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From Mosques to Markets: My 2-Week Photographic Trip to Istanbul

Photographic trip to Istanbul

Just back from a two-week trip to Istanbul with my wife Alina, we found ourselves deeply charmed by the city. 

Although our main reason for visiting was my hair transplant surgery, we took the chance to explore and make it a memorable travel experience. From busy markets to quiet mosques, I captured every moment with my favorite Fujifilm X100V. 

In this article, I’ll share my personal feelings about Istanbul and give a photographer’s view. Plus, I’ll highlight the best places where I believe you can take unforgettable photos in this historic city.

A Few Photos That I Took With My Fujifilm X100V During My Trip to Istanbul

A Quick Overview of Istanbul From a Photographer’s Perspective

Istanbul is a city of diverse cultures, traditions, and architecture, spanning Europe and Asia. It features historical sites like the Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern alongside modern skyscrapers and museums. In areas like Galataport, luxury boutiques, upscale restaurants, and contemporary hotels are prominent, contrasting with nearby older buildings.

Istanbul old city landscape

Cultural differences are apparent in daily life. Modern cafes serving lattes coexist with traditional establishments offering Turkish tea. The food spectrum ranges from traditional kebabs and baklava to international dishes.

With guidance from a local guide, Hassan, we explored the Balat neighborhood. He emphasized Istanbul’s safety and encouraged exploration of its less-traveled streets, which provided abundant photographic subjects.

Photo of a retro car found in Balat, Istanbul 2023

Istanbul is ideal for street photography, with locations like the bustling Istiklal Street and the quieter alleys. Points of interest include the Galata Bridge, with its fishermen, and vibrant markets. Architecture enthusiasts can observe a range from ancient structures like the Valens Aqueduct to modern edifices. Districts such as Sultanahmet, Balat, and Moda each have distinct architectural characteristics.

Portrait photo of a fisherman from the Galata Bridge in Istanbul

The approachability of Istanbul’s residents is notable. Their receptiveness to photography made for engaging images. A smaller camera, like the Fujifilm X100V, can make subjects more at ease due to its unobtrusive size.

Istanbul offers a blend of historical and contemporary elements, providing ample opportunities for photography.

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The Culture of Istanbul

Istanbul presents a blend of historical traditions and contemporary vitality. Ancient mosques coexist with active cafes, providing varied subjects for photography.

On the streets, traditional attire like the hijab can be seen alongside modern fashion, offering diverse visual opportunities for photographers.

The city’s art ranges from timeless calligraphy to current street art. Each photo captures a moment that reflects a culture adapting while maintaining its roots.

Photo of a street art in Istanbul. Graffiti of Picasso and Vincent van Gogh in Istanbul

A notable location was the Grand Bazaar, with its corridors filled with lanterns and textiles, representing Istanbul’s commercial and artisanal aspects.

Photo of Istanbul Grand Bazaar

Documenting Istanbul’s culture emphasized its contrasts. Interacting with locals and capturing spontaneous moments highlighted the city’s multifaceted narrative in my photographs.

The People of Istanbul

In my time in Istanbul, I observed that many residents were friendly and approachable.

As expected in popular tourist destinations, some locals were keen to attract visitors to their businesses. However, the general demeanor of locals was amiable and positive.

While photographing, I gauged reactions from people in Istanbul. Many were open to being photographed, and some even seemed pleased by the attention.

Portrait photo of a kebab chef from Istanbul, Turkey 2023

I took various portraits during my visit, from a seasoned fisherman to a baker at work. A notable instance was photographing a craftswoman in the Balat neighborhood, who skillfully made detailed souvenirs.

Overall, interactions with the locals played a significant role in my photographic experience in Istanbul.

The Food of Istanbul

Istanbul’s food scene was consistently impressive, even in areas known for high tourist traffic. This was a pleasant surprise, as many tourist-centric locations tend to compromise on food quality, relying on their popularity with transient visitors. Istanbul was an exception.

We found quality dining in both acclaimed restaurants and popular spots. Noteworthy mentions include Simone Restaurant, Glouton Restaurant, Yeni Lokanta, and Iguru Lounge Bar. Each provided dishes that were both flavorful and well-prepared.

