Photographer of the Year 2021 — Finalists

The finest images of the year have been announced. Now is your chance to vote on your favourites.

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There were more than 6000 entrants from amateurs and professionals alike. Judges whittled it down to 54 finalists, the finest frames of 2021 across six categories. Select five of your favourites to vote in the Ockham Residential People’s Choice award!

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ukiiibrown

Resene Built Environment

Ukiah Jules Brown

A morning sun-shower falls on the retro pool at Waitakere Resort & Spa, a boutique hotel started in the 1960s in west Auckland. To the right of the frame is the new wing of the establishment. “The challenge was keeping parts in focus as the rain was coming down pretty heavily,” says Ukiah Jules Brown. “You can see it in the pool surface.”

tehpinkstalagmite

Resene Built Environment

Samuel Gamble

One day, feeling short of inspiration, Samuel Gamble asked his girlfriend for a photography theme, and she said, “Texture”. Walking around Dunedin, he noticed the siding covering the Cadbury chocolate factory awaiting demolition. “Being that I am colour blind I enjoy using contrast and not colour,” he says, “so the challenge was looking for the best angle which provided shadows and highlights.”

robsuisted

Resene Built Environment

Rob Suisted

While documenting sea-level rise, Rob Suisted attempted to create an image that showed the built environment under attack at the coast. “Hence the focus on the dynamic battle of textures and energy in the foreground,” says Suisted, “while homes sit above as benign observers seeming oblivious to the changes happening.”

mc__creative

Resene Built Environment

Matthew Connolly

Architect John Scott’s Futuna Chapel is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most important 20th century buildings, and so when Matthew Connolly planned a 10-day photography pilgrimage around the North Island, this was the high point. Connolly aimed to capture its significant features in one frame: “The abstracted gable-roof geometry, the inclusion of Māori design aspects, and the way in which light is abstracted through stained glass.”

lightssmith

Resene Built Environment

Napat Chutrchaivech

Since late 2020, Napat Chutrchaivech has challenged himself to take a picture every day; this was the photograph he made on May 23, 2021. He was at the Christchurch Arts Centre when he noticed the symmetry of an aeroplane’s vapour trail passing over the forms of the building.

muster.anna.munro

Resene Built Environment

Anna Munro

Every December 28, the President’s Lounge comes into its own as the headquarters for the Hāwea Picnic Races. Anna Munro headed to the Hāwea Domain early one morning to document the lounge in its off-season state, shooting pictures as her dogs burned off some energy on the race track.

andyjacksonphotographer

Resene Built Environment

Andy Jackson

On a still winter evening, a paddle boarder off the coast of New Plymouth shares the Tasman Sea with a palm-kernel ship waiting to be guided into Port Taranaki. “I’ve always loved capturing how people interact in some form with the world around them in a single frame,” says Andy Jackson.

adv.png

Resene Built Environment

Anand Vallabh

On an overcast Sunday morning, Anand Vallabh noticed that just one office was illuminated in the SAP Tower in central Auckland. The light was low, so Vallabh shot from a tripod, which he briefly positioned in the middle of Queen Street in order to get the shot.

the_canadian_kiwi

Panasonic Lumix Society

Mattheus Elwood

At a friend’s birthday party, Mattheus Elwood noticed one guest sitting in the corner doing her biology homework. “The blur from the door is other people walking in and out of the room ignoring my friend in the corner,” he says. Elwood was attempting to photograph the party as a street photographer would—his birthday gift to his friend.

ken_hansen_photo

Panasonic Lumix Society

Ken Hansen

In summer, people vie for a spot on Hot Water Beach, where natural hot springs bubble up through the sand. “The density and diversity of these folk I find very photogenic at this very popular location,” says Ken Hansen, who awaited the moment a kid launched into a “bomb” off the rock in the background.

georgeheardphoto

Panasonic Lumix Society

George Heard

DJ Netsky was playing his set at the Electric Avenue Festival in February when Herald photojournalist George Heard noticed a young man in a wheelchair being lifted above the crowd. He climbed up on a stand with the help of a security guard, timing his picture to capture the youth as the flames illuminated the throng.

gabriellamorton

Panasonic Lumix Society

Gabriella Morton

New Zealand’s first lockdown had only just concluded in June 2020 when Black Lives Matter protests were held around the world—including this country. “Queen Street was at capacity, edge to edge with crowds for the first time since pre-COVID,” says Gabriella Morton. “Above the protest were multiple managed isolation facilities also participating from their bird’s eye window view.”

