Cameron McGeorge

Photographer of the Year 2017

From 65 finalists, there were nine winners in the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year. Behold, the finest frames of New Zealand’s environment and society in 2017.

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A dense ‘meatball’ of krill, drawn by an LED light near the surface of the water, become a late-night meal for flying fish. Darryl Torckler has been capturing nocturnal images of wildlife since 2014, and flying fish provide the ultimate challenge: fast, underwater, and shy of divers. “It takes hours of patience,” says Torckler, who shot this image with a remotely controlled camera.
Sunlight had not yet touched Milford Sound early in the morning when Takashi Tsuneizumi’s cruise ship neared Stirling Falls. His goal was to photograph the motion of the falls and the disturbance it made on the surface of the water, and he succeeded in capturing the ghostliness that characterises Fiordland’s filmy waterfalls.
An early winter sunset cast warm light over the landscape as Rob Suisted travelled past Mt Ruapehu. Suspecting the foothills might reveal interesting textures and forms when seen from above, he pulled over to capture the scene with a drone—a spur of the moment decision aided by familiarity with the landscape.
Papakura High School’s kapa haka group had been preparing for Polyfest all year—and on the bus to the event, nervousness manifested in a variety of way. “The group were aching for a good performance much like any sports team getting ready for the big game,” says Mike Scott. “Some were quiet, others doing last minute touch-ups to their make-up, while others psyched themselves through their routine.”
During the last three weeks of Frank Swinney’s life, Andrew Stewart documented the gathering of family and the care he received. “Frank had distinctive hands, riddled with arthritis since his early 20s,” says Stewart. “These photos acknowledge the role hands and touch played over the last few weeks including storytelling, support, communication, physical work, love and saying goodbye.”
A drop of water on the head of a small female jumping spider looks like an extra eye as it rests on a rock. Silver card placed behind the scene provided the rainbow refractions. “The main challenge was to get the shot before the spider moved or jumped,” says Joanne Ottey. “At less than five millimetres in size, these little guys can disappear fast.”
Brad Cameron leads a short pitch to the left of an overhanging cornice on Sebastopol Ridge as Tom Gilbert belays him, and as Ben Sanford balances carefully in order to take this photograph. “Often in the mountains staying focused on the climbing is more important than any photo—although the cloud inversion and light were difficult to resist,” he says.
Rock sculpted by rain and ice forms deep, treacherous crevasses on the side of Mt Owen. The water that formed these shafts falls hundreds of metres into New Zealand’s longest cave system beneath them. Last summer, Neil Silverwood shouldered a heavy pack to carry out his project of documenting remote corners of New Zealand’s backcountry by drone.

New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year began in 2009 as a way to engage readers and the public in the craft of photography—an art central to the tenets of this magazine and, we believe, to the public vision of our society and environment as well.

As technology has improved, the sort of images we can create have evolved too. At the genesis of this competition, drones and timelapse exposure were not possible using consumer technology, nor were the ISO ratings that allow photographers to shoot in near darkness. The bar has been raised on the quality of photography submitted to this competition, but there has also been a more subtle shift in our expression of New Zealand as we witness it.

In the landscape and aerial categories we are seeing work that is less derivative of international work—at least in content—and more focused on those things that make New Zealand unusual; snow, ice and seascapes being most evident this year. And the society and photo-story categories reflect a more urban and diverse population, perhaps even one that has grown to eclipse the old stereotypes of who we are. It appears to be more racially diverse, but also has an edge to the coverage, depicting images of poverty, drug abuse, disaster and even death, along with images of celebration and jubilation.

Are we getting used to the shape of ourselves? Are we as photographers and consumers of photography wanting to challenge perceptions?

I hope so. This has been the remit of the magazine for nearly three decades, and the aspirations for this competition too—to depict New Zealand as it is, rather than as we presume it to be.

View all finalists and vote for your favourite

Nikon Photographer of the Year — Neil Silverwood

Neil Silverwood, Nikon Photographer of the Year, with Nikon sponsor Andrew Graham.

