By: Justin Hawthorne.
Undoubtedly autumn offers the most photo opportunities when visiting any wine region, and the same goes for Groot Constantia Wine Estate – the home of South African wine since 1685.
With harvest coming to a close, and temperatures beginning to drop with later sunrises and earlier sunsets, the feeling of changing seasons is most certainly in the air. The mornings are crisp, the sounds and texture of trodden over dew-drop covered leaves with varying shades of yellow, orange, brown and red are the order of the day with an estate visit during April and May.
My best time to shoot at Groot Constantia is at sunrise when the valley is slowly waking up. The morning light over the eastern vineyards is incredible! It’ll set the tone for a walk around the estate to capture the morning mood. Make sure you get there at dawn to allow getting to the site you want to be at come those first rays of warm light. I recommend bringing a step ladder or stool to give you height in the tall vineyards. This will allow for you to shoot from in among the vine, creating amazing compositions. Otherwise all you really need to do is bring your smartphone or camera and shoot by hand.
Here’s 10 cool spots to inspire a photographic visit…
10 – The garden near Jonkershuis
This is such a cool little garden surrounded by white walls and the arched green door as a focal backdrop. Soft light in the morning is best (although it’s good until mid-afternoon), and use the staircase on the right to give elevation over the scene which always has an array of striking colours across seasons. You’ll find this spot just beyond the bus parking and the lower parking area near Jonkershuis Restaurant.
9 – Historical Bath
Tucked away above the lawns lies the historical bath surrounded by lush trees offering shade, this cool spot makes the ideal quiet location to relax after wine tasting or to open up a good book. Apart from this just providing a beautiful location to shoot with interesting light through the oaks. To get here walk all the way up the long Oak & Agapanthus lined avenue that starts at the Manor House. It’s on the left, above the lawns.
8 – Oak & Agapanthus Avenue
A lovely avenue to stroll up (and back down) to get pretty shots beneath the Oak trees and cleverly adding colour by bringing the Agapanthus flowers into shot (best Nov-Jan). Start strolling from the western side of the Manor House vicinity where you’ll have good light all through the day until an hour or so before sunset.
7 – Manor House: East façade
The beautiful eastern façade of the Manor House is typically absent of human presence, which means it’s all yours for shooting with a picture-perfect Cape Dutch backdrop. The kitchen steps are the main feature, and the small Bougainvillea adds a touch of colour during the summer months. Go around to the left of the Manor House, down the steps onto the little patch of grass during the early part of the morning when light is good on the wall.
6 – Rose Lane
The road leading towards Simon’s Restaurant & Deli takes you through the Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot vineyards and when at the high point the road swings left opening up an incredible view towards Constantiaberg with roses lining either side. This makes for wonderful leading lines images to be created and although it’s ideal in the earlier part of the day, come late afternoon the light adds something special too as it dips behind the mountains.
5 – Vineyards from the Manor House
Peer over the low white wall parallel to the Oak Avenue in front of the Manor House to open up a gorgeous view of the Muscat vines and beyond to False Bay. At sunrise and just after with gentle light creates the best scenes for this location. Get creative with the trees, the low wall and with subjects walking through the vineyard.
4 – Oak Avenue: The old gate to the Manor House
At the start of the walkway you’ll find the old gate posts which add masses of character to your photo composition. The avenue is long and you can shoot looking down either direction but of course the Manor House soon becomes a focal point. Early morning is prettiest, but right through to mid- afternoon will give good light.
3 – Cloete Cellar from the Manor Houses’ south façade or the duck ponds
Use the steps leading from the back door of the Manor House to look towards the Cloete Cellar with the magenta pink Bougainvillea adding depth of field to your image. Late morning through to late afternoon is a good time here, or wander down the steps to the ponds and look for a good backdrop and foreground…just needing the cute ducks to waddle into shot!
2 – North-eastern vineyard blocks on the hill
At sunrise the first rays warm these vineyards and make for spectacular scenes looking towards the Manor House & Constantiaberg in the distance. This is where the step ladder will come in handy to peer over the vines, and use the vines to work that leading lines magic too. To get here drive though the main gates and continue up to where the City Sightseeing bus stop is. On the left is a long white wall: go around the wall and up the gentle hill until you have a wonderful vantage.
1 – Manor House from the Muscat vineyard block
This is the iconic image at the estate! Standing in among the vineyards, looking towards the famous Manor House (one of the Iziko museums of South Africa). Use the foreground to create good depth of field, and in autumn it adds just that little bit extra. The step ladder will be valuable here too. On the left of the Manor House, go down the steps and into the Muscat vine block – pick the row that suits you best!
The estate is situated just a short drive out of Cape Town which makes an early morning photo mission super accessible. By the time you’re wrapping up your shots, coffee will be ready and waiting at the cosy Jonkershuis Restaurant.
Use the Visitors Route Experience map as a guide around the historical quarter.
Share your best shots across social platforms tagging @GrootConstantia #celebrating333yearstogether and you could be featured!