ON THE SCREEN, a massive elk with intimidating antlers and a tuft of grass hanging from his mouth moved over a ridge, keeping a watchful eye over two downslope females. We’d just begun debating images of bighorn sheep, sandhill cranes, and hummingbirds for our 21st annual Photography Contest, but the trio—bull, cow, and calf, all together, shrouded in greenery—caught our attention.

“I was attracted to special moments this year,” says photographer Gabriella Marks, whose words provided the lens through which we evaluated the more than 1,800 entries submitted by almost 250 amateur photographers (those earning no more than 50 percent of their income through photography). The elk image also served as a personal reminder: Take time to appreciate the land, people, and experiences all around us.

Follow Marks’s dictum and you’ll see magic in the whirl of the New Mexico State Fair midway, the shifting gypsum at White Sands National Park, the encounter with a coyote during a snowstorm, the grace of Sky City Buffalo Ram Dancers, the tenderness of a girl holding her hen, and the power of summer storms rolling over Albuquerque.

Picking winners wasn’t easy. Seven judges blind-selected 20 photos each in the six categories. Over nine hours, those were winnowed to a group of finalists, which were then ranked by each judge. The best overall scores determined the winners. The 35 honorees will be featured in the Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, in Carrizozo, and may be included in our 2023 photography calendar. Thanks to our sponsors, the winners also receive some fantastic prizes.

What it often takes to capture these shots can be more difficult than it looks. Consider Kyrie Morales’s Rainbow Over Harvey, which garnered an honorable mention in the Mobile category. In April, while traveling in a converted Blue Bird school bus, she and her partner camped on Bureau of Land Management property near Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

It had been raining, and as the sun set, Morales noticed a rainbow out the window. She went outside and realized the bus was perfectly centered under a double rainbow. Grabbing her camera, she ran through the mud to get the right perspective. But her lens wasn’t wide enough to capture it all. Yelling that she needed her phone, Morales slopped back and forth to the bus, hoping the scene wouldn’t disappear before she could create her panoramic image.

“By the end of it I was covered in mud, but ecstatic that I managed to capture such a perfect moment on our travels,” she recalls. “This photo is a great reminder to myself to get outside, even for just a moment, and enjoy nature.”

It’s a lesson for all of us too. Even when things seem messy and chaotic, we should seek out and embrace those flashes of beauty, wonder, joy, and even discomfort, because they’re all part of what makes life here so amazing.

Grand Prize Winner

Spirits of the Sand (above), Brie Stockwell

"From the moment I first entered White Sands National Park, I have been permanently captivated by its enchanting beauty. The soft, white gypsum dunes are like nowhere I've ever been. I live in Texas and have been making solo trips to Las Cruces to explore the mountains and wander among the dunes. Each time I experience new and exciting conditions. Spirits of the Sand was made in Spring 2021 during some extremely windy conditions. As I hiked up a rather large dune, I could see the blowing sand backlit by the setting sun that seemed to conjure the essence of the landscape. It was a powerful experience, and I can't wait to visit again." —Brie Stockwell

Abó Rising, Reece ParkerNew Mexico Experiences: 1st Place

Abó Rising, Reece Parker

“As one who loves all things New Mexico and especially the history buried in the landscape, visiting Abó and the larger Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument offers me the opportunity to walk quietly along the trails and imagine I hear the whispers of the peoples from hundreds of years ago. This photo was made during one such walk. It had been a heavy rain season and the grass had grown tall. As I paused to look back at the church ruins on the rise, I visualized this photo specifically as a black and white image.” —Reece Parker

In Omi’s Garden,  Joaquin MartinezPeople: 1st Place

In Omi’s Garden, Joaquin Martinez

"My daughter spends most Sundays with her Omi (grandmother) and helps her tend the chickens and the vegetable and flower garden. She and the chickens have really gotten to know each other. I took this photo as Luna was singing a sweet song to "Omlette" as she cooed back in a very graceful duet." —Joaquin Martinez

Seeking Shelter, Tim BacaLandscapes: 1st Place

Seeking Shelter, Tim Baca

“I’ve passed this old cabin many times without knowing it was there. It sits behind a hill, and you can only see it while traveling west. Luckily, I remembered its location was right in line with an incoming storm. This was one of the most electric thunderstorms the area has seen in some time. Lightning kissed the ground as the cold outflow buffeted my face. Rain started falling soon after this shot.” —Tim Baca

Downtown Daze,  Abel Espalin

Mobile: 1st Place

Downtown Daze, Abel Espalin

"I took this photo in the thick of the pandemic lockdown when downtown Albuquerque was boarded up and a virtual ghost town. I felt like the emptiness and silence of this part of town was something I might never experience again. I had to take full advantage of the situation, and what a more iconic Albuquerque structure to shoot than the KIMO Theatre." —Abel Espalin

Hiking in the Spring Canyon Unit of Rockhound State Park, Scott BroadwellEnchanted Adventures: 1st Place

