Since 2018, New Jersey Monthly and Unique Photo have invited readers to contribute their favorite images to the magazine’s ongoing exploration of life in the Garden State. Our annual cover search is open to amateurs, pros and students. The challenge: Create a photo, shot in New Jersey, striking enough to command the cover of the December issue.
Here’s how it works: From March 23 through September 30, submissions were accepted in eight categories: Architecture, Lifestyle, Landscape & Nature, Down the Shore, Wildlife, Aerial & Drone, Student, and Special (digital manipulations, plus night, aerial and abstract). With Unique, we reviewed this year’s 1,315 submissions for originality, technical excellence, composition, artistic merit and relevance to life in New Jersey.
We chose 190 finalists to submit to our expert judging panel. Using the same criteria, the panel chose winners and runners-up. New Jersey Monthly and Unique Photo made the final decision on the cover winner and runner-up. Winners and runners-up receive valuable photo equipment and gift cards from Unique Photo.
Overall: 1st Place
ART & MUSIC IN ASBURY PARK
[Canon EOS T7 I]
“Mind if I include you in the picture?” Heyns asked the man sitting on Asbury Park’s boardwalk in front of an arresting mural by Japanese artist ONEQ. He assented; she shot. Then he said, “I’ll make it better for you,” and pulled out a mandolin. She rephotographed the fellow, whose name was Mike. Her second shot—seen here—“was even better,” she says. Heyns, a licensed Realtor in Princeton Junction, has a degree in photography from Rutgers, “and I used to own two one-hour photo stores. So I’ve been in photography my whole life.”
ASBURY PARK BEACH
Ando, a portrait photographer (and onetime CPA) based in Montclair, and Shirley Brito, the subject of this photo, used to dance together in a vibrant troupe called Cultural Explosion. Talk about friendship—on a brisk September morning at 6:30 am, Brito agreed to don a striking, if not exactly insulated, gown and dance on the breakwater as crashing waves misted her with cold water. “The rocks are slippery; I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do this,” Ando says. “I prepared hot drinks for her and wrapped her in warm clothing. We had a lot of fun.”
Landscape & Nature: 1st Place
LAKE HOPATCONG (BREAKING FOG)
Lois M. Henderson
People would drive many miles to put themselves in position for a photo like this. Henderson, who lives year-round at Lake Hopatcong, merely had to stroll out to her dock. “I’m up at 6 am,” she says. “I’ve been a massage therapist for 30 years, and I do my billing early in the morning.” Last June 14, at 6:19 am, “I was about to go back to the kitchen to get coffee when I looked back and said, ‘Oh my God, this is gorgeous.’ The sun was almost cutting through the fog and also reflecting on the water. I grabbed my iPhone.” A pro would be proud of this shot. “It’s all hobby for me,” Henderson says. “Just the pleasure of what I see.”
Landscape & Nature: Runner-Up
WOODS NEAR DAM SITE
When Eggert says, “I am an early-morning person,” she isn’t kidding. “Up and at work at 4 am,” you’ll find her in the Pennington post office, unloading trucks and sorting letters and parcels. She lives in Hamilton Square (“not Hamilton”). At an undisclosed spot “not on the beaten path,” she revels in spiders and their glistening webs. “With the dew in the morning, this is what the webs look like.”
Architecture: 1st Place
[Canon EOS R5]
Water’s Soul, a monumental sculpture by the renowned Barcelona artist Jaume Plensa, pleads for thoughtful silence on the Hudson River waterfront in Jersey City. Beeman, a medical editor and social work supervisor, and her “significant other,” Bill Bannon, were strolling together when she noticed the spire of the Lackawanna Railroad Terminal in Hoboken jutting in the distance. In printing this picture, she took pains to bring out the full range of tones, from pure white to pure black. Beeman and Bannon also make music together—vocals and guitar, with an acoustic bass player rounding out the trio.
SCALING JERSEY CITY HEIGHTS
[iPhone 12 mini]
An advertising professional, Gibson lives in Jersey City Heights, where this mural is so familiar, it’s just another neighbor hurrying home for dinner. But one day, “it was such a surprise to see this cloud formation behind the building,” Gibson says. “Right before sunset. For once, the sky and the clouds matched the mural.”
