Photoessay: An hour at the Blue Mosque

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Disclaimer: I spent a cumulative hour in total shooting it, hence the different times of day. It’s one of those buildings that – much like Hagia Sophia – dominates and encroaches into every frame and vista in the Sultanahmet district. You can’t avoid it, but like all large buildings – there’s a curious effect of perspective that occurs as you get closer; the upper tiers appear to recede (probably because the upper tiers are stepped in pyramid form to better transfer the roof’s weight through the half domes). Construction started in 1609 and reflects the predominant architectural styles of the time: nested domes and half domes to create a largely free-standing internal volume, but still a rather stocky rectangular/square base profile. I’ve always thought of this ‘hemisphere on a square’ type of architecture of being a very distinctive characteristic of medieval Turkey. Unusually, the mosque has six minarets instead of the usual four – folklore puts this down to the architect mishearing the Sultan’s request for gold minarets. Internally, a rather low chandelier provides illumination but diminishes the perception of lofting space because of the weight of the ironwork; the very warm incandescent lights largely negate the effect of the blue tiles cladding the entire internal space – you have to look hard to see them, and the impression is a ceramic rather than blue one. As with most of these (relatively) ancient buildings – I’m left amazed that something with such delicacy and intricacy could have been constructed that long ago, whilst my five year old apartment has a habit of springing random leaks. I’m left humbled and wondering if it’s cost, care/pride in work, or something else. MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III (and the Weekly Workflow). Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Been waiting on this since your Hagia Sophia photos. Beautiful photos and no.7 stood out. Wonderful composition.

  2. Ian Gillett says:

    Lovely photographs bringing back happy memories. How are you correcting the verticals?

  3. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Since I’m never likely to make it to Istanbul, Ming, I really appreciate you sharing your photos of the mosque. Brilliant photography as always!
    I suspect the answer to your question is that “in the olden days” people built things to last – now, they just build them to sell.

  4. Andrew-Bede Allsop says:

    I agree with all the other folk who have commented, a beautiful set of photographs and I especially like number 7! But I am also intrigued to know where all the people are?

    • It was outside of prayer hours (you’re not allowed to photograph inside during those times anymore), and tourists aren’t that interesting. So, timing and deliberate exclusion…

  5. scott devitte says:

    Magnificent. Built long before sound reinforcement reared it’s ugly head. Wherever I travel, though raised Catholic, I always find a Mosque and its empty of figuration ethos to be the most stress free place for contemplation, until the inevitable SPL deity believers show up and push it to 11.

    • Architecture aside, I’ve always marvelled at the way the different religious philosophies are expressed architecturally: searching for enlightenment inside / outside with the place merely as a conducive location, vs. the pageantry and process and importance of the place and rite itself in worship…

  6. It looks like there was an abundance of very clear light inside for your visit. And where are the people? It was a completely different for me the times I have visited – a more mysterious light and people at prayer, in contemplation, or busying themselves. Its lovely and majestic always – a wonderful architectural and experiential contrast to Hagia Sophia contrast. The early morning capture that opens the series is my favorite. I also like the second one, though I am not familiar enough with the Blue Mosque to recognize it as shown. Thank you.

    • It was outside of prayer hours (you’re not allowed to photograph inside during those times anymore), and tourists aren’t that interesting. So, timing and deliberate exclusion…

      It’s much darker than it looks; I just exposed for a higher key mood.

  7. L. Ron Hubbard says:

    Why is it empty of people inside?

  8. High Rigley says:

    Tremendous, stunning, beautiful and wondrous.

  9. Great post and beautiful photos!

  10. these are so lovely

  11. Ooops, that’s the one in Istanbul. You’ve got me 😉

  12. Beautiful in epic proportion!

  13. Love Shah Alam and its blue mosque. So thanks for these photos – I cannot go there as often 😉

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