New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year finalists announced gallery

JOHAN LOLOS MARK SMITH DOUG SHERRING/NZME MURRAY MCCULLOCH GLEN HOWEY LEON BERARD

Landscape category finalist: Johan Lolos asked his ski-touring guide to pose on a ridge, atop built up snow near Mt Ruapehu’s crater.

Aerial photography finalist: Mark Smith embarked on a month-long project, documenting the Wai-O-Tapu thermal park from the air. In this photo, he's captured tourists gathered at the edge of the Champagne Pool.

Society and culture finalist: The Fire Service were running a training exercise, which involved burning down a multi-million dollar mansion. Doug Sherring waited and watched from a moored boat in the bay.

Wildlife photography finalist: Murray McCulloch photographed a cold, common wasp on a chilly Otago morning. The wasp was sluggish, covered in water droplets, which refracted a daisy and the blue of an Otago rugby shirt.

Photo story finalist: Glen Howey has been documenting the damaged, abandoned and derelict buildings in Christchurch's red zone.

Wildlife photography finalist: Leon Berard leaned over the side of his fishing boat, to capture an aerial shot of these seabirds fighting over a fish head.

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Break into buildings, traipse through forests and stand at the top of a snowy ridge; that's how you make it as a photographer.

The finalists in NZ Geographic's Photographer of the Year awards have watched buildings burn, flown drones over sulfuric lakes and been intimate with wasps. Between the 47 of them, they've seen it all.

New Zealand's best photography from 2016 is on display outside the Christ Church Cathedral.

"After a long day fighting fires I went back to the volunteer station at Pine acres. Sometimes the picture is actually ...
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

"After a long day fighting fires I went back to the volunteer station at Pine acres. Sometimes the picture is actually away from the action" - Press photographer Iain McGregor.

The finalists were announced at the opening of the exhibition on Saturday, which would remain open until September 18.

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The three judges – wildlife photographer Richard Robinson, press photographer Brett Phibbs, and New Zealand Geographic editor James Frankham – delved through 3000 entries. 

Each category winner would get $500. But the ultimate prize of "Photographer of the Year" would win $1000 cash, plus a trip to the Sub-Antarctic.

"Above and beyond the money, there's also the glory of it", Frankham said. For professionals and amateurs alike, the bragging rights were huge, he said.

About half the awards tended be won by amateurs, which showed how many amateur photographers there were in New Zealand, Frankham said.

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Among the finalists was The Press photographer Iain McGregor, who, "after a long day fighting fires" during the Canterbury summer scrub fires, walked away from the chaos.

"Sometimes the picture is actually away from the action," he said. When he arrived back at the volunteer fire station, he saw an exhausted Tony Howlett, a firefighter coated in ash and slumped next to hanging fire gear.

Categories included landscape, wildlife, society and culture, photo story, timelapse and a new category, aerial photography. A young photographer of the year, and people's choice award were also up for grabs.

Some of the finalist photographers had travelled as far as Antarctica and remote atolls in the Pacific to get their snaps. Some came close to breaking laws, such as photo story finalist Glen Howey​, who broke into red zoned Christchurch buildings, abandoned after the earthquakes.

Some spent months, persistently watching and documenting our changing environment. Aerial photographer Mark Smith spent a month watching how the Wai-O-Tapu thermal pools changed, near Rotorua. Another photographer spent an entire year documenting the struggles of New Zealand's rarest kiwi, the rowi.

The public can see their photography for free at Cathedral Square between 10am and 5pm.

 - Stuff

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