If it’s deep, dark or dangerous, then Neil Silverwood is the person you want on the job. He is a specialist caving photographer, spending weeks at a time underground. More recently he has crawled out of his burrow to spend more time in the realm of light, but it’s always associated with mountains, snow and the extremes.

Yet Silverwood doesn’t merely survive these conditions, but has an artful response to them. He brings light to dark and remote places—sometimes dozens of lights—and in doing so, allows us to visit those places, too, and understand more of what makes this country remarkable.

Tamron Young Photographer of the Year — Ben Sanford

Tamron Young Photographer of the Year winner Ben Sanford, with Tamron sponsor Mark Tyler.

Ben Sanford is not from around here. He’s from across the ditch—remarkable for its flatness and brownness and hotness. So when Sanford travels to New Zealand he does so with purpose. Specifically he’s after steepness, whiteness and coldness.

Climbing gives him access to locations and perspectives few of his neighbours have witnessed—and few New Zealanders, too. Sanford’s images stood out to judges for this clarity of intent, for the care with which he framed each shot, for the light and drama in the images—and for the art of being there with a digital SLR in the first place.

Resene Colour Award — Joanne Ottey

Resene Colour award winner Joanne Ottey, with convenor of judges James Frankham.

“With the macro lens, you get to see what the eye can’t,” says Joanne Ottey. She isn’t the biggest fan of arachnids—but she makes an exception for jumping spiders. “They’re tiny, they’re about the size of a pinhead,” she says. “I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere near them until I started taking photos of them. You get to see their little eyelashes.”

Now, she rescues jumping spiders instead of squashing them—as well as praying mantises, damselflies, harlequin bugs, lizards, sea snails, tadpoles from the local pond, caterpillars from her veggie garden. Her favourite subject, though, is frogs, and their gleaming jewel-coloured skin. “My goal is to photograph all four of the New Zealand native frogs,” she says.

Microsoft Surface Wildlife — Darryl Torckler

A dense ‘meatball’ of krill, drawn by an LED light near the surface of the water, become a late-night meal for flying fish. Darryl Torckler has been capturing nocturnal images of wildlife since 2014, and flying fish provide the ultimate challenge: fast, underwater, and shy of divers. “It takes hours of patience,” says Torckler, who shot this image with a remotely controlled camera.

Resene Landscape — Takashi Tsuneizumi

Sunlight had not yet touched Milford Sound early in the morning when Takashi Tsuneizumi’s cruise ship neared Stirling Falls. His goal was to photograph the motion of the falls and the disturbance it made on the surface of the water, and he succeeded in capturing the ghostliness that characterises Fiordland’s filmy waterfalls.

Lumix Timelapse — Stephen Patience

Commuters travel to and from work in Auckland and Wellington, turning streets and motorways into pumping arteries, while nightfall allows the camera a view into the reflective office windows. Much production work went into this video, says Stephen Patience: “The locations involved working with building managers and accommodation providers to get the unique point of view I aimed to achieve.”

Progear Photostory — Andrew Stewart

During the last three weeks of Frank Swinney’s life, Andrew Stewart documented the gathering of family and the care he received. “Frank had distinctive hands, riddled with arthritis since his early 20s,” says Stewart. “These photos acknowledge the role hands and touch played over the last few weeks including storytelling, support, communication, physical work, love and saying goodbye.”

DJI Aerial — Rob Suisted

An early winter sunset cast warm light over the landscape as Rob Suisted travelled past Mt Ruapehu. Suspecting the foothills might reveal interesting textures and forms when seen from above, he pulled over to capture the scene with a drone—a spur of the moment decision aided by familiarity with the landscape.

Epson Society & Culture — Mike Scott

Papakura High School’s kapa haka group had been preparing for Polyfest all year—and on the bus to the event, nervousness manifested in a variety of way. “The group were aching for a good performance much like any sports team getting ready for the big game,” says Mike Scott. “Some were quiet, others doing last minute touch-ups to their make-up, while others psyched themselves through their routine.”