As the panorama shots at the Castle of Good Hope hadn’t worked out as envisaged, hubby graciously agreed to drive up Table Mountain service road with me the next evening, to see whether we could capture some interesting night-time images of the City of Cape Town – and hopefully the Castle, which will be hosting the Cape Town Military Tattoo from 11 to 14 November 2015.
We hadn’t been up on that road at night-time for a long time, because it’s not really that safe; also, as I knew I’d need to use a tripod for long exposures, I was uncomfortably aware that we wouldn’t be able to make a quick getaway if things turned pear-shape.
Fortunately, the weather was really good, the air was clean, visibility was excellent, and the city lights far below were twinkling most photogenically.
Like the day before, I had an idea in my head of how I wanted the shot to look: pretty city lights in the foreground, the harbour and the curve of Table Bay in the mid-ground, and a bit of light in the far background, sweeping upwards into the vast night sky. Ideally, I also wanted to be able to see the Castle of Good Hope down below. (Yeah… um… now where is the Castle, exactly?)
But, not having driven along this road for a while, we weren’t quite sure where the best vantage points were. Apart from that, good vantage points don’t necessarily coincide with a safe place to pull over and stop, which was most frustrating. We ended up driving slowly almost all the way to the end, pulling over wherever we thought it was safe – i.e. no dodgy looking characters hanging about, before doing a u-turn and heading back.
It wasn’t entirely straightforward to figure out what part of the city we were seeing through the small viewfinder. As a horizon-challenged photographer, it was particularly tricky to figure out when the darn legs of the tripod were actually level – because the ground wasn’t, so each of the legs had to be adjusted separately, all while making sure that the valuable camera didn’t come off the top accidentally.
Apart from that, I don’t have much experience taking long-exposure photos at night, on a tripod, and we’d neglected to bring a little headlamp to make it easier to locate the correct buttons on the camera for each of the settings. Handy tip – use the cellphone as a torch! 🙂
What makes the Castle so darnedly difficult to identify at night is that it’s a really low building, almost entirely in darkness, and surrounded by many other taller buildings that hide it from view. Having stood outside the Castle the night before, looking up at the surrounding buildings, we remembered that we could see the ABSA Building further west, as well as the tall Samsung and Standard Bank buildings, and that the City Hall with its distinctive cupola was lit up nearby, and there was a very tall building further east with strangely staggered lights …
Zooming in as far as possible on the viewfinder, we tried to identify these features… We recognised the curve of Eastern Boulevard and the other large streets thanks to the steady flow of car headlights. We could clearly see the harbour, the Waterfront with the Big Wheel, some ships anchored in the bay… The Mother City sure is beautiful…
Ah, we said to ourselves, the Castle must be in that very dark patch in the middle, because the lights on the outside walls weren’t switched on that night.
But, to be honest, we ain’t really sure whether we managed to capture it in any of these shots. So, my friends, how about a game of “Spot The Castle” in these photos? 🙂