The New York Press Association has named an East Hampton man the 2011 Photographer of the Year during last weekend's convention and awards ceremony in Saratoga Springs.
, the staff photographer at , won the top award for the first time from the newspaper association. He has been a regular contributor to East Hampton Patch.
Heller also took home nine other awards, including four first place prizes and five second and third place prizes in The Express' division, which is based on circulation. Receiving Photographer of the Year, however, was a total surprise, he said.
"You can't predict at all what they're going to like and what they're not going to like," he said, noting that a different out-of-state press association judges the submissions each year. The Washington Newspaper Publishers Association handled the judging this time.
For 2010, Heller was runner-up.
A photographer for more than 30 years, Heller, a former concert sound engineer, got his start photographing rock n' roll concerts.
According to the association, "The judges were impressed by the breadth of Michael’s work — the beautiful capture of each subject, eye for and attention to detail — and his amazing talent for capturing 'the' moments." Among his submissions was a picture of a raccoon in a damaged tree after . That picture won First Place for Spot News in the division.
The Express also returned to the South Fork with a big award in hand. Editor-in-chief and publisher Bryan Boyhan accepted the Stuart C. Dorman Award for editorial excellence.
More than 2,435 entries were made by 158 newspapers throughout the state. More than 440 awards were presented during the convention.
The Express received the highest number of points (given for each award) among the single flag newspapers.
Also, three writers from The Express took home honors — and they all happen to be residents of the East Hampton. Annette Hinkle, the associate editor, took a second in the Feature Story category. Kathryn G. Menu, the main government reporter who lives in Springs, and Claire Walla helped The Express receive first place in Local Government coverage.
Walla also took first place for Feature Story and New Story, as well as a second place for sports feature and third for feature series on bullying in the schools.
East Quogue resident Cailin Riley, of , was named 2011 Sports Writer of the Year for her work in the eastern edition of the newspaper.
The Press' Residence Section, which is put together by Dawn Watson, also won first place.
For a full list of winners, see the PDF attached to this article.