Oia Windmills at Sunset, Santorini

It’s easy to be enchanted in Santorini. Walking among the pastel-hued houses of Oia at the end of a day, I find myself completely charmed by the small village, with its windmills overlooking the Aegean Sea. With golden hour sunlight falling gently over the village, Oia was particularly lovely.

Windmills of Oia Village at Sunset, Santorini, Greece
February 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 78mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




With so much serenity and beauty, it’s easy to forget that Santorini’s history is steeped in destruction. Though largely forgotten by the rest of the world today, Santorini was once the site of perhaps the most cataclysmic volcanic eruption in history. Almost five thousand years ago, the volcano — known as Thera — blasted perhaps 14 cubic miles of magma twenty-five miles into the atmosphere. Even the eruption of Krakatoa did not visit that kind of ruin on humans.

On the nearby island of Crete was the ancient civilization of the Minoans, Europe’s oldest civilization, and for its time, remarkably advanced. The Minoans were the first Europeans to use a written language and the first to have paved roads. They were a sophisticated people, with a seafaring empire that put brought them in contact with much of the Mediterranean.

At the peak of their power, however, the Minoans disappeared. Their disappearance was sudden and mysterious, and vexed historians and archaeologists for centuries. Only recently have archaeologists determined that the two events — the eruption of Thera and the sudden disappearance of the Minoans — are likely related.

The eruption of Thera was so powerful that it caused tsunamis, sending massive, scalding waves and debris onshore at Crete, which is only a few dozen miles away. One can only imagine the horror experienced by the Minoans in the wake of the eruption. The suffering wouldn’t have ended once the eruption stopped; famine, plague, and the end of their seafaring economy would certainly have followed. In subsequent years, the Minoans, still weakened from the aftermath of the Thera eruption, were more vulnerable than they would have otherwise been and when invaded by the mainland Greeks, the once vibrant civilization collapsed.

The devastation caused by Thera and the demise of Minoan civilization may have left a lasting imprint on Greek mythology. When Plato wrote about the lost civilization of Atlantis, an advanced, peaceful society lost beneath the sea, he was perhaps describing the destruction of Crete. There are enough common elements in the actual story of Thera’s eruption and the myth of Atlantis that scientists believe the two may actually be one and the same.

As the sun fades over Oia and its windmills, I try to imagine such an event. But in the early evening sunlight in Santorini, the tragedy is too distant and the present is sublime. I think instead of the blue of the Aegean and watch evening begin to settle in over the island.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Tower of the Winds in the Morning, Athens

One of the problems with Athens is that there are almost too many historic and archaeological sites — the city is full of fascinating landmarks, and many of them are in guarded areas that are closed during the best hours of sunrise and sunsets.

Tower of the Winds and Roman Agora in the Morning, Athens, Greece
February 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 20mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 15 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




For ordinary tourists, this is no issue, since they simply want to explore the site. For photographers, who may want the backdrop provided by early morning or late afternoon sunlight, it’s a problem.

I had this problem with the Tower of the Winds. The site — which is one of the best-preserved in Athens — is closed at the times I would most like to shoot, and like many other archaeological sites, tripods are not allowed. But the site was too beautiful and too intriguing to be discouraged by these setbacks.

There is little that we know with certainty about the Tower of the Winds. It was built in the 1-st century BC by the Syrian astronomer Andronicus, and was meant to serve as a kind of timepiece. Designed in an octagonal shape, each side of the tower faces a point of the compass and each side is topped with a frieze depicting the Anemoi, or the eight winds of Greek mythology.

Sundials were placed beneath each frieze and inside the tower was a unique device known as a clepsydra, or water clock, which was powered by a stream of water flowing down from the Acropolis. Though it is lost now, the tower was originally topped with a weather vane, which may have also been used to predict the future as well as tell the direction of the wind.

Over the centuries, the tower had other purposes. Early Christians used it as a bell tower for a cathedral and later, when the area was under Ottoman rule, the tower was used by dervishes as a place of contemplation.

Nowadays, the restored tower is a tourist attraction, but it is the structure’s original purpose that intrigues me. In this city that gave so much to the world — from philosophy to democracy — I stand awestruck in front of what is essentially a two thousand-year-old weather station. I was determined to capture the significance of the site, using long exposure to emphasize the moving clouds behind the tower. It seemed appropriate to me to do this, given the tower’s importance to the Greeks as a timepiece and predictor of the future.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Acropolis in the Evening, Athens

After exploring and photographing the Parthenon, I wandered around the Acropolis. It was easy to become lost in thought there, imagining Athens in the time of the philosophers. Eventually I made my way to the Areopagus, a large outcropping of rock to the west of the Acropolis. It was a rock with a dark history, as it was once the site of trials for those accused of homicide.

