It Can All Go South in a Heartbeat

Stephen F. Dennstedt

So the Muppet Brothers are back in Ioánnina. We’ve been here before. Since we left the Greek island of Kefalonia we’ve been backtracking. Not something we’re fond of doing for various reasons but sometimes it’s necessary—like now.

We boarded our bus in Patras (another repeat I’m afraid) at 9 a.m. local time and arrived in Ioánnina about 3½ hours later. Ever since we determined we were returning we’ve been looking forward to revisiting one of our favorite breakfast places.

One of the reasons we hate to backtrack is the time element—we’re old guys so we hate to waste time seeing things or places for a second time. But the biggest reason is few places holdup to a second visit. Nothing quite matches seeing or experiencing someplace or something for the first time. This morning we walked down to our favorite breakfast place, with one of our favorite food servers, only to find it will be closed for a month—DAMN. So why are we backtracking? Because our original travel plan called for visiting Albania next but that proved to be problematic so we changed our next destination to Macedonia. Onward.

Secluded Alleyway in Ioánnina, Greece


Roaming the Greek Island of Kefalonia

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Our three-week stay on the Greek island of Kefalonia has passed quickly and we will be leaving by ferry early on Thursday morning. Once we’re back on the mainland we will be backtracking on our original route to get to Macedonia.

Macedonia in the Balkans is our next travel destination and we will be there for the next three months. However, crossing mainland Greece (again) to get to Macedonia will take us about two or two and half weeks—but we’re in no particular hurry.

Last week we spent over six hours driving around the island seeing the sights—and at over 300 mi² it’s a big island. We were originally scheduled for Tuesday but a Sirocco wind blew in from North Africa (Sahara Desert). The Sirocco wind carried a lot of Saharan desert sand with it obscuring the sun and casting an orange glow over everything—much like a large, smokey fire will do. The next day, Wednesday, the wind had subsided and the sky had cleared—our driver picked us up at our hotel at 9 a.m. and we were off to explore. First stop was an old graveyard (Circa 700 BC) and then the 11th-century Castle of Saint George.

Castle of Saint George – Kefalonia, Greece

Crossing the island of Kefalonia (up and over the island’s mountains) towards the small coastal town of Sami (our arrival port of entry) we passed a winery and stopped at a Greek Orthodox monastery. In front of the monastery we saw a local shepherd grazing his small flock of shaggy sheep. He had a very interesting face that I wanted to photograph but he didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Greek. I used my international photographer’s pantomime gestures to communicate my request and he readily agreed—as long as I also photographed his sheep. My time with Demetrius was the highlight of my day.

Demitrius the Greek Shepherd – Kefalonia, Greece

We also toured two caves, one dry and one wet. The first cave was Drogarati Cave (the dry cave) about 3km from Sami and the second cave (the wet cave) was Mellissani the Cave of the Nymphs (nope we didn’t see any nymphs—and we looked). Mellissani was very much like the cenotes we found in Yucatan, Mexico but much larger—like a cenote on steroids. We toured Melissani by rowboat before heading to the coastal village of Assos (Population: less than 300 residents). Assos was both quiet and beautiful and in our minds representative of the quintessential Greece we’ve been looking for. We’ll soon leave Greece for Macedonia.

Assos – Kefalonia, Greece

Field Notes: I photographed all the images in this post with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV full-frame DSLR and Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens. My Canon 24-70mm lens is an excellent travel lens because of its versatility even if it’s a tad bit boring—it’s not excellent at anything but is reasonably competent at everything. Photography is all about compromise and tradeoffs and my 24-70mm lens is representative of that paradigm. In dense urban areas I will often trade my 24-70mm zoom lens for the more dramatic Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens. I shoot RAW and process with Adobe ACR & PSE15. SFD

Photography 101: Nine Photo Tips to Ignore

Stephen F. Dennstedt

This YouTube personality bugs me a bit. I’m an old dinosaur and he’s a millennial—hence the divide. Despite the fact I often disagree with him on many things photography related, he is entertaining—and quite often right. I hate it when kids are right.

I mostly agree with what he has to say in this video—the possible exceptions being his views on mirrorless cameras and shooting JPEG versus RAW files. If you’re young you will like his presentation style—if old keep an open mind.

