Istanbul – Part 1: iPhoneography

We just got back from our big trip to Istanbul this week, and wow, what a place! As a photographer, I would never run out of things to photograph, and between my iPhone, my dSLR, and a film camera, I was pretty busy snapping away the whole time.

Here is the trip how my iPhone saw it… well, almost. The iPhone has a pretty good camera, given how tiny it is, but a lot of these images were processed in either Mattebox, Snapseed right on the iPhone or Lightroom on my Mac, to give them a little more pizazz.

The adventure starts right here in Calgary… see that blue plane waiting on the runway? That’s ours. And it sat there for four hours (with passengers trapped on it!) because of a thunderstorm passing over us that prevented it from moving to the gate.

That four hour delay basically meant that before we even left we’d missed our connecting flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul. Rats!


Once the weather cleared up a bit and the plane got to the gate, guess what? Mechanical problems. Turns out our plane was struck by lightning as it landed in Calgary. Yiiiikes!


I got a chuckle out of these two guys watching the engine. I could guess what they were saying… “Hey Dave, you ever see one spin backwards…?”


We made it to Amsterdam ok, and KLM was great about giving us some spiffs for the delay, even though it wasn’t their fault. But we did have a few extra hours to burn while we were there, and although Schiphol airport (the KLM hub) is a big, more-or-less modern airport, it’s still boring. You know you’re not at home when the product labels start to drift from the familiar… and you’re taking the time to shoot a vending machine…


After 31+ hours of travel we finally made it to Istanbul. The next morning was our first walk around town to find breakfast… and even in our quiet little corner of the world the taxi traffic was nuts.


The other thing that was very different were the cats. They are everywhere. And probably for the best, since I didn’t see a single mouse, rat, or other smaller-than-a-cat sized critter the whole time we were there.




Mosques are everywhere. This is the Hagia Sophia, a very old church that was converted to a mosque, and that’s now a museum. It’s one of those places that is ‘pretty big’ on the outside, but really big on the inside. If you ever go there with a dSLR, take your widest-angle lens – you’ll need it.


More cats. They take over every perch, box, crate… whatever. And the locals even feed them, and despite the traffic, I even saw a few cars brake for them too.


Jailcats. The owner of the basement suite actually fed and watered these guys (and the litter of kittens) every day. When we left we even bought them some cat food, and he let us into the gate to fill their dish.


One morning we were out early, before the crowds, and saw this sorry looking guy passed out on a bench. Still had his watch and wallet, and a hangover, I bet.


Cats even help keep the Grand Bazaar rodent-free.


One thing we didn’t share with the cats was dinner. The fish was fresh, and was always a safe bet. Deep fried mackerel!


You could point your camera just about any direction from anywhere and find a good shot.


We did the tourist thing and took the ferry ride up the Bosphorus to the last little village on the Asian side, before it opens up the Black Sea. It kinda felt like being in Invermere, like a town that exists only for the folks (tourists and locals alike) that visit there. But the food was still great – even for a tourist trap. Those things on the skewer are deep-fried mussels. I wouldn’t touch them here, but there – good eatin’!


The light was pretty good too, even the iPhone managed ok for a consumer device. This shot was taken with Mattebox, and then edited in Snapseed, all on the iPhone.


The Blue Mosque at night. It’s a 3 minute walk between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque; they basically sit at either end of the old Hippodrome, which is everyones favourite park; even locals.


Inside the Hagia Sophia you get an idea of scale. From the second floor the people look waaaay far away!


The other big bazaar is the Egyptian Spice Market. Although there are more spice stores here than the Grand Bazaar, it’s basically a little tiny version of the same thing. And with the streets around it selling everything else, it’s probably more interesting than being trapped/lost in the Grand Bazaar. Not all of the stores fit my idea of what I expected to see there. Most were modernized, and some were even elaborately decorated, once you got past the plastic spice bins out front.


This was our favourite cat of the trip. We nicknamed her ‘Broken Neck’, because she couldn’t look up without turning her head to the side like this. It made her look adorable, and we fed her a few times, since she was the most calm and well-behaved cat we saw.


The coffee, Turkish or otherwise, was great. At Starbucks I’d get a regular coffee and ask for milk, and when it was warmed/frothed, it tasted even better.


Old buildings are everywhere, too. The only thing that bugged me was that often there were electrical wires, satellite dishes, or other signs of modern life stuck all over them, so careful framing and positioning is key to minimize the modern stuff glued to the outsides of them in my images.


Economically Turkey seems immune to the goings on in Greece and Spain, but I suspect they don’t have the kind of Interac / Debit system we do. Our cards didn’t work in every bank machine, and by the looks of it, the banks don’t talk to each other. This fast-food guy made me a banana-and-nutella grilled panini, which was just awesome.


Inside a museum I found this satchel and just about every small implement you could ask for. The funny thing is that it looks about the size of an iPad case, with all the little tools like ‘apps’.


We visited an antique warehouse building of sorts, the ‘Hor Hor Bit Pazari’. Despite what you might read on the interwebs about it, with an iPhone GPS it was super easy to get to. The only downside? 90% of what they stock won’t fit in a suitcase. I thought this chair would be a nice addition to the boudoir studio back home…


… along with some background props…



Pretty much everywhere had lighting for sale, too. These kinds of shots of lighting with ‘bokeh’ (photographer talk for ‘background out of focus’) are pretty much mandatory. This is actually the only one I took that I liked, because these images are so common in blogs and travel sites.


Beer and spirits are in most, but not all restaurants & cafes. Just look for the Efes sign; it’s a bit like seeing a Molson or Labatts sign here, and tastes maybe a little better and less sickeningly sweet than our default lagers. And when it feels like 35C with the humidity you’ll want to know that I was never, ever served a warm one.


The food was pretty much great, except for the really tourist-trap rooftop places. Find yourself a well-kept cafe style place on a side street, and you’re pretty much set. Just check the menu before you sit down to be sure you like what they are selling.


This was an out-of-the-city day to the Princes’ Islands. Those boats in the background are ferrys from the city, and they run all day long. But don’t let the travel guides fool you… these are super-busy ports, not quiet getaway towns. I’d never go back to the big island… I’d get off earlier at one of the smaller ones.


Well, that’s it for now!

Although I’m happy with most of the images the iPhone could capture, it won’t replace a ‘real camera’ just yet.

Next up: Photos from a real camera – my dSLR… I only have 2700 to pick from… sigh…

1 Comment

  1. Noel! Looks like you had a marvellous trip. Love the images and looking forward to seeing the rest of your edit.

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