A photographic trip to the Axios Delta. Is it possible with the latests small sensor technologies we currently have to do a travel/landscape photography trip exclusively only with cameras that carry 1″ inch sensors and less? The answer is yes.
A beautiful and interesting tour at a short distance from Thessaloniki is in the protected area of the Axios – Loudias – Aliakmonas Delta, where three counties meet through their waters (Thessaloniki, Imathia and Pieria). At all times of the year, nature creates beautiful and interesting themes that give a great opportunity for a different photographic approach. However, even a simple walk just for relaxation and observation of the landscape, away from the city, will also satisfy you. In winter you will have the chance to see large concentrations of aquatic birds and raptors in the mouth of the rivers as they pass through the protection of Axios during these cold days, while in the spring and summer in the shady places you will see horses flocking to rest. In the autumn months you will find the migratory birds’ concentrations in the Kalohori lagoon. Nature in this beautiful place has its own rhythms and repetitions that are not influenced by the presence of humans in the area, with their fishermen and huts forming a small but very interesting community. This is precisely why I wanted to take this photo trip for quite some time, choosing the winter version of this area.
As always, before each photo trip, I begin a careful planning for the place that I am going to visit. This plan refers to the time, weather and lighting conditions that I may encounter, any alternatives in the event that something is not “rolling” as I have figured out and finally my own equipment setup. A peculiarity of this mission was that from the beginning I had the idea of trying something that I had in my mind for a long time and I felt that now I would be given the right opportunity. So I left my professional gear (and with the term “professional” I mean the Full Frame camera and its lenses) and I took only my Sony RX10 IVa bridge camera with a built-in lens 24mm – 600mm f2.4 / 4 and my DJI Mavic Pro drone with a 28mm lens f2.2. As is immediately apparent, both of my cameras were equipped with a sensor of one inch or even less. The purpose of my choice was simple. To address most of the photographic audience, meaning the amateur photographer and to explain that there is no need for professional equipment, expensive large sensor cameras and super-bright lenses to achieve a nice result that can be easily published. With the right technique, correct exposure and some small photographic “tricks” when the light or conditions are not the best, the result can be great and the photographer can return happy from each and every excursion.
The days I photographed in the area were around in the early December. Although the forecast was for good weather with some local clouds, at the end it was a completely different case and at least two out f the three days were quite cloudy and with strong wind. I do not have to explain to a photographer what a photographic subject means without light so I keep mentioning the problems I encountered mainly because of the strong air conditions(7 Beaufort). On the one hand, all the animals in the Axis Delta preferred to remain somewhere quiet, calm and protected from this weather (and also away from my photographic lens) and on the other hand the lack of activity by the local fishermen in the area of the delta were highly suppressive factors for good shots. But it was an opportunity to talk and meet with the people there, who were very friendly and explained to me about their work in the Axios Delta and what I can expect to find when it comes to flora and fauna. They helped me by suggesting places and paths that it would have been difficult to find as well as warned me of places where the river had flooded paths with mud. Even with the jeep it was impossible to follow some routes like for example approaching the Aphrodite Island.
For the first two days and since the sun was not present, I started with some “tight” frames trying to manage the lack of good light in my pictures. The use of telephoto was necessary and, fortunately, the subjects there in the fishing boats were more than enough, so I just needed the time to locate the right compositions. Photographing inside the natural water element, patience and observation are two basic qualities that the photographer must possess. A little tip that my friend and photography teacher Vangelis Delegos taught me and it seemed useful to me in photographing the different birds, was the pre-focusing on areas on the flight course of the bird, somewhat higher ISOs due to clouds and apertures around 5.6 – 6.3. As a result, the bird photos are almost always properly sharp and without blurred motion, giving me extremely clear images. Basic info! Do not forget to return your camera to Auto-Focus mode immediately after shooting!
On the last day the weather order was finally restored, the wind calmed down and the sun made its appearance even with small breaks, giving me the opportunity to play with the light, the camera and with some good aerial shots with the drone. Here it is worth mentioning that the view of a Delta from above is a picture quite magical and you can not perceive it from the ground, so the careful use of a drone can give the photographer rare and beautiful images.
So, beginning at dawn, I had the opportunity to capture the sunrise with the fishermen’s boats traveling to the calm sea, together with the pelicans that roamed for some snack, a gift from the fishermen. Back on land, the fishing huts were now under good light and the shots from above gave me the perspective I wanted to highlight the size of the village in the Delta as well as the human presence in harmony and co-existence with nature. Several numbers of migratory birds were added in my photos, since they were also drown by the nice weather and went out to search for food. We must always keep in mind that the Axios Delta is protected by the Ramsar Convention and many of the species that find shelter there are rare and threatened. That is why, as visitors, we should respect the place during our presence in the wider region.
Closing this article, I would like to mention that my choice to leave my professional equipment back at home for this trip, although at first I felt somewhat uncomfortable and anxious, using the correct techniques and metering, I managed to get the result I wanted using cameras with sensors of one inch or less. For all the amateur photographers out there, my only advice before buying any expensive equipment is the proper learning of photographic techniques and inexhaustible hours of walking and photographing whatever might be interesting to anyone! As many photography teachers say, “the photographer makes the equipment and not the opposite“.
- Camera: Sony RX10 IV
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro
- Filters: Hoya ND & CPL | Benro Filters
- Tripods: Benro
- Backpack: Benro
- Outdoor Clothing & Hiking Gear: OutdoorWay
1st Publication: Photonet Magazine EISA, issue 208 (in Greek) – You can order a copy here!