Extraterrestrial, (above) Paul Schmit

"New Mexico isn’t particularly full of landscape photography icons despite the endlessly diverse and beautiful terrain, which I actually consider a blessing that keeps foot traffic manageable on our public lands. Of course, we do have White Sands National Park, and we also have some of the most jaw-dropping badlands in the world. Over the summer, I spent a weekend in one of these badlands exploring the densest cache of exotic rock formations I’ve ever seen. And, tucked away within this surprisingly compact, foreground-rich paradise, resides this unmistakable icon.

I had other ideas for this evening, other compositions calling my name at less-explored sites. I was haunted by the beauty of this formation but understood its omnipresence in the desert landscape genre. What ultimately pulled me back to this scene was a nugget of wisdom from my friend and companion that weekend, who noted the cracks running through the fragile sedimentary structures supporting the regal capstone, the fractured stubs from which additional pillars used to emanate. By the forces of nature or perhaps just some careless human, this hoodoo will eventually topple. So, when that day comes to pass, I’ll be grateful I spent the wee hours one June morning paying homage to its otherworldly grace against the vast splendor of the night sky." –Paul Schmit

Cottonwoods and the Milky Way, Igal Brener2ND PLACE

Cottonwoods and the Milky Way, Igal Brener

"Cottonwoods are beautiful trees. When the Milky Way core starts to be visible again in the spring, cottonwoods have no leaves and their shapes resemble abstract art. The idea for the shot occurred to me when I was driving near the Rio Grande and saw this patch of trees aligned exactly where the Milky Way should rise. I went back to this spot in early spring and took this shot using very dim lights to brighten the trees during a pitch-black night." –Igal Brener

McAlister Stars, Bridget Harrington3RD PLACE

McAlister Stars, Bridget Harrington

"This abandoned homestead is in McAlister, on NM 252, in Quay County. What I intended to be a Milky Way shoot ended up being a mixture of clouds and stars because the weather didn’t want to cooperate. When you are four hours from home, you work with what you’ve got. The golden glow is the light pollution from Portales and a faraway car. What you end up capturing in these situations, at least for me, is often more interesting than what you meant to take. This is a haunting portrayal of a way of life that has fallen by the wayside and has largely been forgotten in our hurried world. To most, this is street-side wreckage. I see it as a place where someone, probably from the Midwest, laid their dreams with the hope of a better life. The life New Mexicans and tourists enjoy today was built on the backs of our settlers." –Bridget Harrington

Ancient Stories, Ancient Galaxies, Peter FreymarkHONORABLE MENTION

Ancient Stories, Ancient Galaxies, Peter Freymark

"Part of the amazing series of petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site dating back to between 400 and 1450 A.D., created by Jornada Mogollon people." –Peter Freymark

Orion Alignment, Richard Larsson


Orion Alignment, Richard Larsson

Read more: These are the winners of the 22nd annual New Mexico Magazine Photography Contest in the Landscapes category.

Read more: Presenting the winners of the 22nd annual New Mexico Magazine Photography Contest in the People category.