Above: "Lauren 'Greyhawk' Maestas Chavez" by Ron Copper, this year's Grand Prize Winner.

FROM THE DAY WE TOOK stock of this year’s photo contest entries—1,387 images submitted by 136 photographers—the judging promised to be tough. It got even tougher at the end, when days and hours of contemplation had yielded a dozen or so shots in each category, and the judges argued out differences in style, technique, emotional heft, and—wait, was that a dust mote on the camera lens? In a very few cases, “no” came down to such smack-your-head oversights. And that’s only because the overall quality sailed so high. “Even eighth place is so well composed. Every one of these images is nice,” judge Gabriella Marks said toward the end of the final round.

Our contest rules demand that entrants be amateurs, defined as earning no more than 50 percent of their annual income through photography. Beyond bragging rights, what the winners reap are laurels of a professional sort: representation in the Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, in Carrizozo, and possible inclusion in our 2021 photography calendar.

In an era when pretty much everyone has at least a phone camera in their pocket and credible digital kits fall below $1,000, photography has never been more accessible. But the photos in this 19th edition of the contest reach far beyond snapshots. Consider our Grand Prize winner, Ron Cooper. The Colorado Springs resident works as a management consultant but has a side hustle running a portrait studio, through which he’s conducted formal sessions with Native dancers, cowboys, ranchers, and reenactors. Lauren “Greyhawk” Maestas-Chavez is an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo member, dressed for the Comanche dance he has performed for years at the pueblo’s feast days. Cooper waited for that moment when, eyes closed, Maestas-Chavez’s face was conveying a silent tumult of emotion, culture, and history.

The sheer power of that photograph swayed the judges’ choice. That and the fact that it and all of the other photos were projected onto a large screen in a dark room, making every detail visible. Hence, the unfortunate dust mote on another photographer’s image that yielded the judges’ thumbs-down vote. “As a photographer,” judge Wayne Suggs said afterwards, “you’re responsible for everything that’s in your image.”

His statement set a standard that everyone in the room adopted. Was it too high a bar? Consider the etymology of the word amateur. It comes to us from Latin: amare, to love. Arrayed on these pages, you’ll see the work of amateur photographers who clearly love their craft. We love their images. We hope that you do, too. —Kate Nelson

Lauren "Greyhawk" Maestas Chavez

Grand Prize Winner: Lauren "Greyhawk" Maestas Chavez, Ron Cooper

People Category CollagePEOPLE CATEGORY
1st Place: Azteca Dancer at the Gathering of Nations, Michael Edminster
“This image was taken at the 2019 Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque. The subject is a dancer taking part in the Grand Entry performance on the first day. What caught my eye was the lighting, background, and authenticity of the subject and costume.” —Michael Edminster

​2nd Place: El Santero y San Francisco de Asís, Robert MacDougall
​3rd Place: Pals, Douglas Johnson
​Honorable Mention: Cynthia Perzabal, Horsewoman, Ron Cooper

Animals Category CollageANIMALS CATEGORY
1st Place:
 Mates, Robert Bellospirito
“The sun was rising as fog blanketed the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. I was experimenting with different shutter speeds to try to capture the look I wanted—that combination of stillness and movement. I settled on 1/20th of a second so everything ‘still’ would be clear, and everything ‘moving’ would have just the right amount of detail. I was very pleased to see that the image contained these two still cranes, because sandhill cranes mate for life.” —Robert Bellospirito

2nd Place: Morning Preen, Jenna Crovo
3rd Place: Alert Bobcat, Carlos Casados
​Honorable Mention: Tres Amigos, Timothy Baca

New Mexico boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Among them are some not-quite-hidden jewels—our state parks. Altogether, they stand as 34 exemplars of rivers, cliffs, wildflowers, starry skies, hiking trails, majestic lakes, and historic places.

Every year, New Mexico Magazine partners with New Mexico State Parks to spotlight these family-friendly places in this category. One of our shared goals is to entice readers to explore them, and the continued excellence of submissions in this category proves that people are. Take a look, then plan your next adventure.

Enchanted Adventures Category Collage1st Place: Down Stream (Sumner Lake State Park), Timothy Baca
2nd Place: Elephant Butte Sunset, Richard Larsson
3rd Place: Rockhound Luminarias, Cosetta Lewis
​Honorable Mention: Rockmill (City of Rocks State Park), Gerald Guss

Landscapes Category CollageLANDSCAPES CATEGORY
1st Place:
 The Moon over Cabezón Peak, Jim Stein
“Each year I look forward to my brother visiting New Mexico. His visits are an opportunity for us to travel around and photograph the unique places that the state has to offer. On this day we decided to head to Cabezón to explore the various volcanic features of the area. We were hoping for one of those epic sunsets to materialize, but there was not a cloud in the sky. We were about to head home just as the sun was going down. Suddenly we saw this scene with the moon rising above the sunlit peak. This is the magic that is New Mexico.” —Jim Stein

2nd Place: Bisti Milky Way, Jake Werth
“This is a supercell thunderstorm over the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nara Visa. A storm chaser took me to the town, and everything came together as the storm,  the church, and the sunset aligned.” —Jake Werth

3rd Place: Aloof, Jerad Armijo
​Honorable Mention: Nara Visa Thunderstorm, Jake Werth

Mobile Category CollageMOBILE CATEGORY
1st Place:
 Flag, Lee Atwell
“While visiting from Seattle, I spotted a vintage car on the side of the road along the way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It was a delight to be driving by at just the right moment to capture in one photo the Zia sign of the flag draped over the seat, glowing and drenched in the late afternoon sun.” —Lee Atwell

2nd Place: Quarai Ruins, Oliver Knudsen
3rd Place: Cottonwood Burl, Francis Schanberger
​Honorable Mention: Dreams and Space, Nancy Haseman

New Mexico Experiences Category Collage

1st Place:
 Balloon Reflection, Jake Werth
2nd Place: Spaceport Genesis, David Turning
3rd Place: Burn Him!, Patrick Goin
​Honorable Mentions: Dawn Patrol, Adam Nish and End of the Work Day, Sarah Maxfeldt 

Story Sidebar

Grand Prize: A $1,500 gift certificate for a one-week program at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and a one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine.

First, Second, and Third Place Winners: A one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine and a 2020 New Mexico Magazine calendar (each category).

Honorable Mention: A one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine.

The New Mexico Magazine Photo Contest Winners Show
at the Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, in Carrizozo, opens the weekend of January 25–26 (401 12th St., 575-937-1489). You can purchase the photos and request special sizes. The magazine does not participate in the sales or proceeds. The show will continue through the year.


  • Lauren Aguilar, art director, New Mexico State Parks
  • Alicia Inez Guzmán, senior editor, New Mexico Magazine
  • Warren Malkerson, co-owner, Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography
  • Gabriella Marks, president, American Society of Media Photographers–New Mexico
  • John McCauley, art and photography director, New Mexico Magazine
  • Stafford Squier, vice president, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops
  • Wayne Suggs, freelance photographer and former Grand Prize winner
  • Bryce Turner, graphic designer, New Mexico Tourism Department