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There are many cities divided by a river. Few can claim to be separated by the sea.

Istanbul straddles two continents, and it is the Bosphorus that links these two halves; a mile thoroughfare which links the Sea of Marmara in the west to the Black Sea in the east.

Where other cities’ residents use buses, Istanbulites use ferries. A fleet of passenger vessels ply the waterways between Europe and Asia until the early hours. It’s less than a 20-minute rise from shore to shore.

The Bosphorus was a barrier that frustrated emperors and mighty armies in Istanbul’s long past. Now it’s something people cross for lunch.

The ferries aren’t some tourist-centred cash cow; they’re a commuter’s tool, so they are a slice of Istanbul life on the sea. Labourers and housewives, students and businessmen – everyone uses them. The quayside at Eminonu, on the European side of the city, are as crowded with boats as London’s Oxford Street is with buses.

I took this shot on my LOMO LC-Wide during a late autumn visit in 2012. Like any self-respecting seagulls, the gulls of Istanbul trail the ferries, hoping for a scrap of lunch or the weekly shop to be thrown overboard.

It was cold, but a few minutes chill is always worth it on the Bosphorus. This chap and his friends were taking turns to throw scraps of bread to the gulls wheeling behind; the birds swooped to grab the food in mid-air, or else scooped it up from the water.

I blitzed through a few frames as the ferry ploughed its way to the Asian shore, but the best was this, with the smaller fishing boat zooming across the sea in the centre. The Bosphorus is as chaotic as any other part of Istanbul, smaller boats weaving amidst the large, like bikes amid the belching lorries back on shore.

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Stephen Dowling
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