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The World’s Most Creative and Inspiring Photo Adventure Vacations




We had the pleasure of getting to knowing John during our Santorini Photo Adventure. A true gentleman, his open and friendly nature made our week all the more enjoyable. What impressed us most about John was his endless enthusiasm and willingness to learn. Absorbing himself in the beauty, culture and the warm people of Santorini, he was in his element. John creates spectacular images from assessing a scene by being aware of his surroundings. This was evident in the resulting images we saw at our group critique. The results were beautifully rendered subjects with wonderful compositions in great light. As we got to know more about John and his photographic background, we were equally impressed with his passion for creating surreal and vibrant images that look like photographs merged with paintings. One of his photographic passions is the process of editing images to his unique style. Thank you John, for being part of an enjoyable (and productive) week together in Santorini!

© John Phelps  |  Santorini, Greece  |  Photo Workshop Adventures  |  Sony NEX-7  |  Sony E10-18mm F4 OSS  |  f13 at 1/160th sec  |  ISO 100  |  2013

The village of Fira sits on the edge of the caldera on Santorini shortly after sunset. The whitewashed walls pick up the afterglow as the lights of the village come on. Gusty north winds give the water an interesting texture. This was a remarkably easy picture to take because there was a stone wall right in front of me to sit the camera on.  There were lots of people trying to get the same shot but only a couple realized that they needed to use a tripod or brace the camera on the wall. I gently shoved my way to the front of the crowd, set NEX-7 to ISO 100 to hold down the noise and turned on multiple exposures which automatically bracketed -2, 0, +2.  It came out nice and sharp with no noticeable noise.

Post Processing – the exposure information above is kind of misleading because this was actually two bracketed photos stacked together in Photoshop CC.  The 0 exposure worked for the details overall and the -2 was perfect for the sky. All I needed to do was stack them, mask the -2 so only the sky showed through and then crank up the saturation by +40. Now, if I’d only gotten the Milky Way in the sky. (see more photos below)


John has been hauling a camera bag around for more than 30 years. He started out back in the days of darkrooms and Kodachrome and says he doesn’t miss the chemical soup and slide sorting at all.  He’s gone from SLRs to point-and-shoots to DSLRs to mirrorless and even dabbles with his smartphone. Today he describes himself as a “Photoshop hacker” convinced that the image captured by the camera is only the starting point.  Post processing is what really makes your pictures sing.


Why did you choose Photo Workshop Adventures?

Reputation and website. You guys have a great website! It really showcases the locations and you can see that this is a company that really cares about doing a great job and taking good care of its guests. PWA has an outstanding reputation on social media that’s well-earned.

What did you enjoy most about the adventure?

It’s really two things. First, the people. When we were on Santorini, I loved being with a group who were passionate about their photography. They would much prefer to miss a meal than miss the light at sunrise or sunset! My kind of people! Second, the memories. The memories get sweeter with each passing month. The churches, the domes, the narrow alley ways. The cliffs, the architecture, the caldera. Wow! What a place – the pictures are vivid reminders of the experience.

What do you enjoy most about photography?

Making images is really two hobbies. One is being out in the world looking for great light and interesting things to photograph. It’s a scavenger hunt. It’s a voyage of discovery. You head out with your camera bag over your shoulder looking for cool things to photograph. There are new possibilities around every corner – new places to go, new people to meet. The second hobby is post processing. It’s like painting where you don’t need to clean brushes afterwards. The picture that comes out of the camera is just a starting point. You’re limited only by your own imagination. I find that I am as inspired by painting as I am by photography itself. Photography feeds that deep human need to explore and bring back stories to share. It’s self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy. It’s a spiritual journey.

What are your goals and ambitions as a photographer?

I just want have fun and make a small difference by giving back to the community. I want to go to interesting places, meet interesting people and stand in the footprints of photographers who have been there and returned with great images. If I see a picture I really admire, it’s fun to track down where it was taken and see if I can do at least as good a job with the subject matter. One time back in art school, my instructor said that my pictures like postcards. He didn’t mean it as a compliment but he was right. That’s exactly what I was trying to accomplish – creating something beautiful to share.

A complete collection of John’s photography can be viewed on his website at www.johnphelpsphoto.com

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