Meet the Winners of Our 2020 Cover Contest

The results of our annual search for a December issue cover are in.

Bob Boyd, a nature photographer from Brigantine, won the grand prize in the 2020 New Jersey Monthly and Unique Photo Cover Search. Boyd’s winning photo will appear on the cover of the December issue of New Jersey Monthly.

New Jersey Monthly and Unique Photo announced the results of this year’s contest during a November 19 virtual awards ceremony. All 16 winners and runners-up attended the online presentation.

Boyd took his dramatic winning shot, Great Blue Heron in Winter Light, in the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Read Boyd’s full description of the photo—and commentary about all of the winning photos—below.

This year’s contest, which ran from March 23–September 30, attracted 1,325 entries, up from 811 entries last year. You can view all of this year’s entries here. Entries were made in seven categories: architecture, lifestyle, landscape and nature, down the Shore, wildlife (new this year), student, and special (digital manipulations and specialties such as night, aerial and abstract work).

In concert with Unique, New Jersey Monthly reviewed the entries on the basis of originality, technical excellence, composition, artistic merit and relevance to life in New Jersey. In the initial judging, we chose 123 finalists to submit to our expert panel of five judges. Using the same criteria, the panel chose the winner and runner-up in each category. New Jersey Monthly and Unique Photo made the final decision on the cover winner and overall runner-up.

Winners and runners-up won valuable photo equipment and gift cards from Unique Photo. Boyd’s winning package (with a retail value of $4,500) includes a Canon DSLR camera with 24-105mm lens, a Manfrotto tripod and a Peak Design camera bag.

Here are the winning photos, including equipment used for each shot.

Overall: 1st Place

Great Blue Heron in Winter Light

Bob Boyd

(Canon 7D MkII)

“I live in Brigantine, and I’ve been fishing the bays and beaches my whole life,” says Bob Boyd (@bobboydsaltyimages), a retired graphic designer and noted bird photographer. “People don’t think there are a lot of birds, but early in the morning, before sunrise, you’ll see ospreys, eagles, herons, peregrine falcons, owls. This picture was taken at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge at what’s called the magic hour, when the light is very soft. I was in my car, the window rolled down, a 400-millimeter lens on the camera. If I got out of the car, they’d fly away. You try to be as stealthy as possible.”

Overall: Runner-Up

Shopping in the Time of Corona

Neysa Camacho

(iPhone 11 Pro)

“One day, everything was normal,” says Neysa Camacho, looking back at the start of the pandemic. “The next day, you’re standing on line for everything. When it came to paper products, it was insanity, walking down aisles and seeing nothing on the shelves. I had to document this for my daughter.” That’s 4-year-old Zoe-Bella in the cart at a local ShopRite. Camacho (@redlipsandabun), who lives in Secaucus, formerly served as a road manager for Jay-Z and photographed him in concert. “I’m hoping to turn photography into an actual career,” she says. “I figured, Let me enter some contests and see where it goes.” 

Architecture: 1st Place

Lady Liberty Watches the Moon

Mike Carroll

(Nikon D850)

Armed with the popular phone app PhotoPills, which tracks the position of the sun, the moon and the Milky Way, North Arlington resident Mike Carroll (@jerseyportraits) showed up with camera and tripod at Liberty State Park on the exact day (June 4) and hour (7:51 pm) when, as he puts it, “Lady Liberty would be looking directly at the moon. Most people want the moon at the torch, but I wanted her looking directly at it.” A 600-millimeter telephoto flattened the perspective for an in-your-face effect.

Architecture: Runner-Up

Edison Factory

Thomas Lapinski

(Canon EOS 90D)

Thomas Lapinski, 74, a lifelong Bayonne resident, often goes out shooting with his older daughter. They were coming down the stairs after a tour of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange when, he recalls, “I wondered, Where did we come from? I looked back and thought, Hey, that’s kinda cool.” He shot the picture in color, but later took his daughter’s suggestion and converted it to black and white. “She has,” he says modestly, “a more discriminating eye than I do.”

Down the Shore: 1st Place

Storm on the Bay, North Wildwood Beach

Joseph Perno

(Nikon D600)

Joseph Perno, a retired restaurant manager who lives in Moorestown, likes to get a jump on sunrise. “I drive around looking at the sky,” he says. “Sometimes, you get the coolest shots when the weather is not what people think of as beautiful.” The sky here is a case in point. But what sealed the deal for Perno (@jp_photo12) was coming across the kayaks. “That,” he says, “was incredible.”

Down the Shore: Runner-Up

Sunrise Surfer

Hannah Epstein

(Canon 5D Mark II)

As a cinematographer for NFL Films, Hannah Epstein (@hannah.k.epstein) patrols the sidelines and is accustomed to huge bodies whipping past her at full speed. (An assistant stands behind her, ready to pull her out of harm’s way.) The 30-year-old Haddonfield resident finds photographing surfers equally interesting and way less hazardous. “My boyfriend’s parents have a house in Ocean City, and he’s gotten me interested in surf photography,” she says. “I owe it to him that I was on the beach that morning. He loves getting up at sunrise to catch the best waves.”

Landscape & Nature: 1st Place

Bug’s-Eye View

Jeff Feeny

(iPhone 11 Pro)

“Not many people think of using the front-facing camera on the iPhone for anything but selfies,” observes Jeff Feeny (@smartphonographer), an art school grad and marketing executive who lives in Marlton. For him, it’s a specialty. Having “gotten rid of my DSLR” some years ago, he places his iPhone faceup on the ground and sets the self-timer so he doesn’t jostle the phone by pressing the shutter. “You get some crazy compositions this way,” he says.