Special: 1st Place
[DJI Mavic 2 Pro]
Drone-mounted cameras fall into the category of special processes and equipment. Roughgarden, who lives in Denville, was in Jersey City at the controls of his drone at about 6 am on a frigid morning. As general manager at Essex County Airport in Fairfield, he knows that “there’s a lot of air traffic after 9 am, so I wanted to shoot before that. I was freezing my little fingers off, because you can’t use gloves when you’re working the controls of a drone. But it was all worth it for this shot.”
SUMMER NIGHT IN AMERICA
[Nikon Z7 II]
In 2019, Maida won the cover of our first photo-contest issue with a picture of Officer’s Row, Fort Hancock. Before dawn around Fourth of July this year, he was on his way to hike in the town of Sussex when he passed this tractor at Green Valley Farm. “What stopped me was the star trails, which called for a five-minute exposure.” The tractor was separate. A passing car happened to throw light on it as it sped by. Maida was able to get that shot. In processing, he combined the two for what he calls “the perfect storm.”
Lifestyle: 1st Place
CRAZY FAITH RIDERS
“The Crazy Faith Riders of New Jersey are a social club of Black cowboys and cowgirls,” explains Branch-Price. “They ride throughout the state, and they visit other clubs in New York, Virginia and other states. I’ve been following them around the last few years. They’ve adopted me as their pet photographer.” Branch-Price, a graduate of Howard University, was born and raised in Plainfield and still lives there. He started at the Trenton Times as a photographer and later shot for the Associated Press Trenton bureau. In 2021, he learned to ride to better keep up with his equestrian subjects, here shown in a night ride on the Cushetunk Trail at Round Valley Reservoir in Lebanon.
Purdy, a Brielle optician, returned to the Atlantic City Air Show, where he had taken a photo that made him a finalist in last year’s contest. That picture involved fighter jets trailing smoke. The theme seems to work for him. “Spectators by the thousands were spread all along the beach, on the Boardwalk, on the roofs of buildings,” he says. After the show, he tried his luck in the casinos. How’d that go? “The slot machines were not so kind to me as the air show!”
Down the Shore: 1st Place
[Nikon Z7 II]
The Bloomfield resident (who won the cover in last year’s contest) set up his tripod in Seaside Heights. It was a Tuesday, but in summer, there are no down days down the Shore. With a 10-second exposure, the tripod was a must, aside from the fact that “my shoulders aren’t the same as they used to be.” Pushing his zoom to its 200-mm max, he opened the shutter as the great wheel turned, traffic crawled, and the blurs “with so many colors made it almost like a cartoon.” DiMatteo, an IT quality-assurance analyst, says drivers stopped to ask, “‘What are you doing?’ One said, ‘Hey, that’s going to be a great shot.’”
Down the Shore: Runner-Up
IN SEACH OF A STORM
[Canon 5D Mark IV]
During a January snowfall, Londregan, who lives in Oakhurst and has made a 40-year career in finance, headed to Ocean Grove before anyone could mess up his hopes with bootprints. “I’m a morning glory,” he says. About 5:30-6 am, when he took this photo, freezing rain was still falling. No matter. He got what he was after.
Wildlife: 1st Place
SHE WALKS THE LINE
“I’m always crawling around, trying to get as close to eye level as possible,” says Stormer of his method of engagement. The 29-year-old, who lives in New Milford, recently upgraded his passion for photography to a full-time vocation. This picture was taken at 5:30 am. “Every fox is different,” he says. “Some are skittish. This one definitely knew I was there. She started coming toward me. She was on the track for maybe 20 seconds, then she went into the woods.”
NINTH STREET BRIDGE
Having just purchased an 800-mm telephoto, McCollough, a video producer who lives in Denville, set up on the bridge near the Ocean City Welcome Center. Thus elevated, he was on a beak-to-beak basis with this native. “I don’t know what kind of bird it was,” he admits. But he knew he had a picture.
