Painter with light

Anyone interested in photography, and New Zealand photography in particular, should come to the Museum on Saturday for our latest expert session, Nature in Focus.

The subject is Olaf Peterson (1915-1994), a photographer of extraordinary skill who produced some truly beautiful and breathtaking images. Pictorial curator Gordon Maitland and Pictorial librarian Shaun Higgins will be showing Olaf’s pictures and talking about his work and his collection held here at Auckland Museum.

A Petersen photograph of pelicans at Auckland Zoo

Olaf (pronounced Ulla) is one of the photographers featured in the NZ-life exhibition currently showing in the Museum’s Exhibition Hall. Though he was well-known and highly respected by his fellow photographers, he is still not widely recognised as one of New Zealand’s great photographers.

In preparation for the talk Shaun is going through the extensive Petersen collection, which was gifted to the Museum by Olaf’s family, to find pictures that haven’t been seen in public for more than 40 years.

I asked Shaun what makes Olaf’s images so profoundly lovely. Shaun pointed out the dream-like quality of many of images, the way they have a familiar otherness about them.

“Olaf was really, really good at capturing light in quite surreal ways that is almost magical.”

Olaf’s bread and butter was wedding and portrait photography, but nature photography was his passion. He was particularly fond of photographing Auckland’s west coast, not far from his home in Swanson. He also used to accompany the Auckland University Field Club on trips around the country, from Stewart Island to the islands off the Northland coast.

Some of his most striking images capture the patterns of sand on the west coast beaches of Muriwai and Bethells. As Olaf told the Listener magazine in 1980: “To the casual eye sand is pretty monotonous stuff. But when you become interested in photography you find that sand can lend itself to more fascinating effects than just about any other material. Of course, you need to be able to see what is there.”

One of Petersen's Muriwai photos displaying his incredible eye for photographing patterns in the sand

According to Petersen good nature photography was “a matter of patience and playing the waiting game.” He once followed a seagull chick up and down Muriwai beach until it walked over the precise sand pattern he wanted.

One of the many comments of praise he received from those who judged his work in competitions was one who looked at one of is photographs and then “stared at it for ages with mouth open and popping eyes.”

Shaun and Gordon will be talking about Olaf Petersen on Saturday 22 September at 2pm in the Camera Lounge in the NZ-Life exhibition.

Six months in a West Coast mine

For photographer Peter Quinn his assignments are often life-changing events. Even before you consider the subject matter of his assignments – spanning everything from gangs to whitebaiters to the history of Auckland’s Great South Road – the time and energy he devotes to his subjects can’t help but leave a lasting mark on his own life.

In 1994 he took on assignment to capture miners on the West Coast: to get the photos he wanted and to do justice to the story he moved his wife and baby daughter to the West Coast for six months.

The cover of New Zealand Geographic’s New Zealanders in Focus which features some of Peter Quinn’s work for the magazine over the past 20 or so years. The cover is Peter’s image of a Mines Rescue "Proto team" during a training drill in Greymouth, on the West Coast. “These are the guys (working coalminers themselves) who volunteer to enter the mine after an explosion or roof collapse and rescue, or more often than not, retrieve the remains of the victims.”

The cover of New Zealand Geographic’s New Zealanders in Focus which features some of Peter Quinn’s work for the magazine over the past 20 or so years. The cover is Peter’s image of a Mines Rescue "Proto team" during a training drill in Greymouth, on the West Coast. “These are the guys (working coalminers themselves) who volunteer to enter the mine after an explosion or roof collapse and rescue, or more often than not, retrieve the remains of the victims.”

On his coalmining assignment, capturing the photo he wanted – the one that could express the tight bonds and the true sense of camaraderie among the miners – was its own unique challenge.

“I wanted to get a photo in one of the mine bathhouses because I could see it was one of the only ways to really communicate that relationship and those bonds in amidst that harsh environment. To get that image though you’re talking about walking in on half a dozen staunch, solid West Coast coalminers and pointing a camera at them while they’re in the shower together. Not the easiest.

“So I spent a few weeks going around looking for the perfect bathhouse and when I found the bathhouse in the Surprise Mine in Reefton, I was like ‘yep, this is the one’.

