Santorini Photo Shoot, Greece

Sunset over sea, Santorini Island, Greece
Santorini sunset, Greece

I’ve always liked the edge. As a kid I would often be called back from exploring some crumbling ridge to take a peek over the other side. So it should be no surprise that I fell in love with Santorini, a Greek island born of mythology and rich in geology. Legend tells of a land gifted to the Argonauts by sea god Triton. The first settlers called this place Kallisti, ‘the most beautiful one’. It developed as a sophisticated outpost of Minoan civilisation until 1600 BC, when one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions tore the island apart. A tsunami raced and raged across the sea…perhaps claiming Plato’s ancient Atlantis beneath the waves?

Blue domed churches, Oia village, Santorini, Greece
Famous blue domed churches, Oia

The draw of modern-day Santorini is in no doubt. This is the Greece of a 1,000 picture-perfect postcards. A volcanic jewel in the Aegean Sea crowned by whitewashed villages. One such village is Oia, home to blue domed churches and traditional Greek windmills converted into unique holiday accommodations. Located at the Northern tip of the island, Oia is famous for it’s sunsets and it’s where I stayed for my Santorini photo shoot. Traditional cave houses appear as bites in the caldera cliff and hotels cling to the rim, competing for ever-superior sea views. Nameless streets and numerous steps link the viewpoint of Oia’s old fort down to the shores of Amoudi Bay. This tiny fishing port offers fresh seafood…and the chance to swim in the flooded caldera of a resting volcano.

Traditional Greek windmill at night, Oia, Santorini
Traditional Greek windmill illuminated at night, Oia

Santorini is a ring of crater islands through which Mediterranean cruise ships sail. The main island is Thira and it’s capital town of Fira is where boatloads of tourists first set foot – helped from ship to shops by a cable car or donkey ride. From this cliff top tourist town it is possible to walk all the way back to Oia. A coastal path rewards hikers with stunning sea vistas, passing whitewashed villas and the roof top rowing boat of Homeric Poems Hotel in Firostefani.

Old rowing boat on roof terrace, Firostefani, Santorini
Boat on roof and caldera view, Firostefani

From Firostefani, with it’s caldera view of volcanic Nea Kameni island, I continued on to the medieval Skaros Rock, site of a long lost castle fortress. Within a stones throw of this rocky headland is the luxurious Hotel White in Imerovigli. Infinity pools and hammocks aside, it was enough to admire that same million dollar view from the path, stood in trusty trail worn sandals! Itchy Feet didn’t make it straight back to Oia that night, distracted instead by fine food at the Blue Note Restaurant…where a chilled glass of wine and the Santorini sun sank together.

Hotel White, Imerovigli, Santorini
Luxury Hotel White, Imerovigli

For such a small island, Santorini holds many charms. Travel inland from the balcony-clad coast and you will find a slower, less material way of life. Journey past vineyards to the hillside village of Pyrgos. This fortified settlement of churches and mansions has panoramic, coast to coast views overlooking the grape-growing landscape. Or step through the arched entrance of Emporio Castle into a miniature maze of twisting tunnels and narrow alleys that hide a tumble of medieval dwellings built tightly together to protect from pirates.

Whitewashed chimneys, Pyrgos village, Santorini
Whitewashed chimneys, Pyrgos village

Santorini often features in the top 10 lists of travel destinations, best island holidays and romantic escapes. Plan a visit, and find out why!

See more pictures of Oia village and Santorini sunsets over at itchyfeetphotography.com.

Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science

Earthwatch scientists and staff take to the stage at London's Royal Geographical Society     Dr. Wallace 'J' Nichols presents the subject of neuroconservation

It was a pleasure to meet and photograph two world-class scientists last week, at an Earthwatch lecture exploring the theme Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science.

Earthwatch scientist Dr. Anastasia Steffen highlighted her work studying the landscape and historical use of the Valles Caldera in New Mexico.Her co-speaker Dr. Wallace ‘J’ Nichols, a marine biologist, is leading the emerging scientific field of ‘neuroconservation’.

J is investigating how natural environments could be essential for our well-being, helping reduce stress – a factor that can lead to disease, and encouraging creativity. He noted that every well-executed marketing brand uses neuroscience to create an emotional hook. Music, magic and meditation are just some of areas which have exploited neuroscience – so perhaps it’s time conservationists did the same, he said. To hear the lecture in full visit earthwatch.org.

‘Bluebells at Dusk’ selected for Woodland Trust Advert

Taken at 8pm, the rays of a setting sun set the spring blossom of my favourite bluebell wood alight. As the days grow slowly longer, the Woodland Trust is preparing a campaign to encourage people to visit woods – and have selected my sunset shot for an upcoming advertisement. Check out the British Flowers gallery at Itchy Feet Photography for more bluebell pictures.

Bluebell wood in spring

‘Lonesome George’ Galapagos Conservation Icon Dies

Lonesome George, Giant Tortoise, Charles Darwin Centre, Galapagos Islands

‘Lonesome George’, the iconic giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands has died. Estimated to be over 100 years old, George was the last of the Pinta Island tortoise, subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdoni. I visited his captive home, the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz island in 2007. Alone in his bathing pool, George looked a sad sight but the efforts of staff at the centre are to be commended. It cannot be easy, tasked with protecting the wildlife of these iconic islands.

