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Traditional Romanian Cooking Lessons

To encourage and support the "Transylvania Call", I thought it would be great to publish this fine tutorial by 1x member Vlad Dumitrescu.   


Nikon D33  .  Nikkor 10-24mm f 3/5  .  10mmmm  .  1/50ss  .  f/3.5  .  ISO400

By capturing an image of the making of a traditional Easter cake, I aim to preserve some of the old Romanian traditions that are slowly dying out.

Although it’s 250 miles (400 km) away and the roads are far from what they should be, I have visited MaramureÈ™ in northern Romania many times. This is because I never get enough of the magic of its incredibly warm people! There, everyone's hearts and doors are wide open. You truly have to go there in order to really understand.

"I’ve always liked indoor photography and to surprise the people in their own environment, so we asked her if we could come inside and take some photographs. With a smile she obliged."

In 2010, on the Saturday before Easter, I was wandering the small streets with my friend and fellow photographer, Mihnea Turcu, when we saw the woman in the photograph. She was cleaning the windows of her house. I’ve always liked indoor photography and to surprise the people in their own environment, so we asked her if we could come inside and take some photographs. With a smile she obliged. Once we were inside, I was so surprised by the beauty of the house. It was quite traditional with many old things in every room. The woman told us that she lived in that lovely house with her only son. 

" I squeezed into a small space between the table and the wall, in front of my subject; I like to be very close to my subjects."

She said that she had just finished cleaning the windows, and that she was about to make a special Easter cake, called Pască. The whole kitchen was perfect for shooting; it was large and very well lit. The table on which she was working was right by a window. I squeezed into a small space between the table and the wall, in front of my subject; I like to be very close to my subjects. I was very careful to fit all of her into the frame of the photograph. 

I took several shots, but I liked this one most, mainly because of her facial expression, her hands and the great sense of her movement and action.
I used Photoshop to make all the adjustments in post-processing.

1) The image was shot in RAW format. 

2) I adjusted it a little so that it would be perfectly horizontal. I also worked a little on the Contrast. 

3) In the right corner there was a small, but very distractiing red bucket, and I choose to remove it with the Clone Stamp tool.

4) To sharpen the image a little, I used the Unsharp Mask filter. I set the Amount to 90, Radius to 1.5 and Threshold to 1. 

5) I converted the image to black and white because the walls were green, and in the right corner there were some distracting blue items as well. I didn’t like the way those things drew my attention, so I decided monochrome would suit this image perfectly. The conversion was done by adjusting the Channel Mixer. There, I selected Monochrome first. Usually, I set Red to 59%, Green to 30% and Blue to 11%. 

7) Then I went to Levels and added a little more contrast from there. That was all.
1) First and foremost, you always have to remember that you are a guest in the house of a real person, and not in the house of an object that needs to be photographed. That person has feelings, and if she welcomed you into her house, it means that she also wants to get to know you. You have to be yourself and be open with her, if you want her to be open with you. 

2) Take a little time before you take the photos. It is much easier if you’ve met the person before you start shooting. It’s even better if you have some photos for her from a previous visit. A year later, I returned to this house to give this woman the photographs that I took.

3) Pick the right time to take your photographs. This was just before Easter and there was much going on in the household since the whole village was preparing for the festival.
An introduction of my work should start with a short description of Romania. The magic of this country lies in its landscapes and in its warm people who are living in all the villages that are located very close to the sea or in the heart of the mountains. Every region has its own specific habits and its own stories, from which I’m collecting photographs to make a book about Romania. Page by page you can look through the seasons. You can still find carts run by oxen or people working at the looms or in the fields. 

I feel very lucky to live in this country, but at the same time, I’m sorry to see that day by day something is changing as modernism cuts deeper and deeper into our old traditions. During my walks up and down and around the hills, valleys and villages of Romania, my aim is to find old people and forgotten ways and try to bring what was lost in the past back to the present. As I have a job that keeps me occupied during the week, my photographic work takes place during weekends and short holidays.
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Wow, that is a good lesson and a great photograph by Vlad Dumitrescu. I love his work so much and I think this is very interesting reading. Nice how he describes his country and the people also. It really is a pity that like he says that modernism cuts so deep into the old traditions, Maybe we are losing valuable information also since the machines take over more and more. Thank you Yvette for bringing this to our attention. My favorite photograph by the way of him is "the man and the scythe", also showing an old tradition tool that is for cutting grass. They used it also where I live before, but hardly not to see anymore because most of the farming is in such a big scale, but sometimes I still can see a man with a scythe and it brings joy to see. It is comforting to know that when all is gone, we still at least can see it looking at Vlad Dumitrescus and others photographs ! Vlad Dumitrescu is made of gold !! :-)