A feast of the eyes, preserved – Stories behind photos #10

Santorini photo

Fira, Santorini - Full moon - Yannis Larios Photography

We had just completed our magnificent dinner at the village of Oia (Santorini) with my wife, Nancy. We had selected a cozy restaurant overlooking Oia and we enjoyed the perfect temperature for some great dishes on a wide balcony! It was a warm early-June evening, so tourists where long gone to their cruise ships, letting us enjoy the real-atmosphere of the island.

After we had our last sips of famous Santorini wines, we decided that it was time to head back to our base in Fira. We set back on foot. But then surprise had us!

While we were walking back, we suddenly experienced this rare moment: a full moon just entering the scene, just behind the island, overlooking Fira! It was so great that all bypassers stood there in awe, looking!

We were indeed mesmerised! I had my wines, so a tripod was really necessary and not only due to reasons of low-light. It was one of the moments that you always keep in mind as a perfect justice on why you should always carry your heavy equipment with you!

I set up tripod, adjusted my camera settings, and shot two consecutives frames: one metering for the moon and one metering for the very low light of Fira ahead, that I later combined in a single frame.

This was destined to be one of my most glorious Santorini photos. Was it the dinner, the Santorini Vinsanto wine? Was it the atmosphere of Oia, or the equipment ready at hand? Was it all? I don’t care! For the result, pleased me immensely.

I had kept this feast of the eyes for the years to come! And this was the crown to another great day in Santorini.

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Can you imagine what a travel photo entails?

Symi, Greece - Yannis Larios Photography

Symi, Greece - Yannis Larios Photography

I was recently reading a great article of Gavin Gough on Digital Photographer about Travel Photography. Gavin stroke a chord by saying that ….

Ask many people to describe the life of a travelling photographer and the odds are that they will conjure up images of a dapper fellow dressed in khaki, sporting a Panama hat and stepping jauntily along a sun-kissed, tropical beach, occassionally lifting a Leica camera to the eye to snap another award winning frame before retiring to the bar for a Pina Colada. The truth, sadly, is somewhat different from this idyllic fantasy.

Travel photography is hard work […] It demands a unique blend of stubborn determination and unflinching optimism“.

Now Gavin’s words were echoing in my ears everytime I ascended another hundred of steps with my 8kg photo backpack and 3kg tripod to search for the high-vista with a brilliant view of Symi island! Everytime that the 39 degrees Celsius, collided with a dead-end alley that permitted no view, and thus was a lost battle, I was remembering this “unflinching optimism“… There has to be something better. I have pre-visualised it! I shall not quit!

And even after you have sweated (literally!) all of the 500+ steep stairs high above, and even after you have walked and trekked, and researched and carried all this weight, and even more after you have found a rock’s corner that resembled the sweet-spot that you had imagined…  then probably it was already too late … because the light was not right!

But then comes this “stubborn determination“… It’s this strange urge that wakes you up at 6:00am next morning to push you again to ascend the same 500 stairs, to reach the same spot, but this time with the golden light that completes the picture that you already had in mind.

I dedicate the above photo, shot at 7:00am from a very high vista point of Symi island, to all fellow photographers (pros or enthusiasts) that wake up early or stay up late and alone in search of the perfect light. To all those friends that carry tens of kilos in cameras, lenses and tripods on their back, just for this liberating moment when your vision becomes a reality… 

It’s a testament that stubborness and optimism, may after all be the ingredients not just for a unique photo, but rather for meeting your vision and your inner self. See you at the next cliff!

Questions unasked and unanswered – Stories behind photos #8

There exist those weird moments in life when pictures of the past, flash upon you and brutally drag you to younger ages!

 

A split-hair second becomes a time-machine, triggered by a smell, a reminiscent glimpse, a familiar face of a stranger. A typically indifferent moment, instead of passing by to its road to oblivion, decides to stay and play with you, your memories or your long-forgotten thoughts.

 

Memories that lay hidden at the deepest corners of the brain, expose themselves and pose all sorts of difficult questions…  Not personally to you! But rather to the kid that you always hide: When did I last meet this now-lost friend? What were my last words to him? Did I know back then, at this typical afternoon “goodbye”, that I would never see him again? Where is the toy that I cherished as a child? When I last placed it in the toy-drawer tens of years ago, did I know it would be forever? Why am I not missing all these? What has changed?

 

Questions unasked and unanswered.

 

Relations and emotional links torn apart, not by a firm decision, a powerful choice or a necessity, but rather by the strongest element of nature: Time. The long and winding road to the bottom of oblivion… And then! This tinker second… This powerful glimpse… This intrusive force that brings your lost childish thought or deeply buried picture back to the surface!

