CTMT 2015: Photo shoots for the programme booklet (Part 1)

While Mandy and I were compiling the programme booklet for the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2015, we realised that we would need some additional photographs.

  • A panoramic image of the Castle to use as the backdrop to the running order in the centrefold
  • A portrait shaped image of the Castle entrance to use as the front cover or as the poster
  • Photos of red poppies

I had a couple of ideas for a suitable panorama image: inside the Castle, from one of the roofs overlooking the arena, with a view of Table Mountain beyond; outside the Castle, showing the Castle entrance and Table Mountain beyond; a night-time panorama from Table Mountain Road looking down on the city; a day-time panorama from Table Mountain Road or Signal Hill Road, looking down on the city, preferably with the Castle clearly visible.

Panorama of the Castle arena

The sweep of the mountain, as well as the archway, Kat balcony and cobbled path - but Mercury is tiny and the roof and balcony below don't look so nice

The sweep of the mountain, as well as the archway, Kat balcony and cobbled path – but Mercury is tiny and the roof and balcony below don’t look so nice

The extensive renovations (see: Our Majestic Old Castle is getting a Makeover) meant that certain sections were cordoned off and out-of-bounds – and that scaffolding was visible in many of the shots. Piles of building rubble, old roof tiles, and not-yet-painted walls do not make for attractive images. Thankfully, a certain intrepid officer was willing assist us (hubby had agreed to come along to carry my gear) and to make sure that I got the shots I needed.

What I wanted was a panoramic shot from the top of the roof, overlooking the Castle arena, with Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak in the distance. On the inner gable above the main entrance to the Castle, there are two statues of Greco-Roman gods – Neptune (god of the sea) on the left, Mercury (god of trade) on the right. With some difficulty, we clambered up onto the roof on the far side of Mercury.

Even though the verticals are a bit distorted and part of Table Mountain is missing, this version is my favourite

Even though the verticals are a bit distorted and part of Table Mountain is missing, this version is my favourite

I wanted the panorama to include the following elements: the curve of the mountains, the ornate Kat balcony, the blue sky, and the figure of Mercury, while excluding the icky-looking roof-under-renovation on which we were perched and the not-yet-renovated balcony below us.

I tried various shots from different angles and perspectives, but it proved surprisingly tricky. If all the elements were included, Mercury was insignificantly small, or part of Table Mountain was cut off, or too much of the roof and balcony were visible. Using the wide-angle 10-22 mm lens to fit it all in, meant distorting the verticals.

The Van der Stel Gate at the Castle Entrance

Standing slightly to the side to have a clear line of sight to the balcony calls attention to the overgrown plumbago

Standing slightly to the side to have a clear line of sight to the balcony calls attention to the overgrown plumbago

We had an idea for the poster and the front cover, but weren’t sure which configuration would work the best visually, so I volunteered to take some trial shots in the early evening. Thanks to our very helpful officer, we persuaded a couple of friendly on-duty sentries to stand in position for us outside the main gate, and got another helper to close and open the various gates so I could take some trial shots in the hope of finding the right combination.

The two sentries stood roughly where we wanted the Castle Ceremonial Guard to stand. We tried having the spiked outer gate closed, having it open and the inner wooden gate closed, and having both gates open so you could look all the way through. The Kat balcony, which is a particularly iconic and striking feature of the Castle, is unfortunately not at a straight angle to the entrance – it is offset slightly. In order to get the Kat balcony fully into the shot, I thus needed to take a few steps to the left. This called more attention to the right sentry box, which was overgrown with a flourishing plumbago.

It just wasn’t working as we had envisaged in our minds.

Night Lights on the Castle ramparts

The City Hall with a pale-pink-purple sky and a sliver of moon

The City Hall with a pale-pink-purple sky and a sliver of moon

I had been told that the Castle was sometimes lit up at night with bright colourful lights; as I don’t drive past here at night, I’d never noticed. So it was the ideal opportunity to check it out and to see whether we could incorporate that in any of the shots.

We waited outside the Castle until darkness fell, in order to see the effect of the coloured lights on the walls and the entrance gate. One idea had been to have a piper in full regalia standing somewhere near the main entrance, lit up with a spotlight, and with the banks of colourful lights illuminating the majestic old walls of the Castle. A great idea in theory – but difficult to implement!

While we were waiting, I took some additional shots of the city buildings – and particularly the iconic City Hall – with the sickle moon above. Oh, and the beautiful reflections of the city lights in the moat in front of the Castle.

It really was quite magical to be standing here, in the cool night air, outside the old Castle, which has stood here for around 350 years and witnessed so many historic events… So even though none of the photos were used in the end, it had been a lot of fun!

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