Istanbul photo do's and don'ts ?
I'll be on vacation in Istanbul during the third week of March. Any advice would be appreciated regarding proper photo etiquette. I'll be shooting with a Leica CLE, Voigtlander 15mm and 35mm lenses. I was thinking of bringing my Nikon N80 with the 24-120 Nikkor, but it's so darn big compared to the CLE. BTW, I'll be shooting strictly B+W 400 ISO. Any opinions?
Last edited by Karl K; 01-28-2008 at 08:19 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: spelling error
I was in Istanbul twice last year. It is one of the most beautiful places for B&W. Photography is usually OK but tripod is not allowed in Hagia Sophia. We had to leave our tripods in the entrance, pass our gear through the X-Ray machine and pick up our tripods on the way back.
My films were Fuji Acros and Delta 3200 (120). Could not get hand inspection of the films at the airport, but had no fogging on the Delta 3200.
You will experience very bright places and also dark. The film 400 in a rangefinder will be OK for most pictures, but it would be also good to have the N80 and some 100 film. Put comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking and fun.
Have a good time,
I lived in Istanbul two years (ten years ago) and had previously visited many times. For some places, Hagia Sophia as DrZ mentioned, Topkapi palace, the Blue Mosque, etc., you might have a tripod or flash restriction or have to pay a small fee to use a camera. Those are the only restrictions I know about, but the rules may have changed over time. Other than that, street and cityscape shooting is a lot of fun and unrestricted. You will probably get requests to provide a photo when people are in the image. If someone who doesn't want to be photographed waves you off, you need to be respectful of that. I'd leave the Nikon and zoomer at home unless you want to bring it as a backup to the CLE and leave it in your hotel room.
The hottest tourist sites are around Hagia Sophia, and include Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), and the ancient underground cisterns (Yerebatan Sarinci). You can cover these 4 sites in one day. Dolmabahce Palace is worth a look also -- but it was all guided tours, about an hour or so per tour. There's good street shooting and shopping around Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi (along the tram lines). A bit off the beaten path is Kumkapi, an area with small cozy restaurants and roaming troubadours. I used to dine there with friends at Talep'in Yeri or Kor Agop. March may be a bit early, but they used to use ferry boats for tours up and down the Bosporus. The tour price was under $5, as I recall. If the tours are not running yet, you can still take ferry boats back and forth across the Bosporus to get some good scenery and shots. The Grand Bazaar is a lot of fun for shopping and photography as well. Also, the spice bazaar (Misir Carsisi or Egypt Bazaar) is interesting and fun to visit. Have fun, and feel free to ask any more questions.
Stay away from military zones and police stations. You can get into trouble if they think you've been photographing them.
Also, the flag, Ataturk and religion are sensitive issues. This does not mean you can't photograph things related to them. Just try to be respectful. Or better said, don't show open disrespect.
Otherwise, Istanbul has lots to offer for photographers. Enjoy exploring it.
If you have any specific questions send me a PM. I live in Istanbul and have been photographing it for years.
I remember some years ago I was in Istanbul attending a conference. One day I decided to have a wander but got confused over how to get to a certain place. I asked a random person if they could speak English and not only did he take me to the bus stop, he waited to make sure I got on the right bus and insisted that he paid my bus fare!
I wonder if that would ever happen in London?
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It's been a while since I was there, but one thing I recall was that I had trouble finding EI400 black and white film. In the age of digital, I would expect that problem to be even worse today, so you may want to anticipate your film needs and bring it with you.
Others have mentioned the major tourist sites. I would add the souk, and street scenes in general. Istanbul is a fabulous city for walking, and intentionally getting lost may put you in areas with some tremendous potential for photography. And at the end of the day, just grab a taxi back to your hotel.
My wife and I were in Istanbul last summer, and Dolmabahce Palace was the only place where I recall having to pay a surcharge for a camera. (It was also one of the few places we didn't feel were worth going to.)
Might be too late, as it takes a bit of time, but the Turkish consulate can issue you a tripod permit valid at all the national sites. Took me several months to get one, but it allowed me to use a tripod where it was otherwise not allowed (Hagia Sophia, etc).
Other than that, use common sense and be respectful. Photographing in mosques is not a problem so long as you avoid prayer time, and Fridays (their sabbath), and just generally act respectful.
Here's some more info on etiquette in mosques that I have found helpful.
Generally, everyone is very courteous and friendly and helpful. It's my favorite country to visit because of its people and its architecture.
Regarding tripods outside the main tourist areas, you shouldn't have any real problems. Like most countries, the cops may occasionally feel the urge to flex their egos and ask you to move along, but that's true just about anywhere.
Don't miss Grand Bazaar. Highly photogenic. I had Leica and Nikon F801 with me. Didn't use Nikon at all.
Here you can find couple of B&W from Istanbul and other cities:
I am an Istanbulian. Don't hesitate to contact me for help of any kind. I'd be more than happy to meet a fellow APUGer. Cheers..