dicesales

Panasonic Lumix Society

Dice Sales

“New Brighton beach is my go-to place to catch the sunrise and shoot seascape photography,” says Dice Sales. “As I saw this individual feeding the birds, and seeing them gracefully surround him, I knew something would happen.” Sales waited for the right moment, when the gulls framed the man.

deanpurcell

Panasonic Lumix Society

Dean Purcell

In August 2020, Auckland entered a period of Alert Level 3, and medical personnel set up on site at the Ports of Auckland in order to test border staff for COVID-19. Documenting this involved Herald photojournalist Dean Purcell donning full safety gear, “which made it a bit difficult to work”.

cornelltukes

Panasonic Lumix Society

Cornell Tukiri

The Lataimaumi family prepare fish heads and frames for their evening meal. Uhiua Lataimaumi collects the heads and frames four days a week from Kai Ika, a project from Legasea that uses fish that would otherwise be discarded, and also distributes them to nearby friends and family.

braden_fastier

Panasonic Lumix Society

Braden Fastier

Andrew Parker of the Flying High Project readies his hot-air balloon for a tethered flight carrying pupils from Victory Primary School in Nelson. The project aims to give children a different perspective on the land—looking down on it from above like a kāhu/hawk—and to inspire them in their education.

gibsonimagesnz

Panasonic Lumix Society

Alan Gibson

A student is fitted for her gown before taking the stage at a graduation ceremony for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Alan Gibson had to wait for the right moment to capture this scene. “The gowning and mustering area was in a cold, dark space behind the main auditorium,” he says, “but as the day progressed and the light moved around, I could see the possibilities.”

aldenwilliams

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Alden Williams

A bob of New Zealand fur seals relaxes on the eastern edge of Antipodes Island in the subantarctic. Alden Williams, a photojournalist at the Christchurch Press, made this picture while balancing in a Zodiac with several other photographers—meaning the most difficult part was finding a fresh perspective: “Originality was the hardest challenge on the day.”

craigmckenzienz

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Craig Mckenzie

Sea lions give birth in secret along the Otago coastline, and when the pups are old enough, their mothers bring them to a “creche” at a rock pool to socialise and develop their swimming skills. This is one such pup, about five months old. “Sea lion pups are very curious,” says Craig McKenzie. “Very often they would come far too close for my lens to focus.”

cruzerdmann

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Cruz Erdmann

A school of blue mao mao shelter in the shade of a shallow underwater arch at the Poor Knights Islands. “The school is slowly but constantly shifting within the small space in a swirling motion,” says Cruz Erdmann. The low afternoon sun sent bright beams into the depths, and Erdmann aimed to capture these as he waited for the fish to face the same direction.

southernalpsphotography

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Danilo Hegg

A rarely seen velvet worm, or peripatus, is on the hunt. Strictly nocturnal and active only in damp or wet conditions, it is about two centimetres long and just a few millimetres across. “This photograph is part of a long-term project to document New Zealand’s micro wildlife in its natural environment,” says Danilo Hegg. “I have spent endless nights outside photographing invertebrates.”

douglasthornephotography

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Douglas Thorne

When Douglas Thorne spotted a large white bird off the coast of Rakiura, at first he thought it was a heron. It turned out to be a kōtuku ngutupapa/royal spoonbill—a bird he’d never seen before. In fact, there was a whole flock of them. He raised his camera as kayakers disturbed the flock and they took to the air.

fi_tography

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Fiona Wardle

Masses of whale krill bloom along the east coast of the South Island over summer. They are juvenile squat lobsters, an important source of food. “They were being pushed up to the surface by other predators, with the odd flash of silver kahawai breaking the surface every now and then,” says Wardle. “From above it looked like a beautifully choreographed dance.”

gallivanting.grant

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Grant Nicholson

Two ruru/morepork chicks nestled in a hollow ponga trunk click their beaks, hoping for a meal. Grant Nicholson watched the ruru over the course of several weeks, documenting the chicks’ rapid growth and progress. A few minutes after Nicholson made this picture, the chicks left their nest for the first time.

seacologynz

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Irene Middleton

A rarely seen juvenile football octopus swims among salps and zooplankton near the Poor Knights Islands. It’s a deepwater species, and usually lives in the open ocean, up to 200 metres down. Documenting what can be found in the waters off north-eastern New Zealand has been a passion for Irene Middleton for the past five years—and counting.

hague_art

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Mandy Hague

While photographing white-fronted terns near a river mouth, Mandy Hague noticed a tarāpunga/red-billed gull being harassed by other gulls. On closer inspection, she noticed it had a length of discarded fishing nylon wound tightly around both legs. “One leg had turned black and it was in obvious discomfort,” she says.