“The day of the shoot I hung a camera in the bathhouse so the lens could acclimatise and I wouldn’t have to wait around, or miss the shot, when we got back. I also spent the day underground with the guys so they’d get used to me and it wouldn’t feel like such an intrusion. Then at the end of the day we all got back together and I just starting shooting and got this frame. I don’t know that I can describe exactly why it works – but it tells the story and that’s the most important part of what I do.”

West Coast coalminers showering in the bathhouse at the Surprise Mine in Reefton after a day in the mine.

West Coast coalminers showering in the bathhouse at the Surprise Mine in Reefton after a day in the mine.

Another West Coast assignment – by virtue of Peter being in the right place at the right time – was the photography for a 1993 piece about whitebaiting “Bait” written by Keri Hulme. She famously described the pursuit of whitebait as a ‘religion’.

Pot-netters scooping for white bait at the mouth of the Waita River near Haast on each tidal surge. (Pot-netters have a solid wire frame basket which is different to the more commonly used sock net.)

Pot-netters scooping for white bait at the mouth of the Waita River near Haast on each tidal surge. (Pot-netters have a solid wire frame basket which is different to the more commonly used sock net.)

Photography wasn’t always where Peter saw himself. “I had no intention of following it as a career and it wasn’t until my early 20s that I got absorbed in it.” At that point he sought training at the only photography course on offer at the time in Wellington. Even after his training he wasn’t sure how his career would play out given the idea of advertising and commercial shoots didn’t really appeal.

Then along came the chance to photograph the images for a book – Staunch: Inside New Zealand Gangs. Published in 1990, it now seen as one of the country’s iconic books with the images kept in Te Papa’s collections. It should have been Peter’s big break, but in the early years after its publication it didn’t turn out like that.

One of Peter Quinn’s images from the book Staunch: Inside New Zealand Gangs. Magog Motorcycle Club prospect taking his Harley for a test ride along the road from the Chapter's New Plymouth clubhouse after doing a bit of routine maintenance on it.

One of Peter Quinn’s images from the book Staunch: Inside New Zealand Gangs. Magog Motorcycle Club prospect taking his Harley for a test ride along the road from the Chapter's New Plymouth clubhouse after doing a bit of routine maintenance on it.

“A lot of photographers wait their whole life for a book but the way things turned out I started with a book. It seemed like it might have been a big break but actually when I read the text for the first time I was pretty nervous about some of the really quite defamatory things that had been written about some of the bike gangs – and I knew that weren’t likely to challenge them with a lawyer, they were more likely just to come after us for retribution – so I asked for my name to be taken off the cover and then went and hid for a few years while the dust settled.”

Peter took refuge on the West Coast and in the early 90s – with the resurgence of tourism – made his living taking photos for the industry: from caving to white water rafting, mountains and skifields.

While ‘hiding out’ on the West Coast he carried out the whitebaiting assignment for New Zealand Geographic and he’s been carrying out assignments for them ever since.

“New Zealand Geographic said we’re looking for photographers who want to grapple with the subject and learn about it and communicate it to our readers and who are prepared to do the research. That was just what I was looking for, the chance to tell the stories as I saw them rather than having an art director call you from their office at the other end of the country and tell you they want a photo of a bird, they want it in flight against the horizon – and then you find that kind of bird doesn’t even fly.” 

More often than not Peter pitches his own ideas for the photography assignments that take up so much of his life. 

A communal morning feast following a prayer service at a Sikh temple in Manurewa. This photo was captured as part of a New Zealand Geographic photo assignment looking at Great South Road and the ‘changing face of Auckland’.

A communal morning feast following a prayer service at a Sikh temple in Manurewa. This photo was captured as part of a New Zealand Geographic photo assignment looking at Great South Road and the ‘changing face of Auckland’.

“In early 2000 there was a big, national discussion going on about biculturalism and what was happening with it in New Zealand. My sense then was that the bigger issue was multiculturalism and the changing face of New Zealand and particularly Auckland.”

“I came up with the idea that the Great South Road would be a good way of approaching that narrative. I followed it for a couple of years looking at the different migrant communities that had made their way in and settled along it and made it their home.

