Greece Photography. So, I’ve just come back from Greece after two weeks of photography there, accumulating almost 1700 miles travelling mainland Greece. Now, most people associate Greece with sun and beaches and not photography which I guess it fair enough. But delve deeper into the country and you find a myriad of hidden gems.
I’m part Greek and have a lot of family in the Peloponnesse, I have been travelling there from a young child so it is obviously a place close to my heart but I haven’t always done photography or had the freedom of travel while there. This visit though, was set to change that. I wanted to exploit it’s hidden side and show you what it has to offer. These days places like Yosemite, Lofoten and Iceland are quickly becoming pinnacles of landscape photography locations and rightly so. I wish to go to each and every one. But it was quite nice to know you were going somewhere less visited and potentially could end up with one of the best photos from the area.
For me, the main place I wanted to see was Meteora. I first saw a photo of it about 4 years ago and wanted to go ever since. For those not in the know, Meteora is in northern Greece near the city of Trikala and boasts high rock pinnacles where amazingly monasteries have been built high up on these pinnacles. A sight to behold! The location was used in James Bond’s: For Your Eyes Only but more recently the increasingly popular Game Of Thrones. To see more info on the place go here: Visit Meteora
I wasn’t content with that though and it was decided the first week we would spend in northern Greece and the second we would visit my family in Southern Greece. I spent a long time researching new locations and photographic opportunities and put an itinerary together. I knew it would be paramount, not only to actually know where we were going but to ensure it gave us the motivation to get out rather than spending time around the hotel.
Our flight was bad timing but nothing we could do to get a better one, meaning leaving late Saturday and arriving in Athens at 04:00 on the Sunday. This meant we lost a day of the holiday and arrived very tired. It was always going to be a tall order to then drive to Meteora afterwards which was almost 4 hours away. I had never extensively driven on the wrong side of the road, so this was another learning curve for me. We set off almost right away as not to get stuck in any Athens traffic with the view of taking a break later on. We had ordered a Focus sized car but ended up with a Nissan Qashqai which seemed a bonus, at the time.
The drive in the end was fine, as we passed Trikala towards Kalambaka and Meteora we could see the towering rock pinnacles looming and the excitement started to build. We couldn’t believe it, we were finally there. The very first thing we did was drive up to the panoramic viewpoint overlooking Meteora to take it all in. What an amazing sight! But we were both too tired to do any photography and the light was way too harsh. Instead we chose to try and check into the hotel, we were slightly early so had to wait around but finally got checked in around 2pm. We decided a nap would be good, however that nap turned into 4 hours. Oops. We needed food so went to the local taverna during sunset deciding that we had plenty of time and would do some night photography. In the end though, it proved too much and I hadn’t caught up with having no sleep the night before so we headed back to bed.
We thought the weather all week would be good and there would be no need to wait for light like it Britain. Also Meteora was much smaller than expected (still impressive though) so we decided we didn’t need to spend at much time here as initially thought. On the Monday, it was my girlfriends birthday so we spent the day eating cakes and exploring Meteora with a sunset up at the top. It was clear blue skies, as you would expect so we made the most of what we could enjoying the day then it was time to capture some photographs. I did capture more images than below, but felt I got better results later in the week. The one I did choose as a keeper though was a telephoto shot of Rousanou Monastery. I decided not to use a filter here and allow the sky to be slightly over exposed to give what I felt was a more dreamy feeling.
The next day would turn out to be a true adventure. I had found as waterfall named as “Trikala Waterfall” but I had no idea where it actually was. It however looked impressive. Some intensive research lead me to finding it actually being called “Palaiokaira” but there weren’t really any directions, just a place marker on a Google Maps. This was all I had to go off but I thought it would be worth a trip given it was only 20 miles away. We followed the sat nav which started to take us onto a mountain pass, nothing wrong with that we thought. It then asked us to take a turning onto a steep single track which I missed but my girlfriend then said it was a loop and I could take the next turn. Going up I was glad for having a 4×4 now. It was steep and hairy, but at the next turn it got a lot worse. The track turned into a proper rocky dirt track with steep drops and we both agreed it would be best not to proceed given we didn’t know what lay ahead and there was still a lot to travel. We carried on to go back down the way we should have initially turned up but soon came to a really steep descent where the road passed by a farmhouse, The house made the gap on the road just wide enough for the car with a really steep drop and I wasn’t confident enough to tackle it. It may sound dramatised but it really looked that bad. So? Time to put the 4×4 to use, putting it into reverse I tried to turn round in the farmyard by reversing back up the hill. The only problem? The car wasn’t going anywhere and just kept stalling with the smell of burnt clutch! It was funny up until the point where the hand brake refused to hold the car and we started skidding forward towards the farmhouse! It certainly got hairy but eventually I managed enough traction to reverse up and turn around. Note to self, the 4wd mode on a Qashqai is there to look pretty not actually go off road.
