After a couple years of absence, I’ve returned to the Cyclades Islands of Greece for a week. This time we visited the islands of Amorgos and Mykonos. In this article, I am sharing my experience photographing the former, with some brief notes about the latter.
The previously published articles about the Cyclades can be found here:
- Exploring the Cyclades: Ios and its Sunsets
- Exploring the Cyclades: Sikinos, the Quintessential Greek Island
- Exploring the Cyclades: Folegandros, the Romantic Island
- Exploring the Cyclades: The Ever Popular Santorini
In my imagination, Amorgos was inextricably tied to some of the scenes of Luc Besson’s 1998 movie Le Grand Blue (The Big Blue), which was in part shot on the easternmost of the Cyclades Islands.
I came there expecting to see imposing mountains towering over deep blue waters, white-washed monasteries perched on the face of vertical cliffs, lazy towns atop barren hills, and quiet fishermen’s villages.
Of course, I wasn’t so naïve to think the Amorgos of today would be the same as the fictionalized one of Besson’s film, in which the Greek scenes were set in the 1960’s. I am very much aware that mass tourism nowadays has arrived everywhere, but I have to say that life on Amorgos still has that charming, relaxing quality that I’ve come to expect from some of the more off-the-beaten-path Greek islands.
This impression was probably influenced by the fact that we came to Amorgos at the beginning of June, long before the summer season is in full swing. Still, there are no big hotels on Amorgos–only a secluded resort and then a slew of smaller hotels, pensions, and room rentals–no night clubs, and no Starbucks.
Compare this to the popular Mykonos, where our flight landed and where we took the boat to Amorgos, which has no airport. Even at the start of the season, Mykonos was crowded, noisy, tacky, gaudy, and horribly expensive. Thanks, but no, thanks.
Unsurprisingly, the sea is blue. It is as blue as I had imagined and then some more. You have to be careful, if using a polarizing filter, not to make it look too blue.
The waters are some of the clearest I have ever seen. I was hoping to do some diving, but when we decided to find a dive center, it had become quite windy and the seas were pretty rough around the island, so all diving activities were suspended.
Cycladic villages, with their white-washed, cubic houses, narrow streets, tamarisks, bougainvilleas, and oleanders are always a photographer’s paradise.
Amorgos has a handful of conurbations, but the ones you don’t want to miss are Chora, in the center, and Tholaria, in the north of the island.
Walking the empty streets of the latter, on a sunny afternoon with clear skies, I used my polarizer to darken them as much as I could. Then, at the computer, I converted the photo to black and white and darkened the sky to the point of being pitch black. This gave the image a metaphysical quality that I adore.
Many Greek islands have beautiful, centuries-old monasteries, usually in some very dramatic locations, but the Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery tops them all, being built on the side of an almost vertical cliff, 300m above the sea.
Its architecture, constrained as it is by the extreme quality of the location, is unique. Whereas its façade is 40m long, the west wall, where the entrance door is, is no wider than 5m and no interior space is wider than 8m.
Founded in 1027 CE, it is the second oldest monastery in Greece. Nowadays its hundred rooms are inhabited only by three monks, who welcome visitors (as long as they are properly dressed; no shorts or bare shoulders allowed) and offer them local raki and sweets.
Back to Mykonos
As I wrote above, I’m not a fan of Mykonos, but the are of Little Venice and the famous windmills are indeed photogenic, especially in the evening. You just need to work around the crowd that gathers there for the sunset.
A couple weeks before my trip to Amorgos was to begin, my FujiFilm X-T3 fell from its tripod (this event itself might be the subject on another article) with the XF 16-55mm F2.8 lens attached. As a consequence, both the camera and the lens needed to be sent for repairs and I found myself without my primary means of creating images.
I could have easily borrowed another X-T3, but I decided to go minimal for this trip, taking with me only my six-year old Fuji X100S, with its fixed 23mm lens. They say creativity thrives with limitations and I wanted to put that saying to the test for at least one week.
All the photos included in this article were shot with the X100S, except for the one of the blue window with the writing and the oleander tree. I took about 300 photos in total and I almost never wished I had a wider or longer lens.
The main advantage of the X100S was that it was always with me. I would throw it into my backpack in the morning, without having to slow down to consider which lenses to take. It would come with me to the beach, without me having to worry about changing the lens in the wind on the sand. Whenever I was visiting places, it would just fit in the pocket of my shorts or dangle from my wrist (I use and recommend using a wrist-strap with smaller cameras) ready to spring to action.
I think the X100S allowed me to take the picture below, when maybe a bigger camera wouldn’t have. We were visiting the Hozoviotissa Monastery, when I saw this monk sitting by the window. The locations was just perfect, with the window facing east in the afternoon, so there was no direct, harsh sunlight coming through the window, only the soft light reflected by the sky.
When I asked him if I could snap a few photos of him, I like to believe he consented because the X100S didn’t look intimidating, but rather old-fashioned, like the old rooms of the monastery where he lives. Or maybe it was just my imagination. Either way, I got what I judge to be the photo that alone was worth the trip.
More photos below. Until next time, Στην υγειά σας!
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