What does it take to be a photographer? Some say that with digital equipment, “Anyone can take great photos now. All you have to do is point and shoot. The camera does the rest.”
Knowing that I wanted a key image of the Parthenon at night for a feature story on Athens, I climbed from the Plaka over the Acropolis Hill and across to Filopapou Hill well before sunset to scope out locations and the light. It was a 45 minute hike each way with camera gear and tripod. The shots weren’t great, the light iffy, and the angle wrong. I went back the next day before dawn, after a late late dinner and a couple of hours sleep. Even though the light was nice the direction was off and the Acropolis against the morning sky uninspiring. One nice shot that morning was the Filopappos monument. That evening again I traipsed across town to my lookout spot, but clouds came in and the evening just lacked something. No shot.
It was the fourth attempt that finally gave what I wanted [above]. A wind had cleared out the pollution, the night sky was clear and crisp and I’d found another vantage point, lower on the hill, below the monument. One of the challenges had been to screen out the ugly construction equipment and scaffolding, and this angle of view worked, along with the deep indigo sky. The vertical image too was a nice cover shot.
Much of travel photography is about being in the right place at the right time, about going back again and again and again, about not being satisfied with mediocre results, and above all about caring enough to walk across Athens as many times as it took to get what I envisioned. Any Joe or Jane with a digital camera just won’t take the time.