Student: 1st Place
EMPTY SKY MEMORIAL
“We had family visiting from across the country, so we were showing them meaningful locations,” says Hindash, 18, a high school senior who lives in Lawrenceville. The 9/11 Memorial, Empty Sky, clearly qualified. “I wasn’t alive when 9/11 happened, so I can only imagine what it was like on that day. I’ve visited the memorial before. It’s surreal to visit it.” Hindash says she wants to study global cultures in college. “That’s always been interesting to me. I hope to make a career of it.”
[iPhone 11 PRO MAX]
Her first name (prounced Eefa) always draws attention, says the Long Valley 12th-grader. “It’s Irish. I like to say the Irish smash their heads on the keyboard when they name people.” Riding bikes with friends on the Columbia Trail in Long Valley, she “forced all of them to stop a few times” when a photo beckoned. In this case, “the way the trees were lined up was calling out to me.”
Film: 1st Place
PHILIP BELPASSO, RIDGEWOOD’S BELOVED FLUTE MAN
“Phil was well known on the streets of Ridgewood,” says Cassidy, a fashion photographer who lives in West Milford. “He’d be playing his flute, walking around, telling people stories about when he was younger. He loved having his picture taken. He died earlier this year. He was known as the Pied Piper of Wall Street or of Ground Zero, because he started that flute playing around the time of 9/11, and it caught people’s attention. He had ideas for inventions. He was a unique character.” Why does Cassidy still shoot black-and-white? “You concentrate on the subject, not on the colors.”
[Minolta SR-T 101]
A former newspaper photographer, West says he “used to walk around with two or three cameras around my neck.” He had one with him on the Atlantic City Boardwalk when a man on a bicycle pulled up with a cat in the handlebar basket. “He said, ‘My cat does tricks. Wanna see?’” Of course! The man pulled a skateboard from under his trench coat (you can’t make this stuff up), the cat clambered aboard, and West knelt down. He calls it “the best picture I ever took in my life.”
Pets: 1st Place
A QUICK NAP WITH A BEST BUDDY
“This is the craft room,” says Shiever of a former bedroom in the condo he shares with his wife, Ruth, and their feline, Blackjack, in Cedar Grove. “Ruth has her side, where she does sewing, and I have my side, where I do photo stuff. We both take care of Blackjack.” Blackjack seems to have Ruth monopolized for the moment. The Shievers are both retired from corporate careers. Indulging Blackjack seems to be their new occupation, which Shiever is happy to document.
Having indulged in a wetsuit and an underwater housing for his iPhone, Frasier, a television cameraman who lives in Leonardo (Middletown), took the plunge with Blitz, his golden retriever. Blitz lived up to his breed name and surfaced with the plastic toy in his choppers.
2022 COVER SEARCH JUDGING PANEL
Jim Connelly is a freelance photographer for corporate, editorial and commercial clients. He worked for 33 years as a staff photojournalist, photo editor and multimedia editor at the Asbury Park Press and Gannett. Connelly loves photography and still believes in the power of the single image to tell a story. He lives in Ocean Township with his wife and two very loud Shetland sheepdogs.
Laura Moss is a freelance photographer specializing in interior and lifestyle photography. She has worked for numerous major brands and publications, including New Jersey Monthly, since 2004. Moss loves the adventure associated with traveling to new locations for every shoot and meeting interesting people along the way. She lives in Jersey City.
John O’Boyle is a commercial and editorial photographer. For many years, he served as a staff photographer for the Star-Ledger and was part of the team awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. O’Boyle now specializes in storytelling images for corporations, higher-education institutions and editorial clients, including New Jersey Monthly. He lives in Westfield with his wife and son.
Jennifer Pottheiser is a commercial photographer who shoots regularly for JPMorgan Chase, the NBA and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pottheiser is also a founding partner at Drawbridge Digital, a woman-and veteran-owned boutique agency managing content and streamlining digital media workflows. When not working, she enjoys hiking with her dogs, yoga and volunteering.
Mike Zawadzki is a wedding photographer specializing in natural moments and creative portraits. He enjoys meeting new people and learning about their unique stories. As an advocate for human rights, he loves working with a diverse range of couples. When he is not photographing weddings, Zawadzki can be found seeking out the best hidden gems of New Jersey pizzerias.
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