How often have you really looked at the buildings you pass on your way to work or school? How much do you pay attention to the places you pass while heading out to the grocery store? For most people, the answer is, not too often.
Now is the time to change all that.
There are many ways to go about it, depending on the population density of the area you live in, and your resources. For example, if you live in a large city, maybe it's not practical or even safe to drive around looking at buildings. If you live in a more rural area, there may not be a choice but to take your car.
If You Live in a City
Cities are a double-edged sword when it comes to abandonments. If the city you live in is doing well economically, buildings that no longer serve a purpose are often destroyed quickly to redevelop valuable property. If, however, the city takes an economic downturn, or perhaps some sections of the city become less popular than others, you may find something of interest.
For the city scenario, I suggest taking the bus. Someone else is driving, and looking out the window gives you the opportunity, not only to notice buildings and architecture, but it helps you to forget the crazy guy sitting across from you staring with a maniacal look on his face. Joking aside, having your hands and eyes free allows you to see things in a way you can't when you're driving, and take notes about what you see.
Never forget the oldest form of transportation in existence, the Mk 1 foot. Get off the bus at a different stop. Look around, walk the streets. You can never truly know a town or city until you've explored it on foot. If you're familiar enough with the area, and comfortable enough, consider looking into alleys. All manner of amazing things wait to be discovered. Things that most people never notice despite walking past them constantly. Take note of the artistry of the graffiti on the walls. Yeah, some of it is just meaningless junk, but you'll be surprised at some of the work and talent that sometimes goes into these spray painted murals.
In time you'll begin to notice the vacant buildings. You'll find a large assortment of fascinating things to photograph, if that's what you like to do. Before long, you'll know your surroundings better than most people you'll talk to.
If You Live in the Country
In this scenario, you're probably better off using a vehicle. Maybe you can get someone else to come with you as either the driver or the spotter.
Again, the idea is to really see things you've overlooked in the past. Take sideroads that you've never used before. Take note of the street names and ask yourself, "Why did they call this Old Mill Road?"
In more rural areas, you're more likely to find empty houses than you are large buildings. While some might turn their noses up at this, I personally find them just as entertaining. Many times the content of the house that has been left behind by its previous occupants can grant you a fascinating look into their lives. They can even be time capsules into a past era, depending on how long it's been vacant. You'll see things that you may have never seen before, or things that will take you back in your own memories of days gone by.
Old barns can be of particular interest. Perhaps they contain old machinery, like antique tractors or other farm equipment. There are countless treasures to be found for your enjoyment, and as wonderful and unique photographic subjects.
So, regardless of where you live, exploration is possible, and will likely be fruitful. Read the other sections of this guide to find out more about how to find what's right under your nose.