There are few cities in the world as photogenic as Cape Town – the remarkable landscapes, bustling city life, historical landmarks and sheer natural beauty leaves even the most amateur photographers with dramatic, envy-inducing pictures. Here’s how to get the most out of your camera at each Big 6 destination.
All of the Cape Town Big 6 destinations have small convenience stores that stock various essentials, including basic photographic equipment. So if your memory card goes on the blink, or your batteries run out, or even if you’re going old-school with 35mm film – most will be able to help you out. If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, head to the V&A Waterfront – there is a wide selection of stores that specialise in the latest photographic equipment and accessories.
As a photographer you’ll know that early morning and late afternoon are the best times to capture stunning pictures, and if your schedule is tight, it will be difficult to prioritise visits to the Big 6 destinations based on best shooting times. That said, with these general guidelines you’ll be able to make the most of each destination.
If you’re looking for the ultimate sunrise shot, head to Cape Point nice and early. The sun rises dramatically over False Bay, and the light that spreads from the distant mountains across the glistening water makes for some truly unique photographs. The Cape of Good Hope reserve also opens at sunrise, which means that you can still get to the main Cape Point attractions to take advantage of the softer morning light that will set your pictures apart from those who decided to sleep in.
There are so many things to photograph at Cape Point – from ancient shipwrecks, through to spectacular vistas, unique wildlife, the turbulent ocean and stark isolated beaches, and, of course, the iconic red and white old lighthouse. While many visitors make their first stop the old lighthouse, and for good reason, don’t miss the most dramatic photo opportunity – looking back up at the old lighthouse from the Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail that departs from behind the Upper Funicular Station.
The V&A Waterfront is full of amazing photo opportunities, many of which you can capture throughout the day. There’s an array of photogenic performers and artists dotted throughout the complex, making for great cultural and people shots. The working harbour also presents a number of opportunities to capture ships and other marine activities – all manner of ships, boats, liners and luxurious yachts pass through the harbour at all hours of the day.
Other marine life also abounds – particularly popular are the seals which you can usually find sunning themselves behind the Two Oceans Aquarium and alongside the Nelson Mandela Gateway, near the Clock Tower.
When night descends on the V&A Waterfront head to the Wheel of Excellence. The wheel’s dramatic lighting makes for great photos, and the view from the top is spectacular at any time of the day, but particularly impressive at sunset and in the dark, when the harbour and city lights twinkle below.
The most photographed aspect of Robben Island is understandably Nelson Mandela’s old prison cell, and for good reason – it’s arguably one of the most historically significant locations in the world. There are, however, a number of other key locations where you can capture some truly memorable pictures, including the iconic prison entrance, and the famous lime quarry.
Be sure to look across the bay toward the city as often as possible, as this provides for some of the most sought-after pictures of Table Mountain. While this angle is particularly eye-catching in the evening sunset, you should be able to capture a postcard-worthy picture at most times of the day.
Finally, keep a lookout on the ferry rides to and from the island – bird and marine life are common sightings, and it’s quite likely that you’ll encounter seals, penguins and seagulls on a number of occasions, all of which can be very photogenic subjects.
Bold colours, dramatic mountain vistas and sprawling panoramic views make Kirstenbosch a photographer’s dream. The sheer variety of flowers, the consistently deep green lawns, and the contrast between these and the azure blue sky, make for some of the most high-impact shots you’ll capture anywhere in the Cape. Pack your macro lens, and you’ll leave with an album full of the most spectacular indigenous flora in the world. Kirstenbosch is also teeming with wildlife, particularly birds, bees and butterflies, which provide many interesting photo opportunities for the patient, or lucky, photographer.
Kirstenbosch is on the eastern side of Table Mountain, which means that the sun disappears in the mid- to late-afternoon, so take that into account if you’re planning on capturing professional pictures. There’s no right or wrong way to approach photographing Kirstenbosch, and we recommend simply walking the gardens and following your instinct. Be sure, however, to head to the highest points of the gardens, where you are presented with an amazing perspective of not only the famous botanical gardens, but also the sprawling Southern Suburbs and Cape Flats below.
The grand entrance to Groot Constantia wine estate will have you instinctively reaching for your camera. If you’re not captivated by the massive, frequently photographed wine barrel, you’ll definitely be looking through the viewfinder as you travel up the oak-lined alley towards the main estate buildings. It’s one of the most dramatic entrances to any wine estate in the country, and, particularly if captured in the early morning sunrise, it makes for a truly incredible photo.
Groot Constantia estate also presents a number of unique chances to photograph superb examples of old Cape Dutch style architecture, and the Manor House in particular is worth exploring for the perfect shot.
Of course, the main reason that most visitors travel to Groot Constantia is the wine, and fortunately the cellar is one of the most iconic and easy to photograph on any wine route. Dozens of barrels are symmetrically stacked in the atmospheric cellars, and the well-lit tasting room will leave you with good conditions to capture the finished product pre-, mid- and post-sampling.
The vineyards are also immaculate, and a walk through the grounds will provide the best perspectives on these. If you’re not up for a lengthy walk, the view from just outside the popular Jonkershuis restaurant, across the vineyards towards False Bay, will most definitely suffice.
For more photographic inspiration, take a look at the impressive Groot Constantia photo gallery.
Table Mountain Cableway
Table Mountain is among the most photographed landmarks in the world, and it’s hard not to capture dramatic photographs to brag about back home. The rotating cable cars provide 360-degree views across the city, and up against the rock face, so being close to the window during the busier months is a definite advantage.
Once on the summit of Table Mountain, there are dozens of angles and views available to you that will make for incredible pictures – particularly popular are the views back over the city, and across the Atlantic Seaboard, where you can capture Camps Bay and the 12 Apostles from a unique angle.
Sunset from Table Mountain has to be seen to be believed, and while no photograph will be able to fully translate the sheer magic of this experience, many have come close. Take advantage of the sunset special that runs throughout the summer, and head to the western side of the mountain – alongside the Upper Cable Station – in good time, to watch the sun slipping behind the vast blue Atlantic ocean.
If you’re looking for the particularly iconic shots from the ground, there are many superb locations. Signal Hill and Lion’s Head are convenient and easy to get to, while the further out Blouberg Strand, up the West Coast, presents you with that spectacular site you’ve come to know from professional postcards and glossy Cape Town brochures.
There’s no right or wrong way to capture the essence of each of the Big 6, and while each is amazingly photogenic in its own right, we also recommend spending as much time exploring each through your own eyes rather than through the viewfinder – the experiences at each will easily last a lifetime.
Have any photos you would like to share? Our Cape Town Big 6 Instagram page features some eye-catching shots from in and around the Cape – tag @CapeTownBig6 and #capetownbig6, and we’ll feature the best on our blog, Instagram and Facebook page.