A stroke of good luck was evident in all three winning entries in the Newcastle Herald’s Hunter Photography Prize, plus a big does of talent.
The overall winner of the competition says her “entire life is taking images”.
But not the kind of images you would expect.
“I am a nuclear medicine technologist,” Shoal Bay resident Nicole Kearney said.
“It’s a little bit like radiology. So it’s imaging the function of the body.”
She said she “couldn’t believe” her striking photograph of her two children, Billy, 7, and Coral, 5, was chosen by the Herald’s editors and photographers as the winning snap from a shortlist of 32.
The John Hunter Hospital employee said her desire to document the lives of her children prompted her to dust off her camera.
“I did photography at school,” she said. “The last few years I really got back into it.”
Ms Kearney’s winning shot was taken at a favourite spot on Salamander Bay, near the Mambo Wetlands Reserve.
“We call it ‘secret beach’ there’s always crabs and lots of interesting things to find.
“That particular day Coral found that massive stick. So it was quite candid.”
Runner up, Luke Priestly, who impressed the judges with a photo of an electrical storm that hit Newcastle on New Year’s Eve, said the shot was the result of a split-second decision.
“I decided to photograph the storm instead of the fireworks,” the Edgeworth resident said.
“Standing at the highest point of Newcastle in a thunderstorm and in the rain wasn’t the most comfortable experience.
“But I'm very happy with that decision as the fireworks were postponed and I was able to finish the year with this great image.”
Mr Priestley, who is a production manager at Liberty Steel, said photography is his favourite activity on his days off.
“I work four days on and four days off, and my friends and family are usually at work, so it’s a good way to get out of the house,” he said.
“It takes me to places I wouldn’t normally go to.”
The winner of the readers’ choice award said her entry was also the result of “perfect timing”, deftly snapped on a mobile phone.
“We live on a little farm in Whittingham and we’ve got two working dogs,” mine operator Stephanie Ward said.
“We had Trigger working the cattle. It was really hot and dry and once he was done working he jumped in the trough.
“He doesn’t usually swim.”
Ms Ward said she enjoyed “playing around” with photography, but said “I don’t know what I am doing”.
“I’ve just always loved that photo.”
Stephanie Ward won a Go Pro and 100 free prints from Domayne Kotara. Mr Priestley received a Cannon D3400 and 200 free prints.
Ms Kearney scored a Cannon D3500 and 300 prints. She said she’ll be using her new camera to capture more of the “beautiful beaches” of Port Stephens.
“We’re pretty lucky where we live,” she said.