Drone photography captures winding road to Transylvania

Photographer Calin Stan has made more than 200 drone images of the exceptionally winding roads that lead to Romania’s legendary Transylvania. Here’s what we learned about the making of his series “Infinite Road to Transylvania”:

Why these roads: Inspiration struck while Stan was traveling to see a client in Brasov along the twisted DN1A highway. He parked, got out of his car, and made a drone shot that went viral on social media. He turned that inspiration into a project, making seasonal drone shots of various roads in and around Transylvania. “Why Transylvania? Everybody knows Transylvania, right? And of course the legend of Dracula—Vlad Tepes the Impaler,” he says. “I have imagined what Dracula would see, the modern Transylvania.”

Timing is everything: Following the basic rules of photography and shooting during the golden hour doesn’t work with drone photography, Stan found. “If the sun is too low in the horizon, I will end up with long shadows and barely visible roads,” he says. He learned by trial and error that to capture strong geometric images, he needed to photograph them in the middle of the day when the sun was directly above or the sky was cloudy.

Finding a parking spot is harder than you might think: It’s easy to locate winding roads using Google Maps, but being able to find a parking space near them for safe drone flying is not. “Because of the extreme windings, there are almost no parking spaces along these segments of the roads,” he says. “For one particular shot, I tried for three months, doing four passes, to find a place to park my car and safely fly the drone.” When he did find a place to park, it was 400 meters from the road he wanted to photograph. “So it’s a good thing to feel safe flying your drone at this distance and to have a drone that you can rely on.”

The equipment: The first photos were made with a DJI Phantom 4, and later ones with a DJI Mavic Pro. Lately he’s been using the “small but reliable” DJI Mavic Air, he says.  

Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photogapher.