“I also found that historically, Great South Road really is New Zealand’s national road – it’s the main road out of Auckland, it had been used by Governor Grey as a road to war, he’d actually specifically widened the road so he could send troops out into the Waikato. So it was such a great snapshot of New Zealand with the early colonial history along it and then by the 1960s it really became the ‘road to migration’ for Polynesian people as they came over from the islands and started settling along it and working in the freezing works in Otahuhu and places like that and then subsequently into the 90s where you’ve got more Asian communities starting to settle there. As I drove along the road and through the different suburbs along the Great South Road you could really see the distinct communities.”

Peter has now been carrying out assignments for New Zealand Geographic for the better part of 20 years. He jokes that being a photographer, one that devotes themselves to these massive assignments over months or years, requires a masochistic streak.

“Looking at it people might think I’m a glutton for punishment.”

Anyone that has seen his work though will appreciate the devotion that goes into each assignment and Peter’s gift for storytelling.

“To be a good photographer, I think more than anything, it is having something to say that’s important. Photography is a language, it’s about communication and communicating ideas and if you haven’t got any ideas and you’ve got nothing to say then you really need to go back and address that but if you’ve got that then you have to marry it up with an ability to make your ideas decipherable. It’s easy to take a photograph and no one understands it so you’ve got to get to a point where you’re thinking about your audience and how they’ll react and what will mean the most to them, what will tell them the story.”

“I believe a good storytelling photograph has to have been considered and thought through, even if the shot itself happens quickly, there will be an idea behind that shot that was the foundation for it and that might have happened days, weeks or even months before the photo was taken.” 

A Viking’s approach to nature photography

“Maybe it’s my Viking ancestry.”

Trying to explain his passion for ocean swells and isolated marine environments, nature photographer Kim Westerskov jokes that it might stem from his Viking roots. He specialises in what he calls “ocean wilderness” areas – in the seas, sea life and coastlines from Antarctica to tropical seas.

“I’ve had a long love affair with these wild, wet, cold and lonely places and an equally strong commitment to capturing some of the wonder and beauty and of these places.” 

Campbell Albatross over a stormy ocean © Kim Westerskov

Campbell Albatross over a stormy ocean © Kim Westerskov

He is the only photographer ever to have won five first prizes in the world’s largest nature photography competition, the BBC/Natural History Museum (currently Veolia Environnement) “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” competition.

This prestigious competition is essentially the “Olympics” of nature photography worldwide – the last round of the competition attracted over 40,000 images from 95 countries.

Photographic assignments have included work for the BBC, TVNZ, New Zealand Herald, New Zealand Geographic magazine, and the Department of Conservation. One of his largest assignment saw him take 25,000 photos in Antarctica for the $7 million Visitor Centre at Christchurch’s International Antarctic Centre.

 Lone Adelie penguin in field of jagged, jumbled sea ice in Antarctica © Kim Westerskov

Lone Adelie penguin in field of jagged, jumbled sea ice in Antarctica © Kim Westerskov


Emperor penguin chicks 'socialising' with their parents in Antartica © Kim Westerskov

Emperor penguin chicks 'socialising' with their parents in Antartica © Kim Westerskov

Along the way in his photographic assignments he’s been “cuddled” by a humpback whale, caught in a diving sperm whale’s downdraft, dived under the Antarctic ice and photographed at minus 50 degrees Celsius in Antarctica.

Humpback Whale mother and baby © Kim Westerskov

Humpback Whale mother and baby © Kim Westerskov


Humpback Whale surfacing underwater © Kim Westerskov

Humpback Whale surfacing underwater © Kim Westerskov

“I’ve always loved nature. When I was a child, I spent as much time as possible by myself in the hills and forests. Later my family moved to a coastal village near Dunedin and then I spent most of my spare time in the sea: surf lifesaving, swimming, surfing, diving… After I graduated from university (with a Ph.D. in marine biology) I was faced with either getting a “real job” or doing what I liked best and trying to make it into a job. So that’s what I’ve done ever since – photograph and write about the sea and the many animals that live there.

