A grey kangaroo, joey in pouch, stands in a wildfire-burned eucalyptus plantation

"Hope in a Burned Plantation" by photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, BigPicture 2021 Grand Prize Winner


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (December 1, 2021) — Submissions for the California Academy of Sciences’ 2022 BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition will be open from December 1, 2021 – March 1, 2022. Featuring the work of the world’s best nature and conservation photographers, the competition focuses a visual lens on the extraordinary wonders of the natural world and the importance of striving for a healthier planet. Winners of this year’s BigPicture competition will receive a cash prize and have their photographs featured in an exhibit on the public floor of the Academy’s iconic museum in Golden Gate Park. View winning images from BigPicture 2021 here.

Award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas will chair the competition’s panel of esteemed judges for a ninth year, joined by international photo editor Sophie Stafford, and award-winning nature and conservation photographers Jaymi Heimbuch, Gab Mejia, Jaime Rojo, Camille Seaman, and Christian Ziegler.

Attracting submissions from exceptional photographers from around the world, the competition again seeks professional-level nature, wildlife, and conservation images and is open to all photographers with the ability to tell evocative, captivating stories from the natural world through their pictures. This year, the competition includes a new “Taking Action” photo story category focusing on images that show the power of participation and community to create a healthier planet. bioGraphic, the Academy’s online magazine about nature and solutions, is the competition’s official media sponsor.

Since launching in 2014, BigPicture has established a fast-growing reputation within the photography community, receiving one of just a handful of recommendations from The 2020 Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests by PhotoShelter, one of the world’s top online photography resources. The competition was also named one of the Top 15 Photography Contests & Prizes in 2021 by Pixpa, a leading online portfolio service for photographers, and was included in My Modern Met’s list of 30+ Best Photography Competitions to Elevate Your Craft.

Last year’s BigPicture competition received nearly 8,400 submissions from photographers representing 68 countries. The Grand Prize-winning image, by Canadian wildlife photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, shows an eastern grey kangaroo pausing in a burned eucalyptus plantation, a joey just visible in her pouch. Taken in the midst of Australia’s record-breaking bushfires, the image evokes both devastation and hope: a symbol of nature’s perseverance in the face of climate change and human-driven habitat destruction.


The Grand Prize and First Place Category winners and their work will be honored at an awards ceremony to be announced at a later date. Awards include a total of $12,000 in cash prizes with winning images featured in a BigPicture photography exhibit at the Academy opening Fall 2022.


Paid image submissions will be accepted online from December 1, 2021 – March 1, 2022. Entry fees are $15 for the photo story category (4 – 6 images) and $25 for up to ten individual image submissions.

New! Pay-it-forward Submissions:

This year, anyone can encourage an undiscovered or favorite photographer to submit their work by paying their submission fee. More information on this new feature can be found here.


Art of Nature
Abstract expressions of nature and/or science. Life photographed out in nature or under the microscope. Images may include unusual close-ups, angles, patterns, motion, or perspectives, black and white photography, and images created using scientific imaging tools. Artistic effects should not be the result of digital manipulations.

Aquatic Life
Marine animals including mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates (like corals and jellyfish) that spend the majority of their time in water. This category includes polar bears.

Landscapes, Waterscapes, & Flora
Captivating images of wild places with a unique perspective, from landscape vistas of forests, deserts, and mountains to the micro habitats of plants and other flora. Images may include water environments of oceans, lakes, and rivers with images taken above or under water including waves, tide pools, and other water scenes.

Winged Life
Birds or flying insects photographed anywhere in the world, in flight, perched, or in action. This category includes flightless birds such as penguins and ostriches.

Terrestrial Wildlife
Animals photographed anywhere in the world. Images may include land-based mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and non-flying insects whether they live in trees or on land.

Images that depict the efforts of scientists, conservationists, and others working to sustain life on our planet or the complex relationship between humans and nature. Images should illustrate the impacts of humans on the environment and can be either positive or negative impact stories.

New! 2022 Photo Story: Taking Action
A 4–6 image story with captions. Stories of endangered animals rescued in atypical actions. Communities banding together to restore a wetland. Tribes gathering to protest a pipeline. A migrating flock changing their seasonal patterns. Mushrooms co-mingling with ancient forests. Humans, meerkats, ants, trees: we all belong to various communities and our actions affect all. This year’s photo story shows the power of participation on behalf of the community as we adapt and strive towards a healthier planet. 

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