During our recent visit to Bran Castle, we had a few spare hours that we chose to spend wandering through the mountains above Bran. We found a dirt road that wound its way up the mountains through a beautiful village called Sodohol and then entered into Bucegi National Park. We stumbled onto it by chance and followed it till we could go no further without damage to the underside of our car, so we parked it and walked. We had a wonderful time and I hope the photos you see here will show it. Some of them are high-resolution panoramas and one includes a view of Bran Castle from afar. Enjoy!
Somewhere along the Transfagarasan Road in the Southern Carpathian Mountains is a wonderful place I call the “Four Springs” (La Patru Izvoare). A crystal-clear pond near a bend in the road is the home of four mountain springs whose water has an amazingly fresh taste. After filling up the pond, their collected volume pours into a larger brook that flows down to Lake Vidraru.
I hope you enjoy this short video clip I filmed there!
There’s a majestic beauty in these mountains that’s much more appreciated if you walk on them, rather than drive through on the Transfagarasan or the Transalpina. Their scale is easily underestimated from the car, until you step outside and size yourself next to a peak that seemed small just a minute ago, or you start climbing it and quickly run out of breath. Physical fitness aside, the overwhelming feeling when you’ve immersed yourself in their environment is one of awe and respect.
This weekend, we spent an afternoon on the Transfăgărășan Road, in the Făgăraș Mountains of Romania. (Trans-faragarasan → “Trans” = across and “Fagarasan” = the specific mountains which it crosses.) I enjoyed driving its challenging curves (Ligia not so much) and later we both enjoyed walking and meditating in the mountains. I also took photos (naturally) and I hope you’ll enjoy them.
This is how the mountains look as you approach them from E68, after you pass through a village called Cartisoara.
As we started to climb, these are the sorts of views we started to get. Hold on, the best stuff is yet to come.
At the top, it was fairly crowded. I tried to avoid the crowds as I took my photos. Some people were hiking, others were stuffing their faces. Not sure what it is about the top of a mountain that makes people so hungry. It’s not as if they climbed it — they drove it. There were loads of cars in the parking lot.
This is what the slopes to the top peaks looked like. Although it’s summer, we were fairly high up (above 2,000 meters in altitude) so the weather was foggy and fairly cold (10-15 degrees Celsius).
Since it was too crowded and noisy at the top, and the smell of cooking pervaded the air, Ligia and I decided to drive on past the main peaks and we stopped further down the road, where it was nice and quiet. That’s Ligia hiking toward me.
The views only got better as we went higher up. The black dot in the center of the photo is Ligia.
I’ll let this three-photo panorama show you what I mean. I left the white space unmasked on purpose, to show you everything the camera captured.
Here’s a close-up of the left side of that pano, showing the twists and turns of this picturesque mountain road.
We stopped to meditate and enjoy the tremendous beauty before us where the rock face turned sharply upward and climbing by foot became dangerous (we had no climbing gear with us). As we sat there, fog from the valley rose up alongside the cliff, joining with the clouds.
We climbed down refreshed and clear-headed, and as evening drew near, we wound our way down toward Sibiu and home, but not before taking another panorama of the Transfagarasan.
Here’s another photograph that shows the spread of the road in the valley below.
As usual, if you’ll go through gallery below, you’ll find photos that I haven’t shown here. Enjoy!
The second leg of our trip through the Southern Carpathian Mountains, whose first leg took us through Obarsia Lotrului and Lacul Vidra, now took us by Lacul Oasa and the Northern portion of the Transalpina, a high-altitude road which offers unsurpassed vistas and which I documented through photos in late fall of last year.
This picturesque, unpaved portion of the Transalpina Road is also quite dangerous. The rocky cliffs you see hanging above it are eager to hurl rocks at passersby. It’s a situation made worse by man’s presence there. They blasted through the rock to make the road (a necessary evil) but they also set up a temporary concrete factory there and chewed through yet more rock to make the stuff. Until vegetation grows back on that slope to hold together the rocks, or measures are taken to reduce the rock falls, it’s a dangerous section of the road. Rocks were falling right by us as we drove through.
Be sure to view the full gallery posted below for more photos.
We drove into Lacul Vidra and Obarsia Lotrului this past weekend. The approximate location we visited is this one.
