All around the globe, rivers, estuaries, and inlets shape our landscapes and bring life through their water. They allow farming, travel, and trade. They are part of us and our story. “I’ve always been fascinated by rivers,” echoes travel and landscape photographer, İlhan Eroğlu, “and it’s for all those reasons I’ve enjoyed shooting them since the beginning of my career.”
“Rivers really are a photographers’ playground,” İlhan smiles, “because even beyond their compositional benefits, their water presents so many photographic opportunities. If you’re a fan of scenic images, you simply cannot avoid shooting them!”
As a photographer who’s travelled the world, recording some of the world’s most stunning locations, his appreciation for the simple balance that rivers bring to a frame is clear. “A river can give depth and enrich the composition of almost any photo and as it leads through a historical town or a landscape, its curves draw the eye, either to manmade structures, or beyond to the mountains or sea.”
“In terms of exposure,” İlhan answers, “I would say that in 80% of my river photos I prefer to use slower shutter speeds. This doesn’t mean reaching for the very longest exposures but finding the timing that suits the flow of the river. If you use too slow a speed, you’ll lose all sense of movement and energy, so I experiment at different settings until it feels right.”
“For instance, in this image, shot on my trusty Sony Alpha 7R II in the Czech Republic, the water was almost still, so all I needed was a speed of 1/60sec to blur the reflections on its surface. I wanted to convey the peace of this place, wrapped in the colours of Autumn, so taking the sharpness out of the water was instrumental. At higher speeds, like 1/250sec or 1/500sec, it would be too clear and not have the same calming effect.”
When shutter speeds need to fall further, “I use Neutral Density filters and I mostly prefer strengths of ND0.6 or ND1.2, which cut out two and four stops of light respectively, but it depends on the intensity of the light I’m shooting in and how much I want the shutter speed to fall. Polarising filters can also be very useful in removing reflections on water, but of course it depends on whether that reflection is important or not!”
Light is vital too and breathes life into a scene. “Sunrise, sunset and blue hours are my preferred times to shoot rivers,” İlhan explains, “and though I always prefer natural light to artificial light on the rivers, man-made light can look wonderful, too. This image was taken in Annecy, France. It was shot before sunrise and the reflection on the river, smoothed out by the four second shutter speed, gives a mystic vibe to the historical town.”
İlhan praises his Sony Alpha 7R IV’s resolution and sharpness for bringing his scenes to life. “The 60Mp resolution of the Alpha 7R IV is astonishing,” he says, “and combined with the removal of an optical low-pass filter in front of the sensor, as I found in some lower resolution cameras, I can record all the rich detail in the scenes I’ve worked hard to find and frame. I also often use focus stacking to make the most of this. So, in this shot from Prague, I used an exposure of 1/60sec at f/11 and ISO 100, focusing from near to far across several frames and combining them in editing. It gives me perfect sharpness right from what’s in front of the lens to the distant buildings.”
Capitalising on his Sony Alpha 7R IV’s superb detail and sharpness, İlhan makes sure to use a strong and stable tripod while composing at the river’s edge. “Even though these Alpha cameras and lenses are wonderfully light,” he explains, “I still like to use a high-quality tripod. Sometimes though, I need to get in the water for the perfect shot, so long boots can be very useful!”
And when it comes to lenses, he has two main optics, the FE FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM and FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. “If I don’t want to place too much emphasis on the foreground, I’ll use the 24-70mm, which is a brilliantly versatile landscape lens,” he explains, “but if my scene has a strong foreground, I prefer the ultra-wide angle 12-24mm. Its wide field of view and close focusing lets me accentuate the details close to the camera. You can see that in my shot of riverside flowers in Provence.
Looking forward, where does İlhan see his river obsession taking him next?
“I would love to shoot the river in Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland on my Sony camera,” he finishes. “It is a natural wonder. The flow of the river changes constantly, wrapped by the canyon which gives it a very other-worldly effect. But wherever I shoot next, you can bet my Alpha gear will be there to help me do it.”
"The world is a huge canvas for me. In every country I visit, I paint my own pictures by taking photos"