Photography 101: 2019 World Press Photo Contest

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Many photography pundits have declared the DSLR dead or dying. Photojournalists from around the world disagree. Count me among those who disagree. The DSLR might be dead for non pros but it’s still a viable tool for many of us.

These very same pundits will tell you that Canon and Nikon are also dead or dying and Sony is the new big gun on the block. Again, photojournalists would disagree. See their results in the attached Jared Polin video beginning at 00:05:00.

Jared Polin is far from my favorite YouTube personality but he is a good photographer and the statistics cited in the video survey don’t come from him personally but rather they come from the contest organizers themselves. When Canon first released its EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR it was much maligned by the pundits but I bought it anyway because it met my needs. The number one brand and camera used by the professional photojournalist contest winners was the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR. Nikon was number two and Sony didn’t even register a blip on the radar screen. Sony makes great kit but hasn’t arrived yet for pros. No hate mail.

Greek Shepherd – Kefalonia, Greece (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens)

I’m not disparaging Sony—I have many photographer friends who swear by Sony and by extension their mirrorless technology. I am disparaging the pundits (many of whom aren’t particularly good photographers) who don’t seem to know their butt from a hot rock. Photojournalism isn’t the only genre of photography but it’s one of the more demanding genres as is sports and wildlife. I think it says something that the paid professionals are sticking with their Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Amateur photographers, regardless of their skill set, can shoot with any system they want but pros require consistency and reliability.

Do your homework and don’t just rely on the so-called pundits. If I had listened to the YouTube personalities I would never have bought my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR (and it’s an excellent camera system). Decide what kind of photography you will be doing and then buy the photography kit that allows you to do it. Sony may eventually eclipse Nikon and Canon among professional shooters but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. By all accounts mirrorless is a great technology but don’t count out the DSLR quite yet or the old dinosaurs like me who continue to use them. See what I shoot with: What’s in My Bag.

I Dropped Down the Rabbit Hole in 1967

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I dropped down the rabbit hole in 1967. Nineteen years old and on my way to Vietnam as a Marine Corps Corporal. Arriving in-country in early January I was quickly promoted to Sergeant. I served in the Chu Lai TAOR for the next thirteen months.

I climbed out of the rabbit hole in February 1968 (shortly after the Têt Offensive began) and boarded the Freedom Bird back to CONUS. Forever changed and no longer innocent. While in Vietnam life went on in the USA. Here are two videos.


Argostoli on the Greek Island of Kefalonia

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Tomorrow will be the end of our first week on the large Greek island of Kefalonia. We transited from the port city of Patras to Sami (a 3½ hour trip by inter-island ferry) and then over the island’s mountains to our final destination of Argostoli.

Our hotel (Hotel Aggelos) is right at the water’s edge with a good view and is very nice—a little pricey by our cheap-ass standards but the price does include a complimentary breakfast every morning which makes the overall price reasonable.

It rained the entire week we were in Patras and the rain seemed to follow us to Kefalonia. It finally culminated in a dramatic thunder and lightning display (with pouring rain) on Monday. Yesterday and today have been beautiful—clear blue skies, plenty of sunshine, and with a modest daytime high temperature of 16°C or 61°F. Projecting out a week the forecast calls for more of the same. Stripping off our jackets and rolling up our shirtsleeves has been a real pleasure after so many weeks of cold and rain. Regardless of the rain we’ve been getting out on walkabout most mornings after breakfast to explore our new home away from home.

Kefalonia is a big island (with an overall area of 786.6 km² or 303.7 mi²) with many small towns and villages sprinkled over it just begging to be visited—and we will now that the weather has finally cleared up. The island of Kefalonia is located in the Ionian Sea just west of mainland Greece and is volcanic in origin—in fact it reminds me of the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador but much larger and without the prehistoric critters roaming around unfettered. Now that the sun has shown itself it’s all about the water—clear and shimmering blue-green in color. You can’t really appreciate the water until the sun illuminates and warms it—wow.

Photography 101: The Shooting Wide-Open Myth

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Don’t always believe what you’re told. This is especially true when it comes to photography—things are often quite different from what they seem. Shooting portraits at wide-open apertures is one of those things deserving of a closer look.