We re-evaluated the map and saw that actually if we had kept on the main road it would take us to near the waterfall. We could see that the road next to the waterfall on the map didn’t join up to the main road, but couldn’t quite figure out why it was a dead end as the alternative route would be about 2 hours out of the way. We decided to drive to the “junction” to see what was there and was disappointed to see the road below with no joy. What I couldn’t figure out though was the dead end below seemingly had a lot of traffic. I drove up the mountain pass and back down still frustrated. It was getting late but I didn’t want to miss it after all our efforts. I checked a different sat nav and found that actually 500 yards back down the road there was a turning which looked to take us to the road we wanted to be on. Hooray! We parked up and got some basic directions to where we wanted to be, it was still a 15 minute walk away but we eventually found it. The brickwork of the bridge and size of it was amazing, but annoyingly we soon realised that there was a car park next to it! 2 hours of driving could have been accomplished much sooner!
Well it certainly was an adventure anyway, something you make memories out of. Lesson learnt though, try not to trust Sat Nav too much. Unfortunately, as was sort of expected the river was running very low and the waterfall was no where near in full cascade. If I were to return it would definitely be late autumn but I made the best of what I could:
Unfortunately, such antics put us way behind. We headed back to Meteora but was driving in during the sunset. We decided to give it a miss, grab some food and do some night shots. We spent a bit of time deciding where to go, we tried the classic view but people were bivvying up there so had to give that a miss and went to the monastery of Megalo Meteoro. There were bright spot lights on the south face of the crags unfortunately which cast a bright glow into the sky hiding the milky way some what but this is what I came up with:
Moving back down the road to the hotel we decided to stop outside of the Rousano Monastery as it really is within the depths of the rocky pinnacle of Meteora. I decided not to go for a classic view shooting south though and shot the northern part of the milky way looking up the huge rock pinnacle with Rousano Monastery perched precariously on the top of it:
The next day we would head over to Zagoria. Another place in Greece that caught my eye a few years ago. We had intended to wild camp, but with the extreme heat it was decided it probably wouldn’t be the best idea which I was gutted about but we knew the place would always be there. There was one place I got to see which I had discovered a few months before our trip out which was Vikos Gorge. Vikos Gorge seems to somewhat be a hidden treasure, it is actually the deepest gorge in the world but you can hardly find anything on it, or many great photos. It would be a 2 hour drive from Meteora, but one we were sure was worth it. We went to Oxia first, one of the viewpoints on the Western flanks. We were absolutely astounded when we got there, the gorge was absolutely massive with drops of 1000m straight down, it was enough to give us vertigo for sure. After we headed over to the Beloi viewpoint on the eastern side which was the one we had planned to do sunset at. Despite being literally across the valley, it was a 40 minute drive to get there. The last part of the track was a rough dirt track and this time the Qashqai prevailed. The walk to the viewpoint was about 20 minutes so we decided to head out without bags first to check it out and then go back to the car as we had plenty of time. In the end, we should have taken our bags in the first place but not to worry. We stuck around for the sunset and I captured the following.
The first one was a take on the gorge I hadn’t seen before, facing the less traditional view. But I felt it gave a great view down below and it was a quirky composition. The image may not look like it but I was just feet away from the 1000m drop and it was pretty windy. To say my girlfriend wasn’t amused would be an understatement!
The next shot was the classic view, looking down the gorge. There are viewing stations to see this view but I perched myself on this rocky outcrop to allow me to get some foreground interest. The wind is obvious in the motion of the grasses:
Finally, after sun down I did some scrambling about and found a really good viewpoint that I wish I had found earlier. I grabbed a panoramic in the after glow of the evening. Click to open this large to see properly.
It was a long drive back to Meteora, in the dark but it was well worth it. The next day would be the hottest day of our holiday, a staggering 42c. It felt extremely hot, but due to the mountain air we did feel it was a little fresher than the next week with lower temperatures and higher humidity. Before I went to Greece I had said I wanted some clouds to make some interesting skies for the photography and this day was to be the start of them clouds. Quite a few started to build up around sunset and we thought it would be best to stay around Meteora.
This first shot is the classic view down to Meteora, as you can see plenty of clouds and some nice light! The sun was perhaps a little strong though.
Waiting for the sun to drop, the clouds shifted. This is probably one of my favourite images of the trip, it was a shame the cloud didn’t stay around but I prefer the warm tones and breaking rays of light in the distance:
After this the sun dropped into the cloud, but it did cast some interesting rays and a good after colour so I produced the following two:
The next day we woke up for a sunrise and was in dismay to find the weather outside was very British, i.e grey overcast conditions and remained like it much of the day. My girlfriend reminded me I asked for clouds without specifying how much, to her dismay. We decided to do a bit of walking and exploring and leave the cameras behind. Things didn’t improve and we decided that we would leave a day early as the weather stayed the same and didn’t look to improve.
We set out for my family in Southern Greece, undertaking an 8 hour trip to drive to one of the most southerly points of Greece. Driving through Greece it was clear there was a change in the weather to come, often driving up to cloud level. It started to clear past Athens. On arriving in Methoni it was “only” 28c but it was the hottest it felt with the high humidity during the whole trip.
