Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sarajevo Winter Olympics 1984

Green lush and mountainous would be my words describe Bosnia, it was unlike anything I was expecting from this country, actually im really not sure what I was expecting! The war stories and fairly recent historic unrest all serve as a veil over your perception of a place. As recent as 20 years ago there was brutal fighting over the recently independent country following the collapse of Yugoslavia. There is still alot of evidence of this, especially in Sarajevo where the city was under siege for years and still full of bullet holes in the buildings.

Before the fighting, bosnia was home to the 1984 winter olympics were held here, something that the Bosnians are still very proud of as even 30 years on, it still features heavily on maps and signs, it made me think of the British Olympics and how our perception of the games is, moreover whether we will still be talking about it in 30 years time.
The areas that I planned to visit were the bobsleigh track, the ski jump and Olympic hotel.

Arriving a bit later than planned on tuesday, the road to the bobsleigh track was very windy up into the mountains, decent enough but it pushed the ford focus hire car.

The track itself emerged from the trees like a massive concrete snake. Graffiti almost covered the whole inner part of it and added some colour to an otherwise grey and dull looking construction, these things are meant to be seen coated in a thick skin of white ice. It was the acoustics which were amazing, there were a few other people around and some of them went further up the track and I could hear their voices and footsteps clearly from what may have been a kilometre or two away!

It was the bends which were scarey, huge curved banks which you can imagine hurtling towards at 200mph – it must have been something else to actually see! Walking down and around which winded down and around the mountain to the base where there were ruins of what would have probably been snack shops and facilities.

On the drive back there was a small shell of a hotel which looked interesting on the way, a broken and war damaged slab of concrete, but walking through the door, the room gave way to an awesome panorama of Sarajevo, quite an odd comparison between the lush mountains seeing through a trashed shell of a retreat which must have been a pretty special place to stay at some point before the war. It was a coincidence that a few days later, on a short tour to the tunnel museum, the guide drove up near this place which was where some of the Bosnian/Serb army snipers shot indescriminantly into the city below.

The ski jump would probably be the last sporting event that I would sign up for, throwing yourself down a sheer edge to a ramp below on a couple of bits of wood just isn’t my thing and I would find it frightening just being at the top of the mountain. Abandoned and in the summer months, the ski jump looked even more out of place – like some sort of military launch facility and certainly not somebodies idea of sport. It was bad enough being at the bottom of the ramp looking up ( it was too hot to hike to the top )

There were 2 jumps of different lengths, huge sweeps of concrete against the lush mountain. The drop below was almost sheer with a small amphitheatre below where the skiers would land.

In the are below, the podium still stood strong, a concrete structure in the grey and orange of the Olympic colours, it was recently restored because of some heavy damage in the war, a testament to how much pride the Bosnians have in their hosting of the games!

Some of the hotels which were used in the games had been abandoned as well. The first was at the top of one of the olympic mountains, flanked on all sides by newer hotels and construction projects. The hotel certainly had seen better days and hardly had any glass left in it. A moody looking cloud front had closed in and the temperature had dropped this made the hotel look like something out of a horror film, the overlook hotel from the shining once you knew what went on inside it. The hotel had its own lifts, ancient compared to the newer ones in the neighbouring hotels, consisting of rusting single seats in faded colours hanging swaying in the wind between yellow posts. The harsh elements hadn’t been kind to the hotel and it was completely trashed inside.

A large bar area still looked out onto the stunning mountains below, the wood faded and broken surrounded by a carpet of broken glass. The hotel was basically just a shell,
maybe on the demolishing list judging by the other construction work but there were a few interesting things such as an empty elevator shaft and long corridors. Striking red signs warned about unexploded land mines in the area leading up to this beautiful vista, it was one of the things that I had read about and was careful not to stray too far from roads and paths. Landlines must seem like such an ideal weapon at the time of war, extremely cheap and devastating, but as soon as its over and the realisation that they were spread randomly across the countryside – they become a deadly hazard for everyone.

There was another hotel on the way to the ski jump, there were workers here and demolition was underway but this hotel had some of the most interesting angles on it that I had ever seen. The hotel was used as a headquarters for the Bosnian/Serb army and there wasn’t a foot of concrete without shell damage.


Sarajevo Tunnel of life

The tunnel museum was one of the places on the list to visit in the city, it was over 900 meters of tunnelling which connected the city to the airport which at that time was under the control of the UN.

It was used to get supplies and weapons into the city as well as getting people out. It is estimated that 20 million tons of food entered the city, and 1 million people passed in and out of it.
The tunnel took just over three months to build with people working in shifts around the clock and was probably about 3ft wide and 5ft high. There was a trolley track going through the middle to help transport heavy boxes more easily.

It was the video beforehand which gave the grimmest view of the city during the siege. Normally I’m not a fan of these types of museum footage but it showed Sarajevo in such a different light, the weather was wet and raining and loud explosions and gunshots gave it a harsh realism and really made you feel for the people trapped in their city for so long. It was this that made me look at the city in a new light on return to the old town, the thought of being picked off by snipers in the mountains above while just trying to cross the street, or to be constantly surrounded by burning buildings and vehicles must have been really hard.

