This calendar includes some of my best photos during the last few years that I’m involved with astrophotography and landscape imaging. It has been a fascinating journey despite all the difficulties. I’m not a professional photographer. Most of my photos are either from the places I visited with my family or near my home place. I currently work at Kos island, Greece (update, February 2015: Currently living and working at Reading, UK) as a computer programmer. I work around the clock for my day job. The time is limited and so are my resources and equipment. Astrophotography is a demanding kind of art in many aspects. It is common for a single shot to spend days of preparations and many hours for shooting and post processing. I really have many reasons for not being so involved with something that doesn’t pay my bills. But then again, there’s one single reason that justifies all my efforts. Each photo is a different story. I need to tell the stories. I must share the stories because I cannot imagine myself not doing it!
So, let the story telling begin!
January 2014. Fire in the sky! This is a photo sequence containing 70 lightning, taken at Ikaria island during a severe thunderstorm that took place the night of the total lunar eclipse at June 15, 2011. In order to make the sequence, I set the camera to a tripod taking 20 second shots continuously. After 83 minutes I ended up with approximately 90 lightning shots. I had to exclude around 20 because the photo filled up so much that didn’t look good. Also, in many shots I have captured more than one lightning. I believe that the number of actual lightning captured that night is more than 100. The photo was published at National Geographic magazine at April 2012 issue.
February 2014. Last quarter moonrise and the temple of Poseidon at Sounio. Shots like this may reinforce the impression that the full Moon is larger when it is low. This is not true. The large Moon from the observer’s point of view is a result of an illusion. The size of the Moon in a photo comparing to a foreground target (for example a tree or a building) depends on the distance that the photographer has from that target. For example, at this photo, which is taken through a telescope, the distance between the photographer and the temple is more than 1 km. For this shot I had to be on site at 2:00 a.m. on a very specific place to align myself the temple and the Moon. Most of the times, even after careful planning there are deviations. The time frame to move the telescope to the desired position for an ideal alignment, frame the subject again and take the shot is literally a few seconds!
March 2013. Rosette nebula. The shot was taken at Sounio. Deep sky astrophotography is an exotic and demanding kind of photography as it requires special kind of astronomical and photography equipment and a significant learning curve for obtaining the necessary knowledge. It is common to spend a whole night or even more for a single photo and many hours for post process. In contrary of landscape photography, deep sky targets -nebulas, galaxies and star clusters- are the same, un-altered from our point of view during our whole life span. Therefore, all deep sky photographers shoot essentially the same targets and the only room for creativity and originality lays on the framing, use of equipment and post process. This doesn’t seem to discourage the dedicated astrophotographers from spending countless hours hunting the precious, ancient photons!
April 2013. Nature photography. The photo was taken at Parnassos mountain during a day trip with my family. A fraction of a second before I press the shutter button to take the shot, a bee appeared out of nowhere bumping on the butterfly. Both insects flew away and this happened so fast that the only thing I saw was an empty flower. Only after reviewing the photo I discovered the scene. This photo could be the synopsis of my entire life because most of anything I have achieved was literally at the last second.
May 2013. Sounio temple moonrise and stars. The temple of Poseidon at Sounio, Greece is my favorite place of all the places on planet Earth. At this photo I have tried to justify the reason for that. The experience of seeing the ancient temple combined with the starry sky is a scene that will accompany me for the rest of my life. The photo was voted as Earth Science Picture of the Year 2009.
June 2013. The Milky Way at Ikaria island. The shot was taken at the most impressive, light pollution free, night sky I have seen so far. The technique of emphasizing the bright stars while the faint stars are still sharp is known as Akira Fujii effect named after the Japanese astrophotographer and astronomer who first widely used it at constellation photographs. Light pollution is a major problem, a consequence of our ‘civilized’ way of living. Apart from the energy conservation and economical issues involved, the last few decades the vast majority of people living near or in large metropolitan areas have lost the privilege of experience the majestic night sky that inspired artists, scientists, lovers and sky gazers from the dawn of mankind.
July 2013. Sunrise at Gialiskari, Ikaria island. This is one of my best sunrises. Apart from the research for locating interesting foregrounds and the careful planning, these shots usually require a number of attempts. In this case I was lucky to succeed with the third try. At the first attempt I didn’t have the expected results due to a few clouds that blocked the Sun during sunrise. The second time the sky was clear, but unfortunately too clear(!). The ideal conditions for capturing these nice reddish colors in the sky and the Sun is when there is a thin layer of clouds, dust or humidity in the atmosphere.
August 2013. Moon and Tree. The idea behind these photos where an earthy foreground is combined with a celestial object is to achieve a good analogy between the two. At this photo, the minimum distance that I had to keep from the tree was about 800 meters. If the tree was closer I wouldn’t be able to focus at both subjects. If it was further its apparent size would be smaller. Additionally I was searching for a tree without leaves, for the Moon to look better behind it. Also it had to be on the top of a hill in order to capture the Moon high in the sky where it looks clearer. The final prerequisite was to be at a place where the alignment with the Moon at Moonrise or Moonset would be possible. After months of landscape gazing the tree was found at Kalivia, Attiki about 40 kilometers from my home at Athens. Few months after I took the photo I returned to the place only to discover that tree had been cut down.
September 2013. This is Osiou Gregoriou monastery at Athos Mount. It is built by the sea, on the south-eastern side of the peninsula. It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. Mount Athos Greek: (Oros Athos) is a World Heritage Site and autonomous monastic region of Greece. Athos is home to 20 Orthodox monasteries. At Greece Mount Athos is referred as the ‘Holy Mountain’. Apart from the religious and the historical importance of the area, peninsula of Athos provides a beautiful, unchanged, natural ecosystem that is really rare to find nowadays.
October 2013. 360 degree ‘little planet’ panorama at Eleftheria’s square , Kos island Greece. I personally like little planet panoramas because they give a new perspective to photography through an eccentric yet aesthetically pleasant way. They are also informative because one can have a complete view of the surroundings where the photo was taken.
November 2013. After years of anticipation and several try and error attempts I manage to shoot what I consider to be a nearly perfect sunrise against the temple of Poseidon at Sounio, Greece. The result is a combination of careful planning, experience and a great deal of luck. I was really excited about it as you can see at this photo!
December 2013. The short story: This is a 360 degree little planet panorama that took me a whole day (and night) to shoot. It was one of the most demanding projects I dealt with physically, mentally and technically. Some facts about the project: 30 hours in/on? the field in the middle of the winter with freezing cold. All night stay, to inspect the startrail part of the photo. 500 startrail, 35 Sun sequence, 25 landscape shots and 12 hours to combine them all at post process. And the long story… The photo was selected as Astronomy Picture of the Day at January 17 2011.
January 2014. It is difficult for the words to describe the unbelievable feeling of a total solar eclipse. The sense I had during the few minutes of the totality was that I landed in another world. A black hole in the sky with a magnificent bright corona, stars in the middle of the day, an un-earthy quietness and a rapid temperature drop were the first things to notice. The awe and admiration for the nature’s most wonderful spectacle was peaked with the diamond ring effect at the end of totality. The shot was taken at 2008 at Novosibirsk, Russia. Five years later I reprocessed a number of photos to achieve this result where you can see a detailed view of the solar corona, and a faint view of the lunar morphology. The lunar surface is virtually invisible to the unaided eye during the eclipse and can only be revealed at post process.
Thanks for your time and for appreciating my art!