By John Kerr 12/10/2016

Being a scientist out in the field can be hard work, with long days in sometimes uncomfortable (or even dangerous) settings collecting data. But it does come with the opportunity for some unbelievable photos.

NIWA, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, has announced the winners of its annual photography competition:

From one pole to the other, NIWA scientists work in some of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes.

On any given day you might find a NIWA staff member under the ocean, on the ice, atop a mountain or deep in a lake or river.

These stunning environments, which form the backdrop for the vast array of environmental science undertaken by NIWA, are celebrated each year in an annual photographic competition for staff.
The competition is unique for the diversity of images which this year includes everything from the vastness of the Arctic to the minute stony-cased caddisfly.

The winner of this year’s award was specialist diver Crispin Middleton, with his photo entitled Underwater Angel, taken near the Poor Knights Islands. Mr Middleton has been trying to capture photos of flying fish for years, but every time he tried they would simply dart away. This year he managed to get his shot by hovering above the fish where they would linger for a few seconds before darting away.


science photo winner
UNDERWATER ANGEL: A rare shot of a juvenile flying fish. PHOTO: Crispin Middleton

The judges – photography professionals Ross Giblin of Fairfax Media, Gerry le Roux from Science Lens –  described the flying fish as looking like a piece of jewellery set against a dramatic black background.

“It has beautiful colour and is a very detailed image.  An iridescent jewel against the dark of the ocean, beautifully captured and nicely lit to shows all its subtle colour. This would have been a rare shot to capture.”

Winners in other categories

FRESHWATER WINNER: The blue glacial headwater of the Rakaia River. Winner of the Freshwater section. PHOTO: Shannan Crow


STORMY EVENING: Lake Rotorua as night falls. Winner of the ‘Our Places’ category. PHOTO: Rob Murdoch


ARCTIC SUNSET: At the end of a day measuring sea ice on the Arctic. Winner of the ‘Our People’ category. PHOTO: Alison Kohout


BIRD’S EYE VIEW: A Southern Buller’s albatross. Winner of the ‘Our Work’ category. PHOTO: Rob Murdoch


MILKY WAY IN THE REMARKABLES: Clear skies provide an astronomical view on a lookout near The Remarkables.  Winner of the ‘People’s Choice’ category. PHOTO: Ayushi Kachhara

Further incredible photos

JEWEL OF THE WAIKATO: The common stony-cased caddisfly Pycnocentrodes aureolus shows off its bling. PHOTO: Brian Smith


DYSTROPHIC PALETTE: A diver braves the sunset colours 4m deep at Lake Yelavich. PHOTO: Rohan Wells


GOLDEN TARARUAS: Sunset at Tarn Ridge, Tararua Ranges. PHOTO: Ross Mitchell


FROGGIE SPLIT LEVEL: A Green and Golden Bell Frog, Litoria aurea, relaxes on the water’s surface in Northland. PHOTO: Crispin Middleton


SKY CITY: Another spectacular cloud display in Canterbury. PHOTO: Jochen Bind


SWITCHED ON: Light bulbs – the non-indigenous light bulb ascidian, Clavelina lepadiformis, now has a beachhead population in Picton Harbour. PHOTO: Chris Woods