Photographer of the Year – Finalists

51 of the finest and freshest visions of New Zealand’s environment and society.

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timcuff_photography

Progear PhotoStory

Tim Cuff

The country’s largest aerial firefighting operation took place in February 2019, when farm machinery sparked a blaze in Pigeon Valley, near Nelson. Tim Cuff faced difficult choices in covering the event—whether to chase fire trucks or attempt to get access to the fire front. His persistence paid off with an opportunity to photograph from a helicopter surveying the leading edge of the fire.

gibbo3472

Progear PhotoStory

Alan Gibson

The Dean Cup is true grassroots rugby, involving teams from three rural clubs in eastern Taranaki: Toko, Strathmore and Whangamomona. First contested in 1907, the Cup is thought to be the oldest rugby championship still played for in New Zealand. Alan Gibson photographed and filmed the 2018 contest for a New Zealand Herald multimedia story.

mikullashbee

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Mike Ashbee

On a night walk in search of insects on the Mt Fyffe track, near Kaikoura, Michael Ashbee encountered two stick insects mating. He was struck by the exactness of their textured camouflage. He used an off-camera flash in order to illuminate the insects and isolate them from the dark bush backdrop.

michaelcraig

Aerial

Michael Craig


Kauri dieback has no cure: once trees are infected, they bleed sap and lose foliage until only their skeletons remain. In Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, an estimated one in five kauri are affected. The disease is caused by a microscopic pathogen which spreads in wet soil.

madlenduderstedt

Aerial

Madlen Duderstedt


The tiny town of Omarama in the Mackenzie Basin is a hotspot for gliding, thanks to its lee waves—lift caused by wind blowing over the Southern Alps. Riding in a friend’s glider, Madlen Duderstedt photographed a second aircraft below through a window just large enough to fit a lens.

justin.aitken

Aerial

Justin Aitken


Close to Justin Aitken’s Papamoa home, local kids have been building ramps and an adventure park area, with Aitken’s help. “It’s been a huge hit,” he says. Photographing from his drone on a bright autumn day, he made the most of the harsh sunlight by focusing on the kids’ shadows.

robsuisted

Aerial

Rob Suisted

After wheat and ryegrass seeds are harvested on the Canterbury Plains, the stubble is burned off in order to prepare the land for the next planting. This removes roughage that gets in the way of germinating seeds. Rob Suisted got his drone in the air at short notice: it takes only minutes for a field to erupt and burn.

robsuisted

Resene Landscape

Rob Suisted

Photography is often about timing. Photographer Rob Suisted had left Wellington early to catch the morning light over farmland in Horowhenua. The angle of the sun made the lush grass luminescent, but also wreaked havoc with the small lens on the drone. “The closer I could get to the sun destroying the image, the more powerful the effect was, so it was a fine line,” he says.

robsuisted

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Rob Suisted

Lesser short-tailed bats are small, fast, unpredictable and mean. In order to photograph them, Rob Suisted spent a year in development, putting together gear that could capture the bats in motion—including lasers. After discovering that the bats did not fly in the direction he anticipated, he was forced to spend several long nights shooting at Pureora Forest Park, fine-tuning his set-up.

andyjacksonphotographer

Aerial

Andy Jackson

Pro surfer Paige Hareb celebrated International Surfing Day at home on the Taranaki coastline, where she invited others into the waves she learned to surf on. Andy Jackson heard in advance what Hareb was planning and envisaged this exact shot, capturing it just as the surfers finished linking hands.

petraleary

Aerial

Petra Leary

For two months of the year, Alphra Lavender’s fields bloom purple. Petra Leary and her friend Marie Valencia, pictured, stopped off at the Te Awamutu lavender farm on a spur-of-the-moment road trip through the Waikato. Leary shoots primarily from above, and usually focuses on geometrical forms in the built environment. This is a softer take on the same themes.

leecook_images

Aerial

Lee Cook

Soaring over the upper slopes of Franz Josef Glacier at dawn, Lee Cook photographed this ice field out the window of a ski plane. A heavy snowfall had occurred just days earlier, smoothing out the seracs and other features of the landscape. Cook, who spent seven years living in Mt Cook Village, focuses on photographing the details and forms of the icy wilderness.

leecook_images

Resene Landscape

Lee Cook

It took around 18 months of planning for this image to come to fruition—a lone figure on the Tasman Glacier in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. An LED torch lights the details and formations of the cave system. Cook consulted with ice-cave guides about the cave system, then camped on a glacier with a partner and squeezed into a cave through a moulin, camera gear in tow.

