Chutes and Ladders in a Haikyo Factory

Mike Grist Gunma, Haikyo, Mines / Factories 25 Comments

It was the third time for me to set out in search of the Hume factory. The first time was on our inaugural haikyo road trip- we hit up Kappa Pia Theme Park and the Volcano Museum by day and searched for the Hume factory by night. It was pouring it down and we ended up climbing over a fence into a whole different factory, one that turned out to be live, with motion sensor security lights and big humming grids of transformers. Fail, but a great bit of adventure. The second time was solo, I hoped to tack it on as a chaser to the Shrine/Castle I went to a month or so ago. Fail due to train constraints and fading daylight. This time it was first on our list, and stood no chance of escaping exploration.

Main Warehouse.

So, a factory. I’ve been to factories before, both fairly modern, fairly ancient, and fairly demolished. There are certain things that you don’t want to miss, certain things you have to climb on, and certain experiences you ought to have. Here’s a loose checklist-

Don’t Miss

– Rusted heavy industrial equipment (check- huge wheel, lots of chains, hooks, conveyor belts, chutes)

– Old safety manuals, time-sheets, notebooks, etc.. (semi-check, while searching for an Allen key to fix my tripod)

– Busted open fuse-boxes (check)

– Archaic control panels crammed with dials, levers, and complex LED flow charts (check)

– Vantage points to look down on everything and feel like a sniper in HALO (check)

Must Climb

– Cement towers and chutes (check)

– Anything with a workman’s ladder attached (check, several walkways onto the roof)


– A brief scare from a real or assumed security guard potential (check, though they turned out to be gardeners trimming trees in the adjacent factory block)

We climbed in over a big concrete block, pow-wowed briefly in the main warehouse, and agreed to meet back in an hour. The warehouse had a lot of stuff hanging down from the ceiling (chains, control switches, hooks) and a lot of stuff on the ground (long trenches, mostly) but at first not a lot to explore. I climbed a walkway and hunted out a controller’s box. I stood in a corridor of hanging electrical wires and thought- “huh, neat.”

The whole factory block was comprised of a huge open yard with a big yellow A-frame loading crane, the main massive warehouse, and the concatenation of cement chutes and storage/cooling vats lumped together beneath the cement tower.

That’s one thing I don’t get about cement. Does it need to be carried on a lot of conveyor belts to become cement? Every cement factory has a tower structure with a lot of roller chutes where the cement would slurry down, dropping invariably into big conical vats. Perhaps in these chutes they are adding materials, making the cement? The first factory I went to had the chutes coming down a cliff-side, and I thought maybe it was just a delivery system, from the top of the cliff down. Now it seems it’s a necessary part of the process. Hmm. It gets heated up, fired up the furnace, then cools as it comes down the chutes? That’s just a guess.

I moved into the second half of the warehouse and met in sequence the two other Mikes, who both warned me of impeding security guards who turned out to be tree cutters. My tripod broke, so I spent a while searching piles of garbage/tools for an appropriate Allen key. No such luck. I eventually found one later in the Volcano Museum but it was the wrong size :(..

Up a ladder.

I was on the roof.

I walked with maximum stealth along the roof for a while. It later turned out though that the others, who were still inside the warehouse, clearly heard the ninja-like footsteps overhead and assumed it was me. Ach, what a shame to be so predictable.

From the roof I had to climb into the cement tower through an open window. I went to the top, wow, what a view! I tried to draw a bead on someone with a pretend rifle but nobody presented their head to me. I took a picture of a stool. The air smelled of birds nests.

Top floor of the cement tower.

At the bottom Mike and Lee were confabulating and gossiping like a pair of old fish-wives. I left them to it, preferring to climb up the rickety cement chutes. I did that. It was quite scary, teetering with only a thin metal netting between me and a long fall onto machinery. I escaped unharmed though.


The next post is probably the long-awaited return to the Volcano Museum.

You can see all the haikyo on this site in the Ruins/Haikyo Gallery.

Hume Factory Haikyo from Michael John Grist on Vimeo.

To top off this post, I’d like to ask for a little feedback in the form of a quick poll on the following two photos:

HDR hanging controls

Straight hanging controls

[poll id=”4″]

If you’d like to explain your vote in the comments below that would be most appreciated.

Comments 25

  1. I think the HDR shot is more atmospheric – basically it just looks cool 😀

    Thanks so much for changing the RSS back so that I can read the whole post in my reader! I appreciate that you always take the time to respond to comments on your blog.

    Best wishes for the new year.

