Urban exploration with Olympus E-M5 Mark II

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About Diane Dufraisy-Couraud

"Urban explorer and photographer, I like to think outside the box and discover what can not be seen or rarely. I make you discover via my blog the visits and discoveries I make in France or elsewhere."

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After studying graphic design, I started photography in 2001 because my drawings were not realistic enough compared to what I wanted.

In 2004 I discovered the urban exploration: the passion was born while exploring and photographing abandoned buildings, then it has not left me since. 
Explore, see what cannot be seen, get off the trodden path of urban life have become a way of life, answering a need to move away from Paris urban life and its disadvantages.


From abandoned buildings, I have broaden to all sorts of exploration: quarries, technical undergrounds, roofs and height… It helped me better accept my town-dweller status.

My first camera is a Minolta Dimage 5, a digital bridge. Quickly I used pictures to make photomontages and give atmospheres to my artworks.
Then I went to Canon for many years because a DSLR camera brought more opportunities to me.


I switched to Olympus in March 2016.
I was a saleswoman in a store in the photo department and I had to update myself on the hardware. For 1 or 2 years I wanted to change from my Canon 7D that no longer satisfied me. Then I discovered the Olympus offer and I was seduced by the features like stabilization, mirrorless, and especially the lightness of the equipment. 
I tested an Olympus E-M5 mark II with a 7-14 Zuiko and I had a lot of fun! 

I had the feeling of rediscovering photography: I’m not so stuck to my tripod than before, I want to leave my comfort zone (portrait for example) and my bag is lighter!


I also chose Olympus for the ruggedness and weather sealing of the E-M5 mark II and Pro lenses. In exploration there is often dust and dirt. Weather sealing is necessary for underground too: it must resist against shocks, temperature changes, dust and water. Having weather sealed lenses is a real benefit to me.

My photographic work is built around two complementary approaches:

– “Testimonial” photography: to keep track of places
– Fine art photography: I explore in a creative way by realizing the ideas or emotions inspired by the places I visit.


I often place the human in the middle of these abandoned places by creating unreal situations. 

I find inspiration in movies and in particular visual ambiences that I encounter randomly. I also work in series and I often try to complete them. 

I realize my pictures in two different ways: either it’s an idea I already had before going to the place, or I get the idea on the site according the feelings given by the place. Sometimes, I got the idea later, so if I have the opportunity I go back to the place, or if I have the appropriate material I make a photo montage .

For this image I had the idea several years ago without being able to go to the place. This year I finally have been able to realize this project! Sometimes it takes a long time.

One of my best memories of exploration remains the Silo No. 5 in Montreal, thanks to a sound installation on the port: the Silo-phone. 
Silo-phone makes it possible to send sounds inside the Silo which sends back this echo outside. Surprise and emotion when a person began to sing softly in the Silo-phone while my fellow-explorers and I were inside. We remained motionless in the dark, at first terrified to hear a sound so strong in this complete silence, then we felt transported by this wonderful and totally unexpected song in a such unusual place.

Yes, I already have been scared. When we visit an abandoned place we do not always know who we are going to meet. Most often we try not to bump into the warden.
 Sometimes we have to hide to get in without being seen and it’s always stressful moments.


Currently I have an Olympus M5 mark II, a Zuiko 7-14 F2.8, a 12-40 F2.8 and a 60mm F2.8.
For some pictures I use a Slik tripod with a Manfrotto ball head. It is very light and practical. I sometimes use the 40mpx high resolution mode of the Olympus M5 mark II and the tripod is essential to realize this kind of pictures. 
I need to have light equipment because I carry lamps for underground lighting. Even though these lamps are small, additional batteries are heavy.


I have been processing my images in Lightroom for several years. 
I created my presets and I like to tweak my pictures. Sometimes I go through Photoshop to make photo-montages or actions that weren’t possible with Lightroom.


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Olympus E-M5 Mark II
Olympus 7-14mmF2.8
Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8
Olympus M. 60mmF2.8


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