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Dalmatian Pelicans and Meteora Monasteries
2023 Trip Report

We began the tour with dinner at our first hotel, the Golden Star in Thessaloniki. This proved to be the ideal starting point, a sea front aspect close to the airport and a short distance from the cultural heart of Thessaloniki. Those guests arriving early took the opportunity to explore some local historical sites and galleries, sharing their adventures as we got to know each other over dinner. Leaving Thessaloniki after a fabulous Greek breakfast we headed to Meteora in our vehicles. We made the decision early on to take two minibuses, making for a more comfortable ride and ensuring the best views as we climb into the mountains of Northern Greece.

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When you arrive at the Grand Meteora hotel you are instantly struck by the dramatic backdrop of rock pinnacles, punctuated by the odd monastery precariously placed high amongst the smooth sandstone. It’s an ideal jumping off point and clearly a cool place to shoot from as we grabbed our cameras, exploring the best aspects from our new base and even shooting a few frames before checking in! We took lunch at a local Taverna, a spot brimming with character run by a larger-than-life chef straight out of a Disney kitchen. Later that afternoon we took to the mountains. It is hard to describe the grandeur of Meteora, the place feels surreal, almost overwhelming. We focused on shooting from some of the best viewpoints, soaking up the atmosphere and exploring different ways of framing what lay before us. As dusk approached, we waited for the lights of the town below to twinkle into life. Here we worked on slow shutter techniques and experimented with light painting with a torch (flashlight) to pick out the monasteries with great effect.


After an early breakfast at the Grand Meteora we headed out for a sunrise shoot. As the sun crept over the mountains, shadows and highlights shifted creating endless photographic opportunities, it was tough deciding which way to point the camera. As the sun climbed higher, there were some great opportunities for high contrast work too. Winding steps and walkways provided ideal subjects for that kind of light. We were lucky enough to have a visit from a very cooperative and photogenic monk. Very interested in what we were doing, he borrowed a camera and took a few shots himself.


Lunch was again hosted by Meteora’s finest wild mushroom chef, and a return visit was relished by those wanting to work their way through his menu. We returned for an evening shoot, visiting some different viewpoints, and exploring new creative opportunities. The heavens opened on the morning of our departure, so we took a leisurely breakfast before heading to our next destination, the traditional villages of Zagori and the imposing vistas of the Vikos Gorge. The villages such as Monodentri where we were based at a small family run guesthouse are a maze of rustic, cobbled streets, and stone cottages. Whitewashed walls, creeping grape vines and old wooden shutters draw the camera here, colour and texture making the little details our focal points. Besides the immense gorge that Vikos is famous for, there are several ancient, sweeping bridges some of which date back to the 18th century which make perfect subjects for wide angle lenses but are also packed with texture and contrast worth zooming into in places.


The last few days of our tour focused on a wildlife spectacle that has made Northern Greece a Mecca for wildlife photographers in recent years—the pelicans of Lake Kerkini. This man-made reservoir is home to several hundred of the endangered birds and is something of a modern conservation success story. The birds here are fed fresh fish caught from the lake making them extremely confident around people. Across the three days we arranged shoots from both low-level boats and on shore for a wide variety of images, ranging from extreme close ups to wide angle work, taking in the stunning mountain backdrop. Few things rival being escorted across a dead calm lake by a flock of 1.8-meter wingspan dinosaurs. We had tons of time to experiment with techniques like slow shutter panning and freezing the action of these giants as they alter direction in midair. This is the perfect place to learn something new, as there is ample time to talk through settings with everyone before another pelican flyby, or just to focus on getting the perfect symmetry with wildlife portraits. Every day offered different conditions and even dark foreboding clouds made for unique, dramatic imagery.


As always, the last dinner is a time for mixed emotions knowing our time was coming to an end. We recalled the high points, shared our best images, and replayed the laughs we’d had along the way. A resounding appreciation from the group was quite rightly given to my co-lead and local guide Dancho, without whom the trip would not have been nearly as productive or half as much fun. Dancho and I are looking forward to leading this trip again in January 2024 (perhaps with a few surprise additions). If a balanced blend of culture, landscape, architecture, and wildlife sounds good to you, we would love to see you in Northern Greece on the next tour!

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Dalmatian Pelicans and Meteora Monasteries

Dalmatian pelicans—world’s largest, rarest, and most photogenic—in breeding plumage, and the spectacular Meteora monasteries landscapes are featured in this diverse winter photo tour in Northern Greece.

January 17 - 27, 2025
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