I recently had the excellent fortune of shooting for one of our oldest Cape Dutch homestead farms, Boschendal.
I had asked the universe to lead me to a property that had the potential for me to photograph and witness the life cycles of foods being grown, harvested and cooked in a yearly pattern; a place that cared about nature, and the authenticity of our food experiences. A few days later this precious opportunity was delivered to me with a purple bow.
When I was a kid, one of my favourite days out with my family was picnicking under the trees and feasting on the ice-cream (I remember it was chocolate) at Boschendal.
Fast forward a few years and Boschendal still offers picnics with chocolate ice-cream, but now there is so much more.
Chef Christiaan Campbell directs the farmed produce into beautifully-crafted farm-dining style dishes in the Werf restaurant and the Deli.
Early morning cyclists roll up for coffee and a small bite to kick the adrenaline into gear and then head out in packs up the steep mountain trails, soaking up the elevated views and clean mountain air.
The ‘walking’ gardens are made of rusticly lined, lifted and boxed vegetable patches, chicken coops, a pig forest, a bat box and an insect hotel. Beyond all this is the ‘working’ garden: the nuts and bolts of the farmed veggies and a fruit orchard.
Staying on the farm, I was up early both mornings before the sunrise and panted my way down through the large, manicured garden in the misty air mixing with own frosted breath. I climbed up the reservoir to get a perfect reflection photo on the water and then reached the open land just in time to catch the sun spilling out from behind the mountains onto the rich soils and dew-covered winter scraggles of cabbages and white aubergines.
Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming emotion I experienced there in the centre of all that beauty. The cycles of nature, the intensity of colour and light and my harmonious role in it all was just magnificent to bask in.
I was wrapped up in two jackets, gloves, a hat, a scarf, stuffed like a rissole but still needing to bend over into the sweet, wet soil and change my lenses from super-wide to macro and back again. Every few minutes the angle of the sun would change and reveal something else to me and frantically I popped on another lens and tried new things, pivoting this way and that, now sweating and shooting away. Eventually I stopped, looking around, breathing heavily and excitedly. What should I shoot next?! Wild eyed and high on all the natural rawness I was absorbing through my lens and straight into my brain, I looked up and around and just burst into tears.
I cried so hard.
I was so happy and so grateful and so ready to die. As a lover of nature, a photographer, a seeker of ethical food stories, an artist, a philosopher and artistic human, I was in physical heaven. The gift of the joy I was experiencing was not in the natural beauty but in my gratitude for it.