It’s a wonderful drive that offers gorgeous vistas (as most roads in Romania do), and because it’s not summer yet, the roads are relatively empty, meaning we were able to take our time and stop wherever we liked to take photos.
I’m going to publish the first group of photos today and the rest tomorrow, because there are quite a few of them and I’d rather not overwhelm you.
On the way, we found a grotto formed of ice and snow at the foot of a forest, right over the bed of a brook. The snow had been insulated by a thick leaf cover, and that’s why it had kept so far, but in 75-degree (Fahrenheit) late spring weather, I doubt it will keep for much longer. It was a remarkable sight for the middle of May, particularly since we weren’t at a high altitude (about 400-500 meters).
I recorded a short video of it as well.
We found a beautiful meadow on the top of a mountain, where we relaxed and breathed in the fresh air.
In case you’re wondering what I look like these days, here’s a portrait of me taken by Ligia.
Make sure to go through the full gallery posted below for more photos.
Ligia and I got to spend a bit of time in Poiana Brasov recently. Following are a few photos I took as we visited the mountain resort after some significant snowfall. Naturally, everything was blanketed in the smooth, powdery white stuff, and the light just happened to be perfect.
Incidentally, these are some of the first photos I edited with the new Lightroom 4. Enjoy!
Compare these photos with these, taken a few months ago in the same approximate locations.
We visited the mountain resort of Paltinis today. It’s about 25-30 km from Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Romania, and the road to it is in pretty good shape. The views are wonderful, so if you’re in the area, drive on over.
Funny thing about Paltinis… It’s the place where I almost wasn’t… My mom was skiing on their bunny slope when she was pregnant with me, and she had a bad fall which could have resulted in a spontaneous abortion. Thank goodness it didn’t, or I wouldn’t be around today.
Here are a few photos I took there, which I shot with an iPhone. I used a “pre-filter” for some of the photos — my driving sunglasses! It’s a neat little trick you can do if the lens of your camera is small enough to be masked completely by the lens of your sunglasses, and it works particularly well if they’re polarized. You simply hold the camera right next to your glasses and shoot through the lens. You can compare the resulting effect below. Another thing I should mention is the panoramic-sized photos were stitched together in Photoshop, they’re not single exposures cropped to look like panoramic shots. Click through to view them large.
Transalpina is the highest road in Romania. It’s also quite possibly its most picturesque; it certainly offers the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in Romania so far. It connects Transilvania to Oltenia, and the official length of the entire road is 148 km from Novaci to Sebes, although only a stretch of 30-40 km travels atop the Parang Mountains (part of the Carpathians), reaching an altitude of 2145 meters at its highest point.
The road was built by the Romans, as they traveled north toward Sarmisegetusa and then used by them as they carted off thousands of tons of gold and silver from Dacia’s rich mines. (You might want to read through this post for the background info.)
According to this website, the road was paved with rocks by King Carol I in the 1930s, maintained by the Nazis during WWII, then forgotten. Work to repave its entire length began in 2009 and it still goes on, though large portions of the road, including its most beautiful sections, are now ready to be used.
We visited Transalpina twice this year, most recently during this past weekend, and we were awestruck by the beauty of the vistas you can see as you travel along its length. We had the good fortune to drive through right after first snow had fallen on the peaks, draping them in a light blanket of pure white snow. Moreover, we were blessed with a gorgeous sunset that colored everything in sight in a golden orange hue. It was heavenly.
We’d have loved to spend more time atop the mountains but night was falling quickly, the temperature was dropping, and we had hundreds of “miles to go” before we could sleep, to paraphrase Robert Frost.
We drove on, descending into the valley below and into thick fog, then wound our way through the mountains toward Sibiu, passing through such interesting places as Jina and Poiana Sibiului.
I’ll leave you with a few more photos from the trip.
In March, we crossed the Carpathian Mountains in the county of Harghita, Romania, as we drove from the city of Bacau to Medias. The route was scenic and there were lots of beautiful places to stop and admire the view. Snow still covered the mountain peaks, and it covered the ground as well at higher altitudes. The roads got pretty bad at times, as is quite often the case in Romania, but they were fairly decent about half the time, which is something — for Romania. At any rate, the places we saw are among the more beautiful in the country.
