Congratulations to the winners of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2015. From 5800 entries, these are the finest visions of our environment and society, and this year’s contribution to the ever-expanding record of our place, and our people.
“Twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.”
So reckoned legendary American landscape photographer Ansel Adams. He wasn’t wrong. In any given year the entrants in the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year shoot thousands of frames, then whittle them down, one by one, to a small handful they deem fit to enter in this competition.
This year the competition received 5800 entries, which were carefully sorted and selected again by a panel of four judges across five categories—Wildlife, Landscape, Society, PhotoStory and Timelapse. It was a taxing process, each judge sweating over the final shortlist to select one winner and a runner-up from among the many deserving entries, separating out worthy images by their unique ability to communicate an idea, an emotion, or telegraph the values of a people, place or ecosystem in a way that told the viewer something new or important.
Twenty-eight eye-wateringly good finalists were reduced down to 12 winners and runners-up—a ‘good crop’ of the most significant photographs shot in this calendar year. Each of them give the casual viewer a moment’s pause, and perhaps a new perspective on the country they thought they knew well.
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2015: JASON HOSKING
Each year special recognition is given to a photographer whose submitted portfolio exhibits a coherence of visual approach and technical excellence across all categories entered. Jason Hosking’s entries added innovation to those qualities also.
A professional photographer of a decade’s experience, Hosking recently took to the skies in search of perspective, building a drone, mounting a camera, and finding entirely new angles on his subjects.
The new aerial images complement his regular documentary work in a compelling way, adding unexpected and artful interpretations on the world below—fruit-pickers harvest a grapefruit orchard with red crates among trees billowing with fruit, the drone captures a new view high above the well-touristed Muriwai gannet colony, and a wakeboarder scythes down a river, weaving a fine white ribbon through forest and water.
Turning his lens upon human society he captured a photo essay of the sheep meat industry from life to lamb, challenging viewers and consumers alike, and submitted a frame into the Society category of a performer and engineer quietly going about a last-minute sound check backstage at the Golden Guitars country music awards in Gore. Perhaps his most powerful frame, however, was judged runner-up in the Landscape category; a breaker rolling into Palliser Bay—an image of raw natural power, but delicately back-lit by evening light.
These are images of our environment and society captured with ingenuity, commitment and empathy; the values that have always powered the world’s finest photojournalism, and also appear to drive the 2015 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year.
It was a gusty September day when Jason Hosking went exploring the coastline of the lower Wairarapa, south of Castlepoint. High seas and strong offshore winds combined to create big plumes of spray off the back of the waves, while the very last light of the day lent a golden touch to the scene.
A professional photographer of a decade’s experience, Jason Hosking recently took to the skies in search of perspective, building a drone, mounting a camera, and finding entirely new angles on his subjects. The new aerial images complement his regular documentary work in a compelling way, adding unexpected and artful interpretations on the world below—fruit-pickers harvest a grapefruit orchard with red crates among trees billowing with fruit, the drone captures a new view high above the well-touristed Muriwai gannet colony and wakeboarder scythes down a river, weaving a fine white ribbon through forest and water.
Sheep jostle in a holding pen at Blue Sky Meats in Woodlands, Southland. The total number of sheep in New Zealand fell with the removal of farm subsidies from around 70 million in 1982 to dip below 30 million for the first time since the 1930s this year as land use changes and farm conversions—particularly to dairy, and particularly in the South Island—continue. Sheep meat makes up about half of all New Zealand’s meat exports. However, consumption of sheep, beef and poultry has fallen steadily since the mid 20th century, from 130 kilograms per person per year to 91 kilograms in the early 2000s.
Gore teenager Jenny Mitchell prepares to take the stage at the 2014 Gold Guitar Awards. Country music clubs and competition at the Gold Guitars provide young performers an arena in which to hone their music and performance skills, but opportunities beyond the awards are limited in this country. For talented young artists such as Mitchell, Australia and America beckon.