The Pinta Island tortoise – and a conservation icon – is now extinct. Sadly, many more endemic/threatened/rare species of the Galapagos are in danger of being lost forever. To discover more, visit the Galapagos Conservation Trust website.

Giant Tortoises, Geochelone elephantopus, Galapagos Islands
Captivity – the future of the Galapagos?
Giant Tortoises, Geochelone elephantopus

TV Presenter Kate Humble chairs Earthwatch Lecture

TV presenter, Kate Humble chairs Earthwatch Lecture, RGS, London

Left to Right: Prof. Yadvinder Malhi, Dr. Dan Bebber and Kate Humble

Climate Change and Forests

Every year Earthwatch hosts a series of free lectures at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Their most recent event brought 3 eminent climate change scientists together to discuss the findings of a 5yr programme between HSBC, Earthwatch, the Climate Group, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF to inspire action by individuals, businesses and governments on climate change.

Visit the Earthwatch website to find out more, including audio of the 3 speakers and the introduction given by TV presenter, Kate Humble.

Earthwatch Lecture, Royal Geographical Society, London, UK

Iron Men Sculptures, Another Place, Crosby, UK

Another Place, Iron Men statues by Antony Gormley, Crosby beach, UK

A few miles up the coast from Liverpool is Another Place – an art installation by Antony Gormley consisting of 100 life-size statues facing out to sea. These iron men face a daily battle against wind and sea, succumbing to each incoming tide.

In the artists words: “Another Place harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature. The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth’s substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.”

I wanted to express this idea of movement with some long exposure photography. To achieve this I used a neutral density filter that blocks out light and forces the shutter to remain open for longer. Combined with a remote release, the above image was taken with an exposure of 7 seconds – smoothing out the incoming waves and giving the water a glassy appearance.

See more images of Antony Gormley sculptures at Itchy Feet Photography.

Iron Man statue by Antony Gormley, Another Place, Crosby beach, UK

Equipment

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 28-70mm
Manfrotto 441 Carbon Fibre Tripod
Hahnel GigaT Pro II Wireless Remote Control
Hoya ND400 Neutral Density (ND) Filter
ND Exposure Chart
Tide Times

Sea Odyssey – Giant Spectacular, Liverpool 20-22 April 2012

Giant Uncle and Little Girl, Sea Odyssey, Liverpool, UK

Waking with Giants
ZZZzzzzzzzz Giant snores reverberated around Kings Dock before two huge marionnetes were brought to life by the Lilluputian crew of Royal de Luxe, a French street theatre company here to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Dated 13th April 1912, a letter by 10 year old May McMurray from Liverpool was written to her father, William, on the ill-fated cruise liner. A century after it was posted it became the inspiration for the UK’s largest street theatre event held over 3 days in the city of Liverpool.

May’s letter, now in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum, reads: “Dear Father, It seems ages since I last seen you. I wish we where in Southampton with you, it is very lonely without you.”

William would never see the letter; it reached White Star’s offices after the Titanic had embarked, and was returned to sender. He died when the ship sank, despite having had the opportunity to board a lifeboat.

Alan McMurray, William’s grandson, said: “An officer sent him back to look for water and biscuits and he never returned. They couldn’t wait any longer and the officer said to a gentleman standing alongside the lifeboat ‘You get in the lifeboat’. The lifeboat was picked up by the Carpathia and they all ended up in Newfoundland where the gentleman who got into the lifeboat in place of my grandfather asked about him. He eventually came back from New York to Liverpool and went straight to the White Star office. He checked on William’s details and found out his address and went there. He met my grandmother and told her the tale of what had happened on board the ship.”

May’s letter ends with a goodbye message from William’s three children; “Love from all dada hoping to see you soon with love from Ivy and May and Ernie xxxxxxxxxx kisses for dada x”

Little Girl Giant, Sea Odyssey, Liverpool, UK

Walking with Giants
Faces pressed against the windows of tall buildings came eye-to-eye with giants as the Uncle and ‘Little Girl’ took to the streets.  Sea Odyssey tells the story of a young girl giant whose father, a 30 foot giant, stowed away on the Titanic and died when it sank. His brother, the second giant puppet, took a century to learn to dive and having found the wreck of the Titanic returned to Liverpool to meet his niece and distribute letters from the ship around the city.

This spectacular 3 day event is not the first for Liverpool. Another giant has roamed the streets…

La Machine, a giant spide in Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008

In 2008, as part of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations,  a 50ft mechanical spider known as La Princesse went walkabout! Water cannons shot jets of spray over unsuspecting crowds and a myriad of special effects brought flames and snow to the occasion.

The Sultan's Elephant, London

London has also witnessed street theatre on a giant stage. Back in 2006, the Little Girl made an appearance accompanying a 50-ton elephant. Towering over famous landmarks – and shooting water from it’s trunk – the Sultan’s Elephant was an extraordinary and magical production.

Visit Itchy Feet Photography for more pictures of Sea Odyssey – Giant Spectacular and discover videos of the event on YouTube.