Aoos Gorge Konista Greece

The view from the Panagias Stomiou Monastery taken from a small ledge. If you have no head for heights then this is not the place to stand. There is no room for a tripod and a steady hand is required. The in-body image stabilisation certainly helps in these situations.

Nikon Z 9, Z 14-30mm, ISO 200 @ f/11

The picturesque town of Konitsa lies in the heart of the Epirus region of Northern Greece, which is known for its natural beauty and rugged scenery. The town is set amongst mountains, forests, and gorges close to the border with Albanian. It lies on a steep hillside among the Pindos Mountain range offering spectacular views across the valley below, where the Aoos and Voidomatis rivers meet. Our base this time was near the small village of Aristi close to the Vikos Gorge which was relatively central to many of our locations. The impressive Astraka mountain cliffs overlooked our location.

Astraka Cliffs Tymfi Mountains

These striking limestone cliffs of Astraka in the Tyfmi Mountains dominate the landscape and the small villages that are situated in the valley below. 

Nikon Z 9, Z 24-70mm, ISO 800 @ f/11.

Astraka Cliffs Tymfi Mountains

The long winding road up to the village of Mikro Papigko has several laybys that are worth exploring. Most of the road is obstructed with scrub, which makes it difficult to get a clear view of the cliffs. Several laybys close to the top offer uninterrupted views. 

Nikon Z 9, Z 24-70mm, ISO 100 @ f/11.

Photographically the region has a lot to offer from mountain scenery to flower-rich roadside verges where orchids and insects flourish. The town is also a central hub for hikers and tourists who want to explore the surrounding beauty of the Pindos Mountains. There are many old stone-arch bridges in the area that are worth exploring photographically. Some span the rivers near the town and also connect some of the smaller outlying villages. The most well-known of these is the historic stone arch bridge at Konitsa built-in 1870, which crosses the Aoos River. The famous bridge has a long-documented history and is also the starting point for walkers who want to explore the Aoos Gorge.

Konitsa Stone Bridge

The old historic stone bridge is situated just outside the town of Konitsa. There was repair work being carried out at the bridge making it difficult to access and explore other possible locations. The bridge spans the Aoos River and has a number of stone slots embedded into the arch to prevent the horses and carts from slipping in difficult conditions. 

Nikon Z 9, Z 24-70mm, ISO 64 @ f/11.

Aoos River and Gorge Konitsa

Nikon Z 9, Z 24-70mm, ISO 100 @ f/11.

One of a number of small streams that merge with the Aoos River at the old bridge.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 105mm Micro Nikkor, ISO 100 @ f/11.

The general area offers a wide variety of subject material for photography workshops. Flowers, landscapes, and many historic monasteries are well worth exploring. The Aoos and Vikos Gorges are excellent locations to visit with a variety of subjects to explore along both gorges. Spring was a little late this year, but there were still plenty of flowers and orchids to keep us busy throughout the day and frequently into the late evening.

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia 

One of the first species we found was a group of monkey orchids on a roadside verge. Some very fine examples of this species with slight colour variations in the flowers. 

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 105mm Micro Nikkor, ISO 100 @ f/11.

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia

Close-up of the flower spike which looks like a group of dancing miniature soldiers.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 105mm Micro Nikkor, ISO 100 @ f/11.

The surrounding woodlands are predominately oak and beech, with lichens flourishing on just about every tree trunk that you see. The Judas Tree was also conspicuous with its vibrant pink flowers growing among the oak and beech in the valleys. Cattle roam freely in the clearings: the bells around their necks ensuring that they could be heard if not seen. The cattle including the bulls and goats were herded mostly by large intimating dogs.


Lichen Physcia leptalea

I have just completed a review of the  Nikon Z  MC 105mm macro which is published on the website. It’s an amazing lens bitingly sharp with excellent contrast and resistance to flare. I used this lens frequently for landscapes as well.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 105mm Micro Nikkor, ISO 100 @ f/11.

Judas Tree Cercis silliquastrum

I have photographed many examples of this tree in southern Europe over the years, but none as perfect as this specimen. It is without doubt the best example I have seen and photographed.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 105mm Micro Nikkor, ISO 100 @ f/8.

There was a wide range of orchid species and one on our target list was Ophrys helenae an attractive species with a conspicuous dark red labellum. We found it in several roadside habitats along with other orchids. The spring was late this year and some orchids were not in flower, but others kept us busy during the day.

Helen’s Bee Orchid Ophrys helenae

One of our target species. We found it in several locations with some fine examples with multiple flowers.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 105mm Micro Nikkor, ISO 200 @ f11.

Holmboe’s Butterfly Orchid Platanthera Holmboei 

This orchid, a subspecies of Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha was growing in an ideal location to illustrate its relationship to its habitat. The 14-30mm did an excellent job in setting it in context. I try were possible to shoot more in-situ images where the background adds to the overall ambiance of the image and shows the typical habitat it likes to grow in.

Nikon Z 9, Z 14-30mm, ISO 200 @ f11.