 

I was literally spending my last minutes in Nafplio town, the former capital of Greece. We were to depart in less than an hour. It was probably the eighth visit to this picturesque place, but this time I had my camera with me.

 

Magnificent scenes shoved over to my face, mercilessly. Beauty unleashed without any need to seek it. Nafplio photos easily captured but void of any feeling of success that comes after working hard for them. Scouting the place, chasing the light and being the first to conquer a magic moment is probably the thrust behind any photo venture. But without them? A feeling of “I have been here too…”. It’s like searching for a secret passage, only to find that it exists but it’s now a touristic highway with signs pointing to it everywhere.

 

But life when mixed with the ingredients of time and place, play games. And at the last corner, possibly at my last steps at the alleys of Nafplio, I was greeted with that tinker second, this time-machine of mine that brought me back almost 30 years…

 

A thought that re-surfaced. My bicycle that I had as a kid, standing against a wall. Or should I say still waiting for me… When did I last ride it? When did I last greet it? What roads did I last cross with it! Was I playing the good or the bad guy?

 

Questions unasked and unanswered.

 

Only this bike, serving to remind me what I had long forgotten.

And then these steps ahead, moving upwards. As if I had left my bicycle here in oblivion, to ascend life, exiting the childhood picture at the first alley. A place now empty cause I had to grow up. I had to grow up. And I had to change scene. Not that I decided it… But you see, it’s always this vicious element: Time.

 

This otherwise “indifferent” second in time, decided to play with me, bringing past moments and thinking that it would bury again to the deep sea of subconscious.

 

But I had my camera with me! And since it wanted to play with me, I wanted too! It was my spontaneous decision to hold this memory alive. A shameless decision to keep all these unasked questions at the foreground. Even if I could still not answer them!

 

I composed the scene to include the bicycle and the stairs ahead. I shot two photos of my childhood that later de-colored during photo-processing. I do remember capturing this place. I am not sure about the time though. Was it afternoon? What was the day? And the year?

 

One thing was sure… I had embarked on an unbalanced fight. I was challenged by this playful “second in time” and, on my part, I was determined to not let it go.

 

Can I please keep my bike or my youth reminiscence, vivid? I am not sure!

 

Despite my best efforts, it’s always this vicious element that’s going to tell: Time

Meteora-When only Photography captures the true feeling: Stories behind photos #7

(download and watch a full-screen high resolution version of my Meteora photo slideshow at my website here)

Meteora is a unique phenomenon in the world…   Unless you have visited it, you cannot imagine the awe and the contradicting feelings evoked by just being there. Contradicting because for one it’s the huge rocks and cavities that have been shaped in peculiar forms through thousands of years. A true feeling of smallness, in front of these titanic elements of nature. But also contradicting, because on-top of these rocks religious men built inaccessible monasteries. A strange feeling of greatness for mankind that conquers any peak. Such are the antithetical feelings evoked by this place, which is sculptured equally by the fierceness of time and the power of faith.

Nevertheless, access to this place is easier nowadays. Roads have been built and buses of tourists have access to almost any monastery. Traditional ropes and carts that helped you literally climb the rocks, gave way to stairs. Still numerous to ascend, but manageable. These days, faith is not the sole passport to this mysterious place.

This has brought inevitable change. Any attempt to re-live the inspiring experience of the landscape may be interrupted every now and then by the cheers of tourists. Any spiritual encounter that you may experience inside any monastery, might be broken by the next visitor laughing aloud at his mobile phone.

So is there a way to actually isolate the true feeling that the place inspires? Is there still any atmosphere emitted from the secret-corners of the monasteries, experienced only by the few that wish to seek them?

They say that photography struggles to depict a three-dimensional world at the two-dimensions of paper (or the screen nowadays) and it mostly fails. But I say that the viewfinder of my camera, has proven the only means that helped isolate the greatness of the place. Because I could depict on the same frame, the vastness of the land and the height of the rocks, and at the same time the smallness of man’s works, undisturbed. For it was my shutter that could imprison the play between elements of nature, the clouds and the winds, with the unique beauty of the monasteries. And it was my open-apertures that let me penetrate inside the true character of the monasteries, highlighting unique corners and the play of light without any need to hurry or to explain nothing to anyone. It was my camera that let me photograph not “what” I saw, but “how” I saw. The four corners of my photos, instead of limiting my possibilities actually proliferated my view. I had to focus. And thus, I was now seeing more…

The brief Meteora photo slideshow above, is my attempt to convey the experience of Meteora as I lived it. However, I kindly invite you to re-live the experience by downloading the higher resolution version from my website here…

Watch it with the sound set to on. And let photography convey the true feelings evoked from this place. For you will have never seen Meteora this way, even in real life, unless there was the need to focus meticulously and recompose reality…

“Faith” – Stories behind photos #6

 This Clarisses photo was shot at chapel in Ano Syros (Syros island, Greece) in summer 2008.