Ricky Wilson had spent a couple of hours photographing Havelock’s annual Muddy Buddy adventure race—a costumed fun run and obstacle course—when the fire service arrived on the scene to hose down competitors covered head-to-toe in mud. He switched to a wide-angle lens and got in close. It was a typical day out for Wilson, who spends his weekends shooting sports and other public-interest events around the Tasman region.
Making long exposures of seascapes is a passion for photographer Susan Blick. “It allows me to blend photography with art and gives an image a story,” she says. This one, taken from Auckland’s North Shore facing Rangitoto Island, was made during a peaceful sunrise “where the sea was calm and the light fantastic”. An exposure of more than 500 seconds gives the image a soft, dreamy feel.
A late-afternoon flight from Taupo to Wellington in October 2014 saw Jeff McEwan board a plane so small that, for the first time he could remember, his camera gear was by his feet rather than tucked away in an overhead locker. He pulled out his SLR when he caught a glimpse of the sun slanting over the ocean and the Whanganui coastline, the thick window glass lending a soft-focus look to the scene.
One winter’s morning, Michinori Kagawa woke to hoar frost crystals on the café window at the Hermitage Hotel in Mt Cook Village. Although he was on the job at the time—Kagawa works as a mountain guide—he was carring a compact digital camera, and shot more than 30 frames of the window to find a pleasing composition of frost crystals and peaks, with Aoraki/Mt Cook visible in the lower right-hand side of the image.
Underwater photographer Richard Robinson was looking for mako sharks behind Little Barrier Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, and not having much luck. It was getting late in the afternoon, and he’d been out most of the day throwing berley into the water when a blue shark swung by to investigate, rearing out of the water barely half a metre from the dome of Robinson’s camera housing. “Blues are the most beautiful of the sharks in New Zealand,” he says. “I think they’re really elegant.”
Wanaka-based Richard Sidey spends more than half of the year travelling as the expedition photographer on small cruise ships to locations of natural interest in New Zealand and beyond. On a visit to the Bounty Islands, 22 granite outcrops clustered in three groups about 700 kilometres east of the South Island, he captured two Salvin’s albatrosses dwarfed by an enormous swell. One of the Bounty Islands previously had a depot of provisions stored for shipwrecked survivors; landing on the islands is difficult for sailors, if not the abundant birdlife.
Wellington-based landscape photographer Spencer Clubb captured this striking image of New Zealand fur seals on a visit to the colony at Cape Palliser, on the Wairarapa coastline—the North Island’s only well-established seal breeding site. Adult males arrive in October and November to claim territory, which they defend fiercely, awaiting the females’ arrival in late November. Clubb found two seals cavorting as the sun provided strong back lighting. “I was able to expose for a silhouette to really bring out the form of the animals and highlight their behaviour,” he says.
Jeanette Nee’s usual subjects are three New Zealand falcons which linger at her farm, near Tauranga, but when a friend mentioned that monarch butterflies were gathering at Te Puna Quarry Park, Nee decided to have a go at capturing something else in flight. Monarch and admiral butterflies frequent the park, which has a butterfly garden designed to attract them. It was a cloudy, backlit day, which combined with Nee’s shallow depth-of-field to produce the neutral backdrop to her minimalist image.
While diving at the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve in late autumn, Kyle Taylor encountered a particularly curious New Zealand fur seal, or kekeno. “One was just super friendly—it noticed us and came and played with us for half an hour or so,” he says. “They’re a bit boisterous—the speed that it was swimming at made it really tough to get the photos sharp.” Although Taylor spent the rest of the season diving in the marine reserve, he never experienced a similar encounter—the seals kept their distance.
The Poor Knights Islands enjoy an unusual mix of marine species both temperate and sub-tropical, due to their position close to the path of the East Auckland current. Divers find sponge gardens, coral fields, kelp forests, stingray squadrons—or in Alex Stammers’ case, a juvenile fish sheltering in the lacy bell of a jellyfish that was “around the size of a dinner plate”, he says. Stammers, a keen underwater photographer when not on duty as a police officer, found two of these jellyfish on his early spring dive, both sheltering small fish that appeared to be hiding within their trailing tentacles.