I have been going to Methoni since I was a child, so it’s a place I know fairly well. Obviously, as a child I never recognised its photographic potential especially having such a large castle at the tip of the village. As I got into photography I found that the castle had been photographed well by a couple of photographers and I just had to put my own take on it. The castle however was only open between 8am and 3pm, it would seem that my chances of getting in for the golden hour was little. A relative used to open the castle but he is now retired, so speaking to my uncle I thought he may know the castle keeper. Strangely enough he was stood right by us when I asked and he looked very regimented, suiting the answer he gave us. My heart sank feeling I would never get the shot. But more on this later!
The second week was intended to be more of a relaxing week, chilling and getting away from a bit of photography. We spent the first day doing exactly that but the rest of the week was a bit mental with many more miles!
Our first photographic stop off was Polilmnio Waterfalls, near Kazmara, 30 minutes from Methoni. My dad stumbled upon these waterfalls a while back and we wondered why we hadn’t been before! On arriving, this deep gorge was tucked away and completely different from the landscape surrounding it. Arriving early we left the cameras in the car to have an explore and of course a swim! The waterfalls are large, with the largest at the top with a deep blue pool of water where you can swim, cliff dive and swim behind the waterfall! Perfect! Getting late in the day, it was quite cool but an experience well worth it. Who said photography was all hard work?
This first image is of the Kadi Waterfall where we swam, as the pool became quiet we actually realised there were fresh crabs in there.
The next shot is of a set of falls further down. I was able to get an elevated shot looking down the falls gaining a different perspective:
By now our itinerary had vastly changed, we were working with the cloudy weather more than anything. It was very cloudy but some passing light and we decided to head to Gythio to see the ship wreck of Dimitros, with the thought that if it was really poor a long exposure in black and white would still work. It was an 100 mile drive and ended up being over 2 and a half hours there. After Kalamata we hit a mountain pass, 30 miles long with lots of airpins climbing to 1,100m and got hairy in places. Especially as there were a lot of boulders in the road. I was dreading the drive back in the dark.
Finally we arrived though and low and behold, the clouds had started to clear in the direction we would be shooting. It was still cloudy behind, so I had to wait for the light but decided to take a long exposure with a Big Stopper which gave a nice frosty look to the water. The ship was sent to sea in 1981 and is named Dimitros, it washed ashore further up the coast and due to no forthcoming funds was just left to rust. It is now a permanent feature with signs put up around it. This is probably my second favourite shot of the trip:
The next worthy shot was from a couple of days later at Voidokilia. A little peace of heaven where a horseshoe shaped beach forms a cove into the coast line and a place I love to visit every time I am in the area. I had previously photographed it but mid-day, this time I wanted some golden light. After some relaxing it was time for the arduous walk up the steep sand dunes then through woodland to get to my chosen viewpoint. I ended up going the wrong way getting cut up by the thorn bushes but I eventually arrived and there was just enough cloud around for my liking as well as the much needed golden light.
The next day we was our last full day and we knew we had to get a sunrise in, with the castle being closed I was going to go to the sea barrier looking at the castle from the outside. A spot I had been previously but no overwhelmed with. Walking by the castle gates I noticed that they had been left open and I was overjoyed. We walked to the Bourtzi at the end of the castle which has been used as a prison, a fort and a place to store goods. The sunrise light casting across the cobbled path and onto the Bourtzi was fantastic and so glad I managed to grab this shot:
We went out for sunset on the same day, a final good bye to Methoni before a meal with my family and we returned to the western side of the castle where we had been a few nights before (I much prefer this shot which is why I haven’t mentioned it before).
We went out for our meal and to finish off the trip we dragged our tired bodies out for a night shoot. We had wanted to shoot much more of the stars over the two weeks but countless cloudy nights diminished them hopes. By now the moon was almost full and the stars were shining a lot less bright. We had decided even if it was a shot of the castle it was something. Walking down to the sea barrier once again we heard the gates of the castle move with a groan and saw two girls walking out. We couldn’t believe it was open. It was 11:30pm and we walked up and inside, then we thought we really didn’t want to get locked in and spent 10 minutes trying to decide if the risk was worth it. We convinced ourselves that we would be able to climb over the gates and that by taking the risk we would get a shot that no one else would. I left the gate open as to indicate someone was in there and walked along back to the Bourtzi noticing the castle lights on inside the castle also. We went down and grabbed our shot and it was gone midnight by the time we had done. Walking back we had noticed the lights had gone off which worried us then got to the gate to exit and noticed it was shut. Our hearts sank at the possibility of a night with the mosquitoes but a quick push on the gate revealed we were in luck:
So thats it, our trip of 2 weeks in 18 photos and a lot of rambling. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. In fact, there were many experiences, some of which I haven’t mentioned that will live with me forever. Its opened my eyes up more to travel photography and I would fully urge anyone to do it. Having a car was very important to just get to places easily and when you needed to. One thing that quickly became apparent though is don’t expect to always get the best shots, you’re only there for a certain amount of time and the conditions won’t always work with you, just work with them instead.
Finally, if you do ever go to Meteora I would highly reccommend staying at Guesthouse Vavitsas
You can view most of the images features in the Everywhere Else Gallery