On Location

Exploring Istanbul and the Countryside

with Jennifer Spelman

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Course Description

This photographic expedition across Istanbul takes you to some of the most breathtaking historical sites in the world, through magnificent ancient markets full of life and color, and along the Bosphorus Strait to destinations of endless wonder.

As we interact with a variety of interesting people, learn about the local way of life, and taste the country’s delicious cuisine, you access hidden photographic locations, take a day trip to the fishing villages of the Black Sea coast, and even have a chance to be pampered at a traditional Turkish spa.

It all begins with our arrival in Istanbul, where we are met by a private driver and taken to our luxury 4-star hotel in the heart of the city. After an evening orientation tour, we share our first group dinner of traditional Turkish cuisine.

The next day—our first full one—is spent in the colorful, historic Sultanahmet neighborhood, home to such mesmerizing structures as the beautiful Hagia Sophia, the wondrous Blue Mosque, and the fascinating underground Basilica Cistern. You learn the history and connect with local people while taking advantage of stunning photo opportunities. In the evening, we gather at a popular local restaurant for food, tea, and traditional music.

Day three begins with a walk to the Grand Bazaar, a massive 15th-century indoor market with dozens of lanes and more than 4000 shops, where endless nooks and crannies allow you to photograph all kinds of scenes and people. After lunch we walk to the spectacular 16th-century Suleymaniye Mosque before hitting the city’s famous spice market, a gorgeous building full of intense colors and magical aromas.

After breakfast on day four we take a short drive to the Balat neighborhood, home to Jewish, Roma, and Armenian populations over the years and recently re-invigorated by the restoration of its colorful traditional wooden homes and buildings. Here we participate in an organized photo session with local models. After lunch, we wander the picturesque waterfront of vibrant Eminonu, a neighborhood full of activity and with a backdrop bound to impress.

Day five is yours to spend as you wish, whether it’s relaxing at a centuries-old luxury spa or engaging in one-on-one photographic instruction. After this day of open-ended leisure, we meet up in the evening for a walk along Istiklal Street, an elegant pedestrian avenue, and enjoy a traditional meyhane dinner at one of neighborhood’s best restaurants followed by a group image review.

Our sixth day takes us on a ferry along the Bosphorus to the Black Sea coast. As we travel between the European and Asian sides of the city, we pass mosques, palaces, fortresses, and endless neighborhoods—all surrounded by amazing landscapes and views. At the Black Sea, we photograph the small fishing villages and their inhabitants and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before exploring the area further.

Another ferry ride is planned for day seven, where we transport ourselves from the European side of the city to the Asian one, docking the in the neighborhood of Kadikoy. You are free to take your time wandering around the laid-back local market, which sells everything from fresh fruit, fish, meat, olives, and spices to antiques, shoes, hand-made soaps, and much more.

Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches, traditional tea cafes, bars, bakeries, mosques, and art galleries offer all kinds of unique photographic opportunities. Later that evening, our last together, we convene for a group dinner and take part in a final image review.

One grand city, two fascinating continents, and dozens of diverse neighborhoods ready to be explored—don’t miss this chance to experience the brilliance of Istanbul!

Additional Information


This program is open to photographers at all levels who are passionate about travel and improving their image making.

What You Should Know:

Participants should be in very good health with good stamina and mobility. While the tour itself is not very strenuous, please note that it can involve the following: somewhat long days, a good amount of walking, being in the sun in potentially hot temperatures, long journeys, steep stairs, uneven terrain, early morning wake-ups and other similar scenarios.

Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. This a photographic tour, not a photography workshop and there isn’t structured classroom time. There are individual and group image review sessions with Jennifer, as well as help with photographic ideas and techniques on-location.

Nature & Landscape, Portraiture, Street Photography, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Morocco, India, Turkey, Romania, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

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