Around March, the selections are made, and the photos edited and approved by the contributing photographers and staff.
The coveted spot is, of course, the cover - that image needs to be compelling, have some negative space for branding, and be recognizable from a distance. You may recognize this cutie for 2024 - a tiny titipounamu. (This photo comes from our Skrark Art range of photos and is also sometimes available as a TinyArt. We got the shot on our infamous and unexpected "murder-bird" photo-shoot).
Once the photos are set, over autumn, the Storyteller writers conjure up inspiring stories to match the theme and images. Some keen contributors aim for the complete sweep with a set of themed photos and a matching story. But most months are a mix of many contributors.
I always fear the dates will somehow be wrong, but I use this excellent plug-in for InDesign (Calendar Wizard) that is a pig to use, but when you conquer it, it automatically generates all the spreads. It's a life- and time-saver.
We set the moon phases for Wellington - anywhere else in the country (or world) can be off by a day as the phase often changes in the middle of the night. There is often confusion as one of the definitive guides online has the correct phases but uses the wrong Northern-hemisphere icons (yes, the moon is upside down in the Southern hemisphere - a fun fact that has confused many of my Northern-hemisphere friends).
Scientific names can be quite fluid for NZ species, with researchers actively updating taxonomies, but with scientific consensus and adopting of new names taking some time. For instance, you may have noticed that our gecko names have transitioned back and forth over recent years, and it's still not settled.
Some people wonder why we don't include specific observations and holidays. We strive to include many conservation-related observances, but the sponsoring organizations often don't advertise their dates (or haven't decided on them) for the coming year in time to include them in the calendar (I won't name and shame). We also don't tend to include religious holidays unless they're an official public holiday.
I'm delighted that Matariki is now an official public holiday! We wanted to include the Matariki period (the Māori New Year) for many years, but there was not enough consensus on the dates. There are many variations across different iwi in how the period is defined. This makes sense when you consider it's all based on observational astronomy: the appearance of the constellation Matariki on the horizon. And this depends on both where you are in the country and barriers like hills. Some iwi use other constellations to mark the New Year. It is a fascinating subject and there are some amazing Māori astronomers working on it.
Back to the Zealandia calendar... once the dust has settled and the facts established to the best we can, it's down to multiple rounds of proofing and sign-off from senior managers. Then, a round or two of hard-copy proofs to ensure the printing is up to snuff. We strive for no errors, but is that ever possible? By the end of the process, once the calendar comes off the production line, I'm too afraid to look! People tell me it's absolutely gorgeous, so I will trust their judgment...
If you're keen to participate, join the Facebook group and start working on your photography. You're more likely to be successful if you've taken a fabulous photo featuring a subject we haven't previously had in the calendar (e.g., kākā, tūī, kākāriki, toutouwai, and takahē have had more than enough exposure). We also love photos that show wildlife interacting with its environment or showing an interesting behaviour. Each year, I prepare submission guidelines that include what we've had before so you can increase your chances of success.
In addition, do join my Art of Birding Wildlife and Nature photography community. Many of the successful contributors are members. The community helps build confidence and upskill photographers for wildlife advocacy and with outcomes like the calendar in mind.
If you want to lay your hands on a calendar for yourself, your friends, and your family, pick them up at the Visitor Centre or the online shop.
Finally, big thanks to the contributors for 2024:
Photography: Rebecca Chrystal, Brendon Doran, Karla Ellicock, Sally Eyre, Chris Gee, Andrew Hawke, Loralee Hyde, Scott Langdale, Jeff Mein Smith, Judi Lapsley Miller, Hayley May, Janice McKenna, Linton Miller, and Rory Wilsher.
Stories: Vanya Bootham, Libby Clark, Rosemary Cole, Lynn Freeman, Chris Gee, Loralee Hyde, Eeva-Katri Kumpula, Judi Lapsley Miller, and Louise Slocombe.
Design: Judi Lapsley Miller.
Research & editing: Andrew Hawke, Judi Lapsley Miller, Linton Miller, and Rory Wilsher.