Updated: Oct 21, 2021
At the end of September I joined my family in Corfu for our favourite type of family holiday - sailing around the Mediterranean islands.
This holiday had been 2 years in the making, having been postponed last May, and it felt so good to experience a foreign climate again. We arrived to some gorgeous weather and, after paying the obligatory 25 Euro taxi from the airport to our Airbnb in the Corfu ‘Old Town’, I wasted no time in heading out to the fort as sunset beckoned.
I had seen the fort from afar on the way back from a previous trip and knew it was going to be a wonderful spot in the early evening. I gladly made my way to the entrance only to be told that it had shut all of 5 minutes ago for the evening. Looking up to the top of the fort I knew that I’d never have made it to the top in time anyway, so I instead focused my attention on the few people that were in and around the entrance.
I snapped this photo of a young couple analysing the results of a photo they had asked a passer-by to take. The lady’s expression makes you wonder just how good (or bad) their choice of stand-in photographer was.
Beyond the fort was the Strait of Corfu, a stretch of calm sea that lay between the island and the mainland of Greece and Albania. A wall of undulating mountain rose from the sea, tinged in deep purple. I knew we’d see a lot more of these mountains in different lights as the week went on and I began to imagine all the pictures I was going to take.
I asked my step-mum Louise to take a photo of me with the beautiful view behind me. I had to teach her how to use the camera to do so but luckily it isn’t difficult - I think she nailed this shot!
There were a few more pictures from this location that I was really pleased with; a worker high up in the mast of a yacht, harnessed and hoisted up there by a pulley mechanism with his crewmates below; a very stoic looking chap who stood still looking longingly into the air at the starlings swooping above; and a lady dressed in an elegant red dress sat facing opposite her friends, talking animatedly.
I really like the juxtaposition of the old man sandwiched between the very old temple over his shoulder and the bright graffiti at his foot, that has been sprayed so close that it has run, giving it a very careless effect.
In the three photos above, the subjects were so interesting that I placed them in the middle of the frame so that the viewer can really focus on the details in each. Below, I used the curved leading line of the railing to draw the eye to the lady in red, whilst better showcasing the incredible view behind her.
Later we walked the narrow cobbled streets of the old town looking for somewhere to eat. There was the usual hustle and bustle of restauranteurs doing their best to win the custom of tourists whilst local children played in the plazas way beyond my bedtime at their age.
Stray cats were everywhere and I bent down to get my camera eye level with one and managed to capture the fearlessness in its eyes as it looked into the depths of my lens.
I woke before dawn the next day and was buzzing at the thought of capturing the sunrise as it came over the mountains across the sea to the east. My dad came with me and it made for a lovely excursion to start the day and some really pleasing images.
The first thing that caught my attention was the pyramid shaped silhouette far away on the mainland. I later found out this was not one pyramid mountain but a ridgeline viewed from the side. It looked so unique bathed in that first light. I used my 70-350mm lens to bring the pyramid shape closer in the frame and snapped this shot as a luxury yacht cruised slowly past.
As the orange glow behind the mountains became evermore yellow, I scouted the water to find some interesting subjects. I zoomed in on this yacht moored in the bay just as the sun burst over the mountains and dazzled the surrounding water in light. A few superyachts arranged themselves nicely either side of the suns beam reflecting over the water and made for another good photo.
Looking around me for some other subjects I saw this very beautifully wrought bench, the curved metal forming it’s base contrasting starkly with the straight formation of the railing.
We then walked away from the water and back into the old town. It was 8am and there were a few people going about their day’s business. I picked up the pace, knowing that I would miss the serenity of the early morning if I didn’t.
It seemed that around every street corner there was something amazing to photograph. A rabbi and lady provided the perfect foreground subject by walking in front of a very quaint, pastel-pink building. I love that the picture is balanced to the left and right sides of the building with other goings-on.
A lady lighting candles outside a different entrance to that church turned her head at just the right time for me to capture the emotion in her large eyes. She looked so sweet with her hair band on.
A man sat in the road painting a plant pot orange next to an open doorway made for an interesting picture and I waited a few seconds until no one else was in frame to be happy with the simplicity of the shot.
Later in the morning we went into a hat shop in the hopes of finding one for my step mum. My Dad was hunting for the right hat and I saw how the mirror on the wall behind him was full of hats, making him seem entirely surrounded. The focus on his face behind his mask shows that he was not to be deterred and luckily we came away with one for her. That Dad was already wearing his own hat really made this photo.
We visited the old fort that afternoon and a real stroke of luck ensured that we wouldn’t need to pay to get in - it was ‘European Days of Culture’, apparently, and admittance was free. The views from the fort were astounding and I let my Dad and step-mum wander on ahead so that I could put some distance between myself and them and use the telescopic lens to bring the mountains in the background closer.
