Yilki Horses
Yilki Horses

Wild horses and landscape of Cappadocia, Central Turkey.


The Yilki Horses Photography Workshop


I spent 3 months travelling around Central and Eastern Turkey and was surprised by how many wild horses I saw wandering across the plains. It transpires that many horses had been abandoned by their owners and left to fend for themselves. To the south of Cappadocia is Karadag, an area that has become home to over 600 of these horses. They are known as Yilki which means ‘left to the wild’. Up until the 1970’s, they worked on the farms but were slowly replaced by machines and sadly no longer served a purpose.

Near Kayseri, a horse breeder called Ali Kemer, now takes care of around 350 of these magnificent horses. With the help of some local herdsmen, complete with their distinctive cowboy hats, they round up the horses for tourists (and photographers) to admire. In conjunction with an award-winning Turkish photographer, who made these horses famous with a series of stunning photographs, we’ll have exclusive access and photograph them running across the dusty plains. It will be a privilege and an exceptional opportunity to photograph these impressive creatures during our photography workshop next year.

At sunrise, scores of colourful hot air balloons take off over Cappadocia. The view of the other-worldly landscape is breathtaking. One morning you have the option to take a flight and another morning to photograph a group of horses and a cowboy walking on the rocky hills with the balloons in the background. The horses look fantastic in silhouette against the sky at dawn with the balloons lit up by the flames from the gas burners propelling them higher into the sky. A magical experience!

Yilki horse rider silhouette

Horseman in Cappadocia


The Lunar Landscape Photography Workshop


I first visited the surreal, lunar landscape of Cappadocia in 1988 and it took my breath away. The volcanic landscape sits on the high Anatolian plateau at an altitude of at least 1000 m with peaks reaching 3916 m. The most famous location in Cappadocia is Goreme, famous for its fairy chimney rock formations and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The volcanic rock is known as tufa and is soft enough to dig in order to create cave dwellings. Nowadays these have been converted into luxury cave hotels with all modern amenities. You’ve probably heard of them but you may not be aware that there are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia. I visited Derinkuyu, the deepest and most impressive underground city, which once housed up to 20,000 people and livestock and provided shelter from the invading arabs armies. It’s an incredible place.

In contrast to the lunar landscape is the Sazligi National Park. It is one of the most important protected areas of Turkey and sits on two main bird migration routes from Europe and Africa. As such the Sultan Marshes National Park is home to over 300 bird species. It’s a peaceful place surrounded by high mountain peaks providing an important fresh and salt water ecosystem. During this photography workshop, we will explore the park and photograph horses, a waterfall and local people.

The Turks are known for their hospitality and during our stay we’ll taste delicious local Turkish cuisine as well as try some Central Asian Kirzig cuisine. We’ll also be entertained by Turkish dancers and musicians in the evening in our luxurious cave hotel. You’ll return home from your photography workshop with wonderful memories and stunning photographs of a beautiful country and friendly people.. and don’t forget the impressive Yilki horses.

Balloons above the Cappadocia landscape

Balloons above Cappadocia landscape


Tips for Taking Great Photos of the Yilki Horses and Post-Production.

During our photography workshop, you want to get the best photo possible. For this, good camera craft is essential and it’s worth trying different techniques and experimenting during the different sessions. Below are some tips for the perfect photo, alternatively get some inspiration by viewing some photos from our previous photography workshops by clicking here.

– Motion blur 15-30/sec for panning shots. Try to focus on the head of one horse. Practice makes perfect!

– Depth of field: F5.6 is a good compromise to allow both a quick shutter speed and some depth of field

– High ISO at sunrise and sunset – Up to ISO1600 depending on the camera

– Either set your camera to aperture priority or Speed priority depending on the circumstance.

– Shoot on continuous and use AI servo (Canon) or the equivalent for constantly shifting focus

Lens choice:

– 24-70mm or equivalent for silhouettes at sunrise or when the horses finish their run.

– 70-200/300mm or equivalent for running horses and headshots.

Some things to consider when shooting and post-processing:

– Background – avoid distractions.

– Watch out for heads, legs etc sticking out behind the main subject(s)

– With or without the herdsman?- The human element can add a lot if the shape and position is good and the relationship with the horses is full of energy. Ideally expressive and separate. Otherwise clone out or wait until the herdsman is no longer in the frame.

– Composition – not too much overlapping. Better to have a few horses clearly separated or distinct than a mass of bodies. If the sky is moody, consider wide angle with the horses running almost in silhouette.

– Make sure the main subject is pin sharp and the focus isn’t elsewhere in the shot

– Low angle for dramatic effect. Either lay down on the ground or get as low as possible. The effect can be dramatic when the horses get close (but not too close).

– Backlighting is effective when the sun is low.

– Black and white or colour? Try both when you’re processing.

– Portraits – Things to look out for – ears up makes the horse look alert – Laughing (when they show their teeth) – rolling on the ground – interaction – clean backgrounds – details like the eye or mane or shape of the back or hooves

– Avoid the horizon cutting through the image unless the light is soft. It can’t always be helped but keeping the horses within the horizon is more appealing. Or shoot from a low angle with most of the horses above it.

– Check the eyes are open

– Hooves ideally synchronised with other horses

– Leave space for horses to run into when running from one side to another

– Silhouettes – there should be good separation.

– Odd numbers are more appealing than even numbers.

– Creative cropping – filmic proportions – Square, 5×4, 3×2