Drone your road
Roads. They're not just lines connecting us to a destination. Whether they're highways, urban or rural roadways, mountain roads or passes, each of them has their unique beauty regardless of the season. For some of us, all the roads we cross or see symbolize something. And this is the reason we've discussed with some of the most passionate photographers about all kinds of roads. Here they are: Anzebizjan, Calin Stan, Gheorghita Rafaila and Markus Schieder. Thank you, guys, for sharing with us your passion and useful tips.
1. What do you see in the lines the roads and pathways are drawing?
Anzebizjan: Well for sure they are divisions, separating let's say forest in two. But more profoundly they are guidelines to moving forward.
Gheorghita Rafaila: I consider the roads and pathways as something very important to mankind. As those elements have generated enormous development for humanity by bringing together at least two points on the map.
Calin Stan: My first series of images that I took photographing roads from above made me think: “oh, look! This one looks like a giant snake in the forest!”. Other times I “see” alphabet letters, like “M” or “S” winding roads. Others see something totally different, like the ears of a rabbit in one of my recent pictures. So, like photography should be, everyone can have his or her interpretation when looking at my pictures. I love to listen to people and understand how their imagination is “working”.
2. Why do you like shooting roads?
Anzebizjan: They are like rivers flowing through countryside. If you follow a road you will get somewhere, but what is more important to me is that you will get there a different person that you were at the beginning.
Gheorghita Rafaila: Being passionate about the automotive world, and driving a car in particular, I am addicted to roads. I love to travel by car. And from here on, it is very simple.
Calin Stan: I love nature and wide spaces, so my inspiration came basically from nature itself and the way humans changed it. I like exploring new angles and always pushing the limits, so the drone came naturally to me. I am also a kind of “technical person with OCD” and I love perfect patterns and geometrical forms. So flying and taking pictures of winding roads feels very satisfying to me.
Markus Schieder: Gives me a mind expanding awareness and feelings and a kind of satisfaction of my intense desire of travelling.
3. Winding roads or straight roads? What do you prefer and why?
Anzebizjan: Winding from above! The view they carve into landscape is just amazing.
Gheorghita Rafaila: I am attracted to mountains, and those serpentine roads seemed to be endless. Every road has its own particularities which are very close to the surrounding landscape, whether they are maize fields, windmills or crossing the mountains.
Calin Stan: It depends on the story, actually. They can be both interesting and intriguing. But I like winding roads the most, because of the way humans influenced and sometimes overcome obstacles in nature.
Markus Schieder: I prefer the straight roads because before being a photographer I was an architect. And as an architect, especially an old school one, you primarily think and draw plans in lines and perspectives.
4. Favorite road?
Anzebizjan: Uf, that's a hard one. I would say any road going through snow covered pine forest :)
Gheorghita Rafaila: There are two. And I'm dreaming to be there in the next future: The Stelvio Pass, Italy and Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA, with no less than 156 turns.
Calin Stan: I have many roads that I love to photograph and drive on, but my no. 1 remains DN1A (Cheia-Babarunca) in Romania, the one that inspired me for my “Infinite Road to Transylvania” project and the first one that I shot with my drone. This is it:
Markus Schieder: The winding roads of the Stelvio Pass in Switzerland are really amazing to photograph as well as drive by car or by motorcycle. Although city roads or highways have a very interesting dynamic, I prefer the abandoned roads with less traffic and especially less people.
5. Best time [hour, season] to photograph roads?
Anzebizjan: Winter, just after the snow has fallen because the trees still have snow stuck to their branches. Late afternoon when sun is at just the right angle to cast great shadows :)
Gheorghita Rafaila: As hour-time, early in the morning, or late evening, sunlight gives shadows and very surprising contours. As season-time, every time! Spring will offer intense green, autumn red and brick, and winter surprises you with the immensity of white.
Calin Stan: While flying, I’m always searching for the best composition, light, time of day, and geometric forms. This project is all about geometry. Also, the time of day at which you shoot is paramount. If the sun is too low on the horizon, you will end up with long shadows from the trees and barely visible roads. The best time of the day to shoot streets was in the middle of the day when the sun was directly above me, or on cloudy days when there was no shade at all. Ironically, sometimes your aerial photography can improve if you ignore the rules of conventional ground photography.
As for the season, I think that an interesting experiment is to try to photograph the same road throughout the year, in all seasons. Then blend the pictures together and see the result. It can be really intriguing.
Markus Schieder: Ohh...it depends on the road itself and the country... . It's not the time, it's your special view on things which make it an amazing photo. If I have to choose one season, it will be autumn cause the colorful time is in opposite to the grey surface of the roads. This offers a wonderful contrast.
6. Your best shot of a road and the story behind it.
Anzebizjan: This one. There was a snowfall and I wanted to take some shots of snow covered tree tops. The only problem I had was the fog, so I was constantly checking livecam from nearby town to decide when to hit the road and get there. At the end I went there twice, because the first time the wind was blowing too much to get airborne, but the second time it was just perfect.
Gheorghita Rafaila: It's almost a year since I 've been using my drone, and I shot quite a few roads, but my favorite is from last summer, on the famous Transfagarasan road, the road that it is also on top of the most beautiful roads in the world and Europe. And honestly, those pictures do not have a special story behind.
Calin Stan: I don’t know if this is my “best shot” of a road, but definitely has the most intriguing story.
My most intense flying experience happened in 2016, in October, when I was shooting the above picture. This road doesn't have many safe places to stop the car, so I had found one that was almost 500m away from the windings that I wanted to shoot. So, I took my drone out and when I was in mid-air, 500m away, my drone app crashed and the smartphone jammed. I couldn't see the drone visually (because of the trees that were close to me), I couldn't hear it (because of the cars and trucks passing by on the busy road) and it was a little bit scary. I didn't know if the crashing of the app affected the return-to-home function (GPS position and so...), so my only hope was to press the RTH button on the remote control and hope for the best. Luckily things worked as they should and the drone came back to me, safely landing from where I took off. It was an intense moment, but luckily the TRH function worked great and I had already shot my pictures before the app crashed.
Markus Schieder: I guess there is not only one best shot. I made some really cool shots of some roads during my Iceland trip. The story behind it's simple. I drove in 10 days about 3000 km and it was hard not to stop at every kilometer to make a photo cause Iceland and its landscapes are changing from minute to minute and every new kilometer has its unique fantastic character and opportunities for photographers. Here it is.
7. Does a road remind you of anything? Favorite memory, special encounters on the road?
Anzebizjan: To me they symbolize freedom.
Gheorghita Rafaila: There is a certain road in Eastern Romania, in Tulcea city, with some ups and downs, and with many wind turbines on both sides of the road. It's a road that I cross every season and I feel it completely different every time.
Calin Stan: My favorite encounters on the roads are with the wild animals that you can find in secondary roads in the mountains, in Romania. Especially at night. Once I saw wild boars, one bear and a herd of deer, all of them in the same night and on the same road - not in the same moment, obviously, but it was a great experience.
Markus Schieder: Yeah, sometime it's just a memory of a vacation with friends or family. The Stelvio Pass and its surroundings I mentioned before reminds me of the awe of Mother Nature and that we, human beings, are only visitors on Planet Earth in a tiny part of its entire existence.
8. Bucket list roads?
Gheorghita Rafaila: As I said, The Stelvio Pass, Pikes Peak and maybe Route 66.
Calin Stan: I’d like to go one day and photograph the roads in the Austrian, Switzerland and Italian Alps (and not to miss the Stelvio Pass) as I do with the ones in Romania. Still, it needs planning, so for now it is only on the bucket list. But, one day, I will do it. In Romania I still have to go to Bicaz Gorges to photograph the road there, but except for that I have done them all (those that are extreme winding roads). If you want to try something special, try to go to Transfagarasan and back on Transalpina, here in Romania. Even both in one day. I can guarantee that you will have a once in a lifetime experience driving there!
Markus Schieder: Of course, ROUTE 66.
9. Most dangerous thing made to take the best shot of the road.
Anzebizjan: Driving in cold weather? Really nothing special :)
Gheorghita Rafaila: I let my wife to drive the car and I was out on the hatch, driving the drone at 350m altitude. Unfortunately, that road did not offer me any parking space.
Calin Stan: As I said above, the most dangerous moment was when I was flying my drone out of my (visual) sight and the app crashed. That was really a scary one! It was not dangerous for anybody or anything except for the drone itself, but still was a moment to remember!
Markus Schieder: Balancing on the edge of a winding road on the border curb, at the side ofthevalley during fog.
10. Any useful tips regarding the proper equipment, angles, techniques, that you'd like to share with our community?
Anzebizjan: Use Google maps, check the place in advance with street view as well as from above. Be mindful of weather and take in consideration any sort of information that you can get (webcams, media, stock material already online etc.)
Gheorghita Rafaila: To be courageous, to use the drone only with safe and care, especially in populated areas. As I use the Mavic PRO, I think it's more than enough, but now the Mavic Air is pretty good. Air photography denotes a lot of freedom, so I think there is no rule to follow. Be creative, look for something new, any meter to the left or right gives you another perspective. Be like a bird and think what you'd like to see from above.
Calin Stan: If you are planning to get a drone to photograph roads, try to get yourself the most reliable drone you can afford (in terms of battery autonomy, flight range and transmission range and quality). Don’t forget that you will be flying over live traffic, so safety should be your first priority. Then, get to know your drone and plan each flight carefully. Try to experiment with different angles, heights and moments throughout the day and see which suits you most. Then, keep in mind that the wind and the aerial cables are a drone’s greatest (and mostly invisible) enemy. Always watch where you’re flying and, especially in the beginning, try to have a friend to assist you, visually, when you are flying. More like a spotter. It’s better to have for eyes, in case you lose sight of the drone, distracted by the controls or something. Fly safe and obey the regulations. Have fun, experiment and be creative! The sky is no longer the limit!
Markus Schieder: My best tip is not to copy. Seek always new angles and techniques to be unique. Forget about expensive equipment and let your soul be driven by inspiration and freedom.