We were still working frantically to complete the programme booklet for the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2015 before the printing deadline.
There were many ideas floating around for the booklet’s cover – which we wanted to be the same as the official poster, so I made arrangements for another photo shoot at the Castle entrance, this time with some of the members from the Castle Guard.
As they were all drawn from the Cape Town Highlanders regiment, which is headquartered at the back of the Castle, MWO Alfie Wort, their Regimental Sergeant Major, was the man for the job, so we arranged to meet.
Every morning and every day at noon, the Castle Guard in their distinctive white, navy and orange uniforms, performs the Key Ceremony, during which they unlock the big steel-studded Van der Stel gate to the Castle, toll the bell in the large bell tower, and then return the gate’s keys to the Castle Adjutant for safe-keeping.
Though purely ceremonial nowadays, it is apparently based on a historical drill that used to be done every morning and every evening in the olden days of the Cape Colony.
The tourists always love watching the ceremony, clicking away with their cameras.
The Castle Guard in front of the Main Gate
Alfie and I waited until the official ceremony was over, and then commandeered the guardsmen for a photoshoot. I had explained what we were looking for in terms of a poster and cover image, and left it to Alfie to give the relevant orders. Earlier that morning, he had given instructions for the overgrown plumbago hiding the sentry hut to be pruned back heavily, which already made a marked improvement.
We started off by placing two guardsmen with halberds as sentries on either side, right next to the two sentry boxes, and having two other guardsmen with their old-style heavy guns march out of the gate and archway towards me, while the guard commander stood in the archway. I stood right in the centre of the cobbled pathway, and clicked away until they had marched me on either side.
We tried various perspectives – normal height and low-angle – as well as various angles – wide-angle to zoomed in – with the sentry boxes and the old stone walls included and excluded… I tried to include the top of the bell tower, which proved tricky at times. We also needed to stop in-between to let the tourists in and out of the Castle. The guardsmen had to march in perfect sync with each other, and I had to time the shutter with their paces.
After experimenting a bit and looking at the images on the LCD monitor, it was clear that the best look was achieved when their right arms were straight and parallel to the ground, they were stepping forward with the left leg at full extension, with the left foot just about to touch the ground. I also had to make sure that their arms did not obscure the two stationary sentries and that there were no other little obstructions. Sooo many variables to track!
We took a short water and shade break, as it was a hot and sunny day without a breath of wind, and those ceremonial uniforms are hot and those weapons are heavy and unwieldy. In the meantime, Warrant Officer David Porter from the SA Navy Publication Unit in Simon’s Town had arrived with a photographer from the SA Navy Photographic Unit, and they wanted to try out some of their ideas too. So we once again arranged the guardsmen in various configurations.
Two of them stood inside the archway with their halberds pointing upwards at an angle; we had opened the inner gate to have a clear line of sight to the Kat balcony. Then we lined them up, four on either side of the cobbled pathway leading into the Castle, and tried various combinations and perspectives.
And finally, we arranged them on the steps leading up to the Kat balcony on either side, which I thought was quite a nice look, even though the sun was by that time causing quite a lot of shadows and highlights.
Even though we only used one of the images in the Tattoo programme, the whole experience had been great fun, and I had learned a lot!