View of Acropolis from the Areopagus Hill in the Evening, Athens, Greece
February 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 31mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 0.8 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




That wasn’t the only significance of the Areopagus. It is believed to be the site of a famous meeting between Alexander the Great and the philosopher Diogenes. Alexander, whose personal tutor was Aristotle, was as much a student of philosophy as a general. The brash young commander, who had already met and won the praise of many of Greece’s most influential philosophers, was dismayed that Diogenes had not yet come to meet him and chose to go to the philosopher himself. He found Diogenes on the Areopagus, reclining in the sun. Eager to win the philosopher’s respect, Alexander asked Diogenes if he wanted anything; the philosopher’s simple reply was “Stand out of my light.” Rather than feel insulted by the philosopher’s indifference, Alexander was impressed by his haughtiness.

I think of this meeting as I wander the Areopagus and set up my tripod to photograph the Acropolis from the other side. Looking over this grand city from this vantage point, I can imagine Diogenes with the sun on his face, speaking imperviously to Alexander. Athens can do that; it’s a city that inspires a feeling of grandeur. Lounging atop the Areopagus in the sun, I can imagine it must have been easy for the philosopher to speak indifferently to the man who conquered most of the known world by the time he was in his mid-twenties. I take my shots, and with a setting sun in my face, I feel a bit like a philosopher myself.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Acropolis in the Morning, Athens

Visiting Greece was a dream — what traveler hasn’t imagined walking along ancient streets in the shadows of Olympian Gods? When I planned the trip to Greece, Athens was the first stop on my itinerary; I could hardly wait to see one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the birthplace of democracy and philosophy.

View of Acropolis from the Philopappos Hill in the Morning, Athens, Greece
February 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 62mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 25 seconds, ISO 80, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




The first to visit and shoot in this grand city was the Acropolis and Parthenon. Athens is a city of stark contrasts, where the distant past seems to live alongside a very modern metropolis. I wanted to see Athens the way the ancient Greeks would have seen it; I wanted to approach the Parthenon, that beautiful temple to their patron, Athena, with the same sense of wonder and pride they must have felt.

I found what I think must be the best view of the Acropolis at the top of Philopappos Hill. The hill is in the center of Athens, but from here, the modern city of cars and busloads of tourists somehow manages to disappear. I walked among olive trees in the footsteps of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and at the top of the hill, I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Acropolis at dawn. Seeing the Acropolis from this vantage point, with modernity temporarily suspended, I think I felt something of what the ancients must have felt here…

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Saint George Square in Valletta, Malta

Rain is rare in Malta. For most of the year, the archipelago is a cloudless, sunny idyll for vacationers. But since I like to photograph public spaces before they fill with people, I woke early morning and walked to Saint George Square. Valletta wasn’t awake yet, and I had the square to myself. It rained during the night, leaving the square largely a mirror of the surrounding architecture.

Fountain and Saint George Square on the Rainy Morning, Valletta, Malta
January 2015, panorama from 3 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 2 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




It’s difficult to imagine now, but the lovely square was once used as a car park for members of the House of Representatives. But fortunately, someone realized that this square, at the very center of Valletta, had a nobler calling. These days, it’s adorned with a fountain whose jets of water are in time with classical music. When the sun is up, children will dart in and about those streams of water as sunlight dances off their hair.

It’s such a rarity to see Valletta drenched in rain that I decided to try and capture the Grand Masters Palace reflected in the tiles of Saint George Square. To do this, I had to lower my tripod nearly to ground level. Then I used a panoramic technique to try and exaggerate the feeling of the place, the wide open square devoid of people. At this hour of the day, the square couldn’t be lovelier.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Valletta in the Morning, Malta

Though the Knights Templar may be the more famous, the St. John’s Knights, or the Knights Hospitaller, were an equally formidable military order.

Valletta Skyline in the Cloudy Morning, Malta
January 2015, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 20mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 121 seconds, 10-stop ND filter, ISO 100, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




Originally formed to treat the wounded and infirm, the Knights became an order of warrior-monks, and spent much of their early history fighting the anti-christian forces in Jerusalem and Holy Land. Among the Knights Hospitaller, Jean de Valette, Grand Master, soon emerged as a stalwart defender of Christianity, defeating Ottoman forces in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.

As a result of that victory, de Valette became a beloved figure in Europe, and was offered the position of cardinal. He refused the offer, ostensibly because of both his modesty and his desire to be free from the papacy. Instead, he began the construction of a new city in 1566, reportedly laying the first stone himself. The new city was to be called Valletta and was located near Mount Sciberas, where much of the Ottoman army fought and died. De Valette would never live to see the completion of the city that bears his name, however; he suffered a stroke and died in 1568. The warrior remains here, entombed in a sarcophagus in St. John’s Co-Cathedral in the city he founded.

