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It all began with one simple yet profound call to action: What on Earth have you photographed? Featuring the work of award-winning nature, wildlife, and conservation photographers from around the world—and the perspectives of Academy scientists—BigPicture puts a visual lens on the Academy’s mission to explore, explain, and sustain life. August 1 – November 2, 2014

An Annual Exhibit and Competition to Inspire Protection of Life on Earth

BigPicture—the Academy’s first major photography exhibit—illustrates, and celebrates, the incredible diversity of life on Earth through 45 stunning works from professional-level nature and conservation photographers. Representing 12 different countries, images were chosen from among more than 6,300 entries in our BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, and judged by a panel of some of the most highly esteemed nature photographers and photo editors in the world.

To move BigPicture beyond a conventional gallery show, perspectives from Academy scientists were woven into the exhibit’s design, offering scientific insight into the striking moments captured by photographers—and how vital such powerful images are to efforts to protect our planet.

"Visual storytelling is critical in explaining science and conservation issues to the public in a compelling and impactful way, particularly to children," says Dr. Meg Lowman, the Academy’s Chief of Science and Sustainability. "Each of these photos tells an amazing story."

Meet our winners and judges on the two sections that follow, and browse through some of the incredible runner-up images in the pool below. Competition prizes include more than $20,000 in cash and photography equipment provided by BorrowLenses.com.

Gentoo penguin and leopard seal

Grand Prize Winner

The Luckiest Penguin

  • Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) and leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)
  • Location: Cuverville Island, Antarctica
  • Photographer: Paul Souders (Seattle, Washington)

A leopard seal narrowly misses a leaping gentoo penguin along the rocky shore of the Antarctic Peninsula. Leopard seals are brutally efficient killers in these icy waters, often trying to ambush penguins as they enter or leave the water. "I love photographing in the Antarctic," says Souders. "The wildlife there are quite comfortable with [human] presence. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the world in a near pristine state."

Souders has journeyed to every continent, creating images that appear in major U.S., French, and German publications. His recent work in the Arctic has drawn wide acclaim, including National Geographic Photo of the Year.

Mountain lion

First-Place Winner: Conservation Imagery

Beast in the Garden

  • Mountain lion (Puma concolor)
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado
  • Photographer: Morgan Heim (Boulder, Colorado)

Boulder, Colorado records about 70 mountain lion sightings within city limits each year—likely just a fraction of the cats’ actual activity. This camera-trap image pulls back the curtain on the secret world of urban wildlife and prompts us to consider what it means to live with a beast in the garden.

Heim brings a background in zoology and environmental journalism to her photography and film projects. She co-founded OK, Possum! Productions, a collective that produces media about living with wildlife.

Alpine ibex

First-Place Winner: Land Mammals

Curvy King

  • Alpine ibex (Capra ibex)
  • Location: Gran Paradiso National Park, Valsavarenche, Italy
  • Photographer: Emanuele Biggi (Genova, Italy)

A herd of female ibex effortlessly darted up steep cliffs and over rugged terrain. A large male brought up the rear. For just a moment, he paused on a crag and glanced down, blending in to the ice-covered cliffs of his winter home.

An environmental scientist, Biggi works to raise awareness about lesser-known species and their roles in ecosystem health.

Snow Mountain

First-Place Winner: Waterscapes, Landscapes, and Plant Life

Snow Mountain

  • Location: Wollongong, Australia
  • Photographer: Ray Collins (Thirroul, Australia)

Collins seeks to document the ocean’s many moods. With his camera safely tucked in water-housing, he floated in its waves. Fish swam underneath him and birds crisscrossed the sky above. A swell began to form on the horizon—driven by wind and rising with the morning Sun.

In 2007, Collins purchased his first camera to take photos of waves near his hometown. Now, his work can be seen in international museums, galleries, and advertising campaigns.

Polar bear

First-Place Winner: Invertebrates, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Marine Mammals

The Ice Bear

  • Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)
  • Location: Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada
  • Photographer: Paul Souders (Seattle, Washington)

This female polar bear peers from beneath a hole in the melting sea ice in Canada’s Hudson Bay. "I was sitting in a tiny boat… The winter’s sea ice was melting almost before my eyes as a heat wave had arrived all across northern Canada. As the bear looked up at me through the ice, the image encapsulated the intelligence, mystery, and beauty of the polar bear, and the many threats they face in a changing world."

Souders has journeyed to every continent, creating images that appear in major U.S., French, and German publications. His recent work in the Arctic has drawn wide acclaim, including National Geographic Photo of the Year.

