Theme: Soul of the Rising Sun

The shot must be of a sunrise (not sunset). The sun need not be visible in the photo, but there must be a distinct red, orange or yellow in the shot that is characteristic of a sunrise. Sunrise colours in the sky should be clearly featured. The colours should not be purely the glow on the peaks or valleys. Scenery must be included in the view that is characteristic of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains. For example: silhouette of a basalt column, classically shaped peak or range sticking out from the escarpment; Little Berg valleys viewed from a vantage point such as the escarpment; identifiable distant landmarks such as Woodstock Dam or Ntabamhlophe. No time period restrictions are applicable.

Background info:
Sunrises viewed from the Mnweni Escarpment occur behind the Cathedral Range in the warmer months and spectacular sunrise silhouettes of the Cathedral Range can be seen during this time, particularly from the Ntonjelana Pass area. This position shifts towards Woodstock Dam in the winter where the disc of the sun can clearly be seen emerging from the horizon from the comfort of several escarpment caves such as Ifidi Cave and Mponjwane Cave.

Forum thread: www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/14-drakensberg-general/55982-soul-of-the-rising-sun-jan-mar-2016.html

Gallery for entries: www.vertical-endeavour.com/gallery/drakensberg/featured-images/soul-of-the-rising-sun-jan-mar-2016.html

Start date: 01 January 2016

Last submission date: 31 March 2016

Last voting date: 10 April 2016

Prize: Scrubba Washbag, sponsored by Adventure Works Africa

Winner: Morning Glory by Richard Hunt


Theme: The Red Dragon

Photos must feature the classic distinctive that Red grass (Themeda Triandra, Rooigras) is known for, i.e. that it can be red in colour. The following scenes are envisaged:

  • The striking, red or bright brown coloured grassy landscapes where Red grass is dominant. If the Red grass is on flattish terrain, then some form of mountainous scenery must also be evident in the shot.
  • Landscapes where the red colour is not necessarily dominant, but where it is clearly contrasted with other colours such as green. Some form of mountainous scenery must also be evident in the shot, though the grass need not be on the mountains terrain.
  • Close-ups of the grass which show either the red spikelets, or the red leaves, which is dependant on the time of year. It must be obvious that the close-up is of Red grass. Mountainoues scenery which is characteristic of the Maloti-Drakensberg should be included in the shot, which may for example be the above grass or behind it. The scenery may be blury provided it is still discernible and that the grass in the foreground is in focus.

Background info:
The striking green colours on the grassy slopes of the Berg that we see in spring and summer are often attributed to Red grass. The spikelets are red more in the summer months, and the red in autumn and winter are the aging leaves. Red grass is an indicator of veld being in a good condition. It is also known to be resistant to fire, the resistance increasing when burnt regularly, but only if rested after fire and if overgrazing does not occur. The long awns of the spikelet twirl when wet, and drive the seed into the ground. This is a very important and well-known grazing grass that is palatable especially when young. In some parts of Africa it is used for thatching but the forms found in southern Africa tend to be flimsy and not durable enough. In Lesotho and bordering areas it is used sometimes for thatching and some basketry.

Forum thread: http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/essence-of-the-dragon/56063-the-red-dragon-apr-jun-2016.html

Gallery for entries: http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/gallery/drakensberg/featured-images/the-red-dragon-apr-jun-2016.html

Start date: 01 April 2016
Last submission date: 30 June 2016
Last voting date: 10 July 2016
Prize: Outdoor Elements self-inflating mattress, sponsored by Adventure Works Africa
Winner: Red Mystique by saros


Theme: Peak Perspectives - Giant’s Castle

Giant’s Castle Peak should be the dominant feature in the shot. The feature need not be the commonly known or seen aspects of the peak. Shots of unusual angles or features of the peak are encouraged, even if not readily recognisable as belonging to the peak, provided they are unique to the peak. The shot may be of any part of the Giant’s Castle massif extending from the escarpment, including the long buttresses on either side of the peak, and the classic South Ridge running down from the main summit. Broad panoramas should be avoided unless the peak clearly dominates the view. Views from the summit must include a discernible feature of the peak. No time period restrictions are applicable.