Blue shark © Kim Westerskov

Blue shark © Kim Westerskov

“Eighteen books have resulted, and a career that has been exciting, rewarding, and successful enough to support my wonderful family: my wife Vivienne, son Gareth and daughter Anne.”

“In recent years I’ve become a teacher too, sharing techniques and insights with a steady stream of keen photographers through the various photo workshops and field trips that I run.  

“A part of me always wanted to be a teacher, so I find these times rewarding – and fun. I’m meeting some great people. Sharing with others – by photography and writing and teaching – some of the beauty, wonder and excitement of the sea is what I like doing best. On a good day, surrounded by whales or dolphins or sea lions or seabirds – or just the sea and sky – it’s the best job in the world. Then the wind and swell come up… and up, and it’s not quite so good. Still, even then I keep photographing – the cover photo on the first edition of the book “The Perfect Storm” was one of mine.”

“I love being a nature photographer. I love nature and I love mooching around by myself and I love art. Nature photography allows me to combine all three. Eventually it even allowed me to make a career out of it.”
Asked how he honed his craft, Kim says it was just ‘by doing it’.

“Specifically by taking my camera to the places I loved – wilderness places and underwater – and trying to capture the essence, the special moments of what I saw. I also spent a lot of time analysing the photos I had recently taken, so what worked, what didn’t work, and how could I do better next time. And by reading photography magazines and books, talking with other photographers and going to workshops.”

“My best piece of advice for people looking to develop their photography skills or forge a career out of it is to do it. Do it, enjoy the journey, and keep doing it. Learn from anybody and everybody. Keep learning – I’m learning new stuff faster today than at any other time in my career [my head hurts].  As in most endeavours it’s those people with the most passion that will eventually succeed.” 

Orca whales © Kim Westerskov

Orca whales © Kim Westerskov

“Learn whatever technical skills you need, but don’t get too hung up over the technical stuff. I believe that good photography is perhaps only 20% about the technical stuff, and maybe 80% about ‘the other stuff’ – passion, love, commitment, a good eye, knowledge of [and respect for] your subject and understanding what aspects of photography can create emotion and connection in photos.”

Kim will be sharing his portfolio and more insights into photography tomorrow at Auckland Museum at 2pm (Saturday 18 August) or you can visit his site to learn more http://www.kimwphotography.com/ 

Art versus reality: Kah Kit Yoong

Vibrant blues, stunning shades of orange and artistic swirls of misty waters combine to create a hyperreal impression in Melbourne-based photographer Kah Kit Yoong’s Dawn Stars image. Currently on show in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at Auckland Museum, the photograph was taken in Paparoa National Park and won Kah Kit a “highly commended” award and inclusion in the international touring exhibition.

Dawn Stars © Kah Kit Yoong

Dawn Stars © Kah Kit Yoong

Ahead of his talk at Auckland Museum next week Kah Kit has shared some of his thoughts on the art of photography and the power of the camera’s eye to see more than our own.


Enlightenment
This week someone took me to task about a photograph I made of a clearing storm in Glenorchy two years ago. This sleepy township is a short scenic drive from Queenstown. Glenorchy has all the ingredients a landscape photographer could want: a mountain range, flowing water and a beautiful lagoon. Coupled with the dramatic conditions that the location frequently sees and it’s no wonder that it has become one of my favourite spots for photography.

The criticism was that the photograph wasn’t realistic. I agreed the landscape depicted in my image “Twilight Zone” could never be seen in this state in the real world. That is not to say that the scene never physically existed, because it did. The blueprint for the finished photograph was constructed wholly in-camera, the result of a long exposure lasting two minutes which collected light and colour that the human eye doesn’t appreciate in near darkness. Contrast adjustments in post-capture served only to optimize the colours already present in the RAW file.

Twilight Zone © Kah Kit Yoong

Twilight Zone © Kah Kit Yoong


One of the pivotal moments in a photographer’s development is the realization that a camera ‘sees’ things differently from the eye. The way the digital sensor can harness light in the most dimly lit circumstances, often with very surprising results is just one example. The movement of the clouds streaking across the sky over this two minute exposure is another way the camera can capture something beyond earthly bounds.

