Photo of bizarre ‘holy grail’ fish could net top spot

 

PHOTOGRAPHING an elusive, hairy fish the size of an orange is the "holy grail" that could net a Gold Coast man the top prize in one of Australia's most prestigious photographic competitions.

Local diver and professional photographer Andy Wingate entered a portfolio of underwater pictures in the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition, which offers an expedition cruise and $10,000 cash prize to the overall winner.

 

Andy Wingate's entry into the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year. An elusive, black hairy frogfish in Tweed. Picture: Andy Wingate
Andy Wingate's entry into the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year. An elusive, black hairy frogfish in Tweed. Picture: Andy Wingate

Two of Mr Wingate's pictures were chosen in the top 12 in their respective categories, out of an estimated 4500 entries.

His photo in the Threatened Species category depicts a grey nurse shark at Nine Mile Reef in Tweed, while his other photo in the Animal Portrait category portrays a black, hairy frogfish.

A grey nurse shark, Mr Wingat’s other entry to make it into the finals. Picture: Andy Wingate
A grey nurse shark, Mr Wingat’s other entry to make it into the finals. Picture: Andy Wingate

Mr Wingate said he had tracked one of the notoriously shy and bizarre-looking frogfishes for two weeks straight before finding it hiding in the Tweed's Jack Evans Boat Harbour during a 4am dive.

He then spent a week photographing it.

"The black hairy ones are the holy grail (among frogfish)," said Mr Wingate.

Mr Wingate takes amazing underwater photos off the Coast. Picture: Andy Wingate
Mr Wingate takes amazing underwater photos off the Coast. Picture: Andy Wingate

"People don't realise they are quite rare and they go to Indonesia to find them. But they are on the Gold Coast."

Frogfish cannot swim because they don't have a swim bladder and instead jump from place to place when they have to move, preferring to spend their time sitting on the ocean floor.

Both of the photos were challenging to capture and were very technical, Mr Wingate said.

"I'm ecstatic to be a finalist, not just for myself but for the Gold Coast," he said.

"I do all I can to promote the Gold Coast. Both photos were taken on our doorstep."

Winners from each category will be announced in August, with exhibitions being held in South Australia and NSW as well.



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