The haze on the water in the afternoon heat meant that the mountains no longer rose out of the water but seemingly hovered in mid air, more of a suggestion than anything else. I love how soft this makes the photo look and this certainly became a theme for my pictures later in the week.
Just before we left our apartment to reach the marina I spotted this doorway and could not believe how picturesque it was. A battered, half-open, white wooden door on a nondescript building front belied what was inside, and I saw light pouring onto the steps inside lined by plants and pots. I gladly took some pictures and felt very lucky to have been there.
We met up with my brother Paul, his girlfriend Naomi, my auntie Faith and uncle Kieran, their daughter Ellie and her husband Tom and my uncle Peter that afternoon and went to pick up our yacht for the week, a Dufour 56. This was 10 feet longer than the previous biggest boat we'd had, which provided a real novelty in that it had the additional height below deck to allow me to stand up fully inside. I'm 6'6" so this had never been possible before! We spent the night familiarising ourselves with the boat and getting ready to make sail in the morning.
Before I went to sleep, I was able to get this picture of the rising moon peaking over the mountains far to the East.
Morning came and I was up again before the sun rose; spurred on by the photographs I’d taken the morning before I had a burning desire to get even better ones. I walked from out boat a short distance to the end of the jetty where no boats obstructed my view across to Albania. Once again the conditions were glorious and there were some fishing boats dotted across the water that made for good size comparisons against the beautiful layering of the mountains behind. The light and colours in that early morning time are so soft that it really does make it my favourite time to shoot.
In these layered pictures, I tend to prefer how they look when the foreground subject is placed off to the side. You'll see more of this to come!
I was impressed by the mobile crane on the jetty and managed to snap it as these joggers went past, giving it some context for size. One of the joggers is framed by the boat suspending machine, which makes them standout and not get lost in the mix of colours in the photo - though it is still a quite busy!
We had a breakfast at a cafe that morning and as we left a squad of little bird bikers turned up there to eat. Their bikes were so tiny that I had to get a picture of my brother next to one, and, seeing the interest they attracted, their riders were only so happy to offer them up to be sat on. Cheers boys!
The sailing was gloriously relaxed. There was not a lot of wind forecast for the week, meaning less intense sailing and more chilling and that was just fine with me. We made anchor in a bay that night in Plataria and took the dinghy ashore. We ate on the beach at a pizza restaurant that made, quite simply, the best food ever. Before we had ordered we were treated to an incredible sunset across the water.
I found myself changing lenses more than once to get close ups of family and the sun disappearing behind the mountains.
That night I took some photos of the stars from the boat. I knew that the small amount of rocking the boat was doing would mean the stars would leave squiggly trails on a long exposure, but I really like how they turned out. You can feel the movement of the stars instead of the boat and the mast looks so cool in the gold light from below deck.
As the sun rose over the mountain the following morning, I closed my aperture as small as it would go and kept my shutter speed fast to eliminate the sun's glare and make its shape visible. Looking through the lens, I was amazed to see that doing this had revealed a flock of birds flying into the bright morning light.
The rest of the day’s events unfolded in much the same way that they would for the rest of the holiday; tea and breakfast followed by coffee; setting our course to sail for the day and choosing a destination for the night; and sailing for a few hours before we would stop in a nice bay to jump into the crystal clear waters. We got some good winds in the afternoon and made the most of it with a tight course being run by Cap'n Barnes.
Cap'n Barnes bringing the fashion
As we sailed into Gaios to find a berth on a quiet part of the jetty for the evening, a lady was trying her hand at fishing on the jetty edge. She was sat on a little plastic stool and using big chunks of chowder, which had attracted masses of fish, but she didn’t seem to be having much luck hooking any of them. Whilst we were lining up our boat with the space next to where she sat, she shot a glance of disapproval to her left at us, annoyed at being disturbed. She saw me taking photos so I lowered my camera and smiled at her. I didn’t expect her hard face to loosen up but her eyes gleamed as a huge grin appeared on her face when she saw me smiling.
After we had secured ourselves with lines ashore and the anchor was holding I went to her on the jetty and used the only Greek sentence I had learned, asking her “parakaló boró na travixó ti fotographía sas?” She was delighted and happily let me snap her in action. A moment later she got my attention and waved around her line where a fish was now attached to it; she wanted me to take a picture of her catch.
It’s these type of interactions that really make photography so much fun.
Armed with this one phrase in Greek, I used it again to get this photo of the fuel man who was driving the jetty.
It rained in the night but by the time we woke in the morning the sea was still and the clouds both moody and vibrant.
I zoomed in on this cloud that looked as if the light was being fired from a flamethrower
It was now Tuesday and we anchored in a horse-shoe bay late in the afternoon that treated us to some incredible conditions all through until we left at 8am the next day. A few other boats were anchored in the bay too, and each time the wind changed direction, the boats would pivot slowly around their anchors and all face into the wind.