  2. Nice post! I was a bit worried about that security-looking guy. You sure he was a tree cutter? I thought it might just be a man going for a walk, since he seemed to be strollig with his hands thoughtfully clasped behind his back.

    As for the last picture, I prefer the HDR, but it really depends on the picture. And remember you can do HDR photography without tone mapping. I think it is the tone mapping and not the HDR aspect that ticks most people off.

    The cement factory was a bit blah for me. Highlight was probably edging long a rusty walkway that looked sure to break under me.

  3. This cement factory looks like it has 1001 and one nooks and crannies to explore and being able to climb things is always a plus for a haikyo (or anything for that matter).

    I know it’s a bit risky to include yourself in the shots or video, but it seemed to me this place is screaming out for action shots of some kind.

    I’m with 2. Mike, it is the tone mapping that turns some people off of HDR work. Using HDR to get a properly exposed image is a good trick to have in one’s camera bag.

  4. Good post Mike. The top picture especially works for me.

    I’m generally not a big fan of HDR, but for something like this factory I think it really comes into its own. My pictures turned out very grey and drab in comparison. So dreary in fact I’ll probably never use them.

    My only complaint in regards the comparison pictures is that the HDR is a little ‘over done’ for me. But that’s only my take on it, and you know exactly what kind of haikyo pictures I like. And anyway, photography is so subjective that there’s never going to be a consensus. Whichever style you like the best and enjoy seeing/taking the most is what should count.

  5. I like the HDR photo. It looks like a science fiction illustration.

    This was a spectacular industrial haikyo. You just need some of those machines with shooting sparks of chomping teeth to make a set for an action movie. Interesting article and photos.

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  6. Generally I like the HDR photos if they add to the atmospheric feel of a location or present a sharpness of colour that enhances the scene. In this case, I preferred the straight photo over the HDR because it was a crisper looking shot and I preferred to see the detail more.

    The ‘approved haikyoist’ logo is cool!!

    I’ve noticed you stopped adding the coordinates of the sites. Was there feedback to remove them? I was hoping to hit a few sites on my next trip to Japan, possibly including this factory (and one of the mining towns). Looks like a fantastic industrial heritage site to explore. 🙂

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    The poll right now is 67% to 33% in favor of the straight shot, and I’ll admit I find this a little surprising. Sure the HDR shot looks manufactured, it has a lot of ‘makeup’ on, but to me the other shot just looks kind of bland. Partly that could just be that it wasn’t such a great shot anyway, or the light conditions were poor without some kind of flash. Hmm. I love the texture the HDR adds though- to me it brings the shot to life.

    I’ll probably post more of these mini-polls as we go forwards, very interesting to see people’s reactions. Thanks for voting!

    Geekmom- Wahey, agreed! RSS, am glad it has returned, the changes that occurred were I think part of the new theme I’m using, so I never even noticed it had changed. Thanks for letting me know! A great holiday season to you too!

    Mike- I never actually saw the guy, only heard rumors of him. Wasn’t the general concensus that he was a tree-cutter? HDR tone-mapping I hear you, though I think that that is often what makes me like it. Adds drama.

    The Approved Haikyoist badge I’m going to be mysterious about and not say where it came from here 😉

    Jason- A lot of things to clamber on, for sure. I was a bit surprised that the others found it unremarkable, though it’s true that if I hadn’t climbed on things so much it wouldn’t have been as good. Action shots, well, I’ll have to think about that. It hasn’t occured to me to shoot myself doing stuff in haikyo for a while now. Maybe, if the situation presents itself.

    David- Yeah, HDR! It would be a great place for a movie, or an episode of 24. They’re always having Jack running around knackered old pipes and the like.

    Richard- Crisper, ok, thanks for the feedback. Glad you like the Haikyoist Badge too 🙂 As for locations, to be honest I just got lazy and stopped adding them. If you do come over I can put you onto a good haikyo guidebook.

  8. Straight hanging controls. I’m not a big fan of HDR.

    With regards to the concrete, I seem to remember seeing a Discovery Channel show on it one time. It’s complicated to make because they have to crush up several different kinds of rock (gypsum and some others) at different consistencies and add some other stuff in with it. I don’t remember where the ovens came into play, but all the different types of crushed rock means lots and lots of conveyor belts, and I’m sure lots of great photos!

  9. I think what most people are saying is not that they don’t like HDR per se, but that they don’t like the super tonemapped look. As for myself, I have to agree with Jason in that I prefer just getting a properly exposed image instead of one that looks like (as you said above) its wearing ‘too much makeup’.

    Correction, I never said I saw any security guards, just that I saw some guy cutting trees in the next lot over.

