Two years ago, I had the pleasure to visit Lake Kerkini in northern Greece to photograph the amazing Dalmatian Pelicans.
It was such a great experience that I decided to return in January 2018.
Once again, I booked a trip with NaturesLens and this time even my non-photographing wife joined me.
Having been to Kerkini before, I knew what to expect and could prepare for some different kind of images.
High on my agenda was to go for low-key images of these magnificent birds inspired by the UK based wildlife photographer Richard Peters who led the Kerkini workshop in 2016.
Following a flight from Copenhagen to Athens and more than 600 km drive to Kerkini, we arrived at Hotel Oikoperiigitis late in the evening.
The next day we were at our own and had the opportunity to explore the area around Lake Kerkini. The weather was dull and grey with the occasional sleet.
Therefore, we spend most of the time in the car driving around the lake. One time I braved the weather and went out to photograph a grey heron in the snow.
In the evening we were joined by the other participants for dinner and an introduction to the coming days by our tour guide Sean Weekly along with Vasilis who is the boatman and anchor at the hotel.
First morning on the lake
We left the hotel a quarter to seven in the morning for a short drive to the harbour. It was still dark as we were heading off in the fine wooden boat with two buckets of fish to attract the pelicans.
Soon, the first Dalmatian Pelicans joined us and they had some fish to stay by the boat until we could start taking pictures.
It was a bit cloudy but when the light was sufficient for the cameras, Vasilis would sail the boat in high speed and throw out fish allowing for images of flying pelicans.
Occasionally, the pelicans – and Vasilis – needed a rest and we turned off the engine. Then we could go for close up images of the pelicans floating nearby the boat.
At one time we passed a lot of flamingos standing in shallow water. We were at a long distance and could not get any closer due to the low water level. Fortunately, I had my long lens and a 2.0 teleconverter and managed to take a few useful images.
Back at the harbour I spotted a beautiful kingfisher sitting on one of the rowing boats. Carefully, I took an image of the colourful little bird.
Afternoon at the shoreline
Following lunch, we headed south to the dam for a shoreline feed. This time, we went by car and the weather had improved. Even the sun was out.
Vasilis tried to attract the pelicans with his fish and 10-12 of the huge birds arrived from a little island close by the shore.
We had a great afternoon photographing Dalmatian Pelicans from the shoreline and by sunset the soft light on the Mount Belles in the background was beautiful.
A happy bunch of photographers returned to the hotel for dinner and storytelling.
Lake of mist
The fog was thick when we returned to the lake on the second morning but we hoped for the sun to take over – it did not!
After two hours just outside the harbour, we decided to go back and hope for brighter weather.
Following an early lunch, we returned to the boat and spend the whole afternoon on the lake. The fog had cleared but it was still a grey day.
We sailed to the south by the dam and passed the small island where pelicans and cormorants hang out.
Despite the weather conditions, we still had a nice afternoon and even got some useful images.
It had stormed heavily all night and it was uncertain if we could go out on the lake in the morning. Vasilis had been to the harbour for inspection and decided for us to go.
Still, the wind was strong and we had to stay close to the shore. Only a few pelicans were in the area and due to the weather conditions, we could not go further out on the lake to find more.
It was troublesome to photograph and suddenly the wind was building up again. We even saw the water raise due to small tornadoes – it was time to head back!
Back at the hotel the power had gone as the gale had brought down some trees on the wires and cut all electricity in the area. Fortunately, the hotel had a generator up running within a few hours.
After lunch we once again went to the shoreline at the southern part of the lake for a last photo session.
Despite a huge bucket of fish, we could not attract any pelicans to the shoreline. The waves were too high so the pelicans did not dare to land close by the shoreline.
Then, we went further north to another place close by the small island where the pelicans stayed. Now, some hungry pelicans joined us from their island and were rewarded by a badly needed meal.
Apart from the heavy wind the weather was fine with sun and blue skies.
Finally, I had the opportunity to get some low-key images as planned before the trip.
We completed the afternoon with some wide-angle shots where the pelicans are getting very close. The last fish was put just beside me on the shore and snatched by a pelican less than one metre from the camera.
Despite the challenging weather conditions during the three-day workshop it turned out to be a great trip with a lot of new fine images to my portfolio.
Not least due to our guide Sean Weekly who is a very supportive and skilled young photographer with a huge engagement and enthusiasm.
I hope to be able to join Sean for another workshop in the future.
Besides the photogenic Dalmatian Pelicans, I also loved coming back to the wonderful Vasilis who is the boatman and much more. Never have I come across a friendlier and more caring person in my life. Vasilis will do almost anything to make your stay a success – wonder if he ever sleeps?
Finally, thanks to NaturesLens and our nice fellow participants for making yet another photo workshop into a memorable experience – and not to forget my lovely wife Nete who endured being with a photo geek on tour.