Fairfax photographer Bruce Mercer’s powerful images of what has been described as the country’s worst maritime environmental disaster have seen him named New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012.
Mercer, who is based with the Waikato Times, took out the top award with a series of images taken after the Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty on October 5 last year. The stricken ship, which later broke in half, leaked about 350 tonnes of oil into the bay and sparked a clean up operation that was estimated to cost taxpayers $50 million.
The Government labelled it New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.
The winners of the competition were named during an awards ceremony at the Auckland Museum last night.
“Bruce Mercer’s photographs were an original perspective of an event that every media outlet was covering,” said convener of judges and New Zealand Geographic editor James Frankham.
“Press photographers swamped the Bay of Plenty, but few created images that were original or impactful. Bruce’s images are both of those things.”
Another Fairfax photographer, David Hallett, from The Press, won the wildlife category.
Now in its fourth year, the competition attracted a record number of more than 3100 entries.
All entries were shot after September 30, 2010, within New Zealand or New Zealand-administered Paciﬁc and Antarctic dependencies.
A winner, runner-up and highly commended was awarded across each of the four entry categories; Society and Culture, Wildlife, Landscape and Photo Story.
This year, organisers added a People’s Choice award, which received more than 31,000 votes cast both online and at an exhibition of the photos at Auckland Museum. Australian-based photographer Kah Kit Yoong won the title with an image of storm clouds over Glenorchy.
This year’s Young Photographer of the Year title went to Edward Duncan, a 17-year-old student from Mt Albert Grammar in Auckland, for an image of a ﬂax weevil in the Marlborough Sounds.
The judging panel of professional photographers - Andris Apse, Kim Westerskov, Arno Gasteiger and Frankham - said they were looking for a heart-stopping photo, rather than a perfect one.
"It's the image that makes you draw your breath in that is fundamentally an effective picture," said Frankham.
"It has to be technically proficient, but having said that, it isn't our main focus as judges; we are looking for content that can surprise and shows a particular creature or social group or event or landscape in a unique light or an original perspective, which is very rare."
Frankham said the competition, which is open to anyone, included entries shot on everything from smart phones to the latest professional gear.
All winning images will be published in the November/December issue of New Zealand Geographic and will be on display at Auckland Museum.
Online galleries are available on the New Zealand Geographic website.
FULL LIST OF WINNERS
Photographer of the Year – Bruce Mercer
Young Photographer of the Year – Edward Duncan
People’s Choice Award – Kah Kit Yoong
Society and Culture Category:
Winner – Natalie Slade
Runner-up – Jocelen Janon
Highly commended – Brett Phibbs, Mark Emirali, Chris Gin
Landscape CategoryWinner – Kah Kit Yoong
Runner-up – Eugene Polkan
Highly commended – Mark Watson, Chris Leskovsek
Winner – David Hallett
Runner-up – Mazdak Radjainia
Highly commended – Phil Reid, Craig McKenzie, Kelly Wilson
Winner – Bruce Mercer
Runner-up – Richard Robinson
Highly commended – Stephen Belcher
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