Finding The Shepherd
Traveling through the Carpathian Mountains of Romania — I’ve done it twice — removes time and replaces it with something far less mechanical or ordered. 12th century, 18th century, fact, fiction, war and peace — the mountains have absorbed it all here and as you wheel through in an old car with the windows down, crushed together with children of all ages, you do the thing that all humans dread doing, but in the end saves us: you lose yourself to the terrifying grandness of everything.
On this day, my father-in-law — a Romanian himself — and I were on our own adventure. We had determined to go see a castle in the afternoon hours. I had seen an interesting spot to photograph it, by a cross on a neighboring hill. This spot we found, and that was an adventure in and of itself, with its hidden entrance and steep rocky climb. This is one kind of photograph. Travel and landscape photographers know it well — it’s the one you research, the one you determine to find, a kind of bucket list shot. And in the end, you feel more accomplished than the photograph does.
But there’s another kind of shot. You know this one, too. You don’t plan it, just prepare for it. Put yourself out there — in the world, not just on it, as my mother would say — and put up with the days of nothing because eventually the day comes when you will be given a different kind of opportunity. The opportunity to do something you don’t normally do, shoot something you don’t normally shoot, perhaps something that’s never been shot. Not in that place.
There was cloud cover this day. Even light spread across the fields. A long stretch of flat road eventually succumbed to a gentle climb. Landscape takes its time in Romania. Hours go by. Like war, the weather can be brutal, but for much of the year it is gentle and easy-going. And Romania has seen its share of wars. As much as anywhere. The main towns have seen everyone from Russians to Germans to Huns at their gates. But there’s a lot of peace there, too. The land makes it hard to stay angry, with its disparate townships, its gypsies, its papanasi stands. This day was a peaceful one.