Our 9 Favorite Images from the "Abandoned and Discarded" Photo Assignment

Abandoned and Visible for Miles: "The Washington Public Power Supply System was formed to build five nuclear power generating stations," David Hollenback writes. "One of the sites was in Satsop, Washington. It was to have two reactors with separate containments and cooling towers. The construction was never finished, but the cooling towers and partial containment buildings remain. Tours can be arranged of the facility and the Seattle Photo Club went for a visit. The cooling towers, seen from the inside in this shot, are enormous structures some 500+ feet tall, now serving only as landmarks. To capture this view in one shot would have required a very wide lens, which I did not have. This is a vertical panorama stitched together from six shots." He made it with a Nikon D750 and a Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 lens at ISO 1250, f/11, 1/125 second. © David Hollenback

Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. For this assignment, we asked Shutterbug readers to seek out what others might turn their heads away from: abandoned or discarded things.

Images could be anything from abandoned buildings, including factories, amusement parks, malls, homes, shops, gas stations, and bus depots, to overgrown gardens and neglected landscapes or ruined cityscapes, which may not be conventionally beautiful but conjure up powerful feelings or emotions. Sometimes called “ruin porn,” the idea was to capture something visually poetic amidst all this decay.

We expected this to be a tricky assignment for some so we suggested that you, perhaps, try your hand at black-and-white photography, or through evocative post-processing to get the look, feel, and visual “smell” you wanted in your abandoned and discarded images.

What we didn’t expect was that this turned out to be one of our most popular assignments of all time. It was difficult to choose favorites, but here are nine images from readers that stood out.

Dawn of a New Day: Jessica Schulman shot these ruins of a beach house in Breezy Point, New York, with a Leica V-Lux 4 the morning after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. © Jessica Schulman
Morely: "This is the old Morley Church, aka St. Aloysius, in an old mining town near Trinidad, Colorado, that was abandoned when coal mining went south," Michelle Goodall notes. "The company that owned the mining town destroyed all the homes, so no one could squat. The walls of the church were torn down, so they could get the organ out of it." Goodall shot the image with an Olympus E-3. © Michelle Goodall
Boat to Nowhere: "The Maine coast, craggy and often shrouded in fog, holds a serene beauty all its own," Gary Paige says. "Tides come and go, but one must wonder why a rope is necessary for this vessel, right?" Paige used a Nikon D800 with a 24-120mm f/4 lens at ISO 640, 1/80 second, f/16. © Gary Paige
Needs Remodeling: "Located in an old school, the peeling paint, the old shower curtain, and the broken floor tiles just add to the charm of the claw-footed bathtub," Valerie DeBiase says. She captured the scene with a Canon EOS 7D. © Valerie DeBiase
Run: Austin Andru shot this creepy cafeteria in an abandoned hospital in Ontario with a Canon EOS 70D and an EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens at f/4.5, 1/13 second. © Austin Andru
The Ruins: "The Rhyolite, Nevada, ghost town provided some great foregrounds for shooting the Milky Way on an extremely dark night (Halloween 2015, of all days to be in a ghost town!)," Peter Scifres writes. "These are the remains of the bank building in this once thriving but now long abandoned mining town. The building is lit by some light from a distant residence and a small lantern placed inside it. I used a Canon EOS 6D with a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 lens (a superb lens for astrophotography) at f/2, ISO 3200." © Peter Scifres
Sand in a House in Kolmanskop, Namibia: "This is a photo of the manager's house for the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskop, Namibia," Gordon Kilgore explains. "Kolmanskop is near Lüderitz and was active from 1908 to 1956. The sand is gradually taking over the town." Kilgore used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with an Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens on a Really Right Stuff tripod at 26mm, ISO 200, 1/2 second, f/4.5. This is an HDR, using the Nik HDR Efex Pro plug-in with Lightroom. © Gordon Kilgore
American Portrait: "Always taken with the man vs. nature conflict, I enjoy finding rustic, rusting automobile relics succumbing to the weather, kudzu, and time," Roger Raepple explains. "The automobile is considered by many the American icon and what strikes me is that these cars, particularly when seen from a low perspective, seem to have faces replete with eyes, a nose, and a mouth, not unlike their owners. While not typically a portrait photographer, I try to capture these vehicles in a portrait style seemingly fit just for them: 'in your face,' up front with every defect revealing their character and their life's struggles." Raepple captured the image with a Sony A900 and a Sony 16-35mm lens at 35mm. © Roger Raepple