I recorded a short video clip as we drove through the high peaks of the Harghita Mountains, and stopped in various places to take photographs. The video clip is embedded below. If you’re reading this on my feed and it doesn’t show up, then you can see it in my Video Log set.
The white line you see at the top of the abrupt mountain slope above isn’t a lens aberration. It’s snow. It covers the other side of the mountain. The visible slope is too abrupt and windswept for the snow to keep, so all that’s left is some dry brush and a few trees.
Here we begin to approach the tops of the peaks, and snow is more abundant.
The road hugs the mountain side closely as it curves upward. I love the wooden fence alongside the road, it’s so well suited to the place.
A small mountain cabin holds onto the top. It leans to the left, either because of the settling of its foundation over the time, or because of the strong winds at that altitude.
This is the road where I recorded the video clip you see below.
This mountain brook wound its way through a conifer forest. I think its color is either given by the mud in that region, or by iron ore deposits in the brook bed.
Here’s the video clip, recorded from our car, while driving.
- List of mountain peaks in Romania
- Bacau (also see my photos from Bacau)
- Medias (also see my photos from Medias)
Greetings from Osttirol! My wife and I have been vacationing in Austria for the past week. It’s a gorgeous place to visit and, needless to say, I took tons of photos here. I’ve been carrying my Canon 5D and my lenses with me everywhere, and let me tell you, I’ve been sorely in need of a good zoom lens.
The lens inventory in my camera bag is woefully short at the moment. I started out with three primes: EF 24mm f/1.4L, EF 50mm f/1.4, and EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro. I sold the 24mm prime with the intention of buying the EF 24-105mm f/4L Zoom, but other circumstances intervened, and now I’ve only got the 50mm and 100mm lenses.
There are some who say it’s better to have prime lenses. I disagree. I’d like to see them carry five or six prime lenses in a backpack up and down a mountain in order to get the range that one or two good zoom lenses would give, and then tell me if they still feel the same way. And by the way, try changing lenses in swift mountain breezes, with insects buzzing around you and just dying to get inside the sensor chamber and leave smudge marks (which happened to me). Oh, and don’t forget to throw in a few other accessories such as polarizers and UV filters of various sizes for the different diameters of each lens, plus one or two water bottles and a fleece jacket plus an umbrella in case the weather goes bad, and then we’ll talk…
In a way, I was glad to only have to carry two lenses; I’d have really felt the weight of a third one. But I felt so limited in the photos I could take, because I could only use the 50mm or the 100mm lens to frame my photos. In some instances, I could walk back and forth to get a better view or angle, but in others, there was no way to get a better photo without also being able to fly — which incidentally, would be very nice, but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. And no, I don’t believe in cropping. I only do it when I absolutely have to. I didn’t pay $2,800 for a full-frame sensor that can take 12.8 megapixel photos so I could crop them and get the same resolution I can get from a $500 camera.
To this day, I slap my head when I think that I could have had the 24-105mm zoom lens as a kit lens with my 5D for a little over half its usual price. I was such a fool not to get it! It’s a light and sharp zoom with more range than the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, and you can easily walk around with it for hours without getting too tired.
So far on this trip (which ends very soon, unfortunately) I took 1904 photos with the 50mm prime, and 471 photos with the 100mm prime. If I had had (don’t you just love the English language) the 24-105mm zoom on my trip, it’d have stayed on my camera 95% of the time, because that’s the range I use the most, particularly on the wider end of that focal spectrum, which was not available to me, each and every day, how stupid could I be, ugh…
Look, I’m not knocking the 50mm prime, which is a great prime, and very cost effective given its low light capabilities and sharpness. And I’m definitely not knocking the 100mm prime, which is versatile and a fantastic macro lens with gorgeous bokeh. But I really didn’t need f/1.4 or macro capabilities for landscape photography, which is what I did on this trip. I needed a zoom lens!
So, if you’re not sure what lenses to get, don’t do what I did, or you’ll be frustrated to no end as well. First get a good, lightweight zoom lens, one that won’t kill your wrist as you carry your camera around taking photos. Later, as you find that you need more specific capabilities, such as being able to take handheld photos at dusk or dawn, or more bokeh, or macro photos, then spring for those primes that have the features you need.