Buffalo State Hospital – September 24, 2023

Preservation Works recently organized a photography tour of Buffalo State Hospital. Having greatly enjoyed my previous tours of the Kirkbride there was no question of whether I was going to make the 7 hour drive to Buffalo. During my previous visits in 2013 they were beginning to convert part of the building in to a hotel, but it had not opened yet. Needless to say, I was very excited to sleep in a renovated Kirkbride, so I bought a ticket for the tour and booked my hotel room.

Preservation Works managed to put on an absolutely fantastic tour. I was extremely surprised and appreciative of how much of the hospital we were able to see. It was a busy 4 hours that felt more like exploring than a tour and I was exhausted at the end of it.

The hotel also blew me away. They did an amazing job preserving the building and walking down the halls and through the connectors just feels like walking through a Kirkbride. Seeing the building with lights on in the windows at night blew me away. Hopefully the next time I am out in Buffalo I will take a few more pictures of the exterior and the hotel to post.

I used my new digital medium format camera system on this trip and was absolutely blown away by the results. You can read my rambling camera-geek impressions after the photos.

My quasi-retirement from exploring is not due to a lack of interest in photographing abandoned buildings, so I was extremely excited to try out my new Fuji GFX medium format digital camera on my favorite subject. I own the GF 23mm f/4 and the GF 70mm f/1.7, both of which are excellent lenses. For this trip I also rented the GF45mm f/2.8, Mitakon 65mm f/1.4, and an EF to GFX adapter to allow me to use my Canon EF 24mm TSE.

I recently sold a Canon R5 to move to the GFX system because I felt like the Canon lacked “soul”. It was an exceedingly capable camera but it felt like a commercial tool rather than something to create art with. The GFX gave me exactly what I was looking for.

The results from the GFX are…I wish I could go back and re-shoot every digital picture I have ever taken with this camera. It is astonishingly good. It is also more demanding to shoot than 35mm. To get any kind of reasonable depth of field, you need to shoot at fairly small apertures which can mean very long exposure times in an abandoned hospital. If you want to take advantage of the ridiculous level of sharpness the native GF lenses and 100 megapixel sensor can deliver, your focus needs to be very exact.

As far as my rentals, the GF 45mm was a workhorse and many of the shots in this set came from that lens. I figured that focal length would be critical for this trip and I was right. It is a very good lens.

The Mitakon, on the other hand, was useless. People like this lens because of the character it brings to images but the lack of sharpness is completely unacceptable. Wide open, no part of the frame is sharp at all. At smaller apertures it gets sharper, but never sharp. I tested this lens before I left and did not even wind up using it.

The Canon EF 24 TSE on a Fringer adapter turned out to work well. I have the first version of the 24 TSE but it was acceptably sharp on the GFX. Both the GFX and the adapter were set to 35mm mode – the lens can cover the medium format sensor in the center, but not if it is shifted. I was impressed, though I would really like to see what a native GFX tilt shift lens could do.