Rooftopping Versus Skywalking

Rooftopping is not about hanging yourself from the edge of a building.

Skywalking has been promoted in the media as rooftopping, incorrectly.

Urban exploration is not about taking silly risks with your life. Urban explorers take photographs, are careful as they explore, don’t litter or vandalize and they make it home again to upload their photographs. Taking photographs is not to prove you were there, or show how much of a thrill seeker you are. The photos document the place you visited, not the fact that you, in particular, were there. Rooftopping is not performance art.

Some explorers like to be underground in tunnels, drains and other types of big holes in the ground. Some (maybe the same people) like to be far above ground, to see everything from a new angle and look at all the city lights.

The first rooftopping photo was taken in Toronto, Ontario. The photograph showed the city far below with the photographer’s shoes hanging over the edge of the tall building they were sitting on. (Note, sitting on, not hanging or dangling from).

If you enjoy dangling yourself from a crane join a circus or take up construction and learn how to do it safely. Have some care and respect for yourself and be here (relatively undamaged) for your own further adventures, tomorrow.

Threatened Chimney Swifts Make Nests in Old Places

A threatened bird, the chimney swift, only stops flying to land on vertical perches inside hollow trees, chimneys of old buildings, abandoned wells, grain silos, air shafts, barns, sheds and derelict houses.

The population is threatened due to habitat loss. Interesting as so much of their habitat has adapted to live alongside people. There are many animals living in urban environments but I hadn’t heard of the chimney swifts before.

Know the Earth Beneath Your Feet with an App


Flyover Country is a National Science Foundation funded offline mobile app for geoscience outreach and data discovery. “The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight Wi-Fi,” describes its website. It “exposes interactive geologic maps from, fossil localities from and, core sample localities from, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading.”

Source: A New App that Tells You Everything About the Earth Below You  | GOOD

Really nice for urban explorers. You could get at least some history of the area you are photographing. In time the software/ app could include information from local history (from libraries and historical societies) and even urban exploration photos taken from ruins, tunnels and rooftops.

Start Noticing Layers in the Urban Environment

I may be weird but I especially like the little details like painted over numbers and such. Something rusty draws me just as much as something shiny.

We recently did a couple of Thomasson exercises in my class (which focuses on the politics of ‘ruin porn’ and urban exploration), and it was an excellent way to help my students, who are mostly freshman, get to know their campus and start noticing the changes and layers in the urban environment around them. In this post, I’ll be sharing what we discovered and what I learned about using Thomassons as a teaching tool.

Source: Thomassons: Indiana University Edition | Rust Belt Anthro

Roadside Memorials

Explore your own local area along the roadside. Don’t be an idiot with traffic but, when you can, pull over and take a better look at the roadside memorials. What can you find out about them? If you get a name it shouldn’t be too hard to track down the news story online.  You could have your own backyard urban/ rural exploration project.

An ongoing photography project documenting the many Roadside Memorials found along the backroads and highways. Ontario Roadside Memorial Tributes.

Source: Roadside Memorials | Ontario | Freaktography |

Rusting Street Signs

Train your eye to pay attention to broken bricks, peeling paint, untamed gardens, rusty metal… What can you find on your own?

rustysignsSource: Thomas Muther Jr.

I’ve been thinking about exploring our local area. People want to jump into urban exploration. People ask for locations of abandoned sites so they can skip the steps of exploring and finding anything on their own. That’s not urban exploring. Skipping the adventure and waving a photograph to prove you were there… is bland.

I think you can start exploring in your own town, right in your own neighbourhood. Look for old, derelict, ruined and interesting things. Look for history in man made objects. Think about simple things taken for granted, like street signs, mail boxes, doorbells, milestones, and so on.