Two photos of the food from Istanbul

Street food was also a highlight, offering tasty options comparable to established eateries. A practical tip for visitors: alcohol isn’t as widely available in Istanbul as in some other cities. When you do find it, it’s often more expensive than in many other countries.

In all, Istanbul offers a rich culinary landscape that is both diverse and high-quality, making it an important part of any visit.

The Architecture of Istanbul

Istanbul’s architecture is a reflection of its rich history and diverse influences, making it a prime location for photography. The city, positioned between Europe and Asia, naturally presents an amalgamation of styles.

Historical landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, with its impressive dome and minarets, and the Topkapi Palace, representing Ottoman grandeur, contrast with the modern skyline dotted with skyscrapers. The Basilica Cistern showcases Byzantine-era construction, while the Bosphorus Bridge symbolizes contemporary engineering connecting two continents.

istanbul architecture

The city’s residential areas display a mix too. Wooden Ottoman houses can be found in areas like Fener and Balat, while more modern and upscale neighborhoods such as Beşiktaş and Nişantaşı exhibit 20th-century apartment complexes and state-of-the-art buildings.

Photo of old wooden buildings in Istanbul

Istanbul’s mosques, churches, and synagogues also tell tales of a city where religions coexisted. While the Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque exemplify classic Islamic architecture, the Church of St. Anthony of Padua and Neve Shalom Synagogue highlight the city’s Christian and Jewish heritage respectively.

Photo of the blue mosque istanbul

Each district has its own architectural identity. For instance, Karaköy combines old, rustic buildings with new-age art hubs, and Kadıköy in the Asian side offers a blend of traditional houses and modern constructions.

My Favourite Places of Istanbul for Taking Photos

During my photography trip to Istanbul, I found certain locations especially captivating:

  • Balat: This area is rich in history with its colorful houses and tight lanes. The blend of ancient buildings and modern street art makes it a top choice for photographers.
  • Kuzguncuk: Situated on the Asian side, this neighborhood stood out with its well-preserved wooden houses, offering a serene backdrop contrasting the city’s hustle.
  • Çukurcuma: As a hotspot for antiques, the streets here present a unique fusion of Istanbul’s historic past and artistic influences.
  • Grand Bazaar: As one of the world’s oldest markets, the diverse stalls here range from intricate lamps to handcrafted jewelry.

These were the prime spots that provided a comprehensive visual narrative of Istanbul during my visit.

Photography Gear That I Took to Istanbul

I carried two cameras with me on my trip to Istanbul:

My Fujifilm X100V and Sony 7C mirrorless cameras.

Fujifilm X100V: My top choice due to its compact size and retro design. This camera:

  • Delivers high-quality images.
  • Appears less intimidating to locals, presenting me more as a traveler than a pro photographer.
  • Is inconspicuous in areas where being discrete is beneficial.

Sony 7C with a Sony 24-70 2.8 G Master II lens: Primarily used for work and video projects, I brought this along thinking its zoom capability would be handy for capturing the city’s details and candid moments. However:

  • Its larger size and weight made it less convenient for extended walks.
  • Its professional appearance made locals more hesitant for photo ops.
  • I found limited use for it, taking only a handful of photos.

In practice, the Sony 7C saw minimal use, spending most of the trip in the hotel room, while the Fujifilm X100V was my go-to for most photographic opportunities.

Conclusion

Istanbul is more than just a city; it’s a living tapestry of history, culture, and modern vibrancy. Each corner reveals a different story, every face a unique narrative. 

As a photographer, the city offered endless opportunities to capture its essence, from the stunning architecture to the bustling street scenes. While my gear played a crucial role, it was the spirit of Istanbul that truly resonated in every shot.

If there’s one takeaway from this journey, it’s that no matter the camera in hand, it’s the perspective, approach, and connection to the subject that truly brings a photo to life. 

For those seeking a rich photographic experience, Istanbul awaits with open arms and countless stories waiting to be framed.

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Aleksandrs Karevs

Aleksandrs Karevs

Hi, my name is Aleksandrs and I am a full-stack digital marketer passionate about digital photography. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V. Read full story here.

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Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

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