscache, and respond.js libraries for some client-side Javascript functionality.


  • 187 locations
  • 250 galleries
  • 8,250 photographs
  • 142,988 comments recorded
  • 113 wallpapers created
  • online for 11 years
Photo of a cell in an abandoned psychiatric hospital

The Photographs

All the photographs featured on the main website have been taken by myself (unless otherwise noted), and almost all are from digital cameras; I retouch the brightness, contrast and color balance in post processing. I do not use automated processes such as HDR (high dynamic range), as I feel it removes realism and the natural aestehtic quality of the photograph. I usually spend 2-3 minutes with each individual photo.

The photos on this site have been shot using these products (* signifies retired equipment):


  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 5D*
  • Canon 300D Rebel*
  • Sony DSC-F707*
  • 1955 Rolleiflex Automat*


  • Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM
  • Canon 24-70L F2.8
  • Canon 75-300mm F4.0-5.6
  • Canon 50mm F1.4
  • Tokina 12-24mm*
  • Tamron 17-35mm*


  • Bogen Manfrotto Ball Head Mount
  • Bogen Manfrotto 190CX
  • Bogen Manfrotto 3001 Series*

I am always behind in posting photos of these explorations; they are usually a few years behind as I have over 150 galleries I haven't looked at yet.


If you would like to use a photograph on your website / blog / school project, for non-profit use, I ask that credit is given and a link be given back to the site. The text below would be great:

Photo © opacity.us

This statement is just a friendly way for me to share my photos around the world - I still hold copyright to all of the contemporary photographs hosted on this website, unless noted otherwise. Please show respect for the creators of all artwork when sharing on the web!

Urban exploration photograph

The Photographer

My name is Tom Kirsch, a lasting nickname has been Motts, or Mr. Motts as you may have seen in the comments. I am a 34 year old web programmer who lives in Detroit MI and Brooklyn NY.

Note: I do NOT actively participate in any "social media" websites, including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. If you see one, it's most likely something created by someone else.

Tom Kirsch of Opacity.us