Sparrowhawk and Eurasian jay

First-Place Winner: Birds


  • Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) and Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius)
  • Location: Telemark, Norway
  • Photographer: Pål Hermansen (Oslo, Norway)

Sparrowhawks hunt using the element of surprise, darting out from a concealed perch or rapidly changing direction and seizing prey in their powerful talons. Hermansen shot more than 20,000 exposures to capture this swift "decisive moment" of attack—life and death in nature.

A childhood spent outdoors fostered Hermansen’s love of nature, conservation, and exploration. He has written and illustrated 25 books about the natural environment and exhibited his photography worldwide.

Jury Chair: Suzi Eszterhas

Jury Chair: Suzi Eszterhas

California-based wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas spends several months of the year shooting a wide variety of wildlife in the field. In recent years, she has specialized in documenting family life of endangered species and has become well known for her unprecedented work with newborn animals. Although Suzi works primarily in Africa, she has undertaken commissions and led instructional photography tours and workshops all over the world. Her photographs have been published in books, magazines and newspapers all over the world, including many feature stories and front covers.

Suzi is a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and has won awards in many competitions, including the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, National Wildlife Photo Contest, and Environmental Photographer of the Year Competition. Having recently become a Patron of the Sumatran Orangutan Society, Suzi also helps support the Cheetah Conservation Fund, International Rhino Foundation, Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, Center for Animal Protection and Education, and other organizations.

Competition Judge: Daniel Beltrá

Competition Judge: Daniel Beltrá

Daniel brings the sensibility and craft of a news photographer to the fields of nature and the environment, making images that he hopes will spur greater respect and conservation of those subjects. He has documented several expeditions by Greenpeace to the Brazilian Amazon, the Arctic, the Southern Oceans, and the Patagonian Ice Fields, among many others.

In 2006, Daniel received awards from the World Press Photo (WPP) and China International Press Photo contests for his work on drought in the Amazon. In 2007, he won again in the WPP for photos of the Amazon. In 2008, Daniel was awarded the inaugural "Global Vision Award" from the Pictures of the Year International contest for work in the Ross Sea and the Amazon. He also won in the NPPA BOP contest and the LUCIE awards.

Daniel was awarded the Prince's Rainforest Project given via the Sony World Photography Awards in April 2009. The award, granted by Prince Charles, sent Daniel for three months to the Congo, Amazon and Indonesian rainforests to create photos for a book, website and traveling exhibition about the perilous fate that the world's rainforests face. Daniel is a fellow of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers and in November 2009, was recognized by ABC News as its "Person of the Week" for his conservation photography. Daniel Beltrá is a Spanish photographer based in Seattle. His photos have won awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, the Sony World Photography Awards, and the Lucie International Photo Awards.

Competition Judge: Clay Bolt

Competition Judge: Clay Bolt

Clay Bolt is a Natural History and Conservation Photographer specializing in macro and close-up photography of Southern Appalachian biodiversity, with an emphasis on invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians. His images and projects have been featured by organizations and publications such as National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy, Scientific American, Outdoor Photographer, Audubon Magazine, BBC Wildlife and many others.

In 2009 Clay co-founded the international nature photography project "Meet Your Neighbours" (meetyourneighbours.net), which has grown to include dozens of photographers representing over 40 locations around the world. The mission at MYN is to reconnect people with the wildlife that lives within their own communities. In 2012, in partnership with The Highlands Biological Foundation, he co-founded Backyard Naturalists, whose mission is to inspire an appreciation of the natural world in children through science, art and technology.

Clay is passionate about spreading the message that a connection to nature begins at home and is always seeking out new ways to promote this concept through his photography, writing, presentations and community involvement. Please visit claybolt.com to learn more.

Competition Judge: Tui De Roy

Competition Judge: Tui De Roy

Tui De Roy A naturalist/writer, wildlife photographer and conservationist, Tui spent her childhood in the Galapagos, educated by the islands' nature and the scientists studying it. A founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, she is passionate about conservation, and the important role of photography.

Her work has appeared in major publications in more than 40 countries and she has produced fourteen large format wildlife books. Ranked amongst the world's top ten international wildlife photographers, Tui has repeatedly served on the finals judging panel for the UK's prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. She is fluent in four languages and is much sought after worldwide as a public speaker.

Tui's many awards and accolades include being a Honorary Warden for the Galapagos National Park and receiving the Charles Darwin Foundation Medal for important contributions to conservation. She is currently Patron of the New Zealand chapter for Friends of Galapagos.

Competition Judge: David Liittschwager

Competition Judge: David Liittschwager

David Liittschwager is a freelance photographer who grew up in Eugene, Oregon. Between 1983 and 1986, he worked as an assistant to Richard Avedon in New York City. After working in advertising, he turned his skills to portraiture with an emphasis on natural history subjects. Liittschwager is now a contributing photographer to National Geographic, Scientific American, Audubon and other magazines. A recent project, "One Cubic Foot," is being published as a large format book by the University of Chicago Press.

