Weathering Reference Photos

 Last Friday on the way home from work at a new position in downtown Detroit, I figured I'd take my time driving and snap some photos of examples of environmental weathering, paint chipping, collapsed buildings, fire-damaged structures, and some unfortunate examples of "urban decay." I've had a number of jobs around Detroit over the years and have seen a lot of sights similar to the images further down - while I can't say it's not somewhat saddening, I also think these images make for good reference pictures for modeling different weathering/environmental effects. I added a few more pictures to the lot en route to other destinations this week, but essentially they are all in relative time/place order if one were to follow a slightly wandering path.

 Just for information's sake, I don't generally pick up a camera to go and shoot images of "urban decay" as a matter of course. Our cell phone plan allowed us to upgrade to Blackberry phones, and this initially began as me testing out the surprisingly good built-in camera after taking a detour past a major backup on the I-75 expressway. Another reason I went through areas I've been through many times before taking reference pictures of this kind of stuff is that I plan on replicating similar environmental effects as a basing theme of sorts for any figures I finish on several small 40K "armies" currently in progress.

 While there's a lot of nice parts of the city, by and large they are along the main roads and mostly centered around buildings/areas of significance. Sad, really, as there's a lot of cultural significance to many parts of Detroit. In contrast to "built up" areas, there's a great many midtown Detroit neighborhoods that have reverted back to a quasi-rural state, mostly from population relocation/abandonment. About a half mile from one of the "built up" areas of the city, for example, you might find yourself in an area of boarded-up buildings, razed plots of overgrown land, vacant properties used as dumping grounds, and the occasional long-term resident with no "neighbors" visible in any direction - that's essentially the case in the progression of photos here. I took most of these pictures along a trip north on Mack Ave from Woodward in midtown, west along Brush St to near Interstate 94, detoured slightly off the service drive of I-94 near Mt. Elliot, and then through one of the neighborhoods off northbound Gratiot about a mile or two south of 8 Mile Rd - essentially the rough boundary of northern Wayne County.

(Click on the thumbnails for 1024x768 res pics - 56K users beware!)

Corrugated metal, weathered wood and cinder block, likely gang tags, and (hopefully not visible) a family of feral cats amongst the trees/undergrowth

Closeup of weathered cinder block and rusted/heat damaged sheet metal vent

Rusted metal, weathered stacked plywood, overgrown concrete and damaged fencing

Burnt out timber and roofing, chipping painted wood

Overgrown burnt out building/vehicle w/ several overgrown gravel mounds in foreground

Collapsed building due to fire damage w/ collateral fire damage to adjacent brick

Burnt down structure being overgrown - surprised the heck out of me, but in stopping there briefly I flushed out a huge pheasant from the undergrowth nearest the former building

Naturally decaying brick facade due to exposure w/ staining/exposure on adjacent structure

Collapsing brick wall, chipping/peeling paint

Distance view of derelict factory-type structure

Images of effects of weathering/paint chipping/rusting/fire on various materials

Large patterned gold surface in daylight (I've been impressed with the appearance of the roof for a while, but never had a camera)

(Same as above, but from a different light/camera angle)

 I drove by some shady/depressing stuff for some of these pics - a few crack houses, a likely prostitute who noticed me parked and started towards the car before I drove on, the "bread van" making the rounds at one of the 24-hour warming centers for the city's homeless/indigent, a seagull exploding in a cloud of feathers in the middle of the street after being hit dead-on by a car and an outright not-so-subtle drug deal going down on one of the residential streets that (coincidentally?) had one of the better examples of a burned out building when I turned the corner at the end of the same block. Probably the only cheerful thing out of the whole lot would be the "donut 'n' coffee" shop, so I saved that for the end - it's been there for ages (and so is presumably good - dunno, I've never stopped in) but the golden metallic-paneled overhangs are a recent addition (past year or two) and look positively amazing on a nice day with sun.

If by some chance the owners of some of these "reference materials" would prefer me not to have a particular picture posted, lemme know and I will certainly take it down.


  1. Thanks for these, really useful. Doesn't look like the kind of area you want to spend too much time in though ;)

  2. @ Chris - Besides all the bleakness, there's actually houses in the city. Not so much in most of the parts I posted pics of, but I was intentionally driving through areas I was familiar with where I knew I'd get good reference photos (for the most part). #7 was in a semi-rural neighborhood, for example, across from occupied houses with traffic on the street (although it just seems weird describing a midtown neighborhood in the middle of a major city as semi-rural) and #17 was at the end of the block in a regular neighborhood (well, if you count dealers w/ parked customers as being part of a "regular neighborhood," but that would probably depend on the neighborhood.) #18 is deceptive, as it's the base of a light post on the sidewalk of one of the major traffic hubs out from the center of the city (Gratiot Ave, to be specific) - it's just the city has, um, bigger fish to fry than maintaining utilities in some areas and the "scrap metal thieves" apparently got to the innards of this one as well as the rest of the row on the block.

    There's a lot of cool Gothic architecture on many of the older buildings in Detroit that would make for a good reference post, too, it's just that they're somewhat scattered across the city.



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