The weather for most of our time there was mixed, occasionally rain and the occasional thunderstorm. There were a few days that were intensely bright with temperatures close to the mid-thirties. It was impossible to shoot close-ups during the middle and hottest parts of the day. We explored other well-known locations such as the Aoos Gorge. The 10 miles round trip to the Panagias Stomiou Monastery near the head of the gorge, presented some good opportunities to do long exposure photography inside the small church situated on the grounds of the monastery. The light was so intense that many locations within the gorge were challenging photographically. As photographers we can control a lot, but unfortunately not the weather, you have to work with conditions at the time.

Panagias Stomiou Monastery

The altar inside this small church was extremely dark with only a little light getting through. A long exposure time of 30 secs was necessary to render the detail in the room and altar.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 14-30mm, ISO 100 @ f11.

Panagias Stomiou Monastery

The altar of another small church within the Monastery complex. A similar exposure time of 30 secs was required to appreciate the beauty and detail in the small room.

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 14-30mm, ISO 100 @ f11.


Taxiarchon Church Frescos

We came across several fresco paintings on various church walls. Some as in this case were difficult to photograph as they were protected by railings and walls. An ultra-wide-angle was necessary as you were only several feet away from the paintings. 

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 14-30mm, ISO 200 @ f/8.

Another epic location is the Monasteries at Meteora. They were built on a series of vertical sandstone rock formations, some reaching 600m in height. They rise from the Thessaly plains like guardians protecting the small town of Kalabaka below. These large pillars of rock support several ancient monastic monasteries that were constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The monasteries have many valuable paintings and artifacts. The region itself also supports several rare plants and birds. It was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and attracts many tourists throughout the year. Photography can be challenging in some parts due to the large number of tourists. We did find several interesting locations, but the tourist numbers made it virtually impossible to shoot. Visiting early in the year or during the autumn months is probably better when there are fewer visitors around. However, having said that is a truly magnificent location and still worth photographing even if you find it challenging in places.

Holy Monastery of Varlaam

One of the most impressive of the six monasteries is Varlaam. It is built on a large vertical rock. We shot many different images of this magnificent building. The one illustrated is a composite comprising 15 images and stitched together in photoshop. Ultra-wide-angles tend to push the subject into the distance which makes it lose impact. Shooting panos keeps the subject larger in the frame and gives you the benefit of cropping to your desired format. Photographed using the Novoflex ClassicBall 3II reversed to the pano position and supported on the PRO 75

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 24-70mm, ISO 100 @ f/11. 

Holy Monastery of Varlaam Meteora

Photographing inside the monasteries is forbidden in most of them. You can shoot around the grounds if you can manage to wait for a gap in the  tourists

Nikon Z 9, Z MC 14-30mm, ISO 200 @ f/11. 

The intense blue sky and sun made photography even more difficult at times. however, having said that it was well worth the 3-hour drive. Unfortunately, we could not stay until sunset due to the long journey back over mountainous roads. The ideal solution would be to base yourself at Kalabaka which is only a few kilometers away, making it much easier to select potential photographic viewpoints and return to them for sunrise and sunset.

Northern Greece has a lot to offer photographically with a wide variety of excellent locations for macro and general landscape photography. Mid-to-late May is an ideal time to visit when the spring flora is at its best. It is also a good time to explore other well-known hot spots before the tourist season reaches its peak. One must always remember that we are transient photographers which effectively means having to work with the conditions that are present at the time. You seldom have the luxury of picking the ideal time unless you are based in one spot. The challenge is often applying your skill and knowledge to get the best from the situation.

Photographic Notes


PRO75 and ClassicBall 3II

An iPhone shot of the Z 9 in place on the Novoflex PRO75 and ClassicBall 3II for one of several images taken of the monastery and surrounding rock formations. The camera was then positioned vertically for several panos of the  Monastery and adjacent rock formations.

I am often asked what photographic equipment I take when shooting abroad. For most photographers, it’s always a compromise. There is a limit to what you can realistically get on board with. The type of workshops that I am running dictates what is going to be a priority. If we were focusing mainly on macro with some landscape work in between, I give precedence to my macro kit first. Since I converted to mirrorless the reduced weight has been very helpful. I decided to trust the Z 9 completely this time and chose not to take another camera body with me; something I rarely do. Only on one occasion did I need to use a backup body due to the failure of my main camera and that was many years ago.

I am also a dedicated Novoflex user as I like all of my equipment to work seamlessly together and Novoflex is the master of integration when it comes to its products. Below is a list of the main equipment I frequently take with me which comes onboard. In the unfortunate event that my luggage bag was delayed or lost, I can at least function. I also pack in my photographic bag, a battery, laptop, phone charger, also a toothbrush. The other photographic gear gets placed in my luggage bag as it’s impossible it take it all on board the aircraft.

Nikon Z 9 Body: Novoflex L-bracket

Wide Angle lenses: 14-30mm, 24-70mm. Macro Lenses: Nikon 105mm and 200mm, Lawoa 15mm wide-angle macro

Telephotos: Nikon 300mm f/4: faster bigger lens if I’m going to shoot mainly birds.

Novoflex: PRO75 Tripod with ClassicBall 3II: this has to go into the hold. The ClassicBall 3II gives me dual functionality, I  can shoot panos and macro with the one ball head.

NISI Filter System: 3,6,10 stop NDs

Nikon Polariser


Stem Stabiliser

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