In 2008 Liittschwager collaborated with Alice Waters on the Edible Schoolyard book. In 2002 he produced Skulls and X-Ray Ichthyology: The Structure of Fishes for the California Academy of Sciences. Liittschwager's earlier books include Archipelago, Remains of a Rainbow, Witness and Here Today.

Competition Judge: Kathy Moran

Competition Judge: Kathy Moran

Kathy Moran is National Geographic magazine’s first senior editor for natural history projects. A 30-year veteran of the Society, Kathy has produced feature stories about terrestrial and underwater ecosystems since 1990, and she has edited more than 200 stories for the magazine. Her recent projects include Nick Nichols’ "Giant Sequoias" and Tim Laman’s "Birds of Paradise," both for the December 2012 issue. Kathy also managed the Africa Megatransect project, an award-winning National Geographic-Wildlife Conservation Society collaboration between photographer Nick Nichols and Society Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay. The resulting stories led to the creation of Gabon's national park system and protection of more than ten percent of that county’s land.

Moran has also edited several books for the Geographic, including Women Photographers at the National Geographic, The Africa Diaries–An Illustrated Life in the Bush, and Cat Shots. Kathy was named Picture Editor of the Year for her winning portfolio in the 2006 Pictures of the Year competition, and again in 2011 in the National Press Photographer’s Association’s Best of Photojournalism competition. She is a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers and serves on its Executive Committee.

Competition Judge: Klaus Nigge

Competition Judge: Klaus Nigge

Klaus Nigge is a wildlife photojournalist. After studying philosophy and art and earning a degree in biology, he worked as a biologist before he became a professional photographer in 1995. At present he works primarily for National Geographic and GEO.

In his photography he tells the stories of charismatic animal species (preferably big birds) that give a face to the threat of extinction or to their severely endangered habitats. In that pursuit he portrayed whooping cranes in the endless wetlands of Canada, European bisons in the last primeval forests of Europe, flamingos in the tropical coastlands of the Yucatan, and Saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan’s steppes, among others. Klaus calls himself a “slow” photographer, returning again and again to the same places and animals thus achieving an intimate relationship with his subjects. Although the threats to nature are omnipresent, he still passionately enjoys highlighting the pure beauty of wilderness with his camera.

He has published five books: including Kamchatka – eagles, bears, and volcanoes; Adlerleben – the American bald eagle; Return of the Emperor – European Bisons in the primeval forests of Poland; KranichEuropean Cranes, and Whooping Crane. Klaus is a committed member of the international wildlife photography community. As a former president of GDT (the association of German wildlife photographers) he founded the International Nature Photo Festival 20 years ago in his hometown Luenen, Germany, and still he very much enjoys lecturing at photo festivals all over the world. Klaus is a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers ILCP.

Competition Judge: Thomas Peschak

Competition Judge: Thomas Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine. He leads a near continuous nomadic existence and spends 300 days per year in the field on assignments around the world. He was recently named as one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world. He trained as a marine biologist and retired from science to pursue a life dedicated to environmental photojournalism after realizing that he could have a bigger impact with his photographs than statistics.

Thomas began his career specializing in photographing Africa's marine and coastal biodiversity and produced three books on the subject: Currents of Contrast, Great White Shark and Wild Seas Secret Shores. He has since then significantly broadened his geographic scope and in 2009 his book Lost World on the marine environment of Aldabra was published. His latest book, Sharks and People, was released in 2013 and chronicles the relationship between people and sharks at more than two dozens locations around the world. Thomas is a multiple winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards and in 2011 he received a World Press Photo Award for his work.

Competition Judge: Ian Shive

Competition Judge: Ian Shive

Ian Shive is an award-winning conservation photographer, author, educator, film producer and environmental advocate, recognized as the recipient of the Sierra Club's 2011 Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography. Ian regularly works as the lead assignment photographer for numerous environmental non-profit organizations and his work has been widely published in magazines, television shows, books and advertising campaigns. Often referred to as the leading chronicler of America's national parks today, Ian's book The National Parks: Our American Landscape has remained a best-selling photography book since 2009 and has helped shape diplomacy efforts around the world through his Wilderness Diplomacy initiative, currently underway in Afghanistan.

In addition to being an active photographer, Ian is also the founder and CEO of Tandem Stills + Motion, Inc. (tandemstock.com), one of the world's leading collections of licensable stock photographs and motion clips in the genres of environment, nature, travel, culture, adventure sports and healthy living lifestyles. When he is not running operations at Tandem or fulfilling an assignment, Ian shares his knowledge teaching Photojournalism and Advanced Photojournalism at the University of Southern California. He resides in Los Angeles.


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