Congratulations to the winners of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012. Competition was strong this year with more than 3100 entries—the largest number ever received. During a long judging day, just 39 finalists were selected across four categories, and the coveted New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year award.
From a raft of penguins crashing onto rocks in the subantarctic islands to a pair of fishermen enjoying fish and chips on Mangere Bridge in Auckland, the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012 competition offers a unique vision of our country’s environment and culture.
The 39 finalist images, submitted by seasoned professionals and weekend shutterbugs alike, were displayed at the Auckland Museum, adjoining NZ-LIFE, an exhibition celebrating the past three years of the prestigious photographic competition.
The frames represent the diversity of both the New Zealand environment and our social fabric. They capture a three-year quest to photograph an elusive fish, families enjoying the simple pleasures of New Zealand life and pivotal moments in New Zealand’s history over the past few years.
New Zealand Geographic would like to congratulate Bruce Mercer, supreme winner and New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012.
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2012: BRUCE MERCER
Press photographers flocked to Tauranga to record the MV Rena disaster and subsequent clean-up, but it proved a very difficult assignment. For safety reasons, vessels were kept a great distance from the wreck, the potential for aerial photography was limited and press were corralled into conferences. Few photographers captured frames that illustrated the scale of the environmental disaster, the public to clean it up and the helplessness felt by the authorities. Bruce Mercer’s frames had tremendous energy and insight. He shot close to the action where possible, and used a long lens judiciously to compress the foreground and distant background to create the strongest set of imagery from that event. In the heat of political and public attention, Mercer created a story that made him New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012.
Press photographers flocked to Tauranga to record the MV Rena disaster and subsequent clean-up, but it proved a very difficult assignment. For safety reasons, vessels were kept a great distance from the wreck, the potential for aerial photography was limited and press were corralled into conferences. Few photographers captured frames that illustrated the scale of the environmental disaster, the public will to clean it up and the helplessness felt by authorities. Bruce Mercer’s frames had tremendous energy and insight. He shot close to the action where possible, and used a long lens judiciously to compress the foreground and distant background to create the strongest set of imagery from that event.
In the heat of political and public attention, Mercer created a story that made him New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012.
Flax weevils are large, flightless beetles that live only on flax. The nocturnal invertebrates spend their daylight hours around the plant’s base, hiding from predators such as rats. Fossil remains show that weevils were once widely distributed across the North Island, but are now largely confined to rodent-free islands.
Tasman Lake has been formed by the retreat of the Tasman Glacier. The 29-kilometre-long glacier has gradually melted and thinned over the last century, with sections of the valley floor left covered in rock, sand and clay transported by the glacier. The lake began to form beneath the lowest section of the glacier in the 1980s, and has grown over subsequent years.
Swathes of scoria in Mount Tongariro’s Red Crater are tinged blood-red by oxidised iron. Tongariro is one of three active volcanic mountains in the region, along with Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Mount Tongariro erupted for the first time in over a century at 11.50pm on August 6, 2012, raining ash onto many central North Island roads and homes. Tongariro was New Zealand’s first national park, established in 1894.
Mark Watson was about five hours into the Southern Crossing route on the Tararua Ranges when he was drawn to the starkness of the tussock-clad slopes and sky. The Tararua ranges stretch 80 km from the Manawatu Gorge, up to the Rimutaka Range, and form part of the backbone of the North Island.
Two figures walk up what appears to be a snow-clad hill. In fact it’s an enormous sand dune, piled 140 metres high on Northland’s Ninety Mile Beach. The wind arranges sand by size—fine grains sit upon coarse ones, while the core of the dune is made of consolidated sand almost as solid as rock. Tourists flock to these towering dunes for the coastline views and to hurtle down them on makeshift toboggans.
Welcome swallows move so quickly when they are courting that only a photograph can truly capture the experience, says David Hallett. He saw this pair near a nesting site at the southern end of Lake Ellesmere, one of his favourite locations. The whole episode was over in three minutes. The pair flew in, interacted four times, then flew off together.
Sunfish are the world’s largest bony fish. Mazdak Radjainia spent the better part of three years trying to successfully photograph one. “I call it the $10,000 fish because I’ve done so many trips without success,” he says. His failed attempts include travelling 500 kilometres on a trawler from Hokianga to Three Kings, without luck. “Other times, I was in the water with them but the sunfish wouldn’t get close enough or turn side-on for a good photo.”