I’ve snapped shutters for sixty-five years and professionally for ten. After all that time I am still learning new things and thank God for that. I’ve always thought (like so many others) that shooting portraits at wide apertures was cast in stone.

Not the case at all. Common sense should have told me otherwise but conventional wisdom won out. Professional photographer Miguel Quiles clearly explains and demonstrates something I should have known years ago—but somehow I got sucked into the conventional wisdom and not the common sense aspect of the problem. As the kids used to say: my bad. If you enjoy shooting portraits and/or want to hone your craft this video is a must-see in my opinion. If an old dinosaur like me can continue to learn so can you. Wide apertures can be very useful but they’re not the be-all-end-all solution when it comes to taking good portraits.

The Muppet Brothers Will Be Leaving Patras Soon

Stephen F. Dennstedt

The Muppet Brothers are finishing up their one-week stay in Patras. We’ll board a ferry on Thursday for our three-week visit to the island of Kefalonia (staying in the town of Argostoli). Will Kefalonia provide the quintessential Greek experience?

We’re hopeful. It’s rained every single day since we arrived in Patras but that’s to be expected during the months of spring. It’s okay because Patras is a port city and not a tourist travel destination—not a lot to see (and few photo opportunities).

However, there is a huge pedestrian-friendly walkway (many city blocks  in circumference) right around the corner from our hotel just chockfull of restaurants, cafes, and shops. We’ve met some really nice people and eaten some good meals here in Patras so it hasn’t been a waste of time at all—plus we’ve caught up on our sleep (plenty of afternoon naps) and computer work. But the Siren’s call beckons to us and we’re anxious to explore Greece (especially island Greece) a bit further. Warmer days, bright sunny days, white sand, and warm waters call to the Muppet Brothers to come hither. More updates to follow soon.

Photography 101: Capturing the Essential Moment

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Whenever I discuss a certain genre of photography I’m quick to distance myself from it. Why is that? Is it a defensive position to avoid possible criticism or is it simply resistance to being labeled and put in a box—who knows.

Here’s a good example: I don’t really consider myself to be a portrait photographer but I’m an inveterate people watcher which often leads me to photograph people. I love photographing people but don’t want to be known simply for that.

I don’t shoot in a studio, with backdrops and sophisticated lighting equipment, both by preference and necessity. Traveling the world full-time (365 days a year) as a photographer and writer doesn’t allow me to carry a ton of equipment much less a fully equipped professional studio: What’s in My Bag. I would characterize my people shots as candid street portraits using natural lighting—real people, doing real things, and expressing real emotions. My shots are usually taken quickly, typically within a few seconds or a few minutes at most. Capturing the essential moment is what it’s all about for me—elusive.

Old Gypsy Woman – Sighișoara, Romania

I’ve included a video from Sean Tucker where he discusses the role of empathy in shooting portraits. It’s all about human connection and the human condition—some photographers spend hours looking for the essential moment while others, like me, try to accomplish the same thing in a matter of minutes (to a greater or lesser extent). Let me go back to my second paragraph for a moment: I don’t really consider myself to be a portrait photographer but I’m an inveterate people watcher which often leads me to photograph people. Here’s an article I wrote for Northrup Photo on the subject: How to Capture Street Portraits.

Photography 101: What Is the Curiosity Gap

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I love Street Photography. But it can be an incredibly challenging genre on many levels. If you want to push yourself as a photographer hit the streets with your camera and let the adventure begin. I also like to study the aesthetics of photography.

A photographer must be technically proficient to produce good work but true artistic vision reveals itself in the aesthetic and not in the technical. The camera is simply a tool where creative expression manifests itself in the photographer’s eyes & heart.

Included is a twenty-minute video from Sean Tucker featuring London-based Street Photographer Joshua K. Jackson. This video doesn’t speak to the technical aspects of photography but rather the artistic aspects. YouTube is full of videos about the latest & greatest gear because that’s how YouTube channels make their money. So it’s refreshing to come across channels that focus on the art and soul (a twist on the cliché heart & soul) of photography. While watching the video stay alert for the title of this post: What Is the Curiosity Gap. I hope this video inspires you to pickup your camera and go out and shoot.