Meteora isn’t one of the top destinations to visit in Greece, but it should be. Absolutely stunning and unique, it’s a destination that combines natural and man-made masterpieces. Dramatic rock pinnacles topped with Eastern Orthodox monasteries. It’s included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Meteora is great for photography.
I’ve wanted to visit Meteora for a few years now, ever since I saw this picture that Elia Locardi, one of the photographers I follow, posted. Another photographer I admire, Daniel Kordan, posted more amazing landscape pictures from Meteora a few months ago. When we decided to take a trip to Greece this fall, I knew we had to go.
It was our last of three destinations in Greece. We arrived after a long travel day from Santorini, and it was already dark when we arrived. We stayed for a total of three nights, but only for two sunsets. We had plans to hike around the different monasteries, but by that time in the trip (and lack of sleep) I knew I didn’t have the energy to both hike and concentrate on capturing sunset. I chose to just try and get the best landscape of the area that I could.
Our first day we drove around and scouted the best location for sunset. There are some great views, but only one area (with three different lookout points) with the best view that you could capture both a monastery and not just the rock pillars, but also the full landscape, in the same shot. I don’t always like getting the “same” shot as everyone else, but sometimes it is clearly the best in the area. I used an app to help figure out when and where the sun would set, and knew the sun was not in an ideal location. During the time I was there, from the best viewpoint, the sun set behind one of the rock pillars. It was at a lower elevation, so we decided to try one of the two locations right off the main road, at a higher elevation.
We also visited a few of the monasteries while we were scouting. They truly are amazing and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. You can’t take pictures on the inside, otherwise, I would have spent much longer there! You can take pictures in some of the areas of Agia Triada, and I tried playing with the light.
I’ve always explained landscape photography as being in the right place at the right time. The key to the best landscape photography is to combine amazing locations with amazing light. Your camera and your gear matter less, and you can even get some amazing pictures with your iPhone. Meteora gives you the amazing location, so in order to capture a “wow” image, you only need amazing light. How can you ensure a good sunset? If you only stay somewhere one night, you’re doing yourself a disservice. When traveling, if I want to capture a great landscape shot, I try to plan 3 nights in each location. That gives me three chances to get a good sunset. Unfortunately, in Meteora, I only had two nights, only two chances for a good sunset.
The main viewpoints are easy to get to. They are right off the main road through the monasteries, and both are a large grouping of rocks you can climb. You will see many cars parked along the road, but don’t be discouraged, people come and go and there is enough room for many photographers to get the view.
The view is right where it states “panoramic view”. Easy. If you travel from the West to the East, there are actually two stops along the road both with a great view. The first panoramic view stop you come by has a trail that goes down to Roussanou, with a different viewpoint (where I mentioned wasn’t ideal for the time we were there). You could also probably walk up from Roussanou to the same viewpoint.
The first night we went to the second viewpoint (the one to the right on this map). Unfortunately, there were NO clouds in the sky, but there was sun. I concentrated on capturing the moment the sun hit the horizon in a panoramic.
The second night I explored the other panoramic viewpoint. I arrived early and observed the other travelers and the changing light. That night was different than the first, but no better. There were no clouds, but no break in the clouds for the sun to shine through. I worked with the light that I had. I loved the way the clouds arched over the scene.
Tips for photographing Meteora
o Use an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. If you’re at all serious about getting the best landscape pictures, this app is a MUST. It’s not free but it’s so worth it. It also has a relatively new feature called Skyfire (an additional cost), that predicts the likelihood of how good of a sunset it will be. I knew ahead of time that neither of the nights I was in Meteora were going to be great sunsets. The app lets me see not only when and where the sunset/sunrise will be, but also when golden hour happens. I also could tell sunrise was not worth getting up for.
o Stay for at least three nights. Increase your chances of a good sunset.
o Explore during the day but go to the panoramic viewpoints at least an hour before sunset. The sunset might not be the best moment of the night. It can happen earlier, or later, depending on the sky.
o Rent a car. I would give this advice to anyone that is serious about their photography while traveling. You can walk to the viewpoint but you’ll be walking a long way in the dark. There are also sunset tours that might be worth it, but I can’t speak to them.
Now I have to end this with a cute picture of Mike and Jackson.