A Symi Holiday: Day 4 – After Dark

I thought I had blogged enough for the fourth day. Alas, come nightfall I ventured out again with my camera for some night time photography!

As the golden sky evaporated at sunset to a moody purple and black, I headed back down the long steps once more. Only now do I realise why my feet hurt so much. This time I was armed with a tripod and a wide angle lens. I’d seen some lovely night time shots of Symi on the internet, and it was my time to try snap a few.

Several times I heard foreign tongues mention the word “fotografia” as my larger-than-average camera tripod towered out of my backpack and above my head as I trundled by the many restaurants still open late. I’d been the only person I’d seen carrying a tripod on Symi. #Fact. Definitely the only one out with one at 11pm. Still, I’m not convinced bringing a rucksack just to ship the tripod over in was worthwhile.

Out along the harbour I snapped a few here and there, trying different exposure lengths to get the look of sheet glass along the water. Of course, the longer your exposure, the more blurry the yachts are in the bobbing waves.

Symi by night

I travelled back along the roads I’ve come to know reasonably well, towards the shipyard containing the derelict Lazy Days cruise ship. Out  away from the harbour was a beautiful tall ship, which reminded me of one I had travelled and stayed aboard just a few weeks back. We too had anchored in the middle of a location away from marine traffic and lit ourselves up for everyone to see. I just had to take a snap against the starry sky. The brightest dot to the right is in fact the planet Jupiter, with the Pleiades star cluster in the top right corner. I didn’t catch the name of the ship, mainly because I couldn’t see it.

Symi tall ship by night

Low and behold, at the shipyard, known as Harani Boat Yard, Lazy Days by night was as spectacular as she is by day. Lit only by a single street lamp and the surrounding natural reflecting light, the wasting ship still stands out against the darkness. Chopper, the non-fictional guard dog with fictional ferocity, lay with one eye open monitoring my labour, barking only once when I accidentally hit a wheelie bin with a leg of the tripod…

Lazy Days, By Night

Lazy Days Starlight

Bear in mind, these photos were taken with very little light around. Yet they look almost staged. This is something I crave almost daily, seeing things in a less-than-ordinary way (hence the infrared photography in the coming days).

Being out on your own carrying expensive equipment and having a long walk back to where you stay is perhaps not the best situation to put yourself in. My sixth sense was always telling me to keep an eye out for anything or anyone unusual who may be part of some ploy to chuck me in the harbour and dash off with my stuff. Therefore I didn’t spend too long on the dimly lit streets of Symi. It was a case of ‘get there, get them, get out’.

Oddly, this is the same way I do clothes shopping.

A Symi Holiday: Day 4 – Part One

NOTE: There’s a second page to this blog which I wrote late in the evening with some lovely long exposure night time photographs!

Lazy Days Indeed.

It’s clear to me now that my non-existant level of fitness alongside the heat of Greece has culminated in me becoming a lazy bugger. With full intentions I had an early night on Wednesday, set my alarm for 6am Thursday morning with the knowledge that I would attempt an early morning hike back up to the highest Church for some sunrise snaps of the harbour. This failed in dramatic fashion. I got out of bed at 1pm. In my defence, I had climbed those 358 steps* many times in the last couple of days. My legs have developed muscles I didn’t even know existed.

Part of me blames myself for my lack of a regular exercise regime at home and therefore being constantly nackered. The other part of me blames the folks down in the valley who’s renditions of Black Betty, Daddy Cool and Rivers Of Babylon into the early hours amplified it’s way up the hills towards the rest of us and therefore kept me awake.

Alongside the soundtrack to my holiday, at around 2am I also had the fortune to play two exciting games: Fly Swatter (towel edition) and Mosquito Chop. It might be obvious to some that leaving your doors and windows open during the day gives flies the impression they are welcome to your abode. Similarly, leaving them open at night gives mosquitos the same impression. It wasn’t that obvious to me. Both games were played simultaneously for around an hour. I seemed to win better at Fly Swatter (towel edition) mainly due to bigger and louder targets. Having said that I did start to doze off during the third round of Mosquito Chop, drifting into bizarre dreams where the high pitched buzzing was actually fairies on tiny mopeds alongside minuscule nymphs with chainsaws. I promise I only had one glass of white wine before bed.

So, the day officially started similarly to yesterdays, with a quick tiptoe around the sleeping ambush kittens followed by breakfast lunch at The Olive Tree, where sitting in the sunshine pondering the world was fast becoming a regular pastime.

The sleeping ambush kittens of Symi

After my stunning baked potato with cream cheese and vegetables I took the opportunity to buy two slices of cake (another pastime of mine) for my journey around around the village, otherwise it would be back to the Dolphin for pizza at lunchtime. I’m pretty sure they are in no need of sponsorship on my behalf.

I made the decision today of taking all my photographs with a 50mm prime lens. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a photography lens that isn’t very wide so you have to take a few steps back occasionally to get your subjects to fit the frame or your camera. The lens is also f1.8 which means it can capture a lot of light even when it’s very dark, and also means you have the option of your photos being incredibly in focus for a tiny part of the image whereas the foreground and background can be very soft and blurry (just like those kittens up there). For these reasons it’s a lens used regularly for portraits.

One thing I did want to capture today was the statue in the harbour of a boy pointing out to sea known as “little Michael”, the fisher boy. As welcoming as the statue is to those docking this side of the harbour, the story behind Michalaki is less enchanting. It’s said that during World War II when Symi was taken over by the Nazi’s, anything the locals caught at sea was to be turned over to the Germans on the island, with anyone caught keeping food for themselves being executed. The locals sent their children out to sea, believing the Germans wouldn’t execute any kids. The statue of little Michael, standing on a mountain of skulls, is their memorial to the children who’s lives were taken by Nazi execution.

The Little Fisher Boy of Symi

Further around the island is a fascinating section of shipyard, officially called Harani Boat Yard. Dilapidation rules amongst the discarded, awaiting rescue and recovery from some new loving owner. The area is rich in texture and faded colours, much to my delight. I knew I would end up photographing this area when I walked passed it on Tuesday, given the characters that screamed from this location. The decline in shipbuilding trade in Symi had left a lot of these wonderful and personal items to decay. More noticeable, due to her size, was the Lazy Days cruise ship which was allegedly confiscated, though at present time I don’t know why or from whom.

Lazy Days cruise ship

I didn’t want to venture too close as I had spotted a rather savage looking dog on Tuesday, chained to a stretch of rope that ran the length of the shipyard. The very thought of a yard with a guard dog reminded me of the movie Stand By Me with Chopper the guard dog… “Now he said ‘Sic ’em boy!’, but what I heard was ‘Chopper, sic balls!'”.

It appears I fell for the myth of a vicious dog when I noticed this little relationship on my walk back:

Shipyard Dog

So Lazy Days summed up the afternoon of Thursday (or Thor’s day), though my love of photography has sparked many an idea in my head. I plan on going back to the shipyard during the day** with a wider lens to capture more images, and try my hand at HDR photography; a technique that brings out detail and colour not normally seen in standard photos by merging several images of different intensities into one image. Interesting.

I also want to try some infrared photography around Symi. But I’ll leave that to next week.

UPDATES:

* I counted the steps of Kali Strata again, because I’m a bit like that. This time 387. That’s 29 steps more than last time. Not sure how that happened.

** Whilst looking for the answer as to why Lazy Days has been left to its demise, I’ve come across several award winning shots of the ship. Some of which are exactly the same composition as mine. Here’s hoping I can try something different with the HDR and IR shots to get something different. Maybe some night time shots?