eunasahng

Resene Landscape

Euna Sahng

On a winter’s night, stars wheel over Aoraki/Mt Cook. Euna Sahng was on a photography trip around the Mackenzie Country, but being winter, the biggest challenge was just getting to the hut. It was only in the final two days that weather conditions were good enough to helicopter up to Plateau Hut… then it just came down to settling on the best duration for the exposure, and dealing with the cold.

geoffsoper

Resene Landscape

Geoff Soper

On a balloon ride over the Canterbury Plains, between Hororata and Te Pirita, a cold front blew in over the Southern Alps, causing light rain to fall as the sun rose. Noticing a circular rainbow, Geoff Soper composed this image. In the distance are two cumulonimbus clouds facing each other, signaling a change in the weather.

alineescalon

Resene Landscape

Aline Escalon

On an early morning walk in Waikite Valley, Rotorua, geothermal steam rose from a creek further down the track in the distance, blotting out much of the vegetation. After several attempts at photographing the scene, with a lens full of steam, Aline Escalon finally captured the image she envisaged.

tadpolesmuggler

Resene Landscape

Euan Brook

It was drizzling and cloudy when Euan Brook and his wife set off up the Pouakai Range, hoping for a glimpse of Mt Taranaki. Finding the hut busy, they camped down off the main ridge, where the rain cleared just as the sun was setting, affording views all the way to Mt Ruapehu. The break lasted half an hour. It was the only sun they saw the entire trip.

blue_polaris

Resene Landscape

Zhi Yuen Yap

After a late winter storm, Tongariro National Park’s South Crater was covered in new snow and lingering clouds when two groups—hikers and backcountry skiers—crossed the scene. Tongariro is named for the cold south wind that chilled the tohunga Ngātoro-i-rangi; Zhi Yuen Yap is interested in documenting the effects of the south wind in his photographs of the place.

ryan_domenico

Resene Landscape

Ryan De Dominicis

The south face of Aoraki/Mt Cook glows in the setting sun on an autumn evening. Ryan De Dominicis was photographing a couple at Kea Point in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park when he noticed the high cloud that likely meant a spectacular sunset. Just after the sun dipped below the horizon, he made a portrait of the mountain’s glacier-scarred south face.

hague_art

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Mandy Hague

Towards the end of winter, Mandy Hague was lying on her stomach at Ohope Spit with a single dotterel in her viewfinder. The bird wasn’t up to much, and Hague was about to pack up for the day when a gust of wind struck, blasting her and the dotterel with sand.

edouardgeelhand

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Edouard Geelhand

At sunset in the middle of winter, a group of hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguins, came to shore at Katiki Point and climbed the rock and grass up towards the spot where Edouard Geelhand was watching. At the top, one penguin paused to scream—the word ‘hoiho’ means ‘noise shouter’.

tamzin.nz

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Tamzin Henderson

A territorial dispute between two whio resulted in one preening and flapping its wings. Tamzin Henderson has photographed whio at Courthouse Flat in Kahurangi National Park before; but this time, determined to spend as long as possible with the birds, she sat in the creek, her back pressed against the bank, to camouflage herself as much as possible.

nz.andy

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Andrew MacDonald

Above Takapourewa or Stephens Island, at the tip of the Marlborough Sounds, the night sky is filled with thousands of fairy prions circling after dark. Meanwhile, a conservation worker lights their way home. This was a spur-of-the-moment capture; Andrew MacDonald used his backpack as a tripod and had only a few minutes to frame the shot before his colleague walked out of sight.

gissele_rg

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Gissele Garcia

On a fine summer’s day in Napier, a winged ant explores a begonia flower, reaching the edge of one of its petals. Gissele Garcia was poised to capture it—the ant stayed only a moment before retreating. Garcia has taken on the challenge of photographing tiny creatures as a personal project, as this allows her to see details imperceptible to the naked eye.

Aerial

David Wall

Once, David Wall photographed this scene on film, and he had long wanted to re-shoot it with a digital camera. His drone wasn’t an option, as these aren’t allowed in the airspace over Waiotapu’s Champagne Pool. So he booked a helicopter instead. Altitude restrictions meant Wall had to choose a long lens for his close-up of the pool’s shapes, requiring careful attention to the stability of the shot.

danny.burgin

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Dan Burgin

Knowing the structure of takahē feathers would make an interesting picture, Dan Burgin had planned this shot for a long time—but capturing a close-up of a constantly moving bird was a challenge. At Zealandia, he encountered chilled-out takahē, and the birds allowed him to get close enough to pick out the detail and vibrance of their plumage.

