BigPicture Winged Life First Place

Photo by Claudio Contreras, Winged Life First Place category winner, BigPicture 2018


San Francisco (November 27, 2018)—Submissions for the California Academy of Sciences’ 2019 BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition will be open from December 1, 2018-March 1, 2019. Highlighting the work of the world’s best nature and conservation photographers, the competition focuses a visual lens on the wonders of the natural world and critical environmental sustainability issues facing our planet. Winners of this year’s BigPicture competition will receive a cash prize and have their photographs featured in a museum exhibit on the Academy’s public floor, which welcomes over one million visitors each year. View winning images from BigPicture 2018 here.

Award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas will chair the competition’s panel of esteemed judges for a sixth year, joined by international photo editors Lewis Blackwell and Sophie Stafford, and award-winning nature and conservation photographers Esther Horvath, Cristina Mittermeier, Roy Toft, and Greg du Toit.

Attracting submissions from world-class 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 vivid, eye-catching stories from the natural world through the photographic medium. This year, the competition includes a new “Pushing the Limits” photo series category focusing on photos that chronicle extraordinary adventures, remote locales, scientific expeditions, unusual conditions, and intense preparation—all to get the perfect shot on the edge of nature. bioGraphic, the Academy’s online magazine about science and sustainability, is the competition’s official media sponsor.

Since launching in 2014, BigPicture has established a fast-growing reputation within the photography community, receiving a four-star rating (the highest possible honor) from The Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests by Photo Shelter, one of the world’s top online photography resources. The competition was also named one of the “Best Photography Contests and Prizes in 2016” by Format, a leading online portfolio service for photographers. BigPicture was included in My Modern Met’s list of “30+ Best Photography Competitions to Elevate Your Craft.”

Last year’s BigPicture competition received nearly 6,000 submissions from photographers representing 71 countries. The Grand Prize-winning image, by underwater photographer Tanya Houppermans of Fredericksburg, Virginia, provides a stunningly close look at a sand tiger shark gliding overhead through a dense cloud of glimmering baitfish, captured by the photographer while diving a World War II-era cargo shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina.


The Grand Prize and First Place Category winners and their work will be honored at an awards ceremony during an Academy NightLife event (21+) on July 25, 2019. Awards include a total of $12,000 in cash prizes with winning images featured in a BigPicture photography exhibit at the Academy opening July 26, 2019.


Paid image submissions will be accepted online from December 1, 2018-March 1, 2019. Entry fees are $15 for the photo series category (5-8 images) and $25 for up to ten individual image submissions. This year’s competition categories include:

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.

Winged Life

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

Landscapes, Waterscapes & Flora

Captivating images of wild places with a unique perspective, from expansive landscape vistas of forests, deserts, and mountains to the microhabitats 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.

Aquatic Life

Animals including mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates that spend the majority of their time in water.

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.


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 stories.

New! 2019 Photo Series: Pushing the Limits

A 5–8 image submission with captions. Extraordinary adventures, remote locales, scientific expeditions, unusual conditions, and intense preparation—all to get the perfect shot on the edge of nature. This year’s photo series follows people (and their cameras) to the extreme ends of the earth, showing the human will to brave the elements and push through the unexpected in order to connect with the natural world. This series can be documentary or narrative in style.

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