Updated: Apr 11
Are you recently engaged and planning your pre-wedding engagement session? I'd love to share some tips from a photographer's perspective to choose the perfect spot for your session in Cape Town and beyond.
A LITTLE DETAIL ABOUT CAPE TOWN + ITS SURROUNDS
Being a Cape Town-based Wedding and Lifestyle photographer, I tend to be slightly biased that this city is the best in the world and that the possibilities for adventure sessions can’t be limited to only one spot. Cape Town offers an array of options for outdoor sessions and it would be unfortunate to only highlight one particular location. In order to do justice to options, I will categorise the locations according to various terrains and illustrate the spectrum available to work with.
Cape Town is probably best known for the beautiful Table Mountain. It is not surprising that it is one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature and it is closely associated with city living - most city dwellers find themselves on the mountain early morning before work, or for sundowners at sunset. Having a mountain in our backyard the options for hiking trails are endless. After 12 years of living in the city I still haven’t uncovered all the mountain gems that this chunk of rock has to offer ;) On my off weekends I’m usually scouting for new, exciting spots, but for now I can share a few of my favourite locations for adventure sessions which include epic angles of the mountain as well as gorgeous light and texture;
On top of Table Mountain | Signal Hill at sunset | Any of the walking trails along 12 Apostles | Silvermine Nature Reserve | Rhodes Memorial | Chapman’s Peak Hiking Trials | Deer Park Trials | Cape Point (On my bucket list!) | Jonkershoek Nature Reserve (a different mountain, but just as epic)
Fill your life with adventure, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.
Large portions of Table Mountain lower regions have a couple of epic forest options for shoots. It's been a while since I have actually done a shoot here (the mountain has my heart!), but here are some of my treasured areas to go for walks and which have beautiful light during golden hour.
Newlands Forest | Tokai Forest | Jonkershoek Nature Reserve (outskirts of Cape Town) | Constantia Nek | Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (entrance fees and permission applies) | Botmaskop Forest (Stellenbosch)
The Western Cape is well known for its wine estates and what better way to celebrate this than by having a picnic / scenic lunch amidst the vineyards. It is impossible to select one wine farm as there are too many estates offering a great wine tasting experience. I usually suggest a spot which won't mind tourists taking photos (some farms require pre-authorization / shooting fees) and has a variety of shooting locations with regards to backgrounds, views, textures and scenery.
From a aesthetic point of view, I prefer vineyard sessions during autumn, the colors are warmer (the vines turn a to beautiful reds and yellows) which is super complimentary to your skin tones and it also allows for layered / textured wardrobe options. The light is magical during March / May in the Franschhoek - Stellenbosch area and the farms are less packed with tourists and constant people passing by (Introverts I have your back here). Most of the farms have offer picnic options which adds a level of fun to your shoot and frees you from having to curate your own picnic basket. Note that these have to be arranged in advance with the wine farms.
Here are some of my favourite Vineyard locations;
Boschendal Estate | Tokara Estate | Franschhoek Valley | The Wine Tram (Ive always wanted to document a day on the tram with a couple, so get in touch if you are keen) | Groot Constantia | Constantia Region especially Constantia Glen | Cape Point Vineyards | Hidden Valley in Stellenbosch | Babylonstoren (entrance fees and permission required)
URBAN GRIT AND ART
Cape Town's CBD has an array of urban options ranging from chic coffee shops to eclectic Gin bars, Graffiti Walls to Modern Art Galleries as well as Rooftop locations with the perfect view of the mountain. If you are a couple who adore a different spin on your engagement shoot, this is definitely a great starting point.
Rooftop Champagne at Sunset | Gin and Tonics in the Heart of the CBD | Meandering the streets of the City | Company Gardens and the Bo-Kaap | Kalk Bay or Simons Town for penguin and harbor views | The Waterfront and Zeitz MOCCA (a dream to shoot in this art gallery!)
SEA, SAND AND SUNSETS
Cape Town has some of the best beaches in the world which can be extremely packed during summer months. That said, we also have more secret, less crowded spots which also offer epic mountain views. These however do entail a little 'bundu-bash' (off-roading with your feet) to get to the best angles and views, so be prepared for a bit of excercise and you'll receive the best moments of adventuring, laughter and fun.
Maiden Cove | Secret Beaches along Victoria Road | Cape Point Nature Reserve (a combo of mountain and sea) | Kogel Bay | Llundudno and Clifton’s Beaches | Sea Point Promenade for seaside adventures, ice cream and bicycles | Noordhoek Beach (for a beach and scenic mountain drive)
One element South Africa has in abundance, is our scenic drives. It's just so easy to get in your car and drive along these routes and have majestic views from every angle. A Scenic drive shoot also allows you to spend a slow afternoon, stopping at various spots and enjoying all the views. I specifically enjoy this type of shoot as it gives you a lot of location options as well as variety in texture and light. This is definitely the best way to experience the Western Cape.
THINGS THAT INSPIRE & INFLUENCE ME DURING AN ENGAGEMENT SESSION
First off, this is YOUR session and it should speak true of you as a couple. I always advise my couples to decide on a location and activity which resonates with both of you. It's just awkward to opt for an outdoor adventure if you hate bugs, or getting a bit sweaty (unfortunately some hiking is involved to get to epic spots). Once you have decided on this, it's easy for me to assist with the perfect location.
From a technical stance, I get inspired by light, shadows, lines, texture and landscapes. The way I approach an engagement session is based on telling a story. The location will therefore play a big role in how I document your story (some call it setting the scene / story boarding) - I don't just focus on the intimate close-ups, but also to include your location by capturing the textures, the views, the fauna and flora layered by the emotive elements like the little touches, the big smiles as well as all the excitement of being newly engaged. If you view my portfolio, you'll see that an epic panorama, a majestic mountain and a serene forest-scape will always pop in through the dialogue.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN PLANNING YOUR SESSION
Light is one of the most important aspects of any session. I work best during golden hour (which is the hour before the sun sets). This time varies greatly during summer and winter. You can easily determine the best time for your session once you have your secured date. Simply enter the details and the correct time for sunrise and sunset will be calculated pretty accurately for the date and location of your session. When shooting in Cape Town, the side of the mountain also impacts sunset i.e. Southern Suburbs the sun sets about 30 - 45min earlier compared to Camps Bay / CBD as the sun dips behind the mountain.
Most of the outdoor locations discussed above are free of entrance fees. Most National Parks / Reserves do however charge entrance fees and require pre-authorised permission to shoot at their location. Be sure to check these before finalising your engagement session plans.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION
I adore adventuring around my city and documenting stories of love for couples. I hope this little post has inspired, excited and made you amped for your pre-wedding adventure session. Get in touch and let's start planning something extraordinary together.
I cannot wait to meet you soon!
STORIES INSPIRED BY LOVE | ADVENTURE | BEAUTIFUL LIGHT
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