Street photography in Cape Town

I will be updating this article with some of my experiences and thoughts on shooting in and around my home town, Sea Point, Cape Town.

I try to broaden my stomping ground whenever I get a chance, but as I’m a dad with kids in school and work a full time day job in town, my photography is primarily in and of the town where I live.

“Make it your own,” I read somewhere the other day, “…It might not be as busy as New York or Tokyo, but it’s your town so love it and discover it.”

Not that I’m left with nothing to shoot – Cape Town provides street photographers with a richness of culture in an interesting setting. Both in terms of architectural and natural surroundings.

In areas like Sea Point along the Atlantic Seaboard, in particular, you will find a nice mixing pot of almost all the cultures, ethnicities, languages, backgrounds and stereotypes that South Africa has to offer, as well as visitors from abroad.

It’s gay, it’s Jewish, it’s hipster, it’s Muslim, conservative, liberal, kitch, yuppie, young, old, touristy, local(ly), it’s overwhelmingly everything.

Whether it’s representative of a “true African city” is another matter entirely, but it’s certainly not boring.

Drag queen, gay, Street photography

Drag and smile. Sea Point, Cape Town

It’s pretty British too. Among Afrikaners in South africa there is a saying “Die Kaap is Engels” (The Cape is English). Cape Town – The Mother City – was founded in 1652 by Governor Jan van Riebeeck as a supply station on the Dutch East India Company’s sea route to the East. Sometime in later years this saying was birthed and today it still feels relevant when one visits the CBD area, due to the cosmopolitan environment it has acquired.

Street photography Cape Town

Strawberry Cheesecake interrupted

Of course I’m not pretending that there is no political tension. If you look for it you will find it.

Cautious, animosity, divide, mistrust

Steering clear

…and maybe you can document it. The post-apartheid South African political landscape is still unfolding in interesting ways, offering photo journalists or street togs the equivalent in potential  photographic content as it does for nature or landscape shooters. I’m a casual shooter though, and where people or portraits are concerned I shoot whatever I’m presented with, be it positive or negative emotion. The key here is emotion – if I captured it, almost everything else is secondary.

Street photography, emotion

A long night

 

 

 

stars, selfie, love, street, candid, cape town

Sprinkle your love

Main road, Three Anchor Bay is lined with cellular accessory shops, coffee shops, hair salons, tailors, locksmiths, tattoo parlours, small supermarkets and other small shops and traders.

Street photography Cape Town

Apprentice

 

 

Street photography Cape Town

Closing the salon

The promenade stretches along the Seaboard from near the harbour in Moullie Point through to the public pools in Sea Point, where there is a hub of sorts with a number of vendors and shops selling ice cream, pancakes and good coffee. This area draws a lot of people.

Mango, apple, ginger and celery. street photo.

Fresh Juice

Down town sometimes feels very cosmopolitan. If I shoot it in a certain way I could almost fool you into thinking it’s Europe or America. That’s the nice thing about Cape Town: it can look like any place, depending on how you shoot it.

Woman crossing street smoking

Burg street, Cape Town

 

 

A corner

 

 

A Wet walk

Street photography, emotion

The people behind the windows

Things I learned shooting window shots on the street

 

  1. If you’re scared of taking the shot, you probably should. Yes this has been said before, and it’s well wort mentioning again.

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  2. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take it right away – you observed an opportunity and know that it is there, waiting.

    Getting the shot is what’s most important. Walk on past, then stop and summarise all the information you have available, such as the distance to your subject and the available light.

    Lock focus to roughly the distance that you were from the subject when you passed them and avoid using a wide aperture in order to maximise depth of field. This usually requires a compromised on shutter speed, depending on the available light and to enable you to use a fast shutter speed, so dial up the ISO if you have to.

    Now that you know the focus, shutter speed and aperture are set right for the task at hand, relax, walk back, compose and shoot.

    Smile and wave. It will almost definitely be worth it.

    The reaction you will get is not a known, but that’s part of the pay-off.

    Street photography Cape Town

    Strawberry Cheesecake interrupted

     

    Cape town street photography

    Sea Point salon

     

     

  3. Night time shooting often solves both your challenges with reflections on glass and indoor lighting.
    Cape Town street photography

    The late night bootlegger

    Reflections can obviously be useful, or even primary elements in street photography. One day I hope to master them and use them skilfully in my compositions.

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  4. Imperfecions are perfect.

    Street Photography, Cape Town

    Crack head