Written and photographed by: Emil von Maltitz
Several years ago, while leading a photographic workshop for Nature’s Light in the Drakensberg, I was introduced to the idea of time-lapse photography. A photographer from the UK was playing with a setup that he had brought out with him to South Africa. I was instantly attracted to the idea. Merging still photography with the story-telling potential of video was truly compelling.
Very quickly I started to experiment with my own time-lapses while on workshops. A huge advantage I found was that I could set up time-lapses and then leave them alone to go and help the photographers on the workshops I was leading.
With the footage I was gathering, the idea emerged to put together a time-lapse movie of the Drakensberg that could convey a sense of what the Drakensberg Mountains mean to me personally. ‘Drakensberg’ is the first film so far to emerge from this long-term project.
Mountains in general are an extraordinary subject for photography. Weather patterns almost always make for dramatic skies and the spiring peaks and sheer cliffs ensure ample focus for strong morning and afternoon light.
Add shafting sun beams that punch through clouds like spot-lights, and mountains and their unique shapes and character make for some of the best scenic landscapes that one can photograph.
Then there is the actual sense of being there. In my work I have been fortunate to spend time in various biomes from forest to beach and to desert. It’s in the mountains though that there is this sense of complete serenity.
Photographers who have joined me in the Drakensberg have said the same after watching the light turn to dusk and the stars begin to wheel overhead while we sit on an outcrop overlooking the escarpment.
South Africa has this phenomenal mountain range within fingers’ grasp for the average traveller and photographer. Why travel to the Andes or the Alps until you have experienced the uKhahlamba mountains in all their mystery? The Drakensberg offers everything from sedate ambles in the foothills through to multi-day strenuous treks to the escarpment and its peaks.
In some ways it is still photographically one of the lesser explored mountain ranges. Not for long though as international travellers show more and more interest in stunning mountainscapes that have not been photographed ad-nauseum – yet.
Everyone comes out to South Africa to photograph a lion. Any South African with a camera tends to want to do the same. However, it’s the photograph of the mountain range that will probably end up being hung on the wall. The memories of the the incredible sunset or electrical storm over the the escarpment that will remain the most vivid. The Drakensberg is a place of adventure, mysticism and poetry. It is a place to capture memories.