Monday, September 7, 2009

Why That Santorini Church Looks So Familiar

My last post showed a couple of images of a church on Santorini that has had a lot of film, pixels, and professional travel photographers and photo editors dedicated to it over the years. If you've looked into traveling to the Greek Islands before, there's a good chance you've seen this church prominently highlighted in several travel guides and articles. 

For example, it made the cover story of Conde Nast Traveler magazine in July 2008...

And the left cover image of National Geographic Traveler's 2nd edition on Greece...

And Lonely Planet's cover shot for an older 'Greek Islands' travel guide...

(You'll find the latest LP publications on Greece here.)

And a Dorling Kindersley (DK) guide book on the Greek Islands... 

These are excellent sources of information on Greece and the Greek Islands, and I recommend them all. But I do hope that this beautiful little church on Santorini somehow gets a little compensation for being the star of the show here. It clearly must be helping these publishers sell guide books and magazine issues.

(The images above are the property and copyright of their respective publishers, and I include them here for informational purposes only.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Classic Santorini Church and Sunset

This Greek church landscape scene on Santorini is the subject of countless travel photographs (including travel book and magazine covers), but it's not that easy to find unless you know where to look. I stayed here for about an hour or so, taking lots of shots before and after sunset. This one was just after sunset - around 8:15 PM.

The cruise ship is now leaving port, having done its job of giving its passengers one last look at a sunset panorama that they will not soon forget.

And here's the same scene in a vertical format, showing more of the blue dome and more of the sky. I think I like the vertical shot better. 

[Click on the photos for larger views.]


I toyed with the idea of brightening up just the blue and white of the church in these images, but the reality is, this is pretty much exactly how I remember this scene - everything was getting darker by the minute at this point. Within a few minutes of taking these images, I was packed up and heading back to our hotel.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Santorini Sunset - Dinner on the Caldera Edge

I came across this scene while on my way into town on Santorini one evening near sunset. I was on a mission to secure cat food for this cat, and stopped along the way to grab some shots of anything interesting I could find. (With camera in hand, even running a mundane errand can be interesting.)

What's interesting to me about this image is the visual suggestion that the restaurant is literally hanging over the edge of the Santorini caldera, and the repetition of lines in the middle and background of the photo. And of course, the two young women totally engaged in their conversation, seemingly not very interested in the incredible sunset about to occur across the water.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Santorini Sunset Cruisers Returning to Port

This was the typical post-sunset scene every evening outside our hotel balcony on Santorini. Two 'sunset cruise' ships quietly returning to port after showing their guests one of the most amazing sunsets in Europe, in the large water-filled caldera of an ancient undersea volcano.

For us this was a very relaxing part of the day, accompanied by a cool Mythos beer or a glass of local white wine, local cheeses and olives, etc. A great way to transition between daytime activities and a late dinner at one of the Greek restaurants in town.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dark Gray and White Cat on Mykonos


This is a straightforward shot taken just a few minutes before I photographed the 'Black Cat Waiting for the Painter' during a morning photo walk. I decided to post this image since it includes the characteristic whitewashed building, with a faded 'Greek blue' shutter behind the cat. A typical setting on Mykonos, and the Greek Cyclades islands in general.

Notice the clump of wet fur sticking up from the middle of his tail. I'm pretty sure I interrupted a grooming session as I approached to photograph him. Greek cats, like cats everywhere, like to keep their tails looking just right, so he probably went back to work on it once I walked away.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garden Cat Peering Around a Corner

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you will probably recognize this cat. I featured her 'In the Garden' in a February post, and then again as the partially-hidden star of 'Cat Tail and Water Pail'. Here she is peering around a large white vase/planter in that same hotel garden on the island of Mykonos.

On a technical photo composition note, I'm not thrilled with having that planter in the background, directly behind the cat. I shot this photo at an aperture of f/8, which didn't help fade the background much at all. I was using a great Pentax 35mm prime lens that would have been fine at f/2, f/2.8, or f/4, so I would shoot at one or more of those apertures (to defocus the background more and therefore isolate the cat better) if I could do this one over again. Or I would shift my position a bit to the right or left, but then I might miss the classic blue shutters in the background. I'm guessing that 90% of shutters in the Greek Cyclades islands are painted this color blue, or something pretty close to this color.

Anyway, you don't always have much time to work the subject and backgrounds during these unplanned photo shoots, so sometimes you just take what you can get.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Black Cat Waiting for the Painter

I came across this cat during an early morning photo trek on Mykonos. It was a little bit after sunrise, and I wasn't having much luck finding 'good' cats to photograph until I saw this one relaxing on a white ledge in front of a painter's art studio.

As you can see near the upper right of the photo, the green door to the studio was locked. My thought was that maybe this cat was waiting for the studio to open, in hopes that the owner/operator might set out some food and water for him (this would not be at all surprising). Or maybe this guy was just resting for a while, plotting his strategy for the rest of the morning, or daydreaming about the mouse that got away, etc. Who knows?