I wanted to see the city as de Valette and his Crusaders would have seen it, the ancient stronghold they held for nearly three hundred years. I woke early one morning, intending to see Valletta before the modern city came to life. The sun was breaking over dense clouds, and the effect was striking. Even at this hour, it was impossible to capture the city without cars and other evidence of modern life, but I felt that with the clouds forming an ethereal backdrop for its ancient architecture, Valletta must look for me much the way it appeared when it was a Crusader stronghold.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Panorama of Spinola Bay, Malta

From 1530 until Napoleon’s arrival in 1798, Malta was under the control of the Order of St. John, or the Military Knights Hospitaller, an order founded to care for religious pilgrims and the infirm. In time, however, they joined their Crusader brethren in fighting, and the island remained a Crusader state long after other military orders lost their strongholds.

Panorama of Saint Julian and Spinola Bay at Dawn, Malta
January 2015, panorama from 4 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 10 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




I think of this as I take in an evening view from the top of the Hotel Juliani. There’s so much history in such a small part of the world. Its location in the Mediterranean has made Malta a crossroads of sorts between European, Middle Eastern, and North African cultures, and like many of the world’s crossroads, its history has often been one of invasion and conquest. Invaded by Arabs and Normans and bombed by Axis forces during World War II, the island now faces a different kind of invasion — tourists.

From my vantage point on top of the hotel, my head swims a bit at the thought of such a long and storied history. Looking out over the curiously-shaped Spinola Bay, I was struck by the juxtaposition of Malta’s long history with its modern incarnation. It was dawn, St. Julian’s was beginning to come to life, and the city’s skyline was streaked with the headlights of passing cars. I found a spot that allowed me to capture the unusual curve of the bay, and framed the shot to catch as much of Malta’s past and present as one photograph would allow.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Malta

Looking at the beautiful Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, it’s difficult to imagine that Malta was once the province of Crusaders, the last one, in fact, and the most impregnable bastion of Christianity in the Mediterranean.

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Balluta Bay in Saint Julien, Malta
January 2015, panorama from 3 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 15 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




The St. John Knights, in return for fighting anti-christian forces, were given the island by Charles V in perpetuity as long as one condition was met — they were to send him a falcon once a year. They held the island for nearly three hundred years, until overwhelmed by Napoleon’s forces.

The church, perched above a series of steps leading to Balluta Bay, exists in the written record as far back as 1601, when a visiting bishop recorded that it was built in 1580. But that was simply a church on the same site; the present-day structure has been rebuilt or enlarged three times since the 1800s. The most recent incarnation, a striking Latin construction, was completed in 1958.

The church would be striking in any environment; in St. Julian’s — which is really just a fishing village at heart — it’s breathtaking. I struggled to find just the right angle to capture it. Ultimately, I settled on photographing it from the vantage point of a gentle curve in the steps, which focuses the eye on the church and the glittering reflection of the lights of St. Julian’s in the bay.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , |

Fine Art Prints Valentine’s Day Sale – 30% off

Dear subscribers and followers, I am happy to offer a special Valentine’s Day discount through the end of February 2017. All of my photographs can be purchased as Fine Art Prints to add to the decor of your home or office. I offer ready-to-hang Metal Prints with incredible colours and details. These prints make great gifts for your loved ones, especially those who love to travel and appreciate the world’s beauty.

Room with Bed and Venice Fine Art Print above

My favourite works from recent years are organised in 3 collections:




• “Eternal City” — photos of Rome:
http://ansharphoto.com/Rome >>

• “Mystical Venice” — photos of Venice:
http://ansharphoto.com/Venice >>

• “Inspiring Cities” — photos of the most beautiful European cities:
http://ansharphoto.com/InspiringCities >>


I offer worldwide shipping, and any size is available. Prices start at only $35.95.

As a special Valentine’s Day offer, I will give a discount of 30% through February 28. Use code VDAY2017 at checkout to get the discount.

To make a purchase, simply choose the photo you want, click on its preview. When the preview is open to full screen, click the green “BUY” button on the bottom left corner and follow the instructions from there.

Posted in Promo Tagged , , , |

Selva Val Gardena in the Evening, Dolomites

Although I love to photograph the Alps — it’s a stunningly beautiful place — it can be frustrating because finding the perfect view is difficult. It can be harder than you might imagine to capture that kind of natural majesty.

Aerial View of Selva Val Gardena in the Evening, Val Gardena, Dolomites, Italy
January 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 80, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>




As soon as we arrived at Selva Val Gardena, I began exploring the village’s hiking trails to find the best view of the city and the mountains. This was a family vacation, but I couldn’t resist photographing the village.

This is one of my favorite spots in Selva Val Gardena — it’s a place where the ski slopes and the road seem to converge, forming a dramatic angle in the photograph. There is energy in this photograph that I like — the dynamic convergence of the two roads, as well as the three cliffs in the background that overlook the slopes. There’s the suggestion of something menacing about those cliffs, perhaps a warning of the mountain and its dangers.

Once again, I found a spot overlooking the village and set up my tripod. Even though the snow on the slopes was artificial and the cliffs gave a somewhat sinister cast to the scene, I liked it nonetheless — an Alpine village in the early hours of evening.

Posted in City, Landmark Tagged , , , , |