Rotorua’s Rod Hill Makes the Most of India’s Kayak Photography Experience


Rod Hill’s Red Bull Illume category winning photo of kayaker Okere Falls River Mutton in Huka Photo/Rod Hill

Rod Hill of Rotorua recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime photographic experience in India, where he ‘sparked a storm’ in an extreme whitewater kayaking competition.

Rod won the 2021 Red Bull Illume Image Quest – Energy Category in December 2021 with his photo of Okere Falls River Mutton kayaker in action on Huka Falls.

This translated into a prize of a Leica camera he loves, hard drive technology, an A1 print of his photo, various bundles of clothes and the top dollar of a trip to somewhere you wanted photograph all expenses paid.

Rod Hill shot India.  Photo/Rod Hill
Rod Hill shot India. Photo/Rod Hill

Rod chose to travel to India to take pictures at the Megha Kayak Festival, an experience he returned from in mid-October.

He says the category winners for Red Bull Illume were announced live on Instagram from the US, so he was sitting in his living room at 8am when he found out.

He is very proud of this achievement.

“I love to travel, I have traveled a lot and India is my favorite. It was really fun.”

During his trip to India and the Megha Kayak Festival, Rod took just under 9,000 photos.

“You have 100 kayakers at the festival ready to race and it was really scenic.”

A photo of Rod Hill during his trip to India.  Photo/Rod Hill
A photo of Rod Hill during his trip to India. Photo/Rod Hill

In addition to the festival, he spent a week traveling around Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), visiting mangrove forests which he said were amazing.

“I have been photographing for a very long time. I like to take this photo that explains everything.

“It’s like hunting and trying to hunt to get that shot where everything lines up.”

Although Rod teaches chemistry at John Paul College, he is always willing to help the photography department when taking students to Wellington.

He says photography is his lifelong passion and travel photography is still his favorite.

This year Rod was also a finalist for New Zealand National Geographic Photographer of the Year 2022. He says he was shocked and surprised when he found out.

Rod takes lots of photos with local kayakers River Mutton and George Snook. Looking ahead, they plan to do more photos at Okere Falls soon.

    Some of the Rod Hill kayaking action captured in India.  Photos / Rod Hill
Some of the Rod Hill kayaking action captured in India. Photos / Rod Hill

He also hopes to travel to the South Island to take pictures during some extreme kayak races.

Red Bull Illume is an action adventure sports image competition. The Image Quest 2021 was the sixth edition, bringing together the incredible work of photographers and content creators from around the world.

A judging panel of 53 photo editors and industry experts selected the finalists, category winners and an overall winner.


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