I found a small chapel and entered. No people were inside. There were just two nuns, hidden behind a wooden barrier and unseen. Two nuns, one playing the organ and one singing a chant with a glorious voice, praying alone inside. 

You could not see them but they were there, singing gloriously.

They had no audience, but they put their best for their faith. I stayed there for about 20 mins in awe, waiting to see any of them behind the barrier.

I kept waiting for a glimpse that could really depict the glory of the chant and of the moment. At the right moment I managed to capture this glimpse of their devotion.

Hope you like its symbolism…

PS: Ines, a “digital” friend was kind enough to e-mail me some further details on Clarisses. 

Ines wrote: “these nuns are called “Clarisses” (in UK “Poor Clare”) and as you can understand they are what we say in greek “eglistes kalogries”. They don’t go out and they make a great work for the poors. That’s what I know about them, (as I have roots from Syros) and I have also been told from relatives that they are very kind and their voice is something else!”

Indeed Ines, their voice was something else! Thank you!

A thank-you to unknown Actors that enliven my “stages” – Stories behind photos #5

Yannis Larios Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I owe a “thank-you” note, to all unknown Actors that enliven my photography “stages”. Like this lady, in my photo!

I have been walking around in Paroikia, Paros  at the golden hour, when I reached this vista point overlooking the sea, camera always on shoulder. I had the priviledge of overlooking the entrance to the harbour. I could spot things from high above. I previsualised a picture, but it was still early in time. This would have to wait to materialise…

But until then? Nothing around… I hated to do the stereotypical empty horizons. There was no way that the eye would wander around exploring the sea and then find nothing to “rest” upon. Admittedly, no balance. No story. Thus, no photo opportunity.

Could something save me? Yes! the virtue of patience and the urge to seek…

I had the stage set, lights on (and the golden ones!), but no actors, no script. And suddenly…. Little stories forming themselves. It was time for the evening ship to come to Paros island. It was the same time that I had arrived in the island some days ago. I had spotted this large sun-disc while onboard and wanted to see this again. So I was there for a reason…. But a different story unfolded…

As the ship was becoming visible in the horizon, I “asked” for a story of return. A story of a Penelope. Such stories need not be imaginative, cause they are real. As this lady was also real! Walking leisurely, wearing her iPod earphones she noticed the ship, the hour, the colours. She probably also liked “my” stage… And then she entered, deciding to play the “Actor”. She never talked to me. I never asked her anything. She just took the most convenient position…. For her, to enjoy the view. For me to re-compose the scene.

I now had a story! I tried several views. Some higher above, some from the side. But in the end, I decided that the Actor had already made the choice for herself…. There was almost nothing for me to do, than compose the scene, and then click.

Penelope, was the title I gave to the photo. Cause this lady, took the role for herself. Never talked. But the story was written by her. I now had a photo opportunity!

Works of Man vs Nature – Stories behind photos #2

Works of Man vs Nature

Works of Man versus Nature – Can also be found at my website here

It was a typical stride along an empty seaside, with my good friends. Chatting… strolling… relaxing.

This was not a “fabulous” beach. No magazine had ever written anything extraordinary about it… There was no obvious beauty there. Quite the contrary! And it was winter. Probably not what you have come to know about Greece. Certainly not a “Greece of your myth”!

We were walking slowly along the pebbles. And the typical Greek carelessness struck upon us again: An abandoned Volkswagen small truck lying there, rusting. It was placed in a way like staring at the sea. But it was abandoned by the typical idiot who doesn’t care about anyone else! Left to oblivion.

The beach was not that perfect. And the inclusion of this relic, really made it worse…. Or was it not? Could you make something out of garbage? Was there a contrast somewhere?

I decided to enter the abandoned truck, my camera (as always!) in my hand. Not to my surprise I was yelled at, by my friends: “Get out!“, “It’s dangerous! There might be snakes!“,  “What are you trying to do, you fool?“. That’s what friends are for in any case! Well… I entered!

And to my surprise, the contrasting view was something!. It really stroke a chord! How the “works” of man are helpless against the “works” of nature. How the vibrant colours of the sea, make a difference from a decaying metal construction that couldn’t last more than a few years. How an ecological threat would soon be swallowed by the sea. I had a view, that I am sure none ever had! And had to capture it…

It was a really difficult exposure though. But the tripod proved helpful. Two shots, one exposed for the sea, one exposed for the interior… And the “Works of Man versus Nature” was more apparent than ever!

I even got some apologies back for the yelling that I had sustained. Small victories of an enthusiast photographer!