A photography competition has illuminated New Zealand as one of the best places to see the night sky after three Kiwi photographers were named amongst the winners.
The Milky Way Photographer of the Year looks to highlight the world's best astrophotography. From Mt Taranaki to the rocks of Castle Hill /Kura Tawhiti and the craggy West Coast near Motukiekie - New Zealand was well represented in their long list of twenty five images for 2022.
The competition rules are simple. Photos can be taken from anywhere in the world, preferably at night, and must feature the Milky Way. The band of stars which appear in the outer edge of our galaxy can be seen around the globe. However there are conditions that help the quality and clarity of images.
In the southern hemisphere the best time for capturing the galaxy is from January to November.
Naturally, as nights grow longer towards Matariki (June 24), the opportunity for images grows.
Nick Faulkner's shot of Castle hill was captured in the depths of winter, with snow still on the ground at Arthur's Pass.
Evan McKay's image of the climb towards Taranaki was a second attempt. Not happy with his first shot, the stars aligned on return to the maunga.
"I had shot at this location before but felt I could do better, so I returned on an unexpected trip to give it another go," he said.
On the West Coast, next to the crags of Motukiekie, new mum Rachel Roberts was using sleepless nights to develop her photography art.
"I'm still incredible happy with what I came away with and really quite proud of the fact I was out shooting at all, as I had just had a baby 6 weeks earlier," she said.
"The sleep deprivation I was feeling was next level!"
Three Kiwi photographers was a record for the competition, which is published every May.
With entries from across the world, competition was fierce. This was the first time winners had been chosen from Tibet and Xinjiang.
Judge Dan Zafra, editor of Capture the Atlas, says that the awards highlight some of the most pristine and remote skylines in the world.
"Besides the timing, the other requirement for seeing the Milky Way is a dark sky that is far away from light pollution," he said. Air quality and urban development can all have an effect on the ability to see the night skies.
The competition highlights the importance of preserving wild places for their beauty and scientific value.
New Zealand is home to three designated "Dark Sky" areas so, wherever you are, there is an opportunity to go looking for the Milky Way.
This includes two certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Near Auckland, Aotea / Great Barrier Island was awarded star-sanctuary status in 2017. At the other end of the country, Rakiura / Stewart Island made the list in 2019.
However, since 2012, Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie has been an internationally recognised Dark Sky Reserve. "Mackenzie Basin has the clearest, darkest and the most spectacular night sky in New Zealand," says IDA