We had a few hours before dinner so we jumped in the sea and messed around for a while. It was nearly October and the sea temperature was over 20 degrees - absolutely sensational.
The People' s Elbow:
Sunset over the town taken from the drone
Morning came and a fog had settled over the land. A pair of lone fisherman were already on the water. It made me think that they must be so used to the tranquility of their early morning routine, but that it is probably sacred to them.
The next few days saw plenty of interesting things to photograph from the boat - sun rays poured through gaps in the cloud onto a city that had smoke rising from it; a lighthouse stood on a jagged rock, a flock of seabirds adorning it; and, away in Albania, small paths could be spotted spookily disappearing into the hazy blue mountains .
That night, we stayed in the town of San Stefanos, where we had our only disappointing dinner experience of the trip. This candelit wooden jetty next to the restaurant was very pretty though; all forgiven by me.
We next made sail for the idyllic town of Kassiopi. The journey here took us back past the Old Town of Corfu and Cap'n Barns suggested sailing in close so that I could take this shot below. It could easily be a postcard; thanks Dad!
Arriving in Kassiopi, we made the short walk into town which gave me a chance to use my ND filter to get some motion blur to break up the type of shots I had been getting. This blonde haired girl zooming by on a moped proved to be the perfect helper for this.
I found some great vantage points up at the destroyed Byzantine castle in Kassiopi - you can see why they chose that location - which also had its own contingent of photogenic stray cats.
Walking back to our boat along a pebble beach, I encountered a very peaceful man reading his paper from some steps set back in the wall. We nodded to each other but I didn’t want to disturb him so waited until I had passed him by some way before I turned and took this photograph.
Just beyond the man were some tired looking boats dragged up onto the beach. As I got closer, I saw a small snake slither into the tangle of ropes and leaves. I was perturbed by the fact that each bit of worn rope looked so much like a snake in itself. I took the picture, took one last look into the tangle and scarpered.
We left Kassiopi and made anchor in the bay of the town of Kalámi, a very picturesque town where large white villas were built into the sloping hillsides. Many of them sported outdoor swimming pools, providing views across the Strait of Corfu to Albania. One can imagine what it would be like to live there.
Here are some drone shots of the bay in the afternoon, the headland at sunrise, and our boat at anchor with a line ashore.
Our penultimate night brought some heavy rain that confined us to below decks all evening. We played a lot of the card game Racing Demon - a frenetic game that requires a great level of awareness of everyone playing and gets more chaotic with the more people that play. There were 8 of us playing and everyone was subjected to the take-no-prisoners play style of my brother. This was a real trial by fire for those that had not played before!
By morning the rain had stopped, but new clouds were shaping into huge columns in the distance. We all swam ashore to a cafe on the beach to have some coffee. I spotted an English breakfast on the menu and wasted no time tucking into it and was so impressed with how delicious it was.
The others swam back before me and I was left alone sat on a wicker chair in the bright morning sun. It was there that I was able to reflect on the events of the past week.
I was no longer employed, having had my final day at my job the day before flying out, and it hit me there and then just how great it felt to know that my future lay before me in my hands. Though we are always in control of our future, it isn't easy to leave a job that is stable - even if it's not fulfilling - and I thought about some of my friends who have had similar experiences in their jobs. It made me want to inspire people to take that step towards adventure and the unknown as I had done.
Simultaneously, I knew that it was easy to feel so vindicated with my decision in that glorious moment with the sun on my skin, when I had not achieved anything besides quitting my job, and the real work lay ahead.
I found some poignant words to write about how I was feeling and posted it to anglesbangles instagram, feeling a sense of clarity that I had yearned for in the weeks leading up to then. I tipped the barista, put my phone in a dry-bag and swam back to the boat.
After we had made sail for the marina to return the boat, the moody weather began to pick up again and I got this great picture of my uncle Peter as the sun peaked out momentarily, whilst clouds dumped rain onto the island behind him.
Our final evening had come too soon. We went out for dinner ashore and everyone managed to stand still for a moment whilst I took a group selfie using the tripod and timer. What a lovely bunch and what a holiday we had!
After a terrible night sleep hunting mosquitos from 4am-7am, I got up knowing that this would be my last chance to take some photos in the first light of day that I could be really happy with. I walked to the spot at the edge of the marina jetty where I had taken those pictures on my second morning, and waited for the sun to rise. Here's what I saw:
The holiday had been everything I'd wanted it to be and more. We have all missed the opportunity to travel in the past year and a half due to Covid and it was so refreshing to be exploring again. I think the act of learning and respecting new ways of life, cultures and environments is so important. Not everyone is fortunate enough to do this, which is I want to share my experiences through the pictures I take and the words I write.
I hope that you enjoyed reading my first blog post. My style of photography is still evolving and I am learning a lot on the way. Comments are welcomed! I'll see you in the next one.