Why is the crescent moon sharp? I was fortunate that the moon peaked out between clouds for a few seconds during my exposure, enough to be recorded but not so long as to be affected by movement of celestial rotation.

Physically small features that make a big impact is something I am always on the look out for as a photographer.

“Borrowed Light” is another photograph shot in near darkness. The location, Gillespie’s beach on the west coast is a place I can come back to over and over again. The driftwood carried onto the pebble beach by the Tasman Sea means that the landscape is constantly changing. I waited until the sky was quite dark long after sunset. My trained eye at that time could make out a faint light on the driftwood and southern alps that I knew would bloom into a gorgeous warm glow over the five minute exposure.

Borrowed Light © Kah Kit Yoong

Borrowed Light © Kah Kit Yoong

Under most circumstances, the camera sees the world exactly as we do but there are also situations where it deviates from strictly documenting what we witness. The former is about showing people what we have witnessed, the latter is about demonstrating something that they have never seen before.

Realistic? No, but since when was art about reality?

You can see more of Kah Kit’s photography on his website including a gallery devoted to images from New Zealand and another devoted to seascapes.

Photographer to the stars – the celestial variety

Astrophotography captures images of celestial objects and phenomena and photographer Fraser Gunn says the clear skies of Lake Tekapo are the perfect vantage point.


“Lake Tekapo in the Mackenzie country of New Zealand has become famous for its incredible natural beauty and clear skies. Surrounded by mountain ranges and coloured by tussock and vast glacial lakes it is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world.


“The altitude (more than 700m or 2300ft from the sea level) and the near ranges of the Southern Alps and Mt Cook keep the atmosphere dry and clear this is why the Mackenzie area is a great place for astronomy and skywatching. Tekapo is a photographer’s paradise in which I am happy to be living and working.”


The Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo against a starry sky

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo against a starry sky


Fraser’s image (above) of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo against a starry sky is a stunning photograph.


He runs photography workshops from his house in Tekapo village and shares advice on how people can capture incredible images of stars, celestial phenomena, timelapse animations and ”star trails”. Below are some of the images from his portfolio.


Cat's Paw © Fraser Gunn

Cat's Paw © Fraser Gunn




Centaurus A Galaxy © Fraser Gunn

Centaurus A Galaxy © Fraser Gunn




Milky Way © Fraser Gunn

Milky Way © Fraser Gunn

Star Trail - two hours © Fraser Gunn

Star Trail - two hours © Fraser Gunn

And Fraser’s top tip for becoming a successful astrophotographer? Patience – and plenty of it. “Keep trying and you’ll get better at it. Sometimes it takes a whole night’s work to get two good shots or one minute of quality timelapse animation, but it’s worth it in the end.”


“It does take considerable effort but it is great fun and it’s a well-recognised and well respected form of photography.”


He also suggests getting your hands on the best quality telescope and photographic equipment you can find because it will last you for the rest of life.”


Fraser is speaking at Auckland Museum this weekend – Saturday (July 28) at 2pm or you can see more of his work here www.astrophotography.co.nz


The news in pictures: Greg Bowker

New Zealand Herald photographer Greg Bowker spends his life framing the daily news – often distilling the news down to a single image.

This week’s ”Photo of the Week” from our exhibition NZ-LIFE: New Zealand Geographic Award-Winning Photography 2009 – 2011 was taken by Greg in the wake of the first major Christchurch earthquake in September 2010.

September earthquake, Deans' Homestead, Homebush, Canterbury © Greg Bowker, New Zealand

DEJECTED : Louise Deans returns to her historic homestead at Home Bush for the first time since Saturday's mornings 7.1 earthquake that rocked Christchurch city and destroyed the famous Canterbury homes built in the 1900s. The Deans family have been farming in Canterbury since the 1840s. 09 September 2010 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Greg Bowker © Greg Bowker, New Zealand

“During an aerial survey of damage wrought by the September 4th earthquake in Canterbury, the remains of several historic homesteads were spotted near the epicentre in Darfield. I was awestruck by the magnitude of the devastation at the Deans’ 131-year-old homestead in particular. As I surveyed the damage, Louise Deans searched the rubble to salvage precious belongings. The grey stillness of the day combined with the sombre atmosphere provided a timeless record to the end of this historic building’s life, which would become an icon of the September 4th earthquake. Although the damage to property was severe, there was no loss of life, yet it was only a forerunner to a traumatising series of aftershocks, one of which—centred closer to Christchurch, in February—would devastate the CBD and claim many lives.”

The year before the first earthquake hit Christchurch, Greg was called to cover another devastating natural disaster – the aftermath of the 2009 Samoa tsunami. The images below also feature in our current exhibition – as a bleak but compelling photo story about the chaos and loss of life that Samoa faced immediately afterwards.

A woman in Saleapaga washing her clothes amongst the rubble © Greg Bowker

A woman in Saleapaga washing her clothes amongst the rubble © Greg Bowker

“The 2009 tsunami inundated the coastal margins the Samoa. Villages on the south coast of the most populated island, Upolu, were worst-affected by the wave, and at Saleapaga I found a woman washing clothes amongst the rubble (above). Like others, she was using what she could lay her hands to—a hose, half a bar of soap, and a bath tub twisted by the power of the great wave. The names of the deceased were recorded in lists at Sefo’s Funeral Parlor in Apia, while elders—masked to prevent the spread of disease—wait for family members. Eleven of the 143 confirmed dead at the time were buried during a national day of mourning at Tafaigata Cemetery, specially established for victims of the disaster. Seven New Zealanders were killed, among them Petria and Rebecca Martin who were on holiday from Hamilton. Their parents, Kerry and Lynne Martin, travelled to Samoa in the wake of the disaster to collect the bodies, and to grieve. Some 186 people lost their lives in the tsunami which left a further 3000 people homeless. The response to the disaster highlighted the importance of Samoa’s relationship with New Zealand and other South Pacific nations, who made significant contributions towards emergency relief and reconstruction.”

Elders wait for family members outside Sefo’s Funeral Parlour where the names of the deceased were listed © Greg Bowker

Elders wait for family members outside Sefo’s Funeral Parlour where the names of the deceased were listed © Greg Bowker

Seven New Zealanders were killed, among them Petria and Rebecca Martin who were on holiday from Hamilton. Their parents, Kerry and Lynne Martin, travelled to Samoa in the wake of the disaster to collect the bodies, and to grieve © Greg Bowker

Seven New Zealanders were killed, among them Petria and Rebecca Martin who were on holiday from Hamilton. Their parents, Kerry and Lynne Martin, travelled to Samoa in the wake of the disaster to collect the bodies, and to grieve © Greg Bowker

Sarah Roberts comforts her three day old son, a premature baby boy called Tamatoa which means "Warrior" in Samoan at Moto'otua Hospital in Apia on Sunday. He was born after Sarah became stressed about the Tsunami that hit the Pacific Island and the massive loss of life © Greg Bowker

Sarah Roberts comforts her three day old son, a premature baby boy called Tamatoa which means "Warrior" in Samoan at Moto'otua Hospital in Apia on Sunday. He was born after Sarah became stressed about the Tsunami that hit the Pacific Island and the massive loss of life © Greg Bowker

Greg Bowker will share more of his portfolio and experiences as a news photographer as part of the museum’s CAMERA Season of Photography expert sessions on Wednesday 25 July at 12.30pm in the CAMERA Lounge inside the exhibition space.

A lifetime behind the lens

He’s about to spend a month in London photographing the 2012 Olympic sporting action for the NZ Herald – it’s an incredible assignment but it’s not Brett Phibbs’ first Olympic assignment.

Brett Phibbs - Photographer of the Year

Brett Phibbs - Photographer of the Year

Brett has spent more than half his life as a newspaper photographer, including 19 years with the NZ Herald, and in that time he’s covered three Olympic Games, five Commonwealth Games, three Rugby World Cups, two America’s Cups and hundreds of news assignments.

In his 27 years as a newspaper photographer he has also covered hundreds of major news assignments including the aftermath of tsunami in Thailand and Samoa, the Christchurch earthquake, Kosovo War and the refugee crisis and Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral.

His work has appeared in newspapers throughout New Zealand and in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Life, Time, Stern, Marie Claire and New Zealand Geographic magazine.

