Professional Photographer Petrus Bester Explores Kwetu Guest Farm
At the end of August, Kwetu was blessed with the visit of an outstanding photographer, Petrus Bester, who took time out from his busy schedule to explore our farm and its surrounding areas. He is an avid wildlife photographer, and we wanted to use his visit to our guesthouse as a test run to accommodate more photographers and artists in the future, and potentially run a photography workshop under his guidance in the months to come. We also wanted to pick his brains about his experience on the farm, and in Swellendam and Overberg area in general.
Petrus, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in photography?
I grew up on a farm just outside Brits in the North West and since I was a small child I loved nature. I would go hiking by myself just to be in nature. Then the teens hit me, and I became rebellious as I guess we all do. This led to me losing my love for nature and spending the next couple of years as a serious computer gamer. Luckily for me I had good friends and in my mid-twenties, we decided to go to the Kruger National Park together and that trip re-awakened my passion for nature. I finally realised what I was missing out on and in the next couple of years I would seize any opportunity to go back in to nature.
I got in to photography at the age of 28 after going to the Kruger Park. For this trip I decided to take a camera along to entertain myself when everyone was taking naps. This is where the bug first bit me. I really enjoyed it. It connected me with nature in a way that made me feel like I was even more a part of it. A couple of months later we went on holiday again and I bought a lens, so I could zoom in more on animals, birds and even insects. I spent that week hiking through the bush with my camera and having the time of my life. For the first time in my life I started entering competitions and doing well in them. That is when I finally realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to show people the world through my eyes; show them how beautiful the natural world is to me. Over the next year and a half, I did whatever I could to improve my photography skills. I am still and will probably always be working on perfecting it.
What equipment do you prefer to shoot with and do you have a specific genre that you are passionate about?
I prefer to shoot mostly with my Canon EOS 750D and my Canon 70-300mm zoom lens. This makes taking certain photographs fun and tricky as you need to get quite close to your subject to get a great shot. Sadly, this is not always possible. My personal favourite genre is macro photography. I guess it is because you see an insect or a flower and you only ever see the bigger picture, but once you zoom in and take a closer look, it is like a completely different world. You realize that the creepy looking insects are beautiful, that flowers are like small planets - you can almost say they have their own little eco systems. Even snakes which are incredibly scary have the most beautiful colours and patterns once you take a closer look. To get back to the equipment, for my macro photography I use either a Canon 100mm Macro lens or if I really want to challenge myself I use a Canon MP-E65mm 1-5x magnification lens. This lens does not have autofocus or image stabilization. If you get it to focus, however, and the subject stays still, you really get otherworldly macro photos.
You were hard at work whilst visiting and your photos are amazing! Did you experience any specific challenges and how did you deal with it?
I won’t really say I was hard at work haha. They say if you do what you love, it will never feel like work. So, hiking and driving around Kwetu and the surrounding area was only a pleasure for me. I won’t say I really experienced any difficulties on the farm. The hardest thing I probably did was taking photographs and videos of the newly born baby Bontebok. I would say in total it took me about half an hour of sitting around and talking to the herd for them to allow me close to the mom and her baby. When I first got to the newly born baby, part of the herd would break away from the rest and go and stand in front of the mother and her baby while blowing at me, cautioning me to stay away. I just sat there keeping calm while they were blowing, showing them that I mean them no harm. After a while the whole herd including the mom and baby moved away from me. Seeing a baby that was only born a few hours earlier run after its mom will always be a fond memory for me. It still amazes me how quickly animals can move after being born. I followed the herd at a slow pace, pretending to be doing something else. The Eland caught my attention and I went off to photograph them. I then made my way back to the Bontebok herd on foot. Finally, I was rewarded with being able to see the baby and its mom. I did not want to move any closer as I did not want to intrude on their personal space . I sat there for a while and photographed the mom and baby.
We are very curious. Do you have a favourite animal on Kwetu?
I have a few favourite animals and in no specific order. I adored Melvin and Sophie (the 2 Giraffes) who would follow me at a distance as I walked on the farm; The baby Bontebok took a special place in my heart as well; Gina the baby Eland who came to give me a kiss just below my eye; Mister Finley the horse who was always a source of entertainment. I am really looking forward to seeing all of them when I visit Kwetu again.
If you had recommendations to make to other visiting photographers, what would they be, and where would you position yourself to capture the best sunset shots?
The best way to experience Kwetu is on foot. I would advise photographers to hike all over the place and rest at the various picnic spots on the farm. There is an abundance of wildlife and birds living on the farm that you can only really see on foot. Driving takes concentration and your car will obstruct your range of view. Visit the big dam on the farm at sunrise - there are various water birds that stop by around that time. One example of these birds is the Spur-winged Goose. Move quietly though, as they fly off easily.
Kwetu is perfect for sunset photographs as the farm is located on the side of a hill facing the direction where the sun sets. You can take photos from virtually anywhere on the farm, depending on what you want in your photograph. I played around with sunset photos all over the farm and realised that no matter where you were, the sunsets would look amazing.
Kwetu is a living, ongoing project and we are always working to adjust and improve.
Do you have any advice for us here on the farm?
Keep doing what you are doing. I love the homely feel of Kwetu. It feels like you belong there.
If I remember correctly you have prints available for sale? Where could our guests go to buy if they wish to do so?
That is correct yes. I have a website where my prints are available for purchase. The URL is: www.pjbester.co.za My prints can be shipped to anywhere in South Africa. Should an international guest wish to purchase a print, there is a link on my website that they can click on called international clients.
Petrus please list where you can be found and followed online:
A big warm thank you for taking time to talk with me as well as from our whole Kwetu team.
We look forward to your next visit and we are keeping an eye on your beautiful work!!!