Slippery subject comes up trumps for photographer
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.