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  • Writer's pictureTomáš Nadrchal

The Karlštejn story

„Hey Tomášek, after lunch we will go to Karlštejn and pick blueberries in the pine forest nearby“ told me my grandma when I was a small kid. I loved Karlštejn, it was a pink chateau on the top of the hill just a few kilometers from my grandma’s house, surrounded by never-ending forest. I was four, maybe five years old back then, but still remember the feeling when I looked at that gorgeous building. I felt like in a fairy tale, that’s for sure. When I got older, my friend had an uncle who worked in the chateau as janitor. I spent a night there, it was amazing! We lit the fireplace and sang songs while my friend’s uncle was playing guitar. I felt magical. It was the one and only Karlštejn in my mind… and then I found out.

There is one more Karlštejn!

It was quite a shock to me, as the world Karlštejn meant something magical for me… It was even more striking when I found out that the other Karlštejn is way more famous, much larger (it was a castle) and one of the greatest monarch of Czech history - Charles IV - had it build for himself. Let’s face it - the castle is gorgeous, huge and amazing building, located in wonderful hilly countryside, surrounded by forests. Plus, whenever I mentioned the word Karlštejn to anyone who lived more than 20 kilometers from my hometown, they didn’t believe there are two of them in Czech Republic. Well, there are!

Many years later, when my passion for photoshooting filled my life, I couldn’t get of my head the need to take a good shot of Karlštejn. Not the castle, but the chateau near my hometown. The problem was that it’s located in the middle of the forest and on the top of the highest hill in the countryside which makes it almost impossible to compose. I had a few photos, but nothing fairytale-like. And then I got a drone… Where do you think my very first flight of my drone took place? Yes, you are right, I flew to take a few shots of Karlštejn chateau. It took me some time to get used to drone photography, but the object of my photography was an obvious one, I just needed to wait for good light and expose.

The following winter I took my favorite shots of the chateau, during early morning golden hour in temperatures way beyond -15 degrees Celsius. I was freezing my fingers off while flying the drone, but those shots were totally worth it! Unfortunately, it wasn’t the luckies photoshooting ever - I broke my micro SD card while inserting into the drone. Yes, it’s possible to break! Maybe it had something to do with the temperature way beyond zero, long story short - I was lucky to have some empty space in my drone memory… and when I got home I bought 2 new micro SD cards to have a spare one for the future (I don’t need to tell you that I never needed the spare one, right?).

When editing Karlštejn chateau photos, I got a thought - why don’t I took photos of the castle as well? It would be nice to have photos of both and it’s only one hour drive from my Prague apartment. I spent a few evenings on the research, put it on my wish-list and waited for good weather forecast… which came a few weeks later. It was in early July, meaning that the sunrise was at crazy hours and I had to get up at 3:15 to get there in time. The forecast was very promising though - fogs in river valleys, exactly what I needed. So I set the alarm clock… and this time got up on time :)

I drove to Karlštejn castle in pitch darkness with no fogs around. When I got closer, I was finally driving through some mists and saw a nice foggy valley nearby - „yes! It was worth it!“ - I thought. But Karlštejn was still 5 kilometers far, so I kept driving… and found out that the fog was visible on both sides of the river in the distance, but not at the castle side where I needed it. Damn!! „Well, when I’m here, I’m gonna fly the drone to check the castle from the air a bit, at least, what can I lose… the sunrise will be in 5 minutes anyway, so let’s give it a shot!“ So I flew…

Got to the air, took some photos of the Karlštejn castle (with no fog around) and decided to fly back and leave for foggy areas nearby. But then…

Something happened.

The fog came closer.

Filled in the valley below the castle…

And surrounded the castle!

It was amazing! If I flew back a minute sooner, I would have missed that. I took a few photos, recorded several videos as well. „Battery level - low, dang, I need to fly back, replace battery and go back to the air.“ So I did…

An when I took off again…

…the fog was gone.

I didn’t believe how lucky I got, such amazing conditions were there only for how much - 10 minutes? Maybe less. I have a bunch of amazing shots from that morning, one of the ones I will never forget. Check up the full gallery here :) In the end, I started to like both Karlštejns as I have a special memory connected with both of them now. And I plan to come back! I still miss a decent set of fall photos of „our“ Karlštejn chateau, I’d love to take winter shots of the castle too. There is always a next time :)

PS: Last year, when I was building my website, a friend of mine asked me if he could get one of those photos printed for his parents who live close to the Karlštejn castle. He thought it would be a perfect Christmas gift for them. I couldn’t say no to that, what an honor! Check the photo out!

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