Late during last August, I decided on a short roadtrip (mainly) on the mountains of central Greece. More specifically, in the regional units of Phthiotis and Evrytania, which happen to also be the largest in mainland Greece. Since I actually have relatives in Phthiotis I know and have traveled to these parts quite a bit, so I was able to detail a plan beforehand.
Most of you from abroad, have probably already visited Greece on your summer vacation, or consider doing so. Greece is, of course, famous for its sun and sea and islands, but, I'm here to tell you to not underestimate what it has to offer if you head for the mountains instead. Greece offers extreme terrain variety and you can get from a sunny beach to a mountain forest within an hour or less. In fact, you'll see some photographs by the sea in this collection; it's difficult to avoid it in Greece, sea is close by or even visible from almost anywhere.
There is a clear stylistic and, dare I say, philosophical distinction between travel and tourist photography that should be evident for every photography enthusiast. A tourist, in essence, takes trophies. A traveler pays homage to places and moments.
As a travel photographer, it's natural to find and photograph specific landmarks at the places you visit. On the other hand you can also find and take photos of places and things others ignore, with the purpose of telling a story.
On a roadtrip such as this, there is also, in my mind, another consideration: try and do types of photography you don't usually do. Try to differentiate and experiment. It's not a mission after all, it's a journey.
This was then my deliberation on this trip: to refrain from the ordinary as much as possible and try make at least some work that I don't typically do. It ended up in what I consider some typical (for me) travel photography plus a good number of unique (again, for me) shots.
Since I traveled by car, I had the option of carrying as much gear as I wanted. I ended up with the following:
- Olympus E-M1 with grip
- Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 mk2 with adapter
- Olympus 17mm f/1.8
- Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
- Olympus 75mm f/1.8 (which ended up staying in the bag)
- Fuji X-E2
- Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4
- Fujinon 35mm f/1.4
- Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 (which ended up used only for some portraits of friends and relatives)
- Samyang 8mm f/2.8 fisheye
All of the above, plus a flash, a handful of batteries, chargers, SD cards, several common accessories, and all that, fitted comfortably inside my Manfrotto backpack, with space to spare.
I resisted the temptation to bring along a film camera or two, because I thought it would present too much of a distraction. Actually, having two separate systems is already too much, in my opinion. I ended up only taking a subset of the whole gear with me each day, packed in a smaller Tenba DNA bag, along with my personal stuff. Realistically, I cannot recommend my setup; it could be only one system plus perhaps a small compact camera or capable smartphone for backup.
One critical consideration while undertaking such trips, is that you have to stop frequently while driving, because photographic opportunities present themselves all the time. This is sometimes difficult (not to mention, potentially dangerous) with a car. We are talking narrow mountain roads, with sometimes limited visibility and very few places to park safely. Riding a motorcycle would be very much preferable in this context; in fact this is my consideration for similar future trips.
The point above brings us to another issue: would you travel alone or with company? Having your spouse along would presuppose that she or he are also committed photographers because otherwise you'll end up in a whole world of hurt. Not only that, they'll have to share your enthusiasm for this particular type of photographic activity. I'd say the best bet here is to either go alone or with a friend; each option has its pros and cons.
Being alone in the wilderness offers a psychological and spiritual experience difficult to replicate in other ways. Just ask any explorer, mountaineer, wild-life enthusiast etc. This would be especially useful for your photography if approached with an appropriate attitude. On the other hand, having someone with you makes the whole experience more comfortable and safer, and probably more productive in other ways, since artistic exchange may push both to explore their vision more.
Here is a collection of pictures, starting with things of interest that you can find on the road, either out in the countryside or in small towns and villages (click on a photo for further info):
Things start getting interesting when, while entering a village you find this guarding its gates:
Or how about some air support? This is a retired Hellenic Air Force F-5; several of these aircraft have been stripped of their engines, guns and electronics and now decorate countryside plazas
The venerable Starfighter (Lockheed F-104) can also be found by some curvy mountain roads
Achilles is an ancient hero from Phthiotis and, in fact, the whole region took its name from the Homeric epics. It was only natural to find his statue upon the road
A windmill, probably dating from the begining of the last century
One thing is for certain while on central Greek mountains: you will never get thirsty. There is a spring with clear, cold running water on every turn
These little chapels are everywhere on Greek mountain roads. They are placed either as oblations (for someone saved from a car accident) or memorials (for those not so lucky)
Speaking of Christian faith, on the mountain of Oeta I visited a well known monastery dating from Byzantine times. Most of these places were built atop ancient temples, as can be seen from the stones and relics still surviving.
An abandoned car (this one used to actually be a public service one), claimed by nature
It's probably hard to believe, but this is a fire engine truck; of course it's out of order now. Its plates say 1985 but it probably dates from the 1950s at least.
I guess that's enough for now; more to come on the second part of this essay. Stay tuned!