Get to know the Admins : Gita Claassen

Hello, Grethe here! 🙂 Continuing with our Get to Know the Admins series, I want to cast the spotlight today on my partner in crime, the magnificent Gita Claassen! 🙂

When I founded SA Women Photographers, nobody really understoon and valued my vision as much as Gita did – she just got it! This made her the perfect and logical choice to be my co-pilot and I haven’t regretted it for a day! 🙂 She does a lot of work for our community and I cannot manage without her!
Gita is an extremely talented and passionate travel, lifestyle and journalistic photographer and person and I think I love her most for her take no prisoners -attitude. I managed to corner her for some twenty questions! 🙂

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Get to know the Admins: Grethe Rosseaux

We all know Grethe as the driven, mouthy badass with pink hair and an incredible talent for fashion photography. She’s been wildly successful in her career, and an inspiration for women photographers everywhere. She’s also the founder of SAWP, and the only person I know who rivals my capacity for whisky and tea. I asked her a couple of burning questions.

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Wow, it’s been a while – guys! How are you all? 🙂
I have a couple of great things in the works for the blog, but thanks to work, I don’t get to all of it as quickly as I would like, unfortunately. However, I’ve been meaning to interview my incredibly dear, incredibly talented friend Moira for a while now and yay! here it is! 🙂 ♥


1) Hello Moira! I have known you for years and years, but for those of you in here unfamiliar with you, please introduce yourself! 

I’m a full time wedding photographer based in Stellenbosch (soon moving to Cape Town!). I’ve shot over 300 weddings and have had a very rapidly growing career thus far..! In 2017 I’m scaling down and only shooting 24 – 36 weddings per year 🙂

2) When and how did you get into photography?

I studied photography after school – I did a 3 year BA in Graphic Design and Photography. The course was very fine-art oriented. After graduating I worked as a professional retoucher (I worked on GQ, FHM, Sports Illustrated and more!) for 2 years before moving onto full time photography.

At that point I was only doing photography over the weekends, and when the workload became too much I had to choose between photography and a 9 to 5. The choice was easy 🙂


3) Why wedding photography? What attracted you to it and how did your journey through photography have you end up choosing this?

I actually started out with fashion photography. I did mainly new model’s portfolios. I was very good at making the new, young girls feel at ease in front of the camera. After getting to know the fashion industry’s dark side (eating disorders, agencies not paying me because the (very thin) model looks ‘too fat’ on the pictures, etc) I decided to switch to weddings. The realness of weddings and the people involved was far more alluring than the fakeness of the fashion industry..!

4) You’ve been shooting weddings for quite some time – are there still aspects of it you find challenging and why?

Family photos..! Ha ha.. I still get challenged at many weddings, especially when something unforeseen happens. At one wedding the bride got the timeline wrong and suddenly I had 20 mins for family photos, bridal party, couple shoot and decor shots. At that point there is no use panicking, so you just kick your heels in and do it. Keeping calm and not making your clients panic does get very hard sometimes..! That said, I am a very patient person and this characteristic of mine has most definitely helped me as a wedding photographer. Not showing your panic or frustration at a wedding is also another skill that you’ll need as a wedding photographer.


5) For the gear-heads: what’s in your bag? 

2 x Canon 5Dmk3 bodies
3 x Canon 600EX flashes
1 x Canon 50mm 1.2
1 x Sigma Art 35mm 1.4
1 x Canon 85mm 1.8
1 x Canon 100mm macro 2.8
1 x Canon 17 – 40 f4
1 x Canon 70 – 200 f2.8
Light stands, reflector, bits and bobs..!

My gear bag is rather heavy, my assistants tend to suffer 😉


6) Do you still remember your first solo wedding? What was it like?

Of course! It was utterly terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing, I thought the ceremony was the reception (I mixed up the words), and I missed the family photos. I charged next to nothing for it and luckily the client knew it was my first wedding ever! The first time I had to use off camera lighting at a wedding I stood in the middle of the dance floor and burst out in tears. Nothing was working and I was clueless!

7) What is your favourite part of the wedding day to shoot?

I love the getting ready.. just so much love, nerves and excitement hanging in the air. Of course, the couple shoot is also one of my favourites – it’s such a nice time for the couple to breathe, really see each other and wind down. The golden light during this time of day also gets me super excited.


8) Where did you shoot your favourite wedding?

I have a few favourite weddings..! Mostly if a wedding becomes part of my ‘favourite wedding’ list, it’s because of the people, not the location. A day filled with real joy, emotion, and warm people never fails to make me spectacularly happy. Of course, a great location is a real bonus and can really bring the whole wedding together, especially from a photographer’s point of view.

9) Have you ever had something catastrophic happen at a wedding and how did you handle it?

I think I touched on this with my previous answers..! I do think I’ve been fortunate enough not to have experienced a major catastrophe – unexpected rain comes the closest with last minute plans being dropped or moved around.

10) Do you think that a lot of photographers treat wedding photography as a “meal ticket” instead of art? 

Yep! But ‘art’ is such an objective term – what I find beautiful in wedding photography is not necessarily everyone’s taste. Personally I love unposed, natural, documentary type of wedding photography. The tick-all-the-boxes and ‘Will-you-cut-the-cake-again’ doesn’t do it for me. But some clients actually ask for this! I’ve had more ‘faked’ signings and cake cuttings than I can count. I’ll take the picture for them but I won’t put it on my portfolio.

11) What are your feelings of wedding photography as fine art versus pure documentary work? Do you think it’s one or the other, or both, and why?

What is fine art? I’ve seen sooo many photographers label themselves as ‘fine art’, it’s perplexing. I think the term has lost some of its meaning or impact. ‘Documentary’ is a easier to categorise; to me it’s the natural, the unposed, the candid. Certainly you can put a fine art twist to your documentary work if you had the talent and put in the hard work.


12) Do you do other photography except wedding work? If so, please tell us about it!

I do! During the week I often do couple sessions, travel/ holiday photography, families, maternity, even the odd newborn shoot here and there 🙂

13) Any advice for aspiring wedding photographers, or just young photographers in general?

Oooh shoh! Have ‘hare op jou tanne’*, learn from other photographers (that’s the best way of learning!) – attend workshops (I offer mentoring sessions by the way). Challenge yourself, keep up with the international standards and trends. If you’re looking into getting into weddings, BE NICE! Don’t fret about all the small things. When I started out 90% of my work came from word of mouth. It’s easy to lose a client’s referral after the wedding too – if she has ‘silly’ requests like a picture from another angle, get off your high horse and do it for her with a smile! If something like that upsets you, then you should probably look at getting into another industry. I think being a good photographer is 70% working with people and getting the best out of them, and 30% talent (but that’s just me 😉

* a common Afrikaans expression meaning something like tough as nails.



1) Favourite colour?
Teal.. aqua.. that dreamy sea colour!

2) Favourite book?
Jinne, Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban 😀

3) Favourite movie?

4) iPhone or Android?

5) Cat or dog person?

6) Red or white wine?
Red mostly.. white for summer 😉

7) How do you like your coffee?
More milk than coffee!

8) Favourite country you’ve visited?
Thailand (sigh!) – we got married there in 2015!

9) Tea or coffee?

10) Favourite season?






Hello, everyone!

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do with the blog from the start was to do interviews with some of the most talented women photogaphers in South Africa, as I do believe that it’s important to hear from the ladies at the top of their game to inspire, motivate and uplift others. 

So for our first interview post, I have a lady whom I greatly admire as her work is truly in a class of its own. I present to you all, the incredible Ilse Moore!



1) Hello Ilse! You already have many fans in the group but to those unfamiliar with your work, please introduce yourself! 
I am Ilse Moore, underwater photographer and artist. I have aways been a water baby growing up and have since fallen in love with the creative potential of water and its weightlessness.
2) When and how did you get into photography?
During my studies ( I studied Visual Art), I received my first camera as a gift and while I was using more traditional media for my art at that time I soon got to the point where I had to decide whether I would explore my concepts through drawing or photography, and I chose photography. I don’t know how it would have been different had I gone the other route, but 7 years later I still adore what I do.
3) Why underwater photography? What attracted you to it and for how long have you been doing it?
A large part of my art of my studies had to do with the concept of flight and transformation and this eventually translated into working underwater; a place where gravity does not exist and transformation is inevitable. Water signifies both life and death, it nurtures and it erodes, it’s rebirth and decay… quite beautiful. It’s been almost 5 years now since I first started.
4) What are the biggest challenges in working underwater?
Being bold enough to try the things I dream about… and then also getting the visuals I have in my mind, across  in the final pieces. I cannot control anything underwater and end up being more of a spectator than a director, even when I direct the shoot from above water. Whoever works with me on a shoot need to understand and support the vision I have for the shoot in order for it to be a success. Once we go under the water, everything changes. The lighting becomes different, nothing can remain motionless and there is no communication once we go under. It’s a different challenge every time, but it’s part of the joy.
5) For the gear-heads: what’s in your bag?
For the first few years I used a Nikon D90 in an Ikelight housing along with two substrobes, but have since swith to my Nikon D4 in a custom built housing and I now only use continuous lighting.
My predominant lens is a 16mm f2.8 fisheye which is a little unconventional due to heavy distortion, but it suits my style of shooting.


6) Most photographers are very, very precious about their gear and wouldn’t dream of submerging it (I know I certainly am way too chicken myself) – what was it like to go into the water with your camera in the underwater housing the first time?
Haha, ja… Lots of trust 🙂 Especially with the D4, but I had a great builder with plenty of experience.

7) Do you find that working in water is sometimes limiting to shoot concepts and how do you get around it to make a shoot work?
Yes and no. While it is very hard to not have the luxury of controlling the different aspects of lighting, poses and angle as with topside photography, I still completely enjoy making the best with what I have. I have shot in very cold water for long periods of time and have also often worked with people who have no experience with underwater modeling, but if you keep an open mind and do not have too specific ideas about the outcome, the final product has the potential of being even better than expected! I love going through the images after a shoot and often change my approach a little before selecting images. Planning can only take me so far so the success of a shoot usually comes from being willing to experiment and then to simply work your butt off.
8) I’ve seen you work in swimming pools and in the ocean: which one do you prefer and why?
It’s hard to say. I adore the freedom of the ocean or any open body of water. I get a little “lost” in it. Shooting in swimming pools keeps me focussed I guess… I can set up lighting and create backdrops. It’s the same as shooting in studio vs shooting on location, each has its own perks. If I want crisp and clean images, I shoot in a pool and if I wanted to create a very natural look I’d choose the ocean. However, my access to the ocean is rare and limited so I use what I have and it has become a part of my style as a photographer.
9) What goes into planning an underwater shoot? 
I start with getting a basic understanding of the look and feel we’ll be going for and then follow this with an extensive mood board which may contain anything from colours to images and drawings. After this I create simple concept sketches which helps me to design and create an outfit. I often make these myself, but of course it depends on whether I shoot for a private client or a designer, in which case I will naturally base the sketches on his/her designs. I make use of a skilled make up artist for most of my shoots (especially fashion/editorial). Depending on the kind of shoot we do, we can be 3 people on set or 20, the latter which may consist of stylists, make up artists, divers, models and lighting and rigging assistants. The building and break down of our lighting rig takes a little while and preparing the set for a session can also be a little time consuming, but it’s all very relative to what we’ll be doing on the day.


10) How do you get around the safety issues of shooting underwater?
For smaller shoots our sessions normally take place in a heated pool where the model can either stand or she has something to hold on to. I free dive during all my shoots to keep communication open, so the model never goes under the water by herself. I will also always have at least one person with me in the water during small/short sessions. For elaborate commercial shoots, we make use of safety divers and only use experienced models.
11) Do you do other photography except underwater work? If so, please tell us about it!
My husband, Sean, and I have been running a wedding and lifestyle photography business called GingerAle Photography for about 8 years now. He started with me on a full time basis just over 3 years ago. He is also the one who build all my underwater lighting rigs as well as our upcoming underwater studio tank, but shoots next to me during weddings. It’s something very different from what I do underwater, but it enables us to pursue underwater photography and keep out photography skills sharp.
12) Any advice for aspiring underwater photographers, or just young photographers in general?
Firstly, it is not only financially expensive and if you’re going to make it worth it, it is going to cost you more time and energy than you can imagine… Having said that, it is creatively and spiritually rewarding, never without sacrifice and never without pain, but if you have a true passion for it, it will always be worth it. For young photographers in general; Nothing comes without a price, and heck, if we live one life I would rather spend it chasing something I would love doing forever than go for something I think will be easy and simple.


1) Favourite colour?
2) Favourite book?
3) Favourite movie?
Life is Beautiful
4) iPhone or Android?
Android (I have an iPhone…)
5) Cat or dog person?
Dog, give me a staffie anyday…. otherwise I’ll take a cat.
6) Red or white wine?
7) How do you like your coffee?
White and bitter.
8) Favourite country you’ve visited?
9) Tea or coffee?
10) Flying or driving?
Driving, unless it’s for fun.

• Ilse Moore Photography

• GingerAle Photography