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Vice president of Sani Sa, and co-owner of the Sani Resort a 5-star property at Kassandra Halkidiki Greece, Fokion Zissiadis does his best to make time for his passion of photography. He has always found photography interesting, but for many years he couldn’t find the time. 8 years ago he took up his old hobby. To justify the time and money he invested in traveling for great locations, he soon realized the best quality capture system was an absolute must. After thorough research he invested in a Phase One camera system with an IQ140 digital back. Recently he up- graded to the IQ260 digital back to optimize his long exposure landscape photography.
You have an architectural degree and your main profession is running your families resort, Sani Sa, in Greece. How did you get into photography?
My first serious involvement with photography started the year 1983, a wonderful period of my life as a student of Architecture in the University of Pennsylvania, USA. The same period my wife was studying photography and fabric design at PCA, the Philadelphia College of Art.
As a student there, I bought a Nikon F3 and F2 with the full set of lenses and accessories, to shoot pictures of my models and drawings, but also cityscapes, buildings and architectural details of high interest and aesthetics, especially of New York City which was very close.
Eventually we developed very friendly ties with John Carlano my wife’s photography teacher at the PCA School, who initi- ated us deeper into photography and to all the techniques of the dark room in his own studio/house. It was there, where I was regularly developing my own photographs, but also ultimately the photographs of my work for the final thesis of the Masters degree in Architecture.
Later, after my return to my home country, I remained photo- graphically silent and inactive for about 20 years because my whole energy and attention was channeled primarily into my family and business.
It was only after 2005, when I started my adventurous trips around the world, that I crossed paths with photography again. This time the game was digital photography and from pure coin- cidence Pentax K5 and Kr was in my gear menu. Soon though, I realized that the investment of time and money for my travelling didn’t match at all with my growing expectations. I became very serious about photography and I felt that it was the right moment to upgrade to professional gear. I did my market research and I decided to buy Phase One a justifiably expensive camera, a camera, which is probably the best, someone can use out in the field for serious landscape photography.
The images you shared is from a trip you had to Iceland. It’s been discovered by the Director of the Photography Museum of Thessaloniki who has shared it of Reykjavik for a possible exhibition, was this the goal from the beginning, or what was the initial plan with your trip?
No, I never planed for anyone outside my private network to see the images, it came later in the sequence. The story was as follows:
Mr. Ioakimedes the Director of the Photography Museum of Thessaloniki, which is also the Greek National Museum, made an anonymous screening of my work in the first place through a contact of a common friend Thalea Stefanidou who happens to be currently my scriptwriter. As he appreciated my work a lot he suggested to create an artist exchange program with the Photography Museum of Reykjavik and strongly recommended to me when later I revealed my identity to him, that I must send a portfolio with a sample of my work to them asap. Indeed, I did so, and now all the process and negotiations are in progress.
Additionally, Timothy Persons, the renowned curator and founder of the Finland Photography School also screened my work during the Paris Photo Fair, which I attended recently. His commentary was very enthusiastic and flattering.
As for me, I travel always "solo" accompanied only from my wife in order to preserve a very focused eye on my subjects and to tailor made my itinerary accordingly. I have always a local guide prefer- ably photographer (fixer) leading me throughout each trip to the desired photographic battle ground, where he leaves me unobstructed to execute! I study thoroughly each destination prior my visit, so I know exactly what I want and what to anticipate. All my trips are private adventures that aim to capture through my mind, eyes and lens and heart the wonders and beauty of the nature that surrounds us. I am doing that for my own pleasure and love for photography and not for money.
Later, I do all the processing of my RAW files myself using the incredible Capture One, which captured my heart! Then Photoshop to put the finishing touch on my work.
I do at least two major trips every year and some other minor ones in between, combined with my main work, which as mentioned is in the tourism sector.
Up to now, all my work has been kept strictly private.
When shooting landscape photography, you often find your- self in the middle of nowhere. How do you handle this when traveling with high-tech equipment?
One of the prerequisites for serious landscape photography, beyond having a good camera, is to have an equally good physi- cal condition and stamina. Landscape photography is a very demanding activity. Most of the times, nature doesn’t reveal herself just out of a car’s window. A lot of hiking to remote and sometimes inaccessible spots for the ordinary people is in volved.
Early and late hours of the day when solitude and light are at their climax become a must do experience. Harsh weather phe- nomena become a challenge. You just don’t want to miss them. You must be there, with all your gear ready for the go. You must witness them in their full glory, and through a personal dialogue with nature, to captivate the essential elements of light, perspective, geometry, textures, motion, stillness, scale, and ultimately the vibes of the genius loci, into a composition that is YOU!
At those rendezvous with nature, I always carry my gear in a Vanguard sky borne 45-backpack and a lightweight Manfrotto carbon tripod in my hands. The total weight is close to 12 kg, which isn’t an insignificant load for such arduous long hikes. My gear includes a Phase One 645DF+ body with two Li-Ion batteries, and one with eight alkaline AA batteries, an IQ260 digital back with seven batteries, a Phase One 45mm lens ideal for panorama shots with an astonishing sharpness when it comes to long exposure night photography, a Phase One 28mm lens with incredible sharpness in daylight conditions especially in the center of the frame, a Phase One 75–150mm zoom with equally amazing sharpness and a Phase One Macro 120mm zoom, a useful lens when a microscopic local resident show up, or when you stumble on a particularly interesting mineral or fauna of the area you visit .
It goes without saying, that a full set of Lee filters for the 28mm lens and polarizers for the other lenses together with a release cable are included in the set! Last but not least, a LCDVF eye loop is always extremely helpful to better evaluate your work on the spot before it’s too late. It makes the already great LCD screen of the IQ260 back looks like your home TV set!
Did you upgrade from a previous Phase One back or are you a first time investor?
My first investment was an IQ140 digital back, and I recently upgraded to the new IQ260 back, because I was seeking for better quality and noise free long exposure photography. It was made possible with help from my Phase One partner of choice Kounio Reggina in Athens, Greece. We have a very close and efficient cooperation in every aspect of the word.
If you should emphasize on feature of the IQ260 digital back, what would it be and why?
The IQ260 is a brilliant piece of technological photographic craftsmanship! It masters the ultra bright and the ultra dark areas of your composition with a human’s eye sensitivity. It registers textures where seemingly total black or total white! I have no hesitation to shoot straight in the rising or the setting sun. Simply you trust that all the information has been captivated in your RAW files, and that you later with the Capture One you will gloriously retrieve them into a stunning picture! It’s amazing! But the party starts at night! When long exposures come into play the IQ260 back has an unparalleled noise free performance! It’s a pleasure to shoot and pays off the waiting in the dark!