• Zsolt Kudich
    Grand Prize: "Flying Egrets" by Zsolt Kudich (Budapest, Hungary).
  • Beth Watson
    First Place (Aquatic Life): "Small World" by Beth Watson (Salem, Missouri).
  • Yingting Shih
    First Place (Art of Nature): Yingting Shih (Taoyuan, Taiwan).
  • Hilary O'Leary
    First Place (Conservation): "The World in Our Hands" by Hilary O'Leary (Harare, Zimbabwe).
  • Mark Seabury
    First Place (Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora): "Nature's Canvas" by Mark Seabury (Sydney, Australia).
  • Jasper Doest
    First Place (Terrestrial Wildlife): "Snow Monkey" by Jasper Doest (Vlaardingen, Netherlands).
  • Michael Pachis
    First Place (Things with Wings): "Shake It Off" by Michael Pachis (Memphis, Tennessee).
  • Jenaya Launstein
    First Place (Youth): "Alberta" by Jenaya Launstein (Pincher Creek, Canada).

SAN FRANCISCO (July 1, 2015)—On Friday, July 31, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco will open BigPicture, the museum’s second annual natural world photography exhibit. 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 BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, using photography as a means to celebrate and illustrate the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspire action toward a sustainable future. The exhibit will be on display through November 2, 2015.

To view and download winning images for editorial use and learn more about the winning photographers, please contact press@calacademy.org.

Over 6,000 photographic submissions—received from photographers from 69 different countries—were reviewed by a judging panel of esteemed professional photographers and photo editors. The exhibit will feature 48 works from finalists representing 24 countries. In just its inaugural year, the BigPicture competition received a four-star rating (the highest possible honor) from “The Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests” by PhotoShelter, one of the world’s leading photography resources.

The Grand Prize-winning image (pictured above), titled Flying Egrets, was shot by photographer Zsolt Kudich of Budapest, Hungary. A noted conservation photographer, Kudich’s images have been featured in numerous magazines, books, and photography competitions. This particular image, shot in the Danube-Drava National Park’s Gemenc Forest, captures a moment in time for a flock of egrets finding sanctuary at dawn. Though haunting in appearance, this image highlights a resilient species’ dramatic recovery since the late 19th century, when their showy breeding feathers were highly sought after by hunters.

“Zsolt Kudich’s image really grabbed the judges. It’s like a painting—moody, evocative, elegant, and simply beautiful. It’s the kind of image you never tire of looking at,” says Suzi Eszterhas, award-winning wildlife photographer and Jury Chair. "Photography has the power to move people—to evoke strong emotions. And this year’s winning images really make you feel the wonder and awe of the natural world, as well as the urgent need to protect it.”

First-place winners include: Beth Watson of Salem, Missouri (Aquatic Life), Michael Pachis of Memphis, Tennessee (Things with Wings), Yingting Shih of Taoyuan, Taiwan (Art of Nature), Jasper Doest of Vlaardingen, Netherlands (Terrestrial Wildlife), Mark Seabury of Sydney, Australia (Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora), and Hilary O’Leary of Harare, Zimbabwe (Conservation). For the second year, the competiton also featured a youth category, aimed at inspiring the next generation of nature photographers. The winner, 17-year-old Jenaya Launstein of Pincher Creek, Canada, impressed judges with her shot of three great horned owls taking shelter at a weathered granary in Southern Alberta. The Grand Prize winner and finalists will receive over $10,000 in cash prizes.

Award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas chaired the competition’s panel of esteemed judges, comprised of renowned international photo editors Sophie Stafford (BBC Wildlife) and Kathy Moran (National Geographic) and award-winning nature and conservation photographers Art Wolfe, Neil Ever Osborne, Sandra Bartocha, and Ian Shive.

Focusing a visual lens on the Academy’s mission to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth, the exhibit’s design blends captivating imagery and perspectives from Academy scientists. It offers fascinating insights into striking moments captured through photography and demonstrates the power of imagery to inform the public about conservation issues happening around the world.

“Nature photography has the ability to transport viewers to the farthest corners of the world with a single click,” says Dr. Meg Lowman, the Academy’s Chief of Science and Sustainability. “As scientists, we’re fortunate to explore these environments up close, and we hope that this stunning collection of photographs will inspire Academy visitors to get outside and see the beauty of nature in a new light.”

The winners of the competition will be honored at a special BigPicture NightLife event (21+) on Thursday, July 30 from 6-10 pm, featuring an awards presentation hosted by BigPicture judge Neil Osborne and best-selling author and marine biologist J. Nichols. Plus, view stunning high-resolution images of specimens from the Academy’s scientific collection taken by GIGAmacro, get photo tips from Makeshift Society, view historic images from the Academy’s archives, and more. For more information on the BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition, please visit bigpicturecompetition.org.

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Digital Assets

Hi-res and low-res image downloads are available for editorial use. Contact us at press@calacademy.org to request access.