Grand Prize Winner The Secret Tree. Photograph by Jake Werth.

PHOTOGRAPHY HAS BEEN A GIFT OVER THE PAST YEAR, connecting us with places and people we couldn’t visit in person, inspiring our imaginations when our everyday world seemed claustrophobically small, and capturing the simple moments of brilliance all around us.

While COVID-19 caused the cancellation of events and social-distancing requirements made portrait photography more difficult, it’s heartening that this year’s contest drew more than 1,600 entries from 151 photographers. To celebrate the contest’s 20th year, we upped our game by adding a new Nightscapes category and, thanks to our sponsors, offering a host of amazing prizes. Amateur photographers (those earning no more than 50 percent of their income through photography) rose to the challenge.

The judges blind-selected 20 photos each in the six categories. Over nine hours, those picks were whittled down to a group of eight finalists, which were then ranked by each judge. The best overall scores determined the winners. The 31 honorees will be featured in the Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, in Carrizozo, and may be included in our 2022 photography calendar.  

This year’s winners showcase the planning, skill, resourcefulness, and, yes, luck it often requires to get the shot. Take Paul Schmit’s Neowise. The Sandia National Laboratories physicist had planned to photograph the once-every-6,800-years comet just days before its closest pass to Earth. When a late-afternoon monsoon washed out his original location, however, Schmit noticed a break in the clouds to the west and drove an hour for a shot incorporating Cabezón Peak. As Schmit positioned his Nikon Z6, 30-mile-per-hour winds howled at his back. “I spent the next 40 minutes using my torso and arms to shield my tripod, tracking mount, and camera from the intense wind, while collecting long exposures of the setting comet,” he recalls.

Each of these fantastic images tells a story and offers fresh insights into what makes New Mexico so bewitching.

The Apple and a Prayer, Photograph by Joaquin Martinez, New Mexico Magazine

New Mexico Experiences: 1st Place

The Apple and a Prayer, Joaquin Martinez 

Franki Maestas Chavez, Ohkay Owingeh, Photograph by Ron Cooper, New Mexico Magazine

People: 1st Place

Franki Maestas Chavez, Ohkay Owingeh, Ron Cooper

Snow in the Jemez, Photograph by Jim Stein, New Mexico Magazine

Landscapes: 1st Place

Snow in the Jemez, Jim Stein

“This photo was taken on Christmas morning in 2019 after an overnight snowstorm. It was still dark and still snowing when I woke up, but I knew the conditions would be excellent. I grabbed my snowshoes and headed for the Jemez Mountains. Soon, the morning light began to reveal a pristine blanket of snow all around. I hiked to this location just as the storm was clearing and the sun was beginning to intermittently poke through the fast-moving clouds, creating a mosaic of light and shadow. It was a striking sight to see and experience.” —Jim Stein

Issa-Hand Stories, Photograph by Cynthia Whitney-Ward, New Mexico Magazine

Mobile: 1st Place

Issa-Hand Stories, Cynthia Whitney-Ward

Marina Lights on Elephant Butte, Photograph by David Turning, New Mexico Magazine

Enchanted Adventures: 1st Place

Marina Lights on Elephant Butte, David Turning 

Neowise, Photograph by Paul Schmit, New Mexico Magazine

Nightscapes: 1st Place

Neowise, Paul Schmit 

“I planned that day to shoot the comet from White Ridge, near San Ysidro, but late-day thunderstorms ended up chasing me off the ridge at sunset. With the sun setting and not wanting to give up, I noticed breaks in the clouds several miles to my west. I quickly worked out a composition juxtaposing Neowise with one of my favorite local geological features, Cabezón Peak, and hurried an hour west to get to the precise spot along a dirt road that produced the alignment you see in this image.” —Paul Schmit

Sandhill Reflections, Photograph by Pam Dorner, New Mexico Magazine

Animals: 1st Place

Sandhill Reflections, Pam Dorner

Category Winners








*Additional links will be added as more stories go online.

Story Sidebar

The Judges

Lauren Aguilar, art director, New Mexico State Parks
Steve Gleydura, editor in chief, 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
Wayne Suggs, freelance photographer and former grand prize winner

A Prize for the People!

In a random drawing from all entrants, Sandra Lapham, of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and Irene Mirabal-Counts, of Alamogordo, won $75 gift certificates to the Hatch Chile Store.

The Grand Prize

Online workshop with Santa Fe Workshops, a two-night stay with Heritage Hotels & Resorts, and a $100 gift certificate to the Hatch Chile Store

Category Prizes