A Guide To Photographing The Lost Town of Kayaköy, Turkey
This is the second blog post from the production of my new series “inhabited” which is due to take around two years to complete. In this series I take you to some of our planets best Ghost Towns, villages and cities. The first in the series was my blog from Kolmanskop, Namibia.
The History of Kayaköy
This was likely to be one of the more popular ghost towns that I was going to visit in 2019, as it is situated near the popular tourist areas of Western Turkey, nestled against the Taurus Mountains and close to the world-famous beaches and yacht-filled harbour at Olu Deniz.
However, as I was due to visit in April this assisted me greatly as I was a little early for the peak tourist season to kick off. But it was a little chilly after the area had experienced somewhat of a late Winter.
Although the stone buildings are mostly roofless and weathered as well as the narrow streets worn with age, this is not an ancient city, but a modern ruin deserted for political reasons. There are 14 chapels, 2 churches, 2 former school buildings and due to the lack of spring water each house had a water cistern opposite with each being a maximum size of 50 meters sq. - thus not to interfere with each other in terms of landscape and sunlight.
Originally the town was called Karmylassos (in Ancient Greece) was home to as many as 20,000 Greek Orthodox residents by the early twentieth century. The messy fallout of World I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to the land grabs and the start of the Turkish War (which I believe was 1919-1921). The resounding loss of the Greeks in this war ended with violence and retribution, which was often aimed at the remaining Greek Orthodox communist party.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled the violence in Turkey, which led the governments to agree to a mutual compulsory population exchange starting in 1923 in order to staunch the bloodshed. The residents of Kayakoy, who had thus far lived peacefully with their Turkish neighbours, abandoned the town and went to Greece.
My Visit and Photography Tips
Getting to Kayaköy is fairly easy and accommodation in area is dirt cheap but as we arrived a little late into Turkey the night before and decided to cancel our hotel nearby and head to the region the next day which meant it was going to cut the time we had in the town down.
However, I think I made the most of the time that I had available. And as such I have decided to pull together both a VIDEO GUIDE and this blog post containing the best image spots and buildings to photograph in Kayaköy.
The first evening that we visited the site was lovely and I was treated to a stunning golden hour and sunset which, due to it being April greatly assisted my imagery I feel. The sun (at this time of the year) if conditions allow, pours onto the town from the West side and casts a lovely light onto the structures from 4pm on-wards.
We entered the town from the car park which is situated just off the main road and is easily found next to the ticket office. It costs around 6 Lira (roughly 80 pence, as of April 2019) to enter the site and the fee is used to help the locals preserve the site. The ticket office and car park can be found here: 36.575865, 29.092348 on Google Maps and you can enter the site from the steps found just in front of the car park.
As you climb the steps one of the first places that catches the eye is a spot that has played host to many photographers and I would suggest that you fight your urge to photograph it and delve deeper into the Ghost Town. We encountered multiple tourists walking up to this small section, looking right into the first section of the ruins and then simply departing, as if that was all there was to see. However, it is also the most photographed section so if you are looking to make some photographs that stand out, I would suggest that this is the shot to avoid. That spot is here on Google Maps.
In fact, if you do so happen to walk a bit further on just a few more steps and take a look left around here on Google Maps, you will see a far greater view point of the Eastern Section of the town. A view point that is more symmetrical, fills more of your frame and is more pleasing to the eye I believe.
Of course all of the examples on this blog I have used a tripod - I highly recommend taking a tripod with you if possible, especially if you are visiting Turkey for the soul purpose of photography.
This was the shot I produced, albeit during our second visit the following day under direct sunlight:
The Three Best Shot Locations
Up next we have the main chapel or church, situated at the top of the steps on the right hand side, here on Google Maps. However, at the first look you will think (as many others did during our two visits here) that all of the gates are sealed and that the church is closed to the public (which technically it is). However, there is a simple way to see inside which then allow you to take, the most famous of photographs from Kayaköy.
As you look at the main black gate you will see a gap and a path of the right, follow this through and round and you will come to a tree, again at first look it looks a dead end - but it is not. Behind the tree there is a hole in the wall, a hole big enough for an adult to pass through. And once you do, you shall be inside the gates of the church. The hole in the wall is here on Google Maps. Hopefully this information helps a few people, as it seems many just decide to try and climb the high fences and gates which ultimately damages the walls further and there is no need (Date I visited was April 2019, and of course this could change).
Once inside the church there are one or two shots to be had of the amazing architecture. These are the three main compositions that I shot inside the ruin:
Up next we have a view point that is perfect to capture the Western side of the town from, especially if like us you can visit under the light of golden hour. From this view point you can capture either a panoramic view of this section of the town or as I did you can also capture some of the finer details by zooming in with a longer lens, something like the Sigma 100-400mm lens, that I was using.
There is a tree in this section of the ruined town that stand out high above the rest of the foliage and it makes for a great framing tool or subject. Of course, if you have timed it right then you can capture the sunlight as it hits the multiple houses and walls that remain. Personally, I think it is the best “view point” that I came across in the town. These are my shots from this second view point:
My last photo location tip is a smaller school religious building, but one of the better examples inside the lost town. It is situated here on Google Maps. I loved the colours on the wall (the green decay included) and the shape of the ceiling here and it made for an interesting shot. Here is that shot:
If You Have A Drone
Other Spots To Consider
The town is huge and there are many viewpoints and houses to photograph and I have given you some that are simple to reach, however the place is huge and well worth an extended visit (especially as a photographer). So, if you have some more time maybe check out these additional spots for image making:
Doted around the town are a few houses with lovely blue and red hues remaining, I spent ages looking for one that was a little more intact. You will find it by heading down the slope and up the other side from the very first view of the town that I mentioned earlier.
If you head down this path which is opposite the main gate of the church, you will see a lovely little path that heads up towards the top of the Eastern side of the town. As you look left there are many vantage points to shoot the town from with unique angles. Especially if you arrive in June or July and fancy an early start as this would be the spot for a sunrise shoot.
I hope that you find this guide useful, keep an eye out for my full downloadable video guide that should be completed during the Summer of 2019, shot in this location and providing a full overview of everything Kayakoy. Good luck with your photography and safe travels.
Cheers for reading!
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Oh by the way - I shot these images with the following gear: (please be aware that these are affiliate links , by using them, if you purchase equipment or goods it costs you nothing more but I do receive a little kick back which supports me and my work).
Two Lenses used for these images:
Don’t forget I used a drone:
And my NEW gimbal: