‘Extraordinary’ folio wins 2016 NZ photo awards

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New Zealand’s most prestigious natural photography prize, New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year, was last night claimed by Christchurch photojournalist Iain McGregor.

The competition celebrates the work across six categories: Society &Culture, Wildlife, Landscape, Photo Story, Timelapse and – new in 2016 – the Aerial category.

Iain McGregor’s winning portfolio leads the viewer through subjects as diverse as the bush fires that raged through Canterbury last summer, burnouts in muscle cars, a kapa haka festival, Prince Harry playfully engaging with a toddler, and tourists dwarfed by Fox Glacier, even as the glacier retreats from view.

“The range and quality of his work are extraordinary,” said NZ Geographic editor (and convenor of judges) James Frankham, who presented McGregor with his prize.

“There’s also a really compassionate thread that tells a story about the shared values of New Zealanders. His images are disarming. They make you rethink your values, confront your prejudices, or connect with people in circumstances very different from your own.

“This is what makes photojournalism so engaging, and it’s at work every time Iain releases his shutter.”

The 2016 competition was a hotly contested field, with 47 finalists – the most in the competition’s history – from 3500 entries. Six category winners were also honoured, and three special prizes awarded.

“These winners are testament to the lengths photographers will go to in order to get the shot,” Frankham said.

Shaun Jeffers won the Landscape category for an image made in near-total darkness at the deepest point of a Waitomo cave, a long exposure that captures the faint light of glow-worms.

The Timelapse winner, Hamish Wright, wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, but called in from his post at the geographic South Pole, where earlier in the winter he had made an impressive video of the aurora australis.

The People’s Choice award was a runaway winner. Murray McCulloch’s close-up of water droplets on a wasp gained more than double the votes of its closest competitor. McCulloch used a technique called ‘focus stacking’ to render every hair of the wasp in perfect detail.

Talman Madsen took home the Young Photographer of the Year award for his aerial shot of larches near Lake Tekapo, the treetops taking on an unfamiliar texture when seen from above.

“The Aerial category highlights everything that is important about the Photographer of the Year,” Frankham said. “It’s all about seeing New Zealand from a unique perspective – be that high above a landscape, or deep inside a community.”

  • All the prizewinning images can be viewed here

Quick facts

  • The Auckland exhibition of all the winners and finalists continues until Sunday 6 November (10am-5pm) at Karanga Plaza, opposite Viaduct Events Centre.
  • The exhibition features all 47 finalists in six categories, as well as some of the best work from previous years of the contest. It is the largest Photographer of the Year exhibition ever staged.
  • The overall winner was judged based on a portfolio of photographs.
  • All work was photographed or videoed within New Zealand or its overseas dependencies.
  • New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year has taken place since 2009 – this is the eighth year of the competition.

About New Zealand Geographic
New Zealand Geographic magazine is the journal of record for New Zealand, celebrating its people, places and wildlife. The magazine has built a strong reputation for lavish photography, showcasing the natural and cultural riches that make New Zealand unique. The New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year competition launched in 2009 and has become New Zealand’s most popular photographic competition.


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