Sunday, 8 September 2013

Effortlessly beautiful Crete (Αβίαστα όμορφη Κρήτη)

We returned from our 4-day family seaside holiday in Paleohora (on the south coast of Hania) yesterday to a rather cool urban temperature. Southern Crete remains hot and dry throughout the year, and it is rarely very cold there, even in winter (except perhaps when it's very windy). It's still very warm here in Crete, even though the wind is now blowing a cool breeze most of the day. But the change in thei air is being felt: it's just about getting too chilly to sit on our wide balcony, and I have shut the kitchen window because I can feel a cold wind fanning my still-exposed back - I can't bear the thought of putting away my sun dresses yet (it's still too warm to wear jeans).

For all these reasons, I regard September as the best month to take a summer holiday in Crete. It's still warm enough to enjoy the sea, and cool enough to sleep well through the night. Depending on your location, you can still find a place to sit comfortably outdoors right throughout the day, and if you choose Southern Crete - whose natural landscape is still largely unspoilt - you will think that autumn has not yet arrived. September is not too busy either, so you will be able to enjoy Crete for what she is, and not for what mass tourism has made her out to be.

The following photographs of our summer holiday are all one one-click shots, taken with a four-year-old camera, a pocket-sized Sony Cyber-shot, 12.1 mega pixels. The only effort I made to take them was in the screen shot that I chose, taking into account symmetry, colour contrasts and the use of the in-built flash. As I was taking the photos, I explained to my husband that people often comment on how beautiful my photos are, but I always remind them that my photos are just one-click shots; their beauty is reliant on the natural light that is never really lacking in Greece, and the natural colours of the Greek environment. There are no camera tricks in my photos, while patience is the main element in all my photos: you amy need to wait till your chosen screen shot is 'ready' for you, and you need to be prompt in clicking at just the right moment. I just let nature show herself as she is, and this is what comes out: an effortlessly charming representation of a naturally beautiful country.

Here are some of our holiday highlights:

This breakfast shot looks as though it could do with some more light. But light is something we try to avoid in Crete during the summer - the Mediterranean climate gives us too much light, and often at times when we don't want it. We had breakfast as early as possible because our hotel balcony got too much sunlight after a certain hour in the morning, and it was uncomfortable to sit there until the evening. But the lack of light brought out the natural colours of our natural food.

The clarity of the sea on the southern coast of Crete, together with the brilliant sunlight, give the sea bottom are transparent look - the rocks are distinguishable from the sand.

Vlita greens, with whatever else has remained in the summer garden - some beans, corn and zucchini - cooked in tomato sauce. Even though it was lunchtime, I used a flash for this photo because we were sitting in the shade.

This is not a good photo at all - but the sea blue and marble white contrast very well with the varying grey-blue shades of the sky, rocks and mountains. Because of the hour of the day, the flash darkened the environment, misplacing too much light on the marble; without the flash, the photo wasn't very clear, and because too many people were promenading up and down this area (it was Paleohora art week when we were there), it was difficult to capture a screen shot without people.

Skill is not enough - you need to be patient, to wait until you capture both the right effect and the right light in the screen. Too much glare spoiled this picture, so I kept clicking until I got the effect I wanted.

Using the flash at dusk, you get a photo that you didn't actually see; above left: the flash was used - above right: the flash wasn't used, and that's what I actually saw. Below left: the colours of the early morning dawn in the same area as above; below right: the same place an hour later when there was more sunlight in the morning.

You can't get more natural than this - despite there being too much light in the photo, something I could not control because I took the photo from inside the car, the natural landscape of the southern Cretan - sandy mountains, pebbly beach and blue sea - coast still looks stunning.

Many cafe/restaurant owners in Paelohora have their own source of fresh produce - even though the light is mixed up in this photo (due to the vine plant that provided us with shade as we sat outdoors), the natural colours of the - equally very natural - food easily distinguish themselves from the dark green table.

For this shot to be perfect, I should have taken it more symmetrically - alas, I was in the car again, and it was the best I could get in a split second.

Shade is very important in a hot climate. These brilliantly coloured hammocks have been placed strategically to achieve just that.

The common yuppy is a boring fish that is highly appealing when freshly caught and freshly cooked. Its greens and greys are still visible, after being lightly grilled.

Whatever light they are taken in, the colours of Cretan watermelon and cantaloupe stand out for their boldness.

Mediterranean coastal landscape - golden sand, greens shades of foliage and blue blue sky.

Natural food has natural colours - even at night, they stgand out beautifully on a white plate.

This tangled messy garden took my fancy. There was a lot of street lighting in the area which confused me about how I should take the photo. Standing in front of the street lamps, without using the flash, I got the right effect to show the old building, the blue window frames and the potted plants.

Different shades of blue and green - that's the Mediterranean in a nutshell.

More stark contrasts: the sandy rocky juniper-covered coastline of southern Crete.

Juniper berries, giving a Christmassy look to summertime Crete.

The perfectly symmetrical effect with the changing hues of the pink-blue-grey spectrum, makes this a beautiful shot.

It's well past dusk - almost evening - and everything looks blue (no flash).

The same explanation above can be given for this photo.

Loukoumi is an artifically coloured treat - it still looks great on a white background.

The almiriki (tamarisk) trees in this area have been planted specifically to provide shade - a play on the contrasts of light and dark make this an impressive photo.

Again, with a bit of patience, sunlight is captured in the right places above the pebbly sea bed.

Different shades and contrasting green hues blend well with the blue of the sea and sky.

Crete: effortlessly beautiful.

It's not too late to book a holiday to Crete - plenty of space now, as well as good prices.

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