Professional and amateur photographers alike can all attest to the picturesque beauty of South Africa, be it the views of Cape Town on Signal Hill at night, the colourful buildings in the Bo-Kaap, the Sani Pass in KwaZulu-Natal or the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda.
But the rustic, winding landscapes and charming foreloreness of the Karoo are drawcards that have fascinated many a lensman to such an extent that the Karoo has essentially developed a photographic cult of sorts. And those in the know have long been aware of the appeal of the true jewel of the Great Karoo: the charming village known as Prince Albert.
A four hour drive from Cape Town and 175 kilometers inland from George, this town really has everything required for the perfect photoshoot; semi-arid scenery, gorgeous old architecture, the Swartberg Pass, public events, art galleries and museums, bars and restaurants, fun activities and courses, the locals and, of course, an enchanting natural light that the camera loves.
Gita Claassen and Samantha Reinders, Prince Albert’s resident professional (super talented!) photographers, have shed some light on what one should expect when visiting the village for a photography holiday.
Who are Samantha and Gita?
Samantha is a professional photojournalist who grew up in Cape Town and completed her graduate degree at Ohio University in the USA. She works for both editorial and commercial clients and NGOs both in South Africa and abroad. Her home is in Prince Albert, her postbox is in Cape Town and she also pays rent in Kathmandu. “It seems all over the show but it keeps me happy!,” she says.
Gita has been a travel photographer for ten years and specialises in photography pertaining to tourism, the environment and socially centered clients. She also teaches photography in one-on-one classes, group workshops, and leads photo safaris.
What makes a great photo?
“A great photo is something that you remember, something the viewer connects with on an emotional level – be it of a bird or a portrait. In my workshops and classes I teach students the technical aspects of photography so that they can use this in creating their own works of art. I firmly believe that before we can confidently express ourselves artistically, we need to understand how to use the ‘brush’ properly,” says Gita.
Samantha keeps it short and sweet. “A great photo is a photo that makes you feel something. It’s that simple.”
Why is Prince Albert a photographic haven?
Gita believes that, besides its natural beauty, Prince Albert has a way of igniting one’s creative passion, with inspiration to be found in the town’s activities and the fervour of the locals. The magic of Prince Albert is a beautiful marriage between its colourful residents and visual charm.
Samantha says that it is largely due to Prince Albert’s beautiful natural light, which elevates any picture.
Things you simply MUST photograph in Prince Albert
The Swartberg Pass, Weltevrede Valley, Prince Albert Valley, sunset/sunrise from the Robert Gordon koppie and the church. “The Saturday Market also offers a lot of photographic opportunities.”
A sunset drive anywhere around town will do if you’re after the perfect photo. “If you happen to be lucky enough to be in town when the Prince Albert Rieldancers are performing you’re in for a treat – they’re one of the best troupes in SA and one of the best things to photograph!”
Advice for photographers in Prince Albert
Sam says that the best time to shoot the Swartberg Pass is during midday and not during sunrise or sunset, as is often recommended. “At those times half of your frame will always be in shadow and it’s really difficult to make good images.”
“Don’t forget your charger,” says Gita.
Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration
“I’m a huge fan of @collette_h_art, @dirksenjanet and @dijohnsonackermanart. Although not strictly photography, their art inspires my Karoo photography for sure,” says Samantha. “Check out my fellow Prince Albert photographers @louisphotographer and @gitaclaassen. Russel Wasserfall is an amazing local food photographer.”
Is there an Instagram ‘route’ for visiting photographers?
“I don’t think there is a specific route; like any good photo walk or Insta-walk, let the people guide you! Stop and talk to the locals. Ask them questions, follow their leads and snap away. Make sure though to include both the southern and northern end of town in your walk to get a real idea of Prince Albert as a proper working Karoo dorpie,” says Samantha.
“It depends greatly on your interest,” says Gita. “Walk through the main street on a Saturday morning for street photography opportunities, and go for a sunset stroll on the koppie for nature shots.”
Sam and Gita’s next exhibitions and courses
Gita offers lightroom classes and workshops, one-on-one photography lessons, beginner to advanced photography lessons and holiday photo packages for visitors. Her upcoming photo safaris include trips to Tanqua Karoo, Sutherland, Bo-Karoo, and a trip to Chobe and Victoria Falls. Click here to find out more.
Gita’s next exhibition will be during the next Open Studios in Prince Albert.
“Keep your eyes open for The Land That Begins Again – my solo exhibition which opens in December at Gay’s Guernsy Dairy. It’ll run for a month and be a true 3D experience of the Karoo,” says Sam. “At the moment I’m only doing private one day and weekend photo courses in Prince Albert. If anyone is interested, they are welcome to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.”
For more information about activities and events in and around the village and to book accommodation for your photography getaway in Prince Albert, visit Prince Albert Tourism’s website at www.princealbert.org.za. Plus, check out Facebook (@PrinceAlbert.WesternCape), Twitter (@prince_albert_tourism) and Instagram (@PrinceAlbertZA).