Also, I was tempted to clean this guy up a bit in Photoshop, but then decided against it. The cat has bits of white/gray hairs mixed in with his black coat, dirt and sand on his face, and other 'beauty' issues that are so typical of the stray cats of Greece. Some are in really great shape, and others look pretty rough around the edges. This guy was in between, but still photogenic enough for me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cat Prowling in a Field on Naxos

I came across this cat early one morning on the Greek island of Naxos, close to our hotel. I had gotten up early to see what kind of photo opportunities might present themselves, and discovered this fellow in the field adjacent to the hotel. Judging by his low crouch position and slow forward movement, I believe he was in hunting mode, trying to secure a nice breakfast for himself.

He turned to look at me as I tried to sneak close enough for a decent shot. I was able to capture a few good images thanks to the zoom lens I had attached to my camera at the time. I took this photo at maximum telephoto zoom, 200mm, for a 35mm equivalent focal length of 300mm.

Anyway, I hope he was able to find a good bite to eat that morning. I know I did - the breakfasts at the Hotel Grotta were excellent!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Santorini Coastline

Before I get back to the business of posting more cat-centric images in this blog, I thought you might like to see a litttle bit more of the western coastline of the Greek island of Santorini.

Here's a view looking to the northwest, taken from our hotel room balcony. This image shows the central portion of Santorini's main town of Fira. The diagonal 'switchback' path in the lower center is used by hard-working donkeys (and people on foot) to reach the small lower port area (out of view to bottom left). There's a short cable-car ride that accomplishes the same thing a lot faster, and without all the donkey-infused ambience and sweaty exertion.

This second shot is from the north side of town, looking south. Visible in the background just to the right of the church is the southernmost part of Fira, home to our hotel - the Hotel Keti.

I have several more good landscape images from Santorini, but will save those for a little later. Back to the cats soon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On Santorini - One Room, Great View, Free Greek Cat Included

Question: What's better than a nice room with a great view on the Greek island of Santorini?

Answer: A nice room with a great view, and a free (hotel) cat for a few days.

Here's a shot that shows a little more of the Santorini town of Fira in the background, as seen from the balcony of our room (looking approximately northward). Our favorite 'hotel cat' has stopped by for a proper dose of head-scratching attention. Naturally, my wife was more than happy to oblige. No language barriers here!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On Santorini - A Room with a Great View

This image illustrates a bit of the scale associated with the Greek island of Santorini. My wife is looking over the edge of our hotel balcony at the Hotel Keti, with the main port village of Fira built into the rocky hillside in the backdrop. The water and the volcanic caldera are outside the frame of this shot, far below and to the left.

Much, much further to the northwest (well beyond the background of this image) lies the village of Oia, which is where people go to see the most spectacular views of the Santorini sunsets over the caldera.

But as I'll show in future posts - and as you can start to see here - the view from this vantage point is pretty spectacular already!

(And yes, the cat from my previous 'Hotel Keti' posts liked to hang out with us on this balcony. Who wouldn't? More on that later.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Cat and the Cruise Ship

This image is from the back of the Hotel Keti on the Greek island of Santorini. The cat here is the same pregnant female I highlighted in an earlier post.

It was late afternoon, and my wife Melissa and I were relaxing in preparation for what was sure to be another glorious sunset over the water-filled volcanic caldera that fronts the main town on Santorini. Along came the female cat we had befriended earlier - hungry for a little attention, and as it turned out, for food as well.

Melissa implored me to go into town and get some cat food. So I did - climbing up, up, up, and up some more to reach the main town level. I was back in 30 minutes or so, and we popped open a can of food for the cat. After all, she was eating for many, not just herself. She consumed an entire can of food in less than a minute, and the picture you see here is basically 'cleanup' time.

Now for the cruise ship in the background. What you can't really get a sense for in this photo is the scale of things here. That rather large ship is hundreds of feet below the level of Hotel Keti. Just beyond the cat is a fairly sheer dropoff to water level.

In later posts I'll add a few non-cat photos to provide a better sense for scale and context about the 'Santorini experience.'

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cat Tail and Water Pail

This is the tail end of the cat in the garden at the Hotel Philippi on the Greek island of Mykonos. She's peering through a square opening in a short wall that borders one of the garden beds at the hotel - no doubt spying for any ground-level activities that might require her further attention. She stayed motionless in this position for several minutes, allowing me to take photos from several angles. I liked this one the best.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cafe Break

Trekking around Greek Islands in search of photogenic cats and other interesting distractions can burn a lot of calories, especially with a full photo backpack in tow.

This image is from a small cafe just down the way a bit from the Hotel Philippi on Mykonos island. We stopped here several times during our stay to enjoy the chocolate-filled pastries baked fresh daily, not to mention the cappuccino and espresso.

I made this image with a 35mm lens (approx. 50mm equivalent), set wide open at f/2 to minimize the depth of field. I'm sure I was very close to the minimum focusing distance of this lens.

