BigPicture 2016 grand prize winner

“Camouflage” by Maroesjka Lavigne (2016 BigPicture Grand Prize winner)

Update: The BigPicture submission period has been extended to March 31.

San Francisco (March 2, 2017)—The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is currently accepting submissions for its fourth annual BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition through March 31. Highlighting the work of the world’s best nature and conservative photographers, the competition focuses a visual lens on the wonders of the natural world and critical environmental sustainability issues facing our planet. Judged by an esteemed panel of world-renowned photographers and photo editors, including Jury Chair Suzi Eszterhas, winners 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. Click here to view winning images from BigPicture 2016.

“As a part of the BigPicture competition since the beginning, it