My vision of Greece was mainly concocted from films such as Clash of the Titans, 300 and of course Jason and the Argonauts! Imagine my surprise when I arrived in Crete and saw no evidence of this fantastical notion.
However, that's not to say that Crete doesn't have plenty of other great sights to behold. Today, Greece is famous for its landmark white buildings with blue domes but these images come almost entirely from Santorini, not Crete, which instead has its own unique charm - an island surrounded by sparkling seas, inviting beaches, quaint rural towns and villages, olive groves, vast mountains and gorges - quite an array of choice for a photographer.
Having recently upgraded to a 5dMKII camera, I was very keen to see just how well it would perform under a variety of situations. Oh, and the full frame sensor makes such a difference. I am pleased to say that not only did the camera excel in all areas but the battery life was awesome - two batteries lasted the whole week without being recharged! The camera itself was attached to my Black Rapid strap, which meant that rather than being stuck in front of me, it hung comfortably at my side, ready for action at a moment's notice. I found this to be especially useful while traversing gorges and walking around the narrow streets of Crete.
As far as kit goes, I took a comfortable but small camera bag (the Crumpler 7500). Lowepro do a great range of Slingshot bags ideal for travelling light - this forces you to limit your kit and consider in advance what you really require - a wide-angle and a telephoto lens work well for most situations. Another key piece of advice I would offer is - use a polariser! Having forgotten to take mine, there was a lot of haze in my images. When I returned home to start editing, the colours were not as wonderful as they should have been which meant extra work to correct them.
The people of Crete didn't seem too keen on being photographed, so instead of offending anyone I turned my attention to other things, such as the windows and doorways of homes. They were quite spectacular with vibrant colours, interesting shapes and textures all vying for my attention.
I still find it hard to strike a balance between being a tourist and being a photographer. When I first arrive somewhere, EVERYTHING is new and exciting and worthy of being captured for posterity, but as a photographer I need to slow down, breathe, look around, find a narrative and select my shot. So when you're abroad, try shooting in a different way to others, avoid standing where the other ten tourists are standing, find your own spot and see what they're missing. That's not to say don't get the typical shot, but keep it for your own collection, unless you can put a unique spin on it.
If you do find yourself struggling for inspiration, check out the postcard stands, look at guidebooks and speak to the staff at Tourist Information - they know places off the beaten track and things of interest that may not appear in the guidebooks.
If you haven’t booked your travel arrangements yet, investigate places online first - Googlemaps is a great resource. Find out when your destination celebrates spiritual or religious events, traditions and carnivals - some guide books have this information in a calendar at the back. Visiting countries during these occasions offers a multitude of photographic opportunities, especially for portraiture and documentary shots.
Push yourself to do something different. I tried my hand at photographing some landscapes - I really feel this is not my where my strength lies, but I had a go nonetheless. Here you can see the fruits of my labour as I shot a sunset and sunrise from two different locations.
Should you visit Crete or any other location for that matter, take lots of memory cards, fresh batteries, and be ready, because everywhere you look there is a potential image to be captured, having said that, also know when to put the camera away. During the quieter moments like siesta or in the evening, take a moment to make a few notes about the day’s events and the locations you visited. This will help when you come to add keywords and descriptions of the places, people and activities featured in your photos.
And finally, when the holiday is over, what happens with your images? Edit them tightly and upload what you consider to be the best of the best. Get feedback on them if possible - sites like Flickr are great for this. Consider entering them into competitions. Sell them as stock images, if they are good enough. Speak to travel magazines and guidebook publishers to see if they would be interested in your images. Maybe even offer them to the holiday destinations themselves for their websites and promotional material. Perhaps use them to build your portfolio, or simply share your experiences and talent with others.
Whatever else you do, enjoy your new surroundings and remember to have a holiday at the same time as creating fantastic images!