simonbirdphotography

Electric Kiwi Wildlife

Simon Runting

A tākapu/Australasian gannet sleeps during a rain storm with its head tucked into its feathers. “It would wake every now and then to shake the droplets off,” says Simon Runting. He often visits the gannet colony at Muriwai Beach on wild-weather days—his camera protected by an extra-long lens hood made from plastic gutter guard from Bunnings.

chris_mclennan1

Lightforce Aerial

Chris McLennan

Driving home from the Catlins, Chris McLennan noticed the late-afternoon winter sunlight illuminating the gently rolling hills and a flock of browsing sheep. He stopped to send up his drone before the light changed and the moment was lost.

danielmurray.nz

Lightforce Aerial

Daniel Murray

On a sunrise flight from Glenorchy in April, Daniel Murray photographed the twin peaks of Stargazer and Skyscraper on the north side of Tititea/Mount Aspiring. “I’ve done many such flights,” he says, “but this one had perhaps the best conditions I have ever experienced.”

shadowandshadenz

Lightforce Aerial

Larryn Rae

Following an early July storm, rain and sediment swelled the glacier-fed Tasman River where it washes into the headwaters of Lake Pukaki. “I knew after the storm there would be crazy colours to capture,” says Larryn Rae, who photographed the scene from the air.

emmawillettsprints

Lightforce Aerial

Emma Willetts

The plan was to photograph the Otago coastline, but then Emma Willetts’ plane happened to fly over the BP Surf Rescue South Island Championships at Waikouaiti Beach. Willetts directed the pilot to approach the scene from the right angle in order to avoid sun flare and form an interesting composition.

huntersmith_nz

Lightforce Aerial

Hunter Smith

Wilding pines are a significant pest problem in the Mackenzie Basin, and so when Hunter Smith found this dramatic, precise colour change in a local forest, he assumed it was because some of the trees had been sprayed with poison. Other Twizel locals confirmed that this had likely taken place.

alphapixnz

Lightforce Aerial

John Cowpland

Napier saw its wettest hour on record on November 9, 2020, causing widespread flooding. The following day, John Cowpland was out shooting general views of the situation in the suburb of Napier South when he spotted a courier van ploughing through the water, and chased it down the road.

alphapixnz

Lightforce Aerial

John Cowpland

Every Easter, riders congregate in Hawke’s Bay for the Big Easy cycling event on the gentle local trails. As participants passed through Meeanee, John Cowpland noticed that the angle of the sun meant he could capture the riders’ shadows. “The one guy heading the opposite way made the image for me,” he says.

leecook_images

Lightforce Aerial

Lee Cook

Low winter sun illuminates glacial fissures above the upper reaches of Franz Josef Glacier. After Lee Cook’s planned sunrise flight was postponed due to fog, he instead plotted an afternoon flight path with his pilot to avoiding direct sunlight falling on his main points of interest, allowing him to capture the detail of this crevasse system.

iamtheflyingkiwi

Lightforce Aerial

Peter May

A couple of summers ago, a school of sharks began passing by the east coast of the Coromandel. Whitianga local Peter May kept an eye out for them last January. “Local surfers gave me the call to say they were there, and it happened to be perfect conditions,” says May, who raced to Hot Water Beach. “The surfers and sharks hung out together all afternoon.”

petraleary

Lightforce Aerial

Petra Leary

Cabbages are picked for packaging and distribution at a farm in Pukekohe as part of a story on Chinese market gardeners in the area. Petra Leary struggled to keep her drone steady in order to achieve a symmetrical composition in high winds.

rachelmataira

Lightforce Aerial

Rachel Mataira

It was noon on a summer’s day at Mārahau when Rachel Mataira noticed four kayakers on the horizon heading towards Sandfly Bay. She sent up her drone, aiming to capture the abstracted colours and forms of the bay as the paddlers crossed the submerged sand bars of the inlet.

williampatino_photography

Resene Landscape

William Patino

Heavy snow reaches low levels of the Hollyford Valley only a few times a year, and so as a storm approached, William Patino headed out before the roads closed, aiming to photograph the beech forest blanketed in white. “Trying to capture the essence and many faces of Fiordland is a lifelong project of mine,” says Patino, “and I’m constantly watching the weather for events like this.”

tobinkatravels

Resene Landscape

Tobias Kraus

Blue hour is the phase of twilight when the sun is between 4° and 8° below the horizon, and Tobias Kraus made the most of it when creating this early June portrait of Mount Taranaki. “The light was changing quickly and timing was a challenge,” he says.

shadowandshadenz

Resene Landscape

Larryn Rae

Hoar frosts, where white ice crystals attach to various exposed objects—branches, leaves, blades of tussock grass—are occasional and unpredictable. When Larryn Rae heard of one taking place in the Mackenzie Basin, he drove seven hours there from the West Coast to capture it. The cold, he says, was “brutal”.

