Like many couples, my wife and I talked about going to Greece for many years. Fortunately for us the stars aligned in the fall of 2014 and we were able to go on a bus tour/island hopping holiday. While this type of holiday is not ideal from a photography standpoint it did allow us to cram a lot of sightseeing into a relatively short time frame. Greece is a very diverse and interesting country and I thought readers may like to see some selected images.
(NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)
While I anticipated that my shooting time at Greece’s historic sites would be limited, I did not fully understand how compressed it would be when on a bus tour. Most days I was lucky to even get two hours of total shooting time. Luckily the guides on our tour used radio headsets so I could listen to the information provided as I discretely moved away from the tour group and took some photographs. Otherwise I would have been limited to 15-45 minutes of unencumbered shooting time at most of the archaeological sites
As photographers we all have our own shooting style and lens preferences. I have always found that zoom lenses are the workhorses of my trips. It was no different on this holiday. What was different for me was deciding to leave my Nikon D800 and FX lenses at home and opting to use a small, lightweight camera/lens system instead.
There are many great, lighter weight camera options available today from a range of manufacturers such as Sony, Olympus, Fuji, and Panasonic to name a few. Since I am already committed to the Nikon 1 system for my video business, I took my V2 and a selection of six 1 Nikon lenses to Greece.
All of the antiquity sites in Greece have roped off sections restricting where visitors can go. Some of these public areas can be quite narrow and crowded so the flexibility of using zoom lenses to frame shots was ideal. This was also the case in many of the island towns like Fira, Oia, and Mykonos where the streets can be very narrow and often crowded.
Having a wide angle zoom lens in my bag (efov 18-35 mm) was very useful when trying to accentuate the size and grandeur of many ancient sites like the theatre at Delphi.
Or shooting large structures like the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It allowed me to get up as close as possible to the structure, thus eliminating people from the image. I was not concerned with the severe lens distortion created by this type of shooting situation as it is easily corrected with software.
When using these types of wide angle lenses it is important to remember to frame your original images to allow for perspective adjustments in post. Otherwise you may be disappointed when parts of the subjects in your photos end up being cropped off when you adjust perspective.
I used a standard-range zoom lens (efov 27-81 mm) and a long telephoto zoom lens (efov 81-297 mm) extensively during my trip. Having shot with them under a variety of lighting conditions in the past I knew that they were practical, flexible lenses. The VR on these lenses is also very good which allows them to be shot successfully hand-held at fairly slow shutter speeds if needed. This came in handy when shooting inside the museums at the various archaeological sites. Photography is limited to certain areas of the museums and your tour guides will advise you accordingly.
In general, taking photographs inside monasteries is restricted and often forbidden. There are exceptions, so be sure to ask.
If you go to Greece taking a zoom lens with 300 mm reach on the long end can be very helpful indoors when taking images of statues from a distance, or when trying to quickly frame the many exhibit samples on display.
Lenses of this focal length are also very useful if you like to capture the detail on buildings in the various archaeological sites in Greece.
We had the opportunity to visit a couple of the monasteries at Meteora and snap a few quick photos. I would have loved to spend three or four days in this area rather than just a couple of hours. It is simply spectacular.
For those of you who are James Bond movie fans, here is a shot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity where the 1981 Roger Moore film “For Your Eyes Only” was filmed.
The Meteora monasteries afford visitors plenty of image opportunities…
I had some time during my trip to do some walking tours in Mykonos town on the island of Mykonos, Nafplio on the southern mainland of Greece, and in Fira on Santorini. Here are a few images taken in Nafplio. You can see more street photography images in another one of my articles.
A couple of images taken on the island of Mykonos…
And, a few taken on the island of Santorini…
When you walk through towns in Greece you will find numerous stray dogs and cats. Most of them sleeping under the warm sun. Some of them, especially the cats, can get aggressive quite quickly and unexpectedly so they are best left alone.