nautiphoto

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Jacqueline Robson

As the sun sets, the last light of day streams into Blue Maomao Arch in the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, as schooling blue maomao return from open water to the shelter of the arch overnight. Robson completed eight dives in four arch formations at the islands before she captured the image she envisaged.

brendangully

Resene Landscape

Brendan Gully

When Kiwi space company Rocket Lab announced its first launch from Mahia Peninsula, Brendan Gully began planning this picture. He studied how other photographers captured rocket launches overseas, pre-visualised the rocket’s trajectory using the online tool called flightclub.io, and decided to photograph it from Castlepoint, 230 kilometres away. The weather complied and it all came together, at 00:12am.

tatsiana_chypsanava

Progear PhotoStory

Tatsiana Chypsanava

Long summer days in the upper reaches of the Ruatoki Valley involve daily trips to the swimming hole and kids roaming the family dairy farm. Tatsiana Chypsanava and her 12-year-old daughter visit their adopted family, the Teepa whānau, every year, and Chypsanava seeks to document the minutiae of childhood life as the kids grow up.

lola.photography

Society

Lola Gosling

At nine years old, Jess Quinn fell and broke her femur. When it didn’t heal, a tumour was discovered within it, and when chemotherapy didn’t halt the cancer, her leg was amputated. Now in her late 20s, Quinn is a social media influencer spreading messages of positivity and body acceptance: her underwater handstand on a summer dawn at Takapuna Beach captures her perspective on life.

bensanfordmedia

Society

Ben Sanford

Doug Hollinger climbs a serac arch on Tasman Glacier, the morning after a failed attempt on the east face of Mt Walter—unstable ice had made climbing too unsafe to continue. Seracs are columns of ice usually formed when cracks or crevasses intersect, and can be dangerous obstacles for climbers due to the risk of them toppling.

kathyliuliu

Resene Landscape

Liu Yang

The intense, pure blue of an ice cave at the top of Tasman Glacier caught Liu Yang’s attention while on a trip with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding. She quickly captured a picture before the tour moved on. Tasman Glacier is New Zealand’s largest, reaching four kilometres in width in places, though it has steadily retreated since the 1990s.

cornege_photography

Society

Christine Cornege

Spending the day indoors at the Te Anga Pāua o Āotearoa National Kapa Haka Festival in Hamilton meant that Christine Cornege was on the lookout for opportunities to make pictures in difficult light conditions. She asked Arlene Stringer from the Wairarapa’s Te Roopu Manaaki to stand in a small beam of light backstage in order to capture her portrait.

–alan gibson–

f.8_nz

Society

Bradley White

Every autumn, at the height of the mushroom season, members of the Fungal Network of New Zealand, or FUNNZ, meet in a different part of the country to gather as many fungi as they can. Penelope Gillette, Michael Pilkington, John Steel and Peter Johnston identify specimens collected during the 32nd annual Fungal Foray, held on the West Coast near Lake Brunner.

kai_schwoerer

Society

Kai Schworer

An armed police officer greets members of the Muslim community in front of Al Noor mosque as they arrive for the iftar, the evening meal of Ramadan. Kai Schworer had covered the terror attacks that claimed the lives of 51 people at Al Noor and Linwood mosques, and was the first photographer to be allowed in for the holy month. However it was outside the mosque that the moment of connection arrived.

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Kimball Chen

It took Kimball Chen 20 trips to the Catlins coast before photographing the image of a sealion that he envisaged: capturing their liveliness and agility in the underwater environment. Many underwater encounters yielded this image of a curious sea lion pup inviting play by snapping its teeth, then darting away. Chen composed an image angled upwards, to capture the blue sky behind the surface of the water.

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Ken Joblin

After discovering a pair of nesting kingfishers on a creek bank in Canterbury, Ken Joblin returned every day for several weeks to photograph them. They caught a variety of prey—stick insects, flies, bees, moths, skinks, small fish, and one day, the mouse in this image—then killed them by striking their heads on branches. The prey was flown to the mouth of the nest, transferred to the other parent kingfisher, and then to the chicks within.

seacologynz

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Crispin Middleton

Porpita porpita, or blue button, is actually a colony of individual polyps. They are more common in tropical water, but often found well offshore in New Zealand. This one had been swept in close to the Poor Knights where photographer Crispin Middleton discovered it. About the size of a small ping pong ball, searching for them in New Zealand is “like looking for a needle in a haystack”, he says.

sammi.jk

Progear PhotoStory

Sam King

Sam King’s subject holds more than photographic interest. She’s conducting work towards a MSc degree to determine differences in patterns, size and genetics between two endangered green gecko species found at the top of the South Island—the starred gecko (top left) and West Coast green geckos. The research will assist conservation management of these species, particularly in response to changes in land use as their habitat is carved up for farms and mine sites.

