Make your own “Google” search story! I tried my hand at mine :-)

I am sure you have watched and enjoyed the Google viral video about “Parisian Love“. Now, Google and youtube offer you an ultra easy-to-use online tool to help you create your own “Google search” videos in a few minutes!

All you have to do is make up your own story as a sequence of  “Google searches” and then define what kind of results you want (typical search, maps, images etc.). You can preview the short clip, then select the music and voila! Of course it aims at promoting Google capabilities more than you, but hey! it’s fun!

As a Greek photographer I have made my own 30″ Google Search video to promote my Greece photos! What do you think? 🙂

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.

A lonely photo, it was not! – Stories behind photos #9

Judging from the final result of this photo shot at picturesque Burano (Venice), you would imagine that all the time of the world was at my disposal to make this picture of utmost calmness. It is almost obvious that the absence of any distractions whatsoever, was reflected at my eyesight and then to the quiet moment that I chose to capture. I could have leisurely taken my spot, delving concentrated into another moment of loneliness that contributes to deep thoughts, and then to photos.

But -as known- reality is harsh, for this photo was the result of an anxious search for the best point in the island, including some instances of fast-paced run I shall admit! You see the boat that brought me to Burano, had intermediate stops that I did not plan! I was there barely on time to set up tripod. And then I had company! And I mean quite a large company bugging me from my self-inflicted mission!

A bunch of little Italian boys and girls, kids in their early school years, were playing along the canals of this magnificent fishermen island, a few meters away… Kids’ curiosity is of course notorious! Spotting me with my bulky bag and tripod while selecting my spot on top of their wooden bridge, probably triggered some of their most sociable neurons. They all run to my place on the bridge, some 10 or 15 of them!  It seems I was becoming part of a game that they played with tourists!

Sei Italiano?”… they asked!

Their sincere eyes and the tone of their questions probably triggered my own childish neurons (if any left!) deep in my own mind. I had decided to play their game! My role, I supposed, was to let them find by themselves where I was coming from. “No, i miei amici!” I responded in bad Italian, taking turns in their game! And then there was this bees-like assembly, with various nationality-words being thrown on air, in Italian. Every now and then, another question arose as if a decision was made: “Spagnolo?”, “Francese?”. My negative responses where becoming even more anxious…. but not due to the fact the “Greco” was not an obvious choice for my little neighbors… I was eager to participate, yet I was losing the click for the light that I planned, with tens of kids around me asking words!  

I juggled between answers and camera settings, letting half my brain respond to the game and the other half making aperture adjustments. Two clicks were my only harvest from this beautiful point while praying to have made the right camera choices through this game! Yet, my little friends kept asking and asking with increased speed, as light was taking its final dip behind the colourful fishermen houses. “Greco” I said, and suddenly the game was over!…..

One of them, a little boy that had probably guessed right, was the winner! He raised his hand in celebration of his victory, even though he was never heard aloud! They acknowledged the result and all together, the fifteen of them, started to run in great speed to the place they had come from, the victorious one in front with the hand still up reminding his victory at this great game!

It was my turn to pack my equipment and continue my stroll, following the other direction of the bridge. I heard a very loud “Grazie” from the last kid of this swarm, while he turned to me to thank for enlivening their game. “Grazie”, I responded and continued my walk.

Too pity that I was not sure whether I could also raise my own hand to celebrate a great picture. I was distracted, yet I enjoyed, and my sole two photos from the wooden bridge could not be judged until later, while at the hotel.

Meanwhile, a bit farther away another couple was approaching the bridge. The little voices were heard…

Sei Italiano?!”… 

 A lonely photo, it was not!

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

Photo backup! Save your precious memories…

It’s amazing how many photos are being shot these days, thanks to the digital age! It is also amazing that few of them will ever find the way to a print and thus will remain in the hard disks or the social networking sites that we use, like Facebook

However, I would like to predict that in the years to come we will be experiencing the first painful losses of photos, due to the lack of proper backup and storage practices… 

Most people give attention to their photos up until they see them on screen! However, few of them take proper measures to store them or back them up to prevent loss.

Well, I had made my own backup plan but then I found in one of my favorite blogs, Epic Edit Weblog, a complete guide to photo backups written by Brian Auer.

The guide is offered for free, both as a series of articles and also as a free e-book that you can download as pdf (2.5MB).

It covers things like… What it is a photo backup and how much it will cost you, how disaster strikes, what are your options and how you should approach your backup strategy… all in very simple terms!

I would strongly suggest that you read this excellent guide, and that you seriously consider that memories are not saved just by clicking the camera shutter, but also by making sure that you preserve your digital content for ever! The first might be the camera’s duty…  The second however, is your duty!

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…