As the curator of the million or so images in the Palace of the Governors Photo Archive, Daniel Kosharek handles photos of New Mexico all day, every day, and he’s been at it for the past 10 years. So it should have been easy for him to judge the 200 finalists in this year’s photo contest, but no: The general quality was so high—”more sophisticated than last year”—that he painstakingly went through the choices 10 times before realizing

he just had to “take the gut approach” in order to get down to his final 20. The funny thing is, once all four judges‘ selections were tallied, Kosharek found that about 80 percent of the winners were on his own short list. He reckons that all the judges exercised a common “intuitive sense of beauty, composition, color, and subject that is universally acceptable.”

Kosharek says the contest proves that “you don’t have to be a professional to do good photography. You just need a good eye, and technical skill.” Breakthroughs in digital photography have made it possible for photographers like Grand Prize winner Wayne Suggs to capture images that would have been impossible 15 years ago. But old-fashioned skills still play a huge part; none of the first-place winners are in color. “Black-and-white is the queen of photography,” says Kosharek. ”You’ve got to have a really good photo to make it work.”

A fourth-generation, lifelong resident of Las Cruces, Grand Prize winner Suggs says he’s loved New Mexico Magazine since childhood—especially the photography. At 53, he finally got around to entering the annual contest, and he won. By a lot. “It’s an unbelievable honor,” says the hobbyist, who owns a building business called Classic New Mexico Homes, with wife Kiki.

Suggs’ parents bought him a Nikon at 14, and his mother taught him all about f-stops and shutter speeds. He had a hard time transitioning to the digital age, he says, “but it really opened doors for me.” His images reveal that he’s a connoisseur of the night sky, and no stranger to the Organ Mountains and environs. He uses Google Earth to search locations, roads, how the light hits the mountains, and even where the Milky Way is going to appear. Then he’ll scout in the daytime, set up the shot, and hope the clouds and airplanes don’t interfere. “I love the night sky more than anything,” he says, “and I hate airplanes.” Everything really came together on the Burris

Ranch Home photo. He found it on Google Earth and went in and set up interior lights by day. At night, he opened up his shutter for 30 seconds, and ran around painting the exterior with light. “It’s fun,” he reports. “You just hope you don’t step on a rattlesnake.” He later identified the descendants of the people who lived in the abandoned house, sent them a print, “and now we’re friends.”

A happy ending: Isn’t that the way it’s all supposed to work out? Congratulations to all the winners.

Contest Prizes

Grand Prize: A workshop with our co-sponsor, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, winning portfolio published here, and a one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine.
First, Second, Third Place (each category): A one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine and a 2015 New Mexico Artist Calendar.
Honorable Mention: A one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine.