Slip­pery sub­ject comes up trumps for pho­tog­ra­pher

Bay News - - Front Page - By STU­ART WHI­TAKER news@tepuke­times.co.nz

An im­age too great to pass up has won Maketu¯ pho­tog­ra­pher Andy Belcher a $500 prize.

Andy en­tered the Best Eel Photo com­pe­ti­tion be­ing run by Earthrace Con­ser­va­tion and its founder Peter Bethune.

“He’s run­ning sev­eral cam­paigns to look af­terNew Zealand and one of them is to save theNew Zealand longfin eel,” says Andy.

“He was run­ning a com­pe­ti­tion for the best video and best photo of longfin eels— and I knew I had one tucked away some­where so I thought ‘I might have a go at that’.”

The win­was an­nounced on the or­gan­i­sa­tion’sweb­site.

“He’s a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher which goes some way to ex­plain­ing how come [the pho­to­graph] is so amaz­ing,” it states.

“We did look at so many good shots from kids as well, but in the end this im­age was just too great to pass up.”

The photo was taken some years ago at Ana­toki Tame Eels and Cafe in Kotinga near Takaka on the South Is­land.

Andy was on hol­i­day and would have had his dive gear with him so was in the wa­ter to take the photo.

“It’s a nice shot— and in very clear wa­ter.”

It was taken on trans­parency (slide) film and later scanned. The cam­era was a ded­i­cated un­der­wa­ter cam­era— prob­a­bly an Nikonos sealed body. It was only later in his ca­reer that he started us­ing­wa­ter­proof hous­ings for his SLR cam­eras.

When Andy be­gan tak­ing pho­to­graphs, it­was un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy that first cap­tured his imag­i­na­tion.

‘‘[In the 1980s] wewere on a mo­tor­cy­cle trip around Aus­tralia.

‘‘We were north of Cairns and there was an Air New Guinea book­ing of­fice of­fer­ing a week in Madang in PNG for $100.

“We were divers sowe left the bike and went and some­thing just clicked— the wa­ter was clear and the co­ral so coloured and the sun was shin­ing.”

The first chance he got, he bought an un­der­wa­ter cam­era.

For some time he was known ex­clu­sively as an un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher, but grad­u­ally his rep­u­ta­tion broad­ened as he took on pretty much any job of­fered to him.

“I then got into ad­ven­ture pho­tog­ra­phy— cav­ing, div­ing, all sorts of stuff.”

More re­cently he has worked for Rain­bow Springs— again pho­tograph­ing un­der­wa­ter, this time­with trout as the sub­ject— for Ro­torua Canopy Tours and Ro­torua Ad­ven­ture Play­ground.

“The way I’ve sur­vived as a pho­tog­ra­pher is, I’ve never said ‘no’,” he says.

“I’ve of­ten said ‘yes’, and put the phone down and won­dered how the hell I’m go­ing to do some­thing— but it’s worked well and I’ve learned a lot that way.”

Maketu¯’s Andy Belcher has won the best eel photo award in a com­pe­ti­tion or­gan­ised by Peter Bethune of Earthrace Con­ser­va­tion fame.

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