Mixed Curses

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Sunset No-Show. The sun disappears into the haze of Saharan dust over Santorini, Greece.

One of the big draws of Santorini is the amazing sunsets. Every evening, throngs of tourists crowd every vantage point around Oía to watch the sunset from high above the water, and catamarans head out on to the water for unobstructed views. While I like the image above—it is very calm and peaceful—it is a long way from the fiery sunset of the island’s reputation. In fact, the sun was completely disappeared into the murk well before it reached the horizon. The first half of our visit to Santorini was like this every night. Why?

Well, apparently there were (or had been, perhaps) huge dust storms over the Sahara in northern Africa and the dust had blown over Santorini. Many times dust in the air intensifies a sunset, but there was so much dust that it basically blotted out the sun. Far from being a curse, the soft glow in the sky did allow some unique images like this silhouette, taken less than an hour before the one above:

Orthodox Silhouette. Hazy sunlight silhouettes the Holy Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, Oía, Santorini, Greece.

he image below was taken the next day (day four of our visit) in the early afternoon. The views around the caldera were clearly compromised on that day, but the soft light is perfect for this close-up of the binoculars.

Nothing to See. Coin-operated binoculars sit unused on a day murky with Saharan dust in Thira, Santorini, Greece.

The doorway below, taken less than an hour before the preceding image (Seems to be a bit of a theme…) shows great detail and texture, something that would have been very difficult with hard noon-time light casting strong shadows across the door.

Weathered Archway and Door. Peeling paint and plaster reveal weathered wood and concrete beneath in Thira, Santorini, Greece.

By the end of the week, the wind had cleared the dust and haze away, so the sunsets returned. But many of the images I made while visiting wouldn’t have happened with clear skies. Whether the skies are clear or hazy, sunny or overcast, etc., the conditions will allow certain images and prohibit others. The key, especially on a one-week trip far from home, is to work with the light you have. All weather conditions—even “nice” ones—are mixed blessings when it comes to photography.

Technical notes. All four photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7 using a Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S lens. All were processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic.

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