This was my second time visiting Turkey and Istanbul. The first time was in February 2012 and at that time I was not really into photography and I did not get nice photos, because I didn’t really know how to shoot them ( auto mode all the time ). That time I was stopping for 3 days in Istanbul after being almost 2 months in Jakarta / Indonesia. Since Indonesia is a tropical country, all the clothes in my suitcase were for summer temperatures. I only brought one jacket, a pair of jeans, and few long sleeved shirts just in case it got cold in Istanbul.
The day I arrived in Istanbul it was one of biggest snow blizzards of that year. The temperature was -20 degrees Celsius (in Indonesia it was +30) , the airplane had to circle in the air because we did not know when we would be able to land in Istanbul or we could be redirect to Ankara, in the end we landed in Istanbul and waited on the airplane for 2 hours because everything was in chaos. I found a taxi to the hotel but the driver was crazy, he was driving like a maniac on the road covered with snow telling me it’s impossible to drive and I paid 40 euros for that ride. The first scene that I saw from taxi was a man relieving himself in the street and the people just walked around him.
Even with the coldness I was able to see Topkapi palace, Hagia Sophiu, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and I take a tour around the city. Still my first impression of Istanbul was not so great. For the second time I was ready, 5 days will be enough time to take photos of what I want, I already found the locations and talked with my friends about where to go. I was alone and nobody was disturbing me, and the weather was looking good I was really happy about it.
After a really long day I had a nice nap on the airplane from Dubai, I landed in Istanbul about 5pm, I thought I would even have time to shoot the sunset but everything moved was slow at the airport, especially when they were checking peoples visa and passport. By the time I was finished with everything it was dark.
This time I did not want to take a taxi, so I take Metro which was cheaper, I already had a printed map to my hotel and which station I would need to go to. Seems it would be a simple task to do, BUT for me nothing is ever simple.
I was unable to find the hotel and I was walking around on small dark streets with all my bags. I asked for help few a times, some of the people just ignored me, and one said I was in the right direction and another man said I was at the completely wrong place and It was, my map that was showing me the wrong hotel ( because location of Agoda was wrong from where I had booked it, luckily I had the address printed on it too, and the man was able to give me directions, so I had to take few extra stations ). Then I reach Sekerci station and I really did not have any idea where to go. An old man just asked me if I needed any help. I showed him the address I needed to go to but he didn’t know where it was. He saw the hotel phone number and made a call from his phone and then he gave me directions. I found the hotel really fast then and from that moment I really started to respect Turkish people. That man’s help really meant a lot to me.
I reached the hotel at about 10pm, but instead of going to sleep, I decided to take a little walk around old city, my hotel was really in the center. After I reached the Blue Mosque, almost instantly the rain started ( déjà vu from Kawah Putih (Bandung) and Garut trips ). I ran back to the hotel and that was it for the day.
I slept really late in the morning. Soon after I woke, I went out for a little walk and to scout for locations. I wanted a nice view of the Blue Mosque, so I started visiting hotels with roof access and restaurants on the roofs. Most of them had really bad views or they didn’t allow tripods. The best view was on the Spring Hill Hotel, but the chef said tripod might disturb the other guests. He agreed I could take it if I booked a table for dinner, so I booked one in the corner where I could easily place my tripod.
Later I walked to the Grand Bazar and after I got back to the hotel, I prepared for dinner. The food at the restaurant was really good so I just set, all of my camera settings and just waited for the sunset while eating meat balls, and later the famous Turkish cake Baklava, it was a little too sweet for me. After the blue hour was finished I took a little walk around and then went back to the hotel to sleep.
It was time for my sunrise shoot. I woke up early and my plan was to just go and shoot around the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. In the morning there was really not many people around, only me and few Chinese tourists taking photos.
The sunrise was not really special. After I finished shooting I went back to my room to sleep a little more and then to explore how to reach the Maiden's Tower. In the end it was really simple to get to, with the Marmaray Train from Sekerci station to Uskudar station. I had also bought an Istanbul Card which allowed me to use the public transport at a cheaper price.
I found the best location for shooting the Maiden Tower and I set my tripods up and prepared my Lee filters for the long exposure. This scene was perfect for a long exposure and I was really long at that spot. After I finished it was dark already, I went to a street restaurant for dinner and then back to my room.
This morning was reserved for the New Mosque, I woke up really early to shoot the morning blue hour. Every town is very interesting in the early morning, very few people on the streets, and the architecture of Istanbul mosques is just stunning. I tried to enter the mosque with my tripod but security stopped me from using it, even though the mosque was completely empty.
Soon after that I went back to the hotel to have a small nap. My plan for later was to go back to the Spring Hill hotel and book one more dinner. Unfortunately everything was booked already and then the chef recommend that I might come in the morning, for a sunrise shoot. That was even better for me. I sat in the restaurant for a while and enjoyed the view till dark clouds began gathering over Hagia Sophia. It was beginning to look like rain so I decide to pay a visit to the Hagia Sophia. My tripod was in my hotel room, but I was hoping I could bring in a small table tripod with me, and shoot with it inside. I also bought a museum Pass so I would not need to wait in a line to enter ( and the line was really really long ). I had already picked up my camera from the x ray machine when I entered Hagia Sophia and when I did, some lady jumped up from the desk and started screaming “ tripod , tripod, tripod “ and I was force to check in my small tripod and pick it up on the way out ( I need to say I noticed one man with a gorillapod, so that means the x-ray machine can not detect a gorillapod ? but a man from security stopped him from using it ). I just took some hand held shots, but I really missed my tripod, so I didn’t shoot as much and just enjoyed the history of the place.
That afternoon I was going to see Valens Aqueduct. I had an idea for shooting that place with the light trails from the cars. After I got my shot I went back to the hotel, I left my stuff in the room and went to find some food for dinner.
Sunrise shoot time, again. But this time I fell asleep and I missed the blue hour. I went to the Spring Hill hotel which really gave the best view of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. In the golden hour I was shooting around the old city and time flew by really fast.
I spent the day in Topkapi Palace ( a stunning palace that was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years. The palace includes many fine examples of Ottoman architecture. It contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals, as well as a display of Ottoman treasures and jewelry. ) I spent almost all day there and then I went to the Istanbul History Museum.
For my sunset shoot I didn’t go anywhere special, I was just too tired so stayed mostly in old city, and I took few shots of the Blue Mosque at the blue hour.
My last day in Istanbul.
Once again I forced myself to wake up early and go to the Spring Hill Hotel to wait for sunrise . It was raining but that can also give spectacular results. For a while I was forced to stay inside because the rain was too strong, but it was better after 20 minutes. While I was waiting I was drinking Turkish tea with the waiter who prepared breakfast for the hotel guests.
It was time to go back in hotel and get my stuff ready for my flight. I checked out about 10am but I still had a little time till the airport shuttle picked me up ( it was a challenge for me to manage my bags because from Jakarta to Istanbul I was always allowed 30 kilos of check in luggage, but from Istanbul to Zagreb only 20 kilos, so I tried to manage everything heavy as carry on.
I left my things in the hotel lobby and I went for one last walk in Istanbul. I decide to go in the Grand Bazaar (one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops ) I spent a few hours there and then it was time to go to the airport. The airport shuttle was a little weird, an old nervous driver who was pissed off because some passengers had a lot of luggage, so they just threw them in upside down, like potatoes. At the airport they forgave me the extra weight of my luggage and soon it was on my flight for Zagreb.
Bye Bye Istanbul, Till next time.
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