Unbowed, unbent, unbroken

I don't have a photography bucket shot list. In fact I quite dislike "the hunt" for the same famous shots, insta-influencer-style. But my home town Castle … is the exception, it is my photography nemesis.

I was born and have lived the first half of my life in my hometown, Hunedoara, at the border of Transylvania and Banat, two historical regions of Romania.

The region of Hunedoara is home of a few of the most important monuments for Romanian history. You can find here the old Gaetae (dacian) fortress of king Burebista at Sarmizegetusa Regia (in the Orăștie mountains). Not far, about 40km away, there is the largest city of the Roman Dacia (and its capital) Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa. Last but not least, one of the most spectacular medieval castles in south-eastern Europe, the Corvin’s Castle, is located right in my hometown.

I won’t write a historical presentation of Corvin’s Castle only that it was built back in 1446 by the voivode of Transylvania, John Hunyadi (or Iancu de Hunedoara – in Romanian) and was further expanded and improved by his son Mathias (who will become king of the Hungarian kingdom) and later, in the 17th century, by prince Gabriel Bethlen.

As a note, Corvin comes from the Latin word “Corvus“, which means raven, and is the sigil of Huniady family.

What is also worth knowing is that it has never been conquered. Didn’t face many sieges but even so, it was never beaten, broken nor scarred in battles. The greatest damages suffered were by human negligence or nature’s fury.

Rise of the nemesis

Growing up surrounded with such a rich cultural heritage it’s hard not to fall in love with history. Needless to say that I’ve always been obsessed with “the Castle”. My father often told me stories about his childhood adventures within the Castle, how they sneaked in and out, how they got trapped or how they found a coin or a piece of a sword. Bits of stories that I still remember as if I read them from a fairytales book.

Ever since I fully embraced this hobby, photography, I tried many times to pay a personal homage to “THE Castle”, by capturing shots whenever I could. Because I felt a responsibility to honor my favorite historical monument.

Unfortunately, as the Castle bravely endured the history’s vicissitudes, it also easily resisted all my feeble attempts to photograph it in all of its glory. The only thing I did manage to do is to accumulate a lot of frustration. There was no photo I took there without thinking of it afterward: “what in the nine hells was in my mind?”.

Every. God. Damn. Time.

The most recent “adventure” was this year’s spring when I was at home for a day or two and I tried to use all my knowledge and inspiration to capture a night shot of the Castle. During the night the castle is beautifully lit and it looks really, really great.

I ignored the bulk of people gathered outside (even at night!) and the cars, deployed my tripod, threw the ND filter on the 24-70mm and let the long exposures begin. … No? Let’s panorama the $#!4 out of it. Nothing? Let’s change some angles. Damn it, why won’t you look good!!

You know the feeling while you are at it, shooting, and you know from that instant that your shooting is going to be shit? That was me that night. Went home, put a lot of patience and effort on editing them (because they were too got to be left as shot) but all I got just left me … totally disappointed.

I realized then … the Castle has become my photography nemesis. A shot I wanted so badly to take but because of me, it became in time utterly insufferable.

Now I know what went wrong each time. What goes wrong every time I feel the failure while shooting.

Focus. Determination. Connection. The lack of them.  Or the “too much” of them.

Just thinking and pressing myself “this shot must be it!”, “this should be your best one yet!”, “now you finally can have your castle-shot!”. Thoughts that have nothing to do with creation. Thoughts that creates unneeded pressure.

Breaking the chain

This Easter holiday was a bit longer so I planned together with my wife a longer trip from Hunedoara to Oradea, then Cluj and then back to Bucharest. In order to accomplish this trip, we had to keep very short each staying, including at my parents’ house, so I was happy and content that “anyway I don’t have enough time to go and try again to capture the Castle”.

Our first stop was my hometown, Hunedoara, to visit my parents. This was a few months after the great night adventure at the Castle in spring.

It happens to be that road to my parents’ house goes right near the castle and while I was driving there, he was looking at me. The Castle. I sneak peeked at him, minding the road. His eyes still on me as I drove away thinking to myself “screw you Castle, I’m done with you. You have enough awesome photos on the webz”. My jaw was clenched. Lips tight.

On our way leaving my parents’ house, we passed again under the Castle, and he was no longer looking at me. Was busy receiving the hundreds of visitors from all over the country (and beyond). All the surroundings were packed with cars and buses and people sneaking between them. Wify … had the brilliant idea to stop somewhere for her to get some shots for her Instagram. Yay :). Pulled over on an obscure street, got my camera, the 14 mils and the 24-70 and off we went.


We started from a rarely visited vantage point, somehow below the Castle. The rain started to show its first lazy drops. Got some shots, some handheld panoramas … Again, heartless. Knowing they’ll be shit. Pulled out the 14, shot some wide frames. Wify got her shots with her phone, easy-peasy.

Corvin's Castle #2
Flanking view

Next, we decided to go to the main courtyard, where all the people were. All dressed in multi-color raincoats and wearing flashy colored umbrellas.

Corvin's Castle #3
Sneak peek from distance (massive crop)

And finally, we managed to fit among the visitors on an edge that I thought would be a very nice vantage point for the Castle’s scenic view.

And I put myself to work: horizontal panoramas, vertical panoramas, wide shots, wide shot panoramas, etc. until I exhausted all my ideas.

You might wonder why didn’t I get the tripod for some long exposures. Well, we were in a bit of a hurry and I didn’t plan on taking on some serious shots. I was here just for my wife’s instagram-shots. No pressure.

But, honestly, after we were done I was quite happy with the spoils of war (see the featured image). Couldn’t wait to get home and see what was what. And we were ready to move on with our journey.

Vertical panorama with Samyang 14mm

Our next stop was Oradea. The road to Oradea, more precisely the road between Deva and Oradea, I think is one of the most beautiful roads in Romania. Even though there are small parts that are still in construction, this road is brand new and extremely spectacular. Highly recommended!

Perseverance reveals your hidden better self

Before I end this long post, let me tell you about what actually happened when I got back home and tried to edit and select some of the photos from this trip. As I said I was actually content, for the first time, with the photos at The Castle and some good shots at Oradea and Cluj were still on my mind.

I couldn’t wait to see them on big display.

To keep it short, I had a shock. Perhaps because I was in an advanced state of tiredness (from which I’ve recovered in the last weeks only). But believe me when I say that I was looking at them, all of them, and I could feel the panic creeping in as I couldn’t put my finger on any image that I would like. Tried it again the next day, I even tried to do some light editing only to make things worst.

The result was that I didn’t touch the camera for several weeks (actually until I recovered from the exhaustion). I hated those photos. I hated myself.

Yeah, I’ve been in a bad place.

But one day I decided to give these photos another try and what do you know! One by one, nice images revealed themselves. Like the mushrooms after the rain (as a saying goes here in Romania).

The featured image for this post is my favorite since it resembles my first victory against The Castle. A victory against self-defeat.

A victory against the Unbowed, unbent and the unbroken.

OK, guys and gals, this was it. I’d like to hear your stories about similar photography nemesis and how (if) you conquered it.

See you next time, peace!


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