(Photo Tip: If you're going to take 'food pictures' while traveling, just remember to do it before you and your travel mates devour everything on the table.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Cat and the Junked Car

I was hiking up to some good high vantage points over the main port town of Mykonos one morning when I came across this fellow. He was exploring this field - probably on a morning hunt - and stayed still long enough for me to grab some shots with a telephoto zoom lens. He didn't seem to be a very trusting sort, so I stayed back in order to keep him from running off.

The reddish car in the background was an abandoned 'junker' vehicle that had probably been there for years. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it serves as a bit of a shelter for stray cats in the area during bad weather, etc.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In the Garden

This cat was a happy resident of Hotel Philippi on the island of Mykonos. The hotel has a wonderful large garden in its back courtyard area, which the cat liked to explore for hours on end. We stayed in this hotel for three days, and saw her roaming the garden on several occasions as we came and went.

Here's a portrait of her relaxing in the shade next to a stone planter. I have another image that shows her in a more interesting pursuit - but that will come later.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Cubbyhole

It was a hot afternoon on Naxos, and Melissa and I were exploring the labyrinthine Kastro area of the main port town. We came upon a massive old crumbling stone wall about 50 feet off to one side of us, separated from the pedestrian area by a weed-filled field. In the middle of the wall was a single rectangular opening, several feet off the ground. Inside that opening was a single black cat.

One thing is certain: Greek cats are experts at finding cool shady resting places during midday hours. Could this be the same black cat that liked to visit our patio at Hotel Grotta (not very far from here)? Hard to say.

Given the distance between us and the cat above, I used a Pentax telephoto zoom lens racked all the way out to 200mm (300mm equivalent) to get this shot.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Charcoal Cat on Black and White

This very cool and handsome fellow was happy (OK, maybe 'apathetic' is more accurate) to pose for me near a busy pedestrian passageway on Naxos. I noticed him relaxing on the top step of a short stairway leading to the front door of a home. The monochromatic subject and surroundings were too perfect to pass up, and I was able to get him to pay attention to me long enough to get a few good shots. This scene - within a recessed front patio - was set back several feet from the main foot traffic area, so I used a telephoto zoom at 150mm to give me enough reach for a decent frame-filling shot.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Cat Overhead

My wife and I were winding our way through some of the less commonly traveled passages in the main port town of Naxos island, when I decided for some reason to turn around and scan the low 'rooftops' of some decaying buildings, camera in hand (as usual). This curious cat popped into view and peeked at us over the edge of his hideout, giving me a good opportunity to quickly grab a few images. Something in the distance must have distracted him during the brief photo shoot, providing the instant that produced this particular shot.

The point for travel photographers in the Greek Islands is, don't forget to look up and behind you when walking through the narrow passageways that characterize so many of the classic villages and towns. With any luck, you'll be rewarded with some great photo opportunities.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Cat Bed in the Boulders

This striped tabby was sound asleep in a vacant, boulder-strewn field between two buildings on Naxos. I couldn't get very close without risking a lot of noise and disruption to the scene, so I stayed put - maybe 50 to 75 feet away - and changed lenses in order to zoom out to 180mm (270mm in 35mm SLR equivalent).

This cat obviously blended in pretty well with the background, was well removed from pedestrian traffic, and so was probably feeling very safe and comfortable. I'm guessing she's a regular visitor to this particular "bed."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Case of the Broken Canine

That's canine as in "tooth", not as in "dog." This comical cat liked to visit outside our room at the Hotel Grotta in Naxos. He was a non-stop talker, and also liked to stretch out on our warm patio during the late afternoon. I had several opportunities to photograph him at close range during our stay, and it wasn't until editing photos back home that I noticed his broken right front tooth.

Hopefully he is not bothered by the fractured tooth. According to The Veterinary Dental Center, a broken canine tooth can be pretty painful and prone to infection. This cat seemed pretty happy-go-lucky to us, so maybe he has somehow managed to avoid these complications.

Boy Cat or Girl Cat?

Some of you may rightly be wondering how I know if my feline subjects are male or female. The answer is... I don't. At least not always.

In some cases (as in the pregnant 'Hotel Keti' cat), it was immediately obvious that she was a female in full bloom, so to speak. But if the gender wasn't obvious during these (usually) brief photo sessions, I pursued a "don't ask, don't tell" philosophy.

So, I'll try to shoot for a little gender equity in my postings, which basically means I'll make educated guesses and flip some coins along the way.

Cat Guarding the Drinking Water

This cat took me a little by surprise during a hike on Mykonos, as he (she?) was perched at about eye level on an old stone fence along a narrow pathway, and he came into view pretty suddenly. The improvised water container placed somewhat precariously atop the fence serves as a strong clue that a 'caretaker' lives nearby, providing some basic essentials for this cat (and probably others) in the area.

This one became very curious about me, though he didn't seem to be overly approachable. After nervously shifting around a bit, he settled in to stare at me while I took several pictures at close range. I really like his focused gaze - it gives the impression that he's protecting his favorite water supply on a very hot day.