Landscape & Nature: Runner-Up

Sunrise on Paulinskill Lake

Michael Marion

(iPhone 8)

A runner who racks up his miles as the sun peeps over the horizon, Michael Marion treasures “that precise second or two before the sky starts turning blue. You’ve got to grab it or you lose it.” Chief development officer for Raritan Valley Community College, Marion (@michaeljmarion) photographed this Sussex County lake last June near his home in Fredon. No, he didn’t throw a stone in the water to create those ripples. “Fish were popping at the south shore, like taking candy from a baby. It was an epic moment to be standing there and enjoying that.”

Wildlife: 1st Place

The Uprising

Rita M. Rigas

(Canon 6D)

In August, Rita M. Rigas, a retired computer programmer who lives in Egg Harbor City, became fascinated by “the Hatfield and McCoy behavior” of two families of egrets on opposite sides of a waterway at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. “For about an hour,” she says, “a bird from one family would go harass the other family.” Finally, one bird from each side met in the middle and went at it. “It was a blessing,” Rigas says, “to be able to capture that. I have multiple sclerosis, but I am much better off than many people, so I appreciate the freedom I have to get out and do things.”

Wildlife: Runner-Up

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Susan Chilkotowsky-Kain

(Nikon D810)

In the spring, Susan Chilkotowsky-Kain (@suskain1), who lives in Marlton, hangs up a hummingbird feeder, flowering plants, a black dropcloth and strobe lights. “If you’re filling their feeder when they’re trying to feed,” she says, “they’re like, ‘Get away from my stuff!’ They’re not shy about humans.”

Lifestyle: 1st Place

Brookdale Park

Anthony DiMatteo

(Nikon D500)

Instead of simply bemoaning that “everybody’s always taking selfies,” Anthony DiMatteo created a memorable one. Combining his love of nature with his fondness for silhouettes, he gathered his family and headed just before sunset to Brookdale Park, near where they live in Bloomfield. Placing his camera on a tripod with self-timer, he joined the lineup (clinging to the pole). The picture is actually a double selfie, with his wife, Marcella, photographing herself, sons Kyle and Patrick, and DiMatteo (@gothamcityphoto) on her phone. “So I’m bucking the selfie trend,” he says, “while also acknowledging it.”

Lifestyle: Runner-Up

Princeton Ballerina

Malcolm Kahn

(Sony A7RIV)

Malcolm Kahn, a pharma-startup CEO who lives in Hardyston, arranged for his group, Adventures in Photography, to spend a day with Princeton-based ballerina Marika Kossakowski. In this shot, says Kahn (@malcolmkahnphoto), “we decided to combine her physical beauty with the architectural beauty” of the Princeton University campus. “I like the rim lighting around her body that makes it pop, almost like silhouetting.”

Special: 1st Place

Cape May Lighthouse

Arlene Cruz

(Nikon Z6)

“I created this image by combining 94 25-second exposures using a program called StarTrax,” says Arlene Cruz (@arlenebcruzphoto), who works in advertising and lives in North Haledon. “It adds up to about 45 minutes on the tripod. I have an interest in the Shore and especially Cape May. I’ve been going there since I was a kid.”

Special: Runner-Up


Joseph Madsen

(Canon 5D Mark IV)

Back in March, Bayonne resident Joseph Madsen (@jmadsenphoto) turned his kitchen table into what he calls “my New Jersey Covid bunker, to add a little levity to our situation.” Madsen, who works in advertising, used Photoshop to create his own logos for pork roll under the name many North Jerseyans prefer, Taylor ham. This is Madsen’s second Cover Search honor; he was a runner-up in the Special category in 2018.

Student: 1st Place

Empty Sky

Andrew Cicala

(Nikon D3500)

On a visit to Empty Sky, the 9/11 Memorial in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park, Andrew Cicala, 13, noticed “that the walls were very reflective. A man was walking by, and I realized I could catch him to represent a person who passed on that tragic day, as if their spirit was at the memorial.” The Westfield eighth grader (@drew_by_drew_art) got into photography about a year and a half ago. He also plays basketball and studies jazz piano.

Student: Runner-Up

Little Brother, Big Swing

Colette Gentile

(iPhone 11)

On a visit to Playland’s Castaway Cove in Ocean City to celebrate her brother’s 10th birthday, Colette Gentile, 13, of Florham Park picked out her younger sibling on the swings (at lower right) and nailed this shot with her iPhone 11. “The shape and detail of the clouds made it a little more interesting,” she says.

2020 Cover Search Judging Panel

Ira L. Black is an editorial and fine-art photographer, specializing in portraits. His work has appeared in major national and local publications, including New Jersey Monthly. Black is a contributor to Getty Images Sports and was gallery director for 70 South Gallery in Morristown, responsible for selecting the photographers featured in the gallery’s exhibitions.

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 adventures 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.

Neil van Niewkerk is a freelance photographer concentrating on commercial work and headshot and portrait photography. His blog, Tangents, includes tutorials and articles on photography. He teaches workshops and seminars on photography and photographic lighting and has written three books on flash photography. Along the way, van Niekerk snagged an Emmy for time-lapse photography.

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 not photographing weddings, Zawadzki can be found seeking out the best hidden gems of New Jersey pizzerias.

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