    So who approved you as a haikyoist?

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    2nihon- Ah, great info, thanks. As for HDR, going forward I think I’ll just include a mixture of both.

    Can Mike- Happily corrected, I guess the one Mike expressed concern and you allayed it. Although who knows, they could have been two different groups. Haikyoist Approval I’ll tell you when I see you. The same person though who will Approve me as a Writer soon enough.

  11. About the HDR vs. natural light shot above….those are perhaps not the best to compare, because as you said, and I agree, the natural light shot is bland. It’s underexposed and not sharp.

    How about putting up some outdoor shots to compare HDR to natural light and then another interior example to compare HDR to natural light with?

    Or, just stop the debate and post the style of shots you like yourself as it’s your site, and if people don’t like it, so be it. It’s just when you ask for feedback do such cans of worms get opened. I know I’d never comment on the photos from a critique point of view without prompting.

    Or, if you want photographic feedback, post them on a flickr group that is setup for such purposes so you know you’ll be getting feedback from people with actual photographic knowledge and experience. Such forums can provide helpful feedback.

    This site is after all a site about haikyo and not photography right? I’d not worry about the HDR or natural light debate and just keep finding interesting haikyo to explore and then share with people with an interest in haikyo.

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    Jason- Good suggestions about more shots to compare, I’ll probably do that for the volcano museum post upcoming. As for stopping the debate, well, I enjoy hearing what people think, and what their takes on the various shots are. I don’t mind if people criticize HDR, I’m not wedded to it. Likewise if people criticize my other shots, if it steers me to become a better photographer, rock on. I may not always agree, but it’s good to hear what people think.

    As for the focus of the site, it’s pretty hard to disentangle haikyo from photography, so I’ll just say that it’s about both. I want to do the best I can in both areas. Also of course it’s about writing, but things have been very quiet on that front for a while now…

  13. I voted HDR.

    Normally I think I prefer regular shots but something about this one just brings the picture to life when seen in HDR. I think as you said the texture really adds to it, but also I think the subject matter is so plain that when seen through the HDR view it looks almost magical, unreal etc. However you want to describe it I think it looks ace!

    I must say that I loved this post in general though, all of the xtra pictures you threw in are great and as I have said before I love seeing plenty of pictures and your stories of the exploration.

    This post really seems like a return to form to me. Keep up the great work MJG!

  14. I voted for the straight photo.

    I know basically nothing about HDR, but to me, the HDR shot looks like it’s trying to hard to be “artsy”. But that’s just me and I’m not an artsy-type guy. I prefer just plain, simple, real. Maybe especially in this type of subject matter.

    I love nostalgia, and I love the site and visit often since I first found the Fuchu photos while searching for info about my old haunt. I think I was the first (of the avalanche) of the former servicemen who posted there.

    Keep up the good work. I really enjoy it all.


  15. Trey Ratcliff, perhaps the most famous HDR photographer around, has this to say about HDR, it’s “about light; it’s’ not about color.”

    Learning more and more about the photography scene and business in the U.S., HDR is an increasingly popular and commercially valid type of photography. I, myself, am a contributor to an upcoming HDR only exhibition that will be displayed in a history museum.

  16. I voted for the HDR. It’s a bit over done but it really works to give the place an otherworldly look. I thiink it works well with a post about exploration. The straight picture might work well in another context. Why did you choose to use it?

    I really like the shot down the corrugated roof at the tower.

    Sounds like a great place to explore and climb around.

  17. I don’t know much at all about the technical aspects of this discussion, so I’ll just add my opinion on what I see and how I feel about it..

    I’m not anti HDR full stop, but in this instance I prefer the straight shot.
    I enjoy a mix of straight and HDR when looking at your haikyo shots as a bit of darkness and shadow adds mystery for me and contributes to the feeling of immersion, while some of the HDR is really dramatic which I like too…

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    Adam- Thanks, glad you liked the extra photos, am back to including more in each post now.

    Ken- I`m starting to come around to that way of thinking now too- HDR is trying to be too artsy. Probably there`ll be less of that kind of shot here, especially as I now have a flash. Glad you got the ball rolling on the USAF post!

    Jason- Yup, good points, and Trey is the master it seems. Not sure if I`ll play with HDR much more now. We`ll see.

    Geoff- Otherworldly, right, that`s one thing I like about HDR. It is a bit fuzzy, and adds hyper-real texture. I quite like that.

    Bunch of Fives- Thanks for the thoughts, and a mixture of both you shall have 🙂

    Chris- Ha, excellent. Cheers.

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