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  • Writer's pictureRandy Van Duinen

A Step Out Of Time - Photographing in Abandon Silos

I recently came back from attending a photography workshop in Buffalo, NY, hosted by my friend Mark Maio. This workshop is held at Silo City and is one of the more interesting workshops that you can go to as you have access to six acres and over a million square feet of silos and support buildings. The silos have been abandoned for years and in some cases decades and create a unique opportunity to photograph using both HDR and light painting, allowing you to come away with some incredible images. Many of the attendees will bring in models to photograph inside these locations and have done so every year since Mark started these workshops.

Silo City in Buffalo, NY with a reflection from Humburg Street
View from Humburg Street

Silo City is located on the Buffalo River near Lake Erie. We start off early the first day photographing from across the River for an incredible sunrise image where the sun lights up the silos in this beautiful Golden light. After the sunrise shoot, we head over to Silo City to the American Elevator Office Building. On the second floor, we can leave our gear and get a safety orientation before heading out into the silos and buildings. As I said earlier, some people come back multiple years to photograph as you can never capture it all in just one workshop, and one of these people is Mike Broomfield. Mike took many of the new attendees to tour the Lake and Rail flour mill and silos as they have just been opened up for the past couple of years.

Panoramic of the  of the Perot Malting Elevator using Sony a7rIII with a 17mm tilt/shift lens
Pano of the White Room in the Perot Malting Elevatoe

This abandon office inside the Lake & Rail flour mill was light painted as there is no light getting inside
Light Painting one of the offices inside the Lake & Rail flour mill

When you enter the Lake and Rail flour mill, it looks like someone just walked out of the building and locked the doors never to come back. You can go into some of the offices and see all the paperwork sitting in file cabinets and lying on the desk or enter the flour mill, and you will also discover all sorts of abandoned equipment and machinery. Mike took us up to the top of the Lake and Rail silos, and from there, we had a great view of Buffalo, Lake Erie and the surrounding area as you are over 25 stories high.

The abandon Lake & Rail flour mill belts and wheels that powered the plant
Some of the belts and wheels used to power the Lake & Rail flour mill

Concrete Central is the largest silos in Buffalo and I light painted this colossal building

You can photograph five main buildings, The American Elevator, Marine “A” Elevator, Perot Malting Elevator, Lake & Rail Elevator, and the American Elevator Office Building, which has now become a restaurant. There are smaller buildings attached to the silos, which also are open during the workshop to photograph inside. If this is not enough, some side trips can be made, as some attendees took a trip to Concrete Central later on Saturday to photograph the largest Silo in Buffalo. I went with a few other photographers later in the evening, and light painted Concrete Central for an incredible image, but I do have to say I was tired as I was the one running back and forth light painting this colossal building.

If you are looking for a great experience photographing a location that is not open to the public, Mark’s Silo City workshop is one you will want to attend.

Here is the link to the workshop:

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