It was interesting to note that there were very few people using DSLRs. After two weeks visiting some of the most popular archaeological sites on the mainland and two of the most visited islands I don’t think I saw more than a dozen people a day using large, DSLR gear. Even fewer people were trying to use tripods. Most people were shooting with compact cameras or their phones, and many with mirror-less cameras.
I noticed many people struggling in the bright sunlight trying to frame their shots using the display on the back of their cameras/phones and some mirror-less cameras. Using a camera like the Nikon 1 V2 which has a viewfinder was extremely helpful and allowed me to frame shots exactly as I wanted.
Although I took three prime lenses with me I did not anticipate using them very much, other than to address specific shooting situations. I found the fast wide angle prime I took was useful for some landscape shots during inclement weather so I could easily shield the lens and camera from the rain.
It was also helpful in some of the museums when I was trying to capture wider displays of carvings, in the beehive Tomb of Agamemnon, and at Akrotiri.
There was one evening when this lens was invaluable capturing video of members of our tour group learning some traditional Greek dances…and breaking a few plates. Being able to get good depth of field when shooting at f/2.8 at 1/60th shutter speed with a small sensor camera enabled me to keep my ISO at a reasonable level.
My ‘normal’ prime stayed in my bag for most of the trip but did come in handy for my wife and me to capture some images of each other when we volunteered to take part in some Greek cooking demonstrations.
Taking a fast 85 mm prime can be helpful, especially when doing street photography. The following shot was taken with the 1 Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 lens.
When in Greece you will very likely be shooting in strong, bright sunlight which can challenge the dynamic range of many cameras, especially those with small sensors. This is further heightened on the islands since many houses and public buildings have white-washed exteriors. Using a polarizing filter is recommended. You’ll notice some clipped highlights in the following image:
Shooting in RAW helps when using a camera with limited dynamic range, and adjusting metering and exposure settings can help minimize highlight clipping to some extent. Having said that, using cameras with smaller sized sensors like the Nikon 1 V2 do have some inherent shortcomings that just are what they are.
Low light performance and image sharpness can also be a challenge when using small sensor cameras as the small pixel size can cause diffraction to be noticeable above f/5.6 and for noise to appear at fairly low ISOs. These issues can be at least partially addressed in post. Here is an image taken during a late night walk in the town of Olympia. It was taken hand-held at f/1.2, 1/50th ISO-6400. I wouldn’t normally take an image like this with a small sensor camera, but I wanted to push the limits of my Nikon 1 V2 to see what would happen. When you’re travelling you often have to deal with less-than-ideal lighting.
Here is another hand-held image taken at ISO-6400:
The objective in showing these images is not to extol the virtues of any specific software, but rather reinforce the idea that when buying a camera that has a small sensor, it is important to consider how the software you own can help mitigate some image quality issues. This also holds true for lens sharpness. Here is an image taken at Meteora:
The next image is a 100% crop:
When you consider that this image was taken with the 1 Nikon 30-110 kit zoom lens that sells in the $250-$280 range I think the post processing results shown in the cropped image are quite respectable.
For those of you who are interested in the camera gear that I used to take all of the photographs during my trip to Greece here is my equipment list:
Nikon 1 V2 body
1 Nikon 10 mm f/2.8 (efov 27 mm)
1 Nikon 18.5 mm f/1.8 (efov 50 mm)
1 Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 (efov 86 mm)
1 Nikon 6.7-13 f/3.5-5.6 (efov 18-35 mm)
1 Nikon 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 (efov 27-81 mm)
1 Nikon 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 (efov 81-297 mm)
The total weight of this gear was about 2.4 lbs. (1,075 grams). I must admit that I was very conflicted about leaving my D800 and selection of FX lenses at home for our trip to Greece, but I just didn’t have the luxury of carrying all that size and weight around with me. As the picture below demonstrates, there is a significant size (and corresponding weight) difference between FX and CX systems.
Based on my experiences in Greece I would have no hesitation using my Nikon 1 system exclusively for my future travel photography needs.
If you are currently shooting with a DSLR and you want to a lighter weight option for travel photography you may find that some of the smaller sensor cameras available today are more than adequate to meet your needs.
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Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.