nathan.secker_photo

Resene Landscape

Nathan Secker

A storm coming in over Crooked Arm in Doubtful Sound blows the waterfall sideways and backward from whence it came. Nathan Secker is documenting Doubtful Sound as part of an ongoing project for a photography book. On his day, it was an achievement just to keep his camera dry on the wildly pitching boat.

rachelmataira

Aerial

Rachel Mataira

While sailing around the North Island over the summer on a 34-foot boat, Rachel Mataira set about capturing the coastline from the sea. Flying a drone from a boat is a challenge—it must be flown manually as the motion of the boat makes its “home” location redundant. During this flight, the drone signal cut out partway through, but Mataira managed to fly it back on little battery: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the incredible spot our little sail boat was in.”

lottiehedleyphoto

Progear PhotoStory

Lottie Hedley

In the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, Lottie Hedley began documenting the volunteer relief effort and the lives of victims and their families, the repairs to Linwood mosque and the police presence around Al Noor mosque. “I was definitely concerned about how best to operate as a photographer in such a difficult time for the people I was photographing,” she says.

recurveliquidlife

Society

Alex Wallace

Shepherd Tom Harvey musters a flock of merinos at Glen Orkney, a stud high in the hills of the Awatere Valley in Marlborough. As part of a job for a rural insurance company, Alex Wallace photographs a range of farms and agricultural businesses around the country. “Glen Orkney was one of the most memorable I have visited,” he says. “But keeping pace with the shepherds is hard work.”

recurveliquidlife

Society

Alex Wallace

Last February, Alex Wallace got up before sunrise every day. He was photographing West Harbour Marina when a group of rowers from the Waitematā Rowing Club skimmed past, cutting across the calm waters of Henderson Creek. Several boats sped past—and with no time to change lens, compose or expose the image, Wallace fired off eight exposures.

dominicozapata

Society

Dominico Zapata

On the banks of the Waikato River in Hamilton, young people do ‘bombs’ or ‘manus’ off the jetty. The river runs through the heart of the city, and becomes a focal point in summer for locals looking to cool off. This image is part of a series Dominico Zapata has made showing the connection that Waikato locals have to their river, and investigating the river’s water quality and health.

sam._.lewis

Aerial

Sam Lewis

The final stages of the salt concentration process are visible from above at the Lake Grassmere Salt Ponds. Sam Lewis was on his first road trip through the South Island when he noticed a giant, colourful lake off to the side of the road, and captured a cross-section of the salt-making process. Strong winds made for a tricky shot—the salt works is located here because the wind helps with the evaporation process.

shadowandshadenz

Aerial

Larryn Rae

Glacial river water flowing into Lake Pukaki is a pale, ice-blue colour due to the minerals suspended within it. The river separates into thick braids over the floodplain at the headwaters of the lake. Larryn Rae has long wanted to capture glacial river braids, and awaited the right light to photograph them from above.

nzryno

Aerial

Ryan Isherwood

The blue of Lake Ruataniwha, near Twizel, contrasts with the autumn colours of the land. The lake often hosts rowing competitions, with its tiny island representing the 500-metre mark. Ryan Isherwood envisaged this picture long before he had a chance to visit the lake and create it. Imagining the composition is the hardest step, he says: “Everything looks completely different from above so your instincts have to be spot on.”

kirkhargreavesphotographer

Society

Kirk Hargreaves

The day after the Christchurch massacre, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met Muslim community representatives gathered in a small classroom at a decommissioned school. It was so full photographer Kirk Hargreaves couldn’t get in. After a few minutes watching through a window, he saw Ardern’s face framed between the reflections of trees and flowers, and squeezed the shutter. The picture went around the world.

Progear PhotoStory

Joseph Johnson

From the day of the Christchurch massacre onwards, Joseph Johnson captured the public reaction and processing of the tragedy. “It was thrust on us all in Christchurch, yet again, as we were forced to deal with trauma and tragedy that brought us all together to help one another,” he says. “The days and weeks that followed were filled with a massive amount of grieving, loss, reflection and hope.”

mckeenphotos

Progear PhotoStory

Chris McKeen

Pania Newton prepares to lead a hīkoi, a protest march, from Ihumātao to the Prime Minister’s office in Mt Albert, Auckland. Ihumātao is contested land; the area is owned by Fletcher Residential, which has consent to create a large housing development, but Newton and other mana whenua say the land was illegally confiscated in the mid-1800s and should be protected.


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