Alpha Universe Story Detail
Telling the Story of a City 

İlkin Karacan Karakuş 

“Through travel photography we can see amazing parts of the world from a distance,” says İlkin Karacan Karakuş, “but a really great travel image will make the viewer want to book a flight there.”

Although Ilkin has travelled all over the globe for his work, the place he knows best, and has created some of his most iconic images, is his hometown Istanbul. Shooting in the storied city’s streets for many years, İlkin’s work proves that familiarity with a place can make your images even more compelling.

“I work out the characteristics of the place and how it responds to the light and the seasons,” İlkin explains, “for instance, is the historical Ortaköy Mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge suitable for sunset, or does it look better at sunrise? It’s only by evaluating all those factors,” he says, “that you’ll be there at the right time, with the right equipment – and there begins your chance to really affect people.”

İlkin Karacan Karakus sony A7RM3 timelapse of a blood moon over a mosque in istanbul

© İlkin Karacan Karakuş | Sony α7R III + FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS | 0.4s @ f/8.0, ISO 400

A great example of this studied approach is found in İlkin’s time lapse image of a blood moon – an event that only takes place every 149 years – sinking behind the famous Galata Tower. Framing the tower at 200mm, but giving the moon enough space in the composition to move across the picture in its descent, İlkin used the Interval Shooting function of his Alpha 7R III, and set the shutter to fire every few minutes throughout the event. “The images were combined later in editing,” he explains, “but of course the real trick was being there to get the images required. I researched way ahead of time to gain an understanding of the place; I went to that spot many times previously, shooting other moons, so I knew what would work and where to be. When I woke up the next day, I saw many national and international media outlets had used my images, and this made me very happy,” he remembers, “mainly as I got to introduce the world to a place where I was born, raised, and still live.”

İlkin Karacan Karakus sony A7RM2 an istanbul tram in the rain

© İlkin Karacan Karakuş | Sony α7R II + FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS | 1/160s @ f/4.0, ISO 1600

“In beautiful, vibrant cities like Istanbul,” İlkin admits, “it’s not difficult to find great subjects in the streets. It might be a corn dealer, children playing football, or the city tram making its way through the rain... but the challenge in making these shots emotive for the viewer is to find the right light or the right circumstances – and sunrise and sunset are certainly amongst those times. The low sun makes incredible refractions of light, reflects off ancient stone to light portraits, or reveals the smoke from restaurant grills, giving street scenes a hazy separation.”

İlkin Karacan Karakus sony A7RM2 sunset over the bosphorous in istanbul

© İlkin Karacan Karakuş | Sony α7R II + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/100s @ f/4.0, ISO 640

But the sunrise and sunset are also times when it can be difficult to achieve accurate exposures, which is when İlkin relies on the exceptional dynamic range and bit depth of his Sony α7R III. “I always prefer to shoot in manual mode, using the EVF as a guide,” he explains, “and the results from this are excellent, but I also shoot in Raw mode, which means I can control highlights and shadows more easily in editing. Using the uncompressed 14-bit Raw files captures all kinds of data, so the rest is up to you, and you’re not restricted in the kind of editing you want to make.”

İlkin Karacan Karakus sony A7RM2 seated man holding a bunch of red heart balloons

© İlkin Karacan Karakuş | Sony α7R II + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/40s @ f/2.8, ISO 3200

“Equipment like this,” he continues, “means that fleeting moments in the streets – those which cannot be experienced again, like this one – are more likely to be captured. It gives you better reflexes, and the best chance to make technically perfect results. And with Sony’s bodies being so small and slight, they never leave me when I’m on the road, and I can easily carry two cameras with lenses attached. For example, I’ll have my 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS attached to one and my 24-70mm f/2.8 GM attached to the other, so I don’t waste time switching lenses, and have the chance to instantly change the view.” 

İlkin Karacan Karakus sony A7RM3 the sun sets over the bosphorous vignetted through a star shaped railing

© İlkin Karacan Karakuş | Sony α7R III + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/125s @ f/3.2, ISO 250

“Istanbul is a fascinating place,” İlkin finishes, “it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, and has been host to countless cultural diversities, beliefs, ideas, arts, and sciences throughout history. Istanbul talks to you as you walk in its streets. And as someone who’s lived here since childhood, living amongst the mosques, churches, schools, beaches, and ancient buildings, I feel that my images are all the better for knowing the place in this intimate way, but my Sony cameras make telling that story so much easier.”

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