Hiking in the Spring Canyon Unit of Rockhound State Park, Scott Broadwell

"On a trip in early 2021, we set off to explore the southern border region and stumbled on the Spring Canyon Trails unit of Rockhound State Park. The Florida Mountains were a new destination for me, and based on the visitation while we were there, would likely be a new destination for most. We loved the dramatic outcrops and rugged desert. The picture is looking east while hiking up the Lover's Leap Trail, with the Organ Mountains just visible on the far horizon." —Scott Broadwell

Bolts Above Albuquerque,  Aaron BlancNightscapes: 1st Place 

Bolts Above Albuquerque, Aaron Blanc

"After tracking storms rolling across central New Mexico, the opportunity to photograph storms in the late afternoon was upon me. I ventured up to the Sandia Mountain Crest with a couple of close friends and we spent 3+ hours photographing the storms. At one point, we were chased back to our vehicles due to the severity of the lightning. When we were able to get back to photographing the storm passing over Albuquerque, we were treated to a number of large bolts of lightning. For this shot, the composition was the most important aspect for prepping for this image. Making sure I was able to capture the foreground of the Sandia Mountains, while also capturing enough of the sky and city to frame it all into the image and make it feel complete. The rest was up to Mother Nature to provide the light show, and she was incredible!" —Aaron Blanc

Pam Dorner, Song Dog in the SnowAnimals: 1st Place

Song Dog in the SnowPam Dorner

"I took my youngest dog Blue (a Labrador Retriever mix) on a hike in the bosque near my home in Rio Rancho, before an early October snowstorm. The snow started to get heavier and the visibility tougher, so I decided to head back home. On the way, Blue got very excited and started pulling on his leash. I knew a coyote must be near, but I looked around and didn’t see any movement. We kept going with my overly excited lab on heightened alert. We came over a hill when Blue pulled me off the trail. I got a firm hold of his leash and looked around to see this beautiful song dog sitting in the snow behind us. This coyote was very quiet and calm and if it wasn't for understanding my dog’s behavior, I may have missed seeing this beautiful animal entirely in the blowing snow. I quickly got my camera out and fired off a few photos before the coyote happily headed on his/her way." —Pam Dorner

Category Winners

New Mexico Experiences 

People 

Nightscapes

Landscapes 

Animals

Enchanted Adventures

Mobile 

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

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, vice chair, American Society of Media Photographers
  • John McCauley, art and photography director, New Mexico Magazine
  • Wayne Suggs, freelance photographer and former grand prize winner
  • Bryce Turner, graphic designer, New Mexico Department of Tourism

Category Prizes

Grand Prize

  • Two round-trip tickets on Taos Air, eight-hour post-processing workshop with Wayne Suggs Photography, $200 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, and Bosque Brewing ball cap.

A Prize for the People

  • All contestants were entered into a random drawing for a $25 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing.

Nightscapes

  • 1st place: $150 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, $150 gift certificate to NewMexicoCatalog.com, $150 gift certificate to El Patron Restaurant and Cantina (Albuquerque)
  • 2nd place: New Mexico United soccer club jersey, $50 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, Wayne Suggs’s photo book The Color Of Dreams
  • 3rd place: Bosque Brewing ball cap, one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting New Mexico Calendar

New Mexico State Parks

  • 1st place: Four annual day-use passes, $150 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, a copy of Enchantment: A Pursuit of Dreams in New Mexico, one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting New Mexico Calendar
  • 2nd place: Three annual day-use passes, $50 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, a copy of Enchantment: A Pursuit of Dreams in New Mexico, one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting New Mexico Calendar
  • 3rd place: Two annual day-use passes, Bosque Brewing ball cap, a copy of Enchantment: A Pursuit of Dreams in New Mexico, one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting New Mexico Calendar
  • Honorable mention: One annual day-use pass, a copy of Enchantment: A Pursuit of Dreams in New Mexico, one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting New Mexico Calendar

People, New Mexico Experiences, Landscapes, Mobile, and Animals: 

  • 1st place: $150 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, $150 gift certificate to NewMexicoCatalog.com, $150 gift certificate to El Patron Restaurant and Cantina (Albuquerque)
  • 2nd place: New Mexico United soccer club jersey, $50 gift certificate to Bosque Brewing, Wayne Suggs’s photo book The Color Of Dreams
  • 3rd place: Bosque Brewing ball cap, one-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting
  • New Mexico Calendar, a copy of Enchantment: A Pursuit of Dreams in New Mexico
  • Honorable mention: One-year subscription to New Mexico Magazine, our 2022 Enchanting New Mexico Calendar

2022 Photo Contest SponsorsThank you to our generous sponsors: Bosque BrewingEl Patron Restaurant and Cantina, NewMexicoCatalog.comNew Mexico State ParksNew Mexico UnitedTaos Air, Wayne Suggs Photography.

See for Yourself

For the sixth consecutive year, Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, in Carrizozo, will host an exhibit featuring the winners. Although opening weekend festivities have been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns, the exhibit will be on display and images available for purchase beginning January 28 on Fridays 10 to 5, Saturdays 10 to 5, and Sundays noon to 5.