Wānaka Sun       

Behind the 2020 Sony Alpha Awards’ winning photograph

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 16 Jul, 2020 | By Joanna Perry newsdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz

Winner of the 2020 Sony Alpha photography Awards, Wānaka-raised Oscar Hetherington, was not expecting to be awarded the overall Grand Prize when the judge's decisions were announced on July 3. 

This is the fourth consecutive year that a Kiwi has taken the Grand Prize in the competition, which is in its fifth year, with almost half of the total category winners this year also hailing from New Zealand. Celebrating photographers of all skill levels across Australia and New Zealand, the awards aspire to drive creativity, reward professionals and enthusiasts alike, and showcase the greatest work. Hetherington was named the winner out of 3,000 entries, taking home AUD $10,000 worth of Sony equipment.

Once over the shock, Hetherington said he felt “honoured and grateful” to have had the opportunity to go up against such a “big field of photographers,” winning the biggest award of his career so far with a photograph taken almost by chance on a surfing trip with friends.

His winning image, Back Wash, was taken just after lockdown near a remote beach on the Otago Peninsula, accessible by a 30 minute walk through the bush. 

“That day was really dark and moody weather,” Hetherington recalled. “The water was around 12 degrees, so we were all wearing full wetsuits, hoods and booties.”

“We had been to that surf spot for four days in a row after being allowed to surf again, and  even in less-than-ideal conditions, it was still an unforgettable few days of waves.”

Whilst taking pictures of his friends surfing, a particular wave caught his attention. The “intense colours against the grey sky and cliffs” and the angle of the wave “that no one but a surfer ever sees” made for a unique and powerful image - “especially as it was taken in the water.”

Hetherington took his award-winning image while swimming, with his camera in waterproof housing.

Since starting out with photography about five years ago, taking photos of his friends on skiing, mountain biking and tramping trips around Wānaka, Hetherington has become increasingly focused on “all things to do with the ocean.” He is in his first year of Photography studies at Otago Polytechnic and enjoys taking photos of seascapes, surfing and the beach - even in winter.

“You've got to be brave and prepared to get cold,” he said. 

Read edition 982 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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