Photographer David White travelled to the Urewera for a Sunday Star Times photo essay on the historic Treaty settlement with Tūhoe. “The backbone of the story was going to hinge on an interview with tribal elder Tame Iti, but from a photographic point of view, I wanted to concentrate more on the Tūhoe youth,” he says. In the village of Tuai, he came across nine-year-old Te Ataahia Lambert and her family; after a cup of tea, he asked if he could photograph the children while they tended their horses in the fading light. When he raised his camera to photograph Te Ataahia, she widened her eyes and clenched her mouth in a pūkana, a facial expression used for emphasis.
When editorial photographer Arno Gasteiger is on assignment in a new location, there’s one place he always goes for “the best” information: the pub. “It’s where you meet people and hear stories and follow them up,” he says. In Whangaroa, the publican also happened to be the wharf’s weighmaster, and told Gasteiger that someone was coming in with a big catch. Cam Finlayson, pictured, is renowned locally for pulling in giant gamefish on his own, in a boat that doesn’t always fit his catch. On this occasion, it was a 255-kilogram broadbill.
Fairfax photojournalist Lawrence Smith was on the front line when protestors from Auckland Action Against Poverty rushed the police barricade at Sky City, where John Key was announcing sweeping budget changes. “It was starting to get a little bit rowdy, when all of a sudden they charged the hotel entrance,” says Smith. The police were taken by surprise, he says. Looking through his photographs from the day later, he was caught by the police officers’ expressions of apprehension.
Auckland photojournalist Peter Meecham always thought beauty pageants had plenty of photographic potential, so when an opportunity arose to document Miss Universe for Sunday magazine, he seized it—shooting an entire photo essay rather than the “two or three” pictures the accompanying story required. He knew the success of the series depended on access, so he negotiated complete freedom backstage and attended two long days of dress rehearsals at Sky City Theatre as well as the event itself, he says. “You’ve got to stay quite a while before people start to not notice you.”
Bulmer Cavern is New Zealand’s longest cave system, with more than 70 kilometres of underground passages explored so far. In late 2014, five cavers spent a week camped underground in temperatures of three degrees—the same as a refrigerator—to investigate the sources of its streams. They placed fluorescent dye in a north-flowing stream at one end of the system, which emerged several days later at Blue Creek, almost nine kilometres to the north and across a drainage divide, suggesting the Bulmer system is much more extensive than originally believed. Afterwards, the cavers emerged to bad weather and a mountainside coated with 40 centimetres of snow, forcing them to retreat and wait for conditions to improve.
Koi carp are considered a pest species in the Waikato River, and so every November, members of the New Zealand Bowhunters’ Society converge on Huntly in order to spend a weekend shooting as many as possible, competing for the titles of ‘most’ and ‘heaviest’. Richard Robinson documented the competition in 2014 for New Zealand Geographic magazine. “It was one of those shoots that just come together so well,” he says. “These people are passionate hunters, and quite interesting characters.” Robinson also spent time diving in murky waters in order to capture the portrait of a live koi carp which features in the series.
The closed religious community of Gloriavale remains a subject of curiosity, media interest and strong opinions, but photographer Cam McLaren approached it as a neutral observer. While the community agreed to his visit, he wasn’t initially granted permission to photograph. But after spending time with the community’s leader, Hopeful Christian, McLaren was invited to unpack his camera. “I had to prove myself to the residents time and time again—but it was worth it,” he says, adding that during his time there, he was impressed by the community’s facilities, scale, and economic success, and tried to show these aspects of it in his photographs. “It isn’t my job to give a personal opinion or to put a spin on my work.”
During the five-kilometre Colour Run, inspired by the Hindu festival Holi, participants are encouraged to wear white clothing, and coloured powders are thrown at them as they loop the course at Canterbury Agriculture Park. But the day dawned grey and wet, and the colours blurred and ran together during the race. It wasn’t until the finish line dance party, when the mood lightened, that photojournalist Iain McGregor grabbed a plastic sleeve, wrapped it tightly around his camera, and joined in the fray. “I went back to the office with multi-coloured hair, multi-coloured clothes,” he says. “Colour got everywhere.”