Scientists share stunning images

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Castle Hill attracts two types of enthusiasts – climbers and astrophotographers.

The hill, on State Highway 73 between Darfield and Arthur’s Pass in the Waimakariri Basin, was named for the imposing array of limestone boulders in the area that mirror the look of castle ruins.

It attracts hundreds of rock climbers every year, but it was the sky that grabbed NIWA freshwater ecologist Shannan Crow’s attention – especially at night in the middle of winter.

Familiar with working in some of New Zealand’s most stunning environments, Crow is particularly attracted to Castle Hill because the limestone boulders add depth and interest to his photographs.

This year he was voted the People’s Choice winner in the annual NIWA Photography Awards which attracted more than 400 entries from staff. The vast array of environmental science NIWA researchers undertakes happens in some of this country’s most beautiful locations, a happy circumstance which has prompted many staff to take up amateur photographers. 

Crow used a Nikon D850 camera with a Zeiss Otus 55mm lens to capture his winning shot, which he named The Centre of the Milky Way aligned with the Centre of Castle Hill.

"Winter is the optimum time because the Milky Way core is fully visible, and the dark conditions of the new moon allow more detail to be captured in the sky."

Crow was a double winner in this year’s competition announced this week, also taking out the Our Places category for the photo A Battle between the sun and Northwesterly Storm over the Southern Alps.

There are seven sections in the photography awards with specialist diver Crispin Middleton also a double winner, taking out the Freshwater and Our Work categories. His photo, Bees and Mosquito Larvae, was taken during a summer drought when bees gathered to drink at a diminishing supply of freshwater.

Middleton’s other winning photograph showed a NIWA team preparing to beach seine to sample snapper in the Far North. The smaller boat sets the net while the larger vessel is used as the “mother ship”.

Hydrodynamics technician Jochen Bind won the Our People section with an image of marine ecology technician Sam Parkes doing the hard work preparing anchors for sea level and wave monitoring equipment in Tonga. Shantanu Patke won the Emerging Photographer award for a photo showing a kea in flight and Sarah Searson won the Special Award for a photograph looking through a port hole.

The judges of this year’s competition were Ross Giblin of Stuff and Gerry le Roux from Science Lens.

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