ryan_domenico

Resene Landscape

Ryan De Dominicis

Climbing to Syme Hut on the slopes of Mount Taranaki in winter is no small undertaking—on the way up, Ryan De Dominicis and his friends battled temperatures of -17°C and gales of 70 kilometres per hour. But the sky cleared for sunset as forecast, allowing De Dominicis to capture the shot he’d planned of the hut against the summit of the mountain.

leecook_images

Resene Landscape

Lee Cook

A 30-second-long exposure captures the last light of the day illuminating Stirling Falls, the Palisades and the vertical slab faces of the Lion. Before this moment, the sunset was dull and gloomy—then a faint glow of colour appeared. “Within two minutes, the most incredible light I have ever witnessed in my photography career had been and gone,” says Lee Cook.

jay._.drew

Resene Landscape

Jay Drew

The lookout on the west side of Lake Pukaki is a popular tourist stop, but on a pre-dawn, mid-winter visit, Jay Drew sought to make a picture different from the norm. “It took me a little while to get over the beauty of the scene and to move away from the typical image capture,” she says. “I found that I wanted it expressed as if it were a painting.”

de_rood

Resene Landscape

Danny Rood

On an expedition to the subantarctic, the Spirit of Enderby encountered eight-metre swells between Rakiura/Stewart Island and Auckland Island. Rather than remaining in his cabin, Danny Rood went to the deck to document what he calls “the impressive weather” and captured an albatross gliding above the spray.

brendangully

Resene Landscape

Brendan Gully

Rocket Lab’s 20th mission blasts off from Māhia Peninsula on May 15, 2021. Brendan Gully had scoped out this vantage point on a previous trip, and the launch went mostly to plan. Photographing rocket launches, he says, is a gamble—especially because Māhia is a long drive from home: “So far I’ve lost more than I’ve won.”

a.d.f.photography

Resene Landscape

Andrew Francombe

After autumn thunderstorms cleared the sky of haze and cloud, Andrew Francombe settled in to make long exposures of the stars seen through the natural rock arch of Cathedral Cove. He started shooting at about 3.30am; this image is about three hours’ worth of long exposures combined into a single frame.

joeh_nz

Progear PhotoStory

Joe Harrison

“With its American flags and cowboy hats, one could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into Texas if they had turned up at the Kaitaia A&P Showgrounds in early January,” says Joe Harrison. Harrison was on holiday in Northland when he noticed a sign for the Far North Rodeo.

mcgregor1

Progear PhotoStory

Iain McGregor

Stevedore Willie Maipi and his team keep New Zealand’s supply chain connected at Ports of Auckland during an Alert Level 3 lockdown. Maipi took safety precautions such as showering outside after returning home from his night shift. “The idea was to highlight some of the people who keep the country running while we are all in bed,” says Iain McGregor.

alexmcv

Progear PhotoStory

Alex McVinnie-Maidment

Malcolm Te Ahu Pivac passed away during the second lockdown of 2020. Unable to hold a tangi, his family travelled to lay him to rest at their urupā in Doubtless Bay, undertaking the burial themselves. “Malcolm was well loved by many,” says Maidment. “The fact that only a small number of people could farewell him was very difficult for all involved.”

beckimoss_

Progear PhotoStory

Becki Moss

Performances at a vogue ball involve costume, dance, lip-syncing and modelling, and participants, dressed in drag, hail from the queer community. This event was significant because three of Auckland’s biggest ballroom houses (groups or clubs) co-hosted a ball for the first time at a mainstream rather than an underground venue: the Auckland Town Hall.

ralphpiezas

Progear PhotoStory

Ralph Piezas

In Ralph Piezas’ work with children who have an autism spectrum disorder, he found that the wider community often misunderstood the kids. He had the idea of creating a photo story to bring their experiences to life. “The story tries to show my understanding of the unique world of autism through candid photographs,” he says.

kai_schwoerer

Progear PhotoStory

Kai Schwoerer

The sentencing of the Christchurch mosque terrorist involved a four-day hearing, and was “a big part of the healing process for the Muslim community”, says Christchurch local Kai Schwoerer, who has covered the aftermath of the terror attacks from day one. “It’s a long-term project, not only for me as a photographer, but for us as society,” says Schwoerer. “This story is far from over.”

cornelltukes

Progear PhotoStory

Cornell Tukiri

Auckland-based iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei organised a peaceful hīkoi to the Auckland High Court to highlight the court’s and the crown’s consideration in awarding settlements in parts of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s rohe (area) to iwi not considered mana whenua.


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