After 15 days and more than 15,000 stunning photos shared for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has announced the winner of its Photo-a-day Challenge.
Lara Macgregor took the photo of her partner Phil while they were on a walk in the hills on the Otago Peninsula. She says a childhood memory sparked her desire to take the photo.
“Up that high in the hills, the trees are quite exposed to the elements and the wind can mould them into shapes not too dissimilar to trees from a Dr Seuss story.
“Phil just happened rest for a few moments in the bend of this tree trunk. It was a perfect offering from mother nature,” she says.
Lara says the MHAW photo challenge was a joy to be a part of.
“Sharing moments with strangers, seeing our country through different eyes and the reminder we're all in this journey together. Mostly, the joy that comes with shared experience,” she says.
Lara’s photo was the Nikon ambassador’s wild card pick. Esther Bunning chose the six finalists, which were then voted on by the public.
“It was a tough choice. I loved the diversity and varied approach to the theme – it was wonderful to see,” Esther says.
Lara to give prize away
Twelve hundred people cast their votes and Lara’s photo came out on top with 200 more votes.
She won a $1,299 Nikon New Zealand camera, which she plans to giveaway.
“To win the Nikon camera is too good to be true! I plan to give it to a very special young woman who is exceptionally passionate about New Zealand's birdlife,” she says.
The young woman is a volunteer guide at Zealandia, and spends time trapping and monitoring weta in a bid to increase their numbers.
“We were chatting a few weeks ago, sharing photography tips, and she mentioned she wanted to eventually get a better camera to take better images of the birds. I couldn't think of a better home for it to go to,” Lara says.
Photo challenge brings benefits
MHF communications and marketing manager Sophia Graham says she was thrilled by the thought put into each entry.
“It was a real privilege to get a glimpse of New Zealand through the eyes of thousands of Kiwis,” she says.
“We looked at every single entry and it was so nice to see what different people treasured, how they connected with nature and the places and spaces that were meaningful to them.
“We felt like we really got to know the people who took part in the challenge and we were genuinely sad when it was over.”
The MHF runs the challenge to gently encourage participants to look at the nature around them with fresh eyes, and Sophia says feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“More than 90% of the people we surveyed reported they spent more time in nature as a result of the challenge,” she says.
“And we heard hundreds of stories about people finding it improved their mental health, or using the challenge to connect with people experiencing a mental health problem. Others used the challenge as an opportunity to share their own experiences with mental illness. It was really great to see that the challenge is fun and genuinely helps people.”