O Konstantinos Themelis He was interested in space and stars from a young age. “My love for his sci-fi movies and documentaries Carl Sagan, which have always attracted my interest, was early on a strong indication of my fascination with anything related to space and the universe in general,” he says.
“The big “turn” happened in 2013, when I met the Physics professor Erotokritos Katsavounidis, one of the scientists of the LIGO program, who during his lectures taught us basic concepts of astrophysics. At the same time, in the same year I discovered the photographer Mark Gee, who through his stunning shots made me wonder if I too can photograph the night sky. So, that summer I bought my first camera and started this great journey.”
Konstantinos is currently a landscape astrophotographer based in Volos. In addition to photography, he also deals professionally with programming.
“My love of sci-fi movies and Carl Sagan’s documentaries, which always intrigued me, was a strong indication early on of my fascination with anything to do with space and the universe in general.”
The photos he shares on his Instagram profile are very impressive, the sky with starlight and galaxies looks eerie and vast. Planets and nebulae take on other dimensions behind the camera, the lens can highlight details and sparkles that cannot be seen by the naked human eye.
Especially when shooting in completely dark places. “There are such places, but you have to be away from cities, villages and generally from artificial lighting” says Konstantinos. “Of the places I have visited, I would suggest any high mountain and island that has no lights at its southern point (eg Crete).
The effects of light pollution on astrophotography are the lesser evil of all. The fauna of the planet, animals and people, is “quietly” affected to a terrible extent by its spread. But that’s another conversation, for another time. Focusing on my part and to put it simply: now, we are “looking for darkness”. That’s how bad things are.
Photographers living in central and northern Greece or on the islands may have more opportunities to find a dark place. Those who live in urban centers must travel, usually several hours, to be able to see the galaxy. This apparently discourages them from observing and photographing the night sky.”
Beyond the basic knowledge of photography, you need to get involved and learn what it is you are photographing in the night sky, what is the right season or what day and time will your target be in the right place to line up with your frame. Photo: Konstantinos Themelis
I ask him what is his favorite place in Greece to photograph the stars. “It’s hard to pick just one place,” he says. “So I will choose one inside Greece and one outside. On the inside, therefore, I love the mountain of Tymfi for the calmness and imposingness of the landscape, which inspires you not only to photograph the night sky, but also to enjoy the incomparable beauty that the Greek mountains generously offer.
Abroad, on the other hand, I love northern Italy and specifically the Dolomites, which have rightly been described as one of the most beautiful and diverse places on the planet. Finally, the Canary Islands and specifically La Palma are a paradise for astrophotographers, with telescopes on top of the mountain and eerie landscapes.
— How much special knowledge does one have to be involved in astrophotography? And how expensive equipment should it have? What do you shoot with?
Beyond the basic knowledge of photography, you need to get involved and learn what it is you are photographing in the night sky, what is the right season or what day and time will your target be in the right place to line up with your frame. So some basic concepts of astronomy will certainly help anyone pursuing this venture.
In terms of equipment, I suggest investing in a sturdy tripod, a used full frame camera and a bright wide angle lens to start with. From then on, as he trains he can upgrade the equipment little by little. Specifically, in my work I use 3 modified cameras (Canon 6D, Canon Ra, Sony A7III) and 3 bright lenses (Sigma 14mm f1.8, Sigma 14mm f1.4, Sigma 28mm f1.4).
The constellations and galactic center shift with the season, so the astrophotographer must choose accordingly. Photo: Konstantinos Themelis
— Is there an area of the earth that you would love to visit to photograph its sky?
Southern Hemisphere: Chile, specifically the Atacama Desert. The high altitude combined with the dry climate make it one of the most ideal destinations for astronomers and astrophotographers.
— How much does the sky change with the seasons? What is the best time to take photos?
The constellations and galactic center shift with the season, so the astrophotographer must choose accordingly. For example, if you want to photograph the galaxy, it is better to chase it from the end of May to the end of September. If you want Orion, you have to go outside in the winter months. There is no better time. It always depends on your goal.
— Is there astrophotography tourism in Greece? Is our country ready to develop something like this?
Our country is quite suitable for the development of astrotourism. The first dark sky park in Kefalonia was recently announced, a global effort of which our country became a member this year. In my part, I offer astrophotography tours and seminars, where with the interested parties, as a group, we visit the best destinations for astrophotography and enjoy the night sky.
— What are the places you would take a stranger to photograph?
If I now placed five pins on the map, they would be in the following destinations: Zagori, South Crete, East Pelion, Helmos, Olympus.
— Are there enough astrophotographers in Greece? Is this something common?
Landscape astrophotography is now quite popular, perhaps due to social media and cheaper equipment, which makes it easy for anyone to take up the subject. The important thing, of course, is how many of them will develop and create important work in our field.
— Is it a hobby or do you do astrophotography professionally?
Since 2018 I have been professionally engaged in astrophotography, but this does not mean that I forget to create personal projects and trips that I particularly enjoy.
Photo: Konstantinos Themelis
Photo: Konstantinos Themelis
Photo: Konstantinos Themelis