If you’re shooting James Bond, well then the Times Square casino will be ideal. But if you’re otherwise hoping to purposely or inadvertently find a sweet spot where you can churn out some really awesome pics that make people notice, Pretoria is a city of many choices.
Some venues listed have helped create the kind of pics that make people gasp on Instagram and, from a huge variety, here follow some gems and the reasons they’re good places to take memorable pics. Some are picturesque, some are vibrant and others are not well known, but even newbie snappers will typically find vantage points and amazing angles or scale at all of them.
One of the first forts erected to shield Pretoria city at the start of the Anglo-Boer War, this one is now restored and also boasts a museum and braai and picnic facilities. Made pretty again in the suburb of Sterrewag, the fort offers some really beautiful vistas.
The true charm of Klapperkop is watching a darkening Freedom Park light up with the Pretoria skyline in the background. Or for Hollywood-style sundowner moments, snapping as the sun sets over the Voortrekker Monument is also hard to beat. Vantage, views and evening skylines mean you’ll get some great pics here.
As you come from the east into Pretoria city, you’ll pass this park on your way in. It seems to be alternatively valued as a heritage symbol (it officially is) or derided as a boring old venue with zero to offer.
There’s something about the National Botanical Gardens that means you can always tell when a picture was taken there. Springbok Park is like a smaller, more discreet version, with enough diversity and open space to incorporate natural vistas that include annual Namaqualand daisy plantings and other scenic delights.
A classic wedding pic venue a little outside of Pretoria proper, heading out on the N4, Rosemary Hill is currently voguey. It deserves to be, as there’s a diverse range of indoor and outdoor photography possibilities here. From manicured, formal gardens to rough woodland areas, bridges and dams and even fields of rosemary, great pics are also gleaned around the old ruins poking up around the place.
No matter that some people take kitsch pics regardless of where they are, the venue has made a lot of effort to provide a sculpted, expansive environment with all the right touches. Far from koekerig, Rosemary Hill is a genuinely stunning venue where you can produce some exceptional shots.
Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve
This venue has stunning woodland and stream vistas that are just enough, without being corny. Unlike Groenkloof that can be rowdy in all the wrong places and Rietvlei Nature Reserve that makes you hike a bit for interesting or picturesque shots, Moreleta typically gives photographers just the right scale and amount of scenic input.
The reserve has an amazing diversity of beauty and although nature is nature no matter where you go, at least to a certain extent, there’s something about the initial imagining of scale and infrastructure in this reserve that has panned out very well for modern photographers.
Yes, we know, the zoo? Really? Yes, really. While we might not all be thinking so clinically about backdrops and other technical concerns, the zoo remains a great place to engineer some stunning shots. If you want monolithic architecture with the possibility of colours of the rainbow, a million kids or no kids and diverse green props, the zoo is hard to beat.
Some of the trees on the grounds are massive and their backdrop and shade effects really come alive in black and white photography too. And don’t worry, when it’s quiet you can pretty much erect studio lighting without offending anyone.
There are several museums scattered around Pretoria, and once you’ve stopped laughing at the old-school implication, you’ll be able to appreciate the massive scope they afford photographers. Anything calling for an old wood-and-glass kind of Bauhaus feel is well served at any of them. With the tech overload of the present time, a touch of the classic has become de rigueur in many shoots, and sites like museums are making a comeback exactly for this reason.
Steps, pillars and sometimes even balconies, grandiose chambers and displays, especially for that ‘wild in a formal place’ feel, Pretoria museums spoil photographers with backdrops and scenes. Don’t forget, their business as a museum is to create an aesthetically pleasing display, and as large public buildings their lighting is typically great with subtle to highly definitive backgrounds available at any of them.
Tip: Try the National Cultural History Museum in Visagie Street to start with.
If you want to know what Prague would have looked like if Roald Dahl described it, stroll off the street and into this park sometime, preferably in springtime. With splashes of statuesque architecture around and concrete tones amid soft greens and the annual jacaranda flower fall, great pics and innumerable themes can come alive here.
Trendy folk might scoff loudly at the suggestion of such an eminently missable park being a great photo op, but all opinions become silent with the cityscape shots one can glean at that special time of year when the jacarandas bloom. There’s a rosarium too, but it’s really the peripheries and corners that make this such an amazing place for pics.
Ja… Irene Farm. Another venue associated with koek eet and kekkel with distant family on a boring Saturday morning. Leave the cool commentary to those who don’t know, and savour this venue for its unique attributes. Some of the most cosmopolitan shots can be taken here — as though they could have been taken anywhere in the world — and a touch of old Europe is probably the easiest slant to incorporate in your shots.
With big trees down country avenues and a smorgasbord of up-close possibilities and scope for expansive scenes, the place is largely undervalued for what it can do for photographers. Irene Farm screams for more attention from savvy snappers and even if it’s just a few pics for a social media upload, the farm will serve you very well.
Hot tip: If you’re going to go off in search of romantic, unique or dramatic venues for your photos, google first and even use ‘venue name+photos’ to bring up supporting intel that can give you a glimpse of possibilities on-site. If there are entrance fees and other considerations, get that in line before you arrive, so that you can really concentrate on taking shots that stand out from the crowd.