BigPicture Competition Grand Prize winner

Grand-prize winner "The Luckiest Penguin," by Paul Souders, grand-prize winner of the 2014 BigPicture Competition

SAN FRANCISCO (July 1, 2014) — On Friday, August 1, the California Academy of Sciences will open its first major photography exhibit BigPicture. Featuring the work of award-winning nature, wildlife, and conservation photographers from around the world, the exhibit will display winning images from the Academy's inaugural BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, using photography as a means to celebrate and illustrate the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspire action to protect and conserve it. The exhibit will be on display through November 2, 2014.

To view and download winning images for editorial use and learn more about the winning photographers, please contact

Spotlighting the work of an international group of professional-level conservation photographers, the exhibit and preceding competition focus a visual lens on the Academy's mission to explore, explain, and sustain life, raising one simple yet profound call to action: What on Earth have you photographed?

Over 6,300 photographic submissions were received, which were reviewed by a judging panel of esteemed professional photographers and photo editors. The exhibit will feature 45 works from finalists representing 12 international countries. From the dueling moment of attack between a sparrowhawk and a Eurasian jay, to the majestic peaks of a swelling wave captured as solid as a snow-capped mountain, each image in the exhibit captures its own unique interpretation of the natural world through a photographic lens, resulting in a captivating display that gives visitors a bird's-eye view into moments of life on our planet.
The Grand Prize-winning image (pictured above), titled The Luckiest Penguin, was shot by Paul Souders of Seattle, Washington. An award-winning, professional photographer, Souders' images have been featured in National Geographic, Time, and LIFE magazines. His impressive photographic work in the Arctic has won him numerous accolades, including first-place awards in BBC's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (2011 and 2013), as well as National Geographic's Photo of the Year (2013). His image captures the "fight or flight" moment of surprise for a Gentoo penguin, just narrowly escaping a leopard seal's stealthy and well-orchestrated advance out of Antarctic waters.

"Paul Souders' image is packed with power, action, atmosphere, and brilliant behavior—a rare moment, marvelously captured and truly deserving of the competition's highest honor," says Suzi Eszterhas, award-winning wildlife photographer and Jury Chair. "The quality of images and talent of photographers entered into the competition during this inaugural year set a high standard for future years of BigPicture."

First-place winners include: Emanuele Biggi (Land Mammals), Pål Hermansen (Birds), Paul Souders (Invertebrates, Reptiles, Marine Mammals, Fish, and Amphibians), Ray Collins (Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Plant Life), and Morgan Heim (Conservation Imagery). The Grand Prize winner and finalists will receive over $20,000 in cash prizes and photography equipment provided by
Moving beyond a conventional photography display, perspectives from Academy scientists are woven into the exhibit's design, offering scientific insight into the striking moments captured through photography and drawing connections between the power of imagery to inform conservation research happening around the world.

"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, and this exhibit is a striking example of how the Academy seeks to explain and educate our visitors about global sustainability issues through vivid, engaging exhibits."

Competition judges include: Daniel Beltrá (Madrid, Spain), Klaus Nigge (Lünen, Germany), Thomas Peschak (Cape Town, South Africa), David Liittschwager (San Francisco, California), Clay Bolt (Easley, South Carolina), Tui De Roy (South Island, New Zealand), Ian Shive (Los Angeles, California), Kathy Moran (Washington D.C.), and Jury Chair Suzi Eszterhas (San Francisco, California).

The winners of the competition will be honored at a special BigPicture NightLife event (21+) on Thursday, July 31 from 6-10 pm. Members of the press are invited to preview the exhibit before it opens to the public the following day and attend a special award ceremony hosted by BigPicture jurors Suzi Eszterhas and Ian Shive, both award-winning nature photographers, with a special introduction by Dr. Meg Lowman. In the planetarium, take a closer look at photography in the dome with photographer Art Wolfe during a special presentation at 6:30 pm. Enjoy pop-up photography displays curated by Lexicon of Sustainability, check out camera gear from, learn how specimens are photographed at incredibly high resolutions with Giga Macro, and more.

For more information on the BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition, please visit



The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and cultural institution based in San Francisco. It is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and scientific research and education programs, which engage people of all ages and backgrounds with two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability. Admission to the Academy is: $29.95 for adults; $24.95 for youth ages 12 to 17, Seniors ages 65+, and students with valid ID; $19.95 for children ages 4 to 11; and free for children ages 3 and younger. Admission fees include all exhibits and shows. Hours are 9:30 am - 5 pm Monday - Saturday, and 11 am - 5 pm on Sunday. During peak periods, including some holiday weekends, an admission surcharge and extended hours may apply. Visit or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

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