The 2017 Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition is now open for entries, and we’ll be catching up with our final category winners from the 2016 competition during this year’s event. In this instalment, we talk to the winner of the 2016 Landscape category, Kane Hartill, about what he’s been working on since his win last year.
D-Photo: What made you decide to enter the 2016 Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition?
Kane Hartill: I’d had my APS-C DSLR for almost a year, and had just made the step up to full-frame. From the new gear I managed to formulate some images I was really proud of, so when I saw the Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year advert pop up on Facebook, I thought it’d be cool to enter a competition. [I thought it would] also be a good way to get my images in front of a wider gaze.
What was it like to have such a positive outcome in winning your category of the competition?
I was chuffed! And it really boosted my credibility amongst the local art scene.
Can you tell us the story behind your winning image?
Very tricky it was … at that time, just prior to sunrise, there is maximum photon flux. My image, The Navigator, is a stitched panorama of four vertical frames, each from several bracketed exposures. I captured the scene on a manual panorama head as fast and efficiently as possible, racing to keep up with the rapid change of light.
The granite cove of Anapai Bay, with the sentinel Navigator Rock, is a superb location. We hiked there in darkness, torches in our packs, the way lit by glowworms along the track edge. Emerging from the dense forest we removed our shoes to feel the sand between our toes on this balmy night. By the time I was shooting The Navigator at sunrise, I’d been at the tripod since midnight and also shot Misty Frequencies, which is still my most successful nightscape image … it was a great trip!
What gear did you use to capture your image? Are you using the same gear now or have you changed your preferred equipment?
I still use the same gear — I love my trusty Nikon D750, with the sharp Samyang 24mm f/1.4 deployed out front. I have Sigma Art, Tamron, and Samyang prime lenses.
What projects are you currently working on at the moment? Can you provide a bit of an explanation about what inspired you to work on this or these?
I’ve done some photography for the iconic The Wholemeal Cafe, notably an astro image with the Milky Way rising from the golden weather vane adorning the cafe’s lofty roofline. The building was once a theatre, so part of the project was also producing long-exposure stitched panoramas to show the entire space with dynamic motion blur. That cafe has been a favourite of mine for 20-plus years, so it’s been fun to try capturing it in a unique way.
For this term, I’ve been doing regular photography classes / field trips at Golden Bay High School. It’s satisfying seeing some really good creativity coming through there.
Recently I’ve been working on promotional imagery for Golden Bay Kayaks. I’ve been kayaking and paddle-boarding this more-scenic northern end of the Abel Tasman for a long time. I jumped on this chance to apply creativity and camera skills to what was a fairly new medium for me photographically. I’d won a GuruShots best-photo competition with a kayaking image, but that was a plain Jane above-water scene. For this, I really wanted to get in amongst it, so I got an underwater housing and it allowed a lot more creativity. There were seals, stingrays, penguins, and the water was unusually swarming with kahawai … still waiting for the chance to catch dolphins and orcas. The somewhat lacklustre summer made it trying at times, but luckily we scored balminess and good water clarity when needed.
Very soon I’m off on my first southern landscapes tour for the year.
What inspired you to pick up a camera for the first time, and how long have you been shooting?
My dad had an interest in photography and video. In 1988, when I started mountaineering in the central Southern Alps with high school friends, I borrowed his gear! I lugged a manual-only Canon SLR and a VHS-C handycam up many peaks. One time, at 3am on Mount Arrowsmith, I had an accident and my pack and camera gear plummeted 300m down the mountain. I kept shooting through thrifty university years, getting plenty of Fujichrome Velvia imagery on various magazine and guidebook pages. The cost per click honed a keen sense of composition!
What would you say to someone considering entering the competition, but who are a little hesitant in clicking the ‘submit’ button?
Do it … but hesitate! Instead of clicking that submit button, sleep on it, and come back to your selected images/processing with new eyes. Too often I’ve put out suboptimal final images in unbridled excitement … it’s best to let a visualized scene ‘develop’ its potential over some days, or weeks, if possible.
Where are you located:
Takaka! In balmy Golden Bay.
Your day-to-day job:
Organic farmer and stay-at-home dad.
Photography club associations:
I’ve been to the odd Golden Bay Photographic Club meeting, with plans of getting more involved as time allows.