From Dawn to Dusk

From Dawn to Dusk

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Quite some time ago we decided that the wonderful world of landscape photography was an extremely interesting and challenging field which we would like to pursue. Naturally shooting landscapes requires some specialized equipment. After copious research we determined the lenses, tripods and filters that would fit the bill without breaking our bank account; some time later most of the gear was in our photography packs. After some mock trials to get familiar with our new equipment we decided to make our first attempt in the field during Easter in Greece. Our chosen spot was Strophylia reserve, a favourite with us, as it gives plenty of opportunities for all types of nature photography: macro, wildlife and of course, landscapes. The plan was to prioritize landscapes but be prepared for all other types of nature photography if nature did not co-operate.

Photography is all about the use of light. After reading a few things about the blue hour, the golden hour and the like we figured that we should devote a whole day to shooting.  During a short visit in the area the previous day we chose a couple of points at Prokopos lagoon. From there we would shoot the sunrise early in the morning. The day would end in Kalogria beach from where we would shoot the sunset. We took some pictures from the places we selected which we studied in the evening and each of us made their mind  up as to how s/he would shoot the sunrise allowing for some last minute arrangements, if required.




Marina decided to use an observation tower in the abandoned ecotourism complex, while George chose a "pelada" some 200 meters away - to the south. We cleaned the equipment and packed everything in the car the night before since we had to make an early start, roughly at 4:30 am. The estimated sunrise time was 06:30 and we wanted to be there at least 45 minutes earlier to walk to the spots we had selected, set up our equipment and be ready for the right moment. Each of us would use two cameras, one on a tripod for long exposure times and small apertures and the other with higher ISO settings and larger apertures for handheld photography. This would ensure that we would be ready to shoot everything that caught our attention. Light levels, colours and direction of light changes rapidly during this time so photographers have to be fully aware of what happens around them and ready to shoot spots which will only benefit from that particular light for a minute, or even less. Thus, although the main "theme" was already chosen, anything in the vicinity was a potentially great shot. That was the plan anyway.

We reached the place in time, walked to our chosen spots in the dark (lesson number one: always take a torch with you) and set up our equipment waiting for the right time to come. When the first blue light appeared on the sky we noticed that, unfortunately, the day was not ideal for what we were trying to achieve. That was not an issue; we quickly moved on to plan B but tried some early morning frames anyway. George looked for something to fill his frame with; he chose an abandoned building on the shore and the algae in the water to compensate for the lack of interest in the sky.

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Two shots of the sunrise from George's spot, using the algae formations to create a foreground. The photo on the left was taken with the Nikon D3x on a tripod and the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 28mm (the tripod was almost in the water). The second photo was taken with the D700 handheld and the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, with special emphasis on the floating algae formations. The vertical format as well as the move of the horizon to the upper third of the photo was chosen to compensate for the relatively "empty" sky.

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After taking these two shots George moved back to the other 'sweet' spot, with the abandoned building in the frame and used the rising sun first as part of the frame (using different colour temperatures) and then using its warm rays to light the building from the side, creating an overall warm scene. All three photos were taken with the Nikon D700, the first two using the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye and the third with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G @ 60mm.

During this time Marina used the tower to observe birds and enjoy an early morning cup of coffee while planning the rest of her day.

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Soon after the sun was already high enough so we started looking for different subjects:

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The first photo was taken with the Nikon D3x and Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8; the other two photos were taken with the Nikon D700 with the Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 and the Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 and Nikon 2x TC.


Marina did not miss the opportunity to take some shots of one of our new friends; an abandoned little female dog that was expecting. The sight of cows peacefully grazing in the serene environment under the early morning sun was also very appealing.


Around noon time we moved a bit to the west, entering the oak forest where we stopped to have the traditional Easter barbecue lunch. Nicholas had joined us the in the meantime so now there were three photographers enjoying the sunny day. Since the sun was directly over us, we mostly shot macro and animals  (Marina decided at this time to shoot landscapes too). Soon after the lunch an one hour nap was necessary to recharge our batteries and get ready for the last part of this session, the sunset.


We moved to the west and reached the beach about one hour before the sunset which was expected around 8:20 pm. Unfortunately the beach was not empty (that would be too good) but we already knew what we wanted to shoot and we had all the time we needed for it. Thus George moved a bit to the North next to his favourite sand dunes while Marina (who still insisted that the area was way too flat and uninspiring for landscape photography) decided to shoot some of the action on the beach.

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The sand dunes were facing the north, so the sun was falling on them sidewise from the left. Since people kept on walking on the beach, George decided to narrow his frame a bit  thus excluding the busy beach and focussing on the sand dunes, using the hill behind them as a background. The first picture is a self shot.  It is shot with the Nikon D3x with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G secured on a tripod and a timer and shows George trying to compose his next photo.  One such composition is the second picture, which was obviously taken with the camera handheld and the ISO setting a bit higher than he would like (400). 

From Marina's point things looked a bit different:

Though tiring our day was quite enjoyable. The sky was not favourable for landscape shooting yet we did enjoy some of the photos we took.  Perhaps the most important thing is that we used a new approach, which called for planning in advance and spending a lot of time for too few shots. All this was new to us but we learned how to work using a plan, so we expect better results in the near future.


Photos by the authors.