Photographing the Wild Horses of Cappadocia

by Nuri Çorbacıoğlu

Cappadocia, a region in the center of Turkey, has a stunning spiritual beauty that is due to its unique nature and history: tufa hills, deep ravines, fairy chimneys, rock-hewn churches, underground cities, hot-air balloons dotting the sky in the early morning hours. You won’t find the atmosphere of Cappadocia in any other place in the world.

Many photographers come to Cappadocia every year to capture its beauty, but few know the name Cappadocia means beautiful horses’ country. Indeed, one of the main reasons to come to this part of the world is to photograph the Yılkı wild horses.

The history of Yılkı Horses

Herd of wild horses, Cappadocia

The Turkish word Yılkı means ‘free horse living in its own environment’. The Yılkı Horses are hundreds of free, wild, noble and gorgeous Anatolian racehorses that have been living in the center of Turkey for centuries. Most of them live nowadays around the village of Hürmetçi. This area provides the horses with a natural environment full of green areas, wetlands and vast expanses where they can run freely.

In the old times, the number of horses was higher than today but with time some of them spread to other cities, some of them tamed by people. Today there are still more than 300 wild, semi-wild Yılkı Horses and they are under protection now. This herd is one of the biggest wild horse herds in the world.

Visuals

Herd of wild horses, Cappadocia

In winter, the contrast of extremely white snow on the ground and the brown horses is truly a must see. In spring, hundreds of horses will be running on the wetlands of Hürmetçi. In summer, photographers can take some strong, cinematic pictures, with herds galloping at sunset and raising clouds of dust that glow in the sun.

Every season has its own different environment and atmosphere!

Photo opportunities

Herd of wild horses, Cappadocia

With Yılkı Horses, there are many different equine photography opportunities. When most of the horses are gathered in the stable, you may work on horse portrait photography or on details. A horse eye with a macro lens, or the manes of dozens of them creating a beautiful texture. You can also photograph foals with their mothers or sucking milk from them.

When the horses go out from the stable and start to run around you, you should use a fast shutter speed to freeze the horses’ movement. Alternatively, you can select a slow speed to blur them. In this case, you can also practice panning to get more dramatic photographs.

Herd of wild horses in the snow, Cappadocia

When you are in the field with hundreds of horses, you should use wide-angle lenses to take all of the horses in your frame. The field has the Erciyes Mount on the background, so a wide-angle lens would help you frame it as well.

We typically organize these sessions at sunset, to ensure that the light is soft and golden. Backlighting can be used to get some interesting silhouettes.

Herd of wild horses at sunset, Cappadocia
Wild horses, Cappadocia

Health and safety considerations

All of these horses are owned by one person. He has been taking care of them since his father passed away years ago. However, none of these horses are tamed.

They have familiarity with people but you cannot touch them and they will get away if you try to stay close to them. However, there is nothing to be afraid about them.

Sometimes photographers would like the horses to do unusual things, like running in the water during cold weather, running for hours, and so on. It’s not always possible to do so, as we don’t want to have the horses do anything that may harm them. Their health and well-being are of primary importance to us and we believe everybody should understand this point.

Cappadocia Photo Tour
Join me an Nuri in Cappadocia for an amazing photo tour!
Herd of wild horses in shallow water, Cappadocia
Herd of wild horses in the snow, Cappadocia
Wild horses, Cappadocia
Herd of wild horses in the snow, Cappadocia
Herd of wild horses crossing a body of water, Cappadocia
Wild horses, Cappadocia
Herd of wild horses crossing a body of water, Cappadocia
Herd of wild horses, Cappadocia
Herd of wild horses in the snow, Cappadocia

About the Author

Nuri Çorbacıoğlu

Nuri Çorbacıoğlu is an award-winning photographer on the national and international scene and teaches photography privately and at Kayseri University. He is also a documentary film-maker and has worked for national TV channels in Turkey. He has organised photography tours in Cappadocia area for years through his company, Cappadocia Photo Tours.

Join me and Nuri in Cappadocia for a dream-like experience. We’ll be photographing unique landscapes under the stars, ancient historical artifacts and, of course, the wild horses.

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