I was amazed at how friendly the bosnians were and will definitely return to see some more of this beautiful country.

Lillesden – the revisit

This place was my first urbex exploration, having not really done anything like this before, I remember being really nervous about it, that heightened sense of awareness that never really goes away, but gets diluted as your confidence increases.

The actual place hadnt changed that much apart from the addition of some graffiti, and actually the graffiti was some of the best that I had seen in these places, it certainly beats the usual profanity that gets scribbled on the wall of abandoned places. It was also alot bigger than I had remembered although some of the upper floors were pretty much out of bounds because of the state of them, feeling unnervingly soft with large holes revealing the concrete ground of the floor below.

This was the second location of the day and by now the drizzle had stopped but the grey clouds were still hanging around though, The central staircase has always been the most impressive part of this mansion with large stone stairs winding up passed great mirrors to a domed landing room with one wall again taken up with a grand mirror which is still surprisingly intact. One the ground floor, there were a few rooms of note, my favorite being one painted in a dark blue/green colour with graffiti wrapping around the doorframe in the same colour.

An outer cloister led out to an area which would have been a nice courtyard, but now overgrown, this was the first real outing for my new fisheye and although it took a bit of getting used to, the lower angles worked better. It would have been such a grand building in its time, but as usual, theft from the roof, water damage and exposure to the elements are slowly eating the building to death.

Mickey was there around the corner, not in the usual disney persona. Strangely it fitted with the crumbling nature of what would have been an energised school at one time.

The place had, it seemed become a canvas for graffiti, I like the muted effect that taking photos of this through an infrared camera gives, somehow it brings out the patterns.

The upper floors were quite soft underfoot, treading very carefully up these creaking steps, the light was still bright and muted, this was underexposed by quite a bit to get some detail back in the window and on the stairs.

Ludlow Open

I’ve had 2 prints from the Echoes for Company set selected for the Ludlow Open, which is on at Ludlow College’s Palmers Hall from 4th-18th August, 10am-5pm daily.

The selection panel for this year’s Open included the Head of 20th Century British & Irish Art at Christie’s and the Directors of the Drawing Gallery, Alan Cristea Gallery and Meadow Arts as well as artist Lucy Jones. For more information, go to

GT Manor

Im not really a morning person so the act of setting my alarm for 3:30 seemed quite alien, normally if I do something as silly as this there is at least a plane ride and some sunshine at the end of it, not a damp grey morning in a sleepy villiage in the middle of nowhere.

Arriving at the destination, after driving past several closed petrol stations which mocked us with their lit up Costa signs – the rain had been constant on the way there and showed no sign of lifting. The one time that im up before sunrise and there is none of this “golden light” which photographers go on about – you can see how many times ive been out with a camera at this time of the morning.

The manor house was within a group of lived in houses so we had to run in between bushes and trees to avoid being seen, although it was soon apparent that we were the only ones stupid enough to be out at this hour of the morning.

Inside was silent with the rain providing a constant backing soundtrack, some of the building had residents so we had to try and be as quiet, something thats not as easy as it sounds when the floorboards are that creaky and the usual glass and other debris are litered everywhere.

The house itself would have been grand in its time, luckily because of where it is and the restoration that has been started, the place is in pretty good condition although quite empty in places – some of the details were stunning.

The first room of note looked as though it would have been some type of reception room, a big circular opening with a domed roof and several windows around a grand fireplace. The light although muted was still not great – HDR was needed to try and normalise it.

This was the second outing for the 8-15mmL Fisheye and for rooms like this one it worked a treat.

I had seen photos of this grand dining room, glorious green wallpaper underneath an amazing wooden ceiling, the grey light was streaming through the shutters which made things tricky. The moldings and woodwork in this room was stunning, even in its abandoned state. The shutters on the windows were big heavy and wooden with intricate moldings around them, closing them stopped some of the glare but also darkened one half of the room.

The corridors were muted in the grey light, rain still bouncing off the broken windows and pavements outside.

The staircase too was really photogenic, twisting around an intricate banister, here the fisheye really came into its own with the distortion capturing 3 floors.

After a while in the manor house, it was time to go back out into the drizzle, coffee had gone from a nicety to a necessity, I should have at least packed some water and breakfast bars but as normal had come very unprepared.

Despite the weather and the shock of the alarm clock, it was a great outing, some decent photos and some good company. This manor house will definitely be on my list of places to revisit!


The Chernobyl exhibition finished today at Cornerstone in Didcot, Its been really interesting to see all the comments that were left, its nice to think that the images have got people thinking, not only about Chernobyl and the disaster that happened there, but also about other ways that we are affecting our planet. Some of the visitors had also found the irony of an exhibition like this in a town under the shadow of a huge power station.

Stay tuned for the next showing of the exhibition