Kelly Wilson shot the controversial annual Kaimanawa horse muster from a clifftop that gave her a view of the 190-strong herd galloping along the plains and into the yard. For Kelly, this image shows a crucial moment in the horses’ fate. “It is the last time they will be in their natural environment and allowed to interact within the dynamics of a wild herd,” she says.
Pied stilts spend their life in or beside the water. Tidal flats hold a bounty of food for the wading birds, which gather at the water’s edge to feed, breed and make their nests. Craig McKenzie lay on the edge of the Hoopers Inlet estuary on Otago Peninsula, watching this juvenile learning to fish with its parents, which were a few metres away.
Phil Reid photographed a 12-metre-long humpback whale found washed up at Fitzroy Bay, on the Wainuiomata coast. “The eye and the battered carcass of the whale made it a rather sad sight for such a wonderful beast.” The whale was found dead on the stony beach on July 2, 2011.
The 2011 White Sunday celebrations in Auckland began with a procession of around 100 children and parents along Great North Road to Avondale Union Parish church. White Sunday, or Lotu Tamaiti, is among the most important dates in the Samoan religious calendar. Children enjoy special privileges, such as speaking in church and being served first at the lunch feast. White is worn to symbolise the purity of a child’s heart.
About 8000 people marched the streets of downtown Auckland on April 28 this year to protest the Government’s proposal to partially privatise three state-owned energy companies and coal company Solid Energy. The hikoi (march) had started four days earlier in the Far North, and the protestors took their public dissent down the country to Wellington. Jocelen Janon described the mood of the Auckland crowd as “the most aggressive I had seen for a while.”
Tens of thousands crowded the streets of downtown Auckland to cheer the victorious All Blacks after their 8–7 victory over France in the final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. From a high vantage point the photographer captured the excitement, while the fans held aloft their smartphone cameras to record their heroes—and the first New Zealand cup win since 1987.
Mark Emirali holidayed in Raglan with his family, where he enjoyed the famous surf point break on his longboard. His children were drawn to the ‘concrete waves’ of Raglan Skate Park, where spectators watched in awe as skateboarders, scooters and BMX riders defied gravity. Emirali trained his camera on one rider performing all manner of aerobatics as he flew past a family of spectators.
Chris Gin had a “bit of luck” when he discovered a pair of fishermen indulging in two great kiwi traditions—fishing and eating fish and chips. “It was a quiet, beautiful moment within an industrial landscape,” he says. Closed to traffic in the 1970s, the old Mangere Bridge in Auckland makes an ideal fishing spot, and is a common route for walkers, cyclists and runners. It is due to be demolished in 2015.
Thousands of animals fell victim to the oil, including little blue penguins that were treated in the Wildlife Recovery Centre. Environment minister Nick Smith and officials flew in to assess and manage the clean-up. Every day a specialist team of salvors were winched on to the boat by helicopter to slowly pump out the remaining oil and remove stacked containers. The ship remains on the reef today, its fate undecided.
A thousand kilometres northeast of Northland, the Kermadec Islands bask in a subtropical environment. The waters around the islands have been under marine protection for two decades. In May 2011, scientists embarked on an expedition to catalogue and collect new and existing species. Auckland Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, the Australian Museum and the Department of Conservation all contributed to the Kermadec Islands Biodiscovery Expedition. The team encountered curious hinge-beak shrimp, rare striped boarfish, and intimidating Galapagos sharks. The sharks are abundant and play an important role in the islands’ marine ecology.
In 2012, the Department of Conservation embarked on a new model for managing takahe, one of New Zealand’s most endangered birds. Instead of intensive intervention, rangers will leave takahe to fend for themselves. Despite their iridescent plumage, takahe are well camouflaged within the patchwork of light and shadow in their tussock habitat. Intense management has been one of the hallmarks of the takahe recovery programme, and a number of wild birds are transported by air to establish new populations on offshore islands and sanctuaries. The new hands-off method means that takahe eggs, which were once incubated in laboratories, will remain in the mountains to incubate naturally.
The 40-minute drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy hugs the coast of Lake Wakatipu. Kah Kit Yoong took his time on the journey. Under an “ethereal light”, he set up a tripod to photograph storm clouds over the lake. “I enjoy this photo just as much as the day I made it,” he says. “Timelessness is a quality that I have found elusive, so I treasure it all the more.”