Abandoned SCI Cresson Prison – Saturday, July 29, 2023


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Date: Saturday, July 29, 2023
Time: 11:00a-6:00p
Cost: $100
Max Participants: 20
Location: Cresson, Pennsylvania

Get up to 7 hours from the price that I usually charge for 4 hours! This may be the last photo workshop held at the site is a long time (or possible ever) due to an ongoing ownership issue.

After 100 years of use as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a mental hospital, and as a prison, the doors of SCI Cresson have finally opened for those that love history and photographing abandoned sites.

This massive site is just a few minutes from Altoona, PA, and features 20 buildings open for exploration including the 100-year-old sanatorium, modern cell blocks, the old prison hospital, and much, much more spread out over 34 acres. And all of it will be yours to explore during the workshop!

The exterior of the sanatarium building at the abandoned SCI Cresson in the Allegheny Mountains

If you want more information on the history of this site and to see even more photos, check out the article I wrote about my exploration at the prison.

While this site is open to the public monthly at a slightly lower cost, this workshop will allow you to see the site with a much smaller group (roughly 25% of the public tour capacity) meaning that you’ll have plenty of space to explore and get the photos that you want. In fact, the number of buildings here is roughly the same as the group capacity, so you’re very likely to have entire buildings to yourself during this workshop.

This site is not only unique because of its size, but also because of the huge variety of structures that you can explore.

Abandoned hospital at the Cresson State Prison in Pennsylvania

These range from bright and airy modern cell blocks to crumbling (and VERY dark) basements in buildings that were in service for over 100 years. You can even walk to several of the buildings via underground tunnels!

Some of the rooms are nearly empty while others have deteriorating hospital equipment, weight-lifting sets, and guard controls. There are hundreds of abandoned jail cells, two indoor basketball courts, and even a 100-year-old church.

Drone photo of SCI Cresson

This is a very historic and fun place to explore, and there’s a bit of something for everyone no matter the type of photography that you like to shoot.

Since I’m often asked, drone photography is permitted on the property, and I am an FAA Part 107 certified drone pilot, so I’m happy to help with tips regarding drone photography and videography. Note that drone pilots will be required to follow all FAA and state rules during their visit. No last-minute refunds will be given if drone flying is not possible due to weather, temporary flight restrictions, or other factors out of the control of the instructor and the site owners (as you can still explore the site from the ground).

Crumbling classroom at SCI Cresson

It’s worth noting that while some clean-up has been done here, there are some very rough areas here that can present hazards for visitors. All guests will be required to sign two waivers (one for me and one for the site). Also, closed-toe shoes are required and masks are highly recommended (due to airborne hazards like mold in the buildings). I would also highly recommend a strong flashlight/headlamp and a tripod for your camera.

Because of these hazards, unfortunately, no one under 16 is allowed on this workshop. 16 and 17-year-olds must be accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian and won’t be admitted without one. Furthermore, all attendees must purchase a ticket regardless of whether they will be shooting photos or not.

Modern prison cell block at the abandoned SCI Cresson

This workshop will be a bit less structured than some of my other workshops due to the massive nature of the site. Maps will be provided to each attendee upon arrival, and I will be available throughout the day by phone if you need any assistance. I will also wander through the property trying to check in on as many people as possible during the event.

That being said, for anyone that wants or needs some assistance with photos, I will provide as much instruction as I possibly can during the event, and we will start together in one of the buildings on the property to help you get a feel for the site.

Generally speaking, workshops will go on even if there is a threat of inclement weather. However, if we must cancel the workshop, we will try to reschedule it. If you are unable to attend the rescheduled date, you can apply your amount paid to another photo workshop or receive a full refund.

Cell block control room at the abandoned prison in Cresson, PA

This workshop also has a minimum number of participants required for it to go on. Should that minimum not be met at least 10 days prior to the workshop, all money will be refunded.

If you have any other questions regarding refund policies, suggested equipment, or anything else, read our FAQ page. You can also message me using the form below.

Note regarding Covid: All participants will be required to sign a waiver to participate in the workshop. This waiver will note the inherent risks of participating in a workshop during the current pandemic. Unless required by local regulations, masks will not be required. However, we will ask all participants to maintain social distance from each other where possible.

Cresson Prison photo workshop

While masks are not required, the condition of the buildings does make the overall air quality less than ideal, so I highly recommend wearing one when indoors regardless of regulations. The instructor will have his own mask and will put one on when working one-on-one with you if you would like him to.

If you have tested positive for Covid-19 within 5 days of the workshop or meet the current CDC guidelines for quarantining at the time of the workshop, we ask that you not come. We will provide a full refund if you are unable to come due to a Covid-related issue.

Note that we will always follow local regulations regarding Covid, so these policies will be changed if necessary should the rules change.

Tudor revival building at the historic Cresson State Prison near Altoona PA

About the Instructor

Jim Cheney of UncoveringPA is the instructor of these photo workshops. Jim Cheney is the writer, photographer, and creator of Uncovering PA. He is an award-winning photographer that has photographed all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Jim’s photography focuses on creating unique images utilizing long-exposure shots of waterfalls, sunsets, sunrises, and cityscapes. He also has an interest in abandoned photography.

You can see more of his work on the UncoveringPA Instagram page or on his personal Instagram, JimCheneyPhotography.

Click here for a list of equipment used by Jim.



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