Several of Brett’s images feature in the current NZ-LIFE exhibition at Auckland Museum, which features a selection of the best, award-winning images from the past three years of the New Geographic Photographer of the Year competition.

Last year, adding to his pool of New Zealand and international photography awards, Brett was named “Photographer of the Year” in the national competition. Here are some of the photos that earned him the title and that feature in the NZ-LIFE exhibition.

In the wake of Samoa's 2009 tsunami three-year-old Aloali’i sits among husked coconuts

In the wake of Samoa's 2009 tsunami three-year-old Aloali’i sits among husked coconuts

“Seleapaga, on the south coast of Samoa’s main island, was one of the villages worst-affected by the 2009 tsunami, which tore through the seaside fales claiming 186 lives. A year on, a new village had been constructed five kilometres inland. I spent a comparatively long time in this make-shift village, gained the trust of the locals and could move around almost unnoticed. Eventually I found three-year-old Aloali’i sitting among husked coconuts being dried for market. She had an unusual solitude. The light was low, but perfect. I positioned myself above her with a wide angle lens, and as she glanced up glanced up I released the shutter. Her eyes have everything.”

Electrical storm on Narrow Neck beach

Electrical storm on Narrow Neck beach

“People stand in awe at Narrow Neck beach, North Shore, as an electrical storm lights up the skyline above Rangitoto Island late one Wednesday night in 2009.”

Comments from the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year competition judges about Brett’s work noted that “like good theatre, good photography relies on drama, humour and import. Brett Phibbs’ portfolio was rich in all.”

A soldier stands in the rain on Anzac Day

“Covering ANZAC day dawn services is always a challenge, historically it is very important, plus it is an emotional day for many. Being a reoccurring annual memorial event the challenge is to capture an image or moment that sums it up. ‘The soldier in the rain’, I think, captures that. The soldier is stoic in his duty, the rain is heavy, the air is cold, but he is unmoved.  The lighting is dark and adding to the mood is the flood lights that backlight the rain and it’s this, I think, that makes the picture come alive.”

“The backlighting made the rain standout against the dark background, the shutter speed was very important to capture the rain, too fast or too slow and the moment would have been lost.”


Photo of the Week by David Lloyd

Entirely self-taught “save for a lesson as a young teenager by my camera enthusiast father”, David Lloyd secured selection for Wildlife Photographer of the Year with a shot that required foresight and patience.
 
He was in Kenya’s Masai Mara when he encountered a giraffe at close quarters, and saw a second one on the horizon. He got himself into position and lifted his heavy lens to compose the image. What he waited for, though, was something that would inject life into the scene: a tail flick.
 
‘I didn’t expect that I would have to wait as long as I did. I was begging the giraffe in the distance not to move out of view and begging the one near me to flick its tail. My arms were aching from hand-holding the lens and were at the point of giving up when it finally did so.’
 
In the Flick of a Tail not only made the final cut in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition – one of 108 images chosen from more than 40,000 entries – it was also selected as the cover image for this year’s Wildlife book.

In the flick of a tail © David Lloyd, New Zealand

In the flick of a tail © David Lloyd, New Zealand

It’s the first time a black and white photograph has been chosen for the cover.
 
“The reaction to the cover and of being chosen out of the 40,000 is still of disbelief sometimes – I still find myself surprised when I see the book in bookshops. I’ve bought and admired the books for 20 years and now I find myself on one.”

Lovestruck © David Lloyd, New Zealand

Lovestruck © David Lloyd, New Zealand

“I’ve had a lifelong interest in both photography and natural history, helped by the museum, so it seemed natural to combine the two through wildlife photography. I enjoy fine art too, so there’s an element of that in there too.”

Zebra Pair © David Lloyd, New Zealand

Zebra Pair © David Lloyd, New Zealand

As far as what it takes to win? “My advice is to find something that the judges have not seen before or at the very least something that will surprise them and make them react in some way. An absolutely perfect photo of a more common image won’t be sufficient, even of a rarer animal. It has to be striking and different.” 
 
Hear David speak at Auckland Museum on July 14 at 2pm.

David Lloyd

David Lloyd