Maketu photographer wins NZ photo competition

This photo won first place in the landscape category. Photo: Andy Belcher.

Renowned Maketu photographer Andy Belcher has once again captured the essence of New Zealand’s marine beauty, clinching the top prize in the LegaSea NZ ‘Our FishCare Summer Photo Competition’.

His stunning composition, an underwater scorpion fish contrasted against the dark backdrop of the ocean at night, has taken out top spot amongst 250 entries from Kiwis nationwide, winning him a year’s subscription to NZ Fishing News.

Two of his underwater photos, captured while diving at the Poor Knights Islands, have also taken out second and third prizes in the ‘Underwater Photos’ category, and another photo of a South Island west coast beach shot at sunset won first place in the ‘Landscape Coastal Shots’ category.

“It was quite a surprise,” says Andy.

“The prize is beautiful - it’s an artwork, looks like a canvas print cut out of plywood showing a map of New Zealand with all the reefs.”

Sponsored by Tides Out Maps, the prize for this landscape category is a beautifully handcrafted map of New Zealand. Worth $749, the map uncovers the stunning underwater contours around the country, while also showing the varied topography.

Made using 11 layers of plywood, each of which has been cut using a laser, carefully painted, and assembled entirely by hand. 

The prize Andy Belcher won is a plywood cutout artwork showing the reefs of New Zealand. Photo: Andy Belcher.

Andy has won 84 international photographic awards. In 1997 he was invited to London’s Natural History Museum to accept his most prestigious award, when he won the Animal Behaviour section of the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition with a grouper photograph taken in Vanuatu.

He was presented with the award by Sir Richard Attenborough. 19,000 images were entered from photographers in 65 countries and an exhibition of all the winning images was displayed around the world.

Born in 1943 in England in the middle of World War 2, Andy’s photographic career underwater started after coming home to NZ from Australia and Papua New Guinea in the late 70s.

Mesmerised by how clear the water was while away diving, he read a book on underwater photography three times before diving in to his new occupation.

“The water was unbelievable. The coral colours were fantastic and something about that clicked for me. But I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.”

His ‘can do’ attitude meant that he quickly became very versatile, something that’s essential for survival as a photographer.

Second prize in the Underwater Photo category goes to this stunning image of a Diadema palmeri. Taken on a nightdive at the Poor Knights, while moving across kelp and looking stunning. Photo: Andy Belcher.

He’s found that one job often leads on to the next, with a call from TVNZ in the 1990s leading on to months of sailing through the Sub Antarctic, Fiordland, Solomon Islands and Tasmania.

After saying “yes” to photographing The Lost World Cave at Waitomo, he quickly grew a reputation for doing speciality underwater, tourism and adventure.

Andy says it’s quite rare these days to find a photo competition with no entry fee.

“I've been following Legasea for a while now and really love the way they're bringing more awareness to the health of our fisheries,” says Andy.

“Being an avid diver and underwater photographer, the effects of unsustainable fishing practices are far too visible, and it's clear that if nothing is done, we might not be able to continue to enjoy our beautiful ocean playground for years to come.”

Third place in the Underwater Photo category is this blue mao mao reflected in the bubble cave at Middle Arch, Poor Knights Islands. Photo: Andy Belcher.

Every year LegaSea runs a photo competition to highlight NZ’s coastal environment and get people engaged and interacting with our coast in different ways.

The seven categories this year were ‘Landscape Coastal Shots’, ‘Underwater Photos’, ‘Marine Life in Their Natural Environment’, ‘Collecting and Catching Kaimoana’, ‘Preparing, Cooking, and Eating Kaimoana’, ‘Things That Ain’t Right in our Oceans’ and ‘Kids Photos’.

Andy says he was keen to support the photo competition because he loves what Legasea are doing, and feel like he’s aligned with their mission as a brand.

“It was also a great chance to get behind photography of landscapes and coastlines, which is essentially what our artwork celebrates.”

Andy Belcher, taken on his 80th birthday.  Photo: Supplied.

Andy, who turned 80 in October, 2023, says he’s nowhere near as active as he used to be.

“Entering the competition was a way to put something positive into my brain again.”

Despite a career in photography that’s taken him around the globe, and opened up the vibrant underwater world, it can be the small town stories of home that stay front of mind.

“Annie and I went to Niue Island. A waitress took our order and said “you’re Andy Belcher”. She had been to Tauranga and read the Weekend Sun.”

First prize overall was a photo of a scorpion fish contrasted against the dark backdrop of the ocean at night. Photo: Andy Belcher.



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