Background info:
According to Bill Barnes, in his authoritative book on Giant's Castle Game Reserve, the peak was named for its likeness to an enormous castle suitable for a giant: “So it is castle-like, without particularly resembling a giant. Many people assume the latter, believing that they see a giant lying on his back, with face, chest and toes pointing upwards.” The name was originally given to the present day “Garden Castle” peak in the 1830s but was reassigned to the current peak in 1865. The old Zulu name is Mbevula.

Forum thread: http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/essence-of-the-dragon/56125-peak-perspectives-giant%E2%80%99s-castle-jul-sep-2016.html

Gallery for entries: http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/gallery/drakensberg/featured-images/peak-perspectives-giants-castle-jul-sep-2016.html

Start date: 01 July 2016
Last submission date: 30 September 2016
Last voting date: 10 October 2016
Prize: none
Winner: A Giant Climb by Viking


Theme: My Drakensberg, my pride!

This is a more open-ended theme, but photos must have been taken in 2016 and should not overlap with the other themes for the year. The photo must also have been included in a previously posted 2016 trip report / write-up (including mini trip-reports). Participants thus practically have an entire year to plan ahead and get that perfect shot. By submitting numerous photos for trip reports throughout the year, participants can secure a large pool from which to make a final choice. Photos may be added to trip reports retrospectively up until November 30th. For trip reports posted during the submission period, a 7 day window from the date of the first post is granted for adding photos.

The shot must depict a characteristic that makes the Maloti-Drakensberg unique and special, or it must capture something that holds a deep, personal meaning.
Looking at the photo must evoke a sense of pride, inspiration, peace or joy - the kind of thing that makes you breathe in deeply and slowly exhale slowly.
Important to this theme is a proper description of the significance of the photo and what it means to you.

Background info:
One of the reasons that part of the Berg was declared a World Heritage Site according to Unesco was the “exceptional natural beauty with soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks and golden sandstone ramparts. Rolling high altitude grasslands, the pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges also contribute to the beauty of the site.”

Further reasons included the fact that “the rock art of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park is the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in Africa south of the Sahara and is outstanding both in quality and diversity of subject.” Often quoted estimates indicate that the Park has 665 rock art sites, and the number of individual images in those sites probably exceeds 35,000 - however ongoing initiatives to find and document the sites is outdating the figures as more are being discovered. Large areas of the Maloti-Drakensberg exist outside of the Park, and these areas also have a significant number of sites. Furthermore the paintings are from two different historical origins, namely San and Nguni.

Due to having significant natural and man-made heritage, the Park has a mixed World Heritage Status, which only a small, limited number of other sites across the world also have.

The high number of habitable, natural rock shelters found at various altitudes, in different geological layers, is another very special characteristic that adds a hiking experience not easily matched elsewhere in the world.

The Park alone has more than 250 endemic plant species and has its own floristic region – the Drakensberg Alpine Region of South Africa. It is also globally important for endemic and endangered bird species that include more than just the well known Cape Vultures and Lammergeiers.

The Maloti-Drakensberg region is rich in past and present culture and has important spiritual and recreational significance to many people. It forms a critical part of the water supply to the largest city in the world not situated on a river, lake or coastline (Johannesburg), and makes up a significant part of South Africa’s (below globally-recommended) percentage of land area set aside as pristine wilderness.

Forum thread: www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/essence-of-the-dragon/56209-my-drakensberg-my-pride.html

Gallery for entries: www.vertical-endeavour.com/gallery/drakensberg/featured-images/my-drakensberg-my-pride-oct-dec-2016.html

Start date: 01 October 2016
Last submission date: 31 December 2016
Last voting date: 15 January 2017
Prize: 2 nights accommodation at Cambalala Hut, sponsored by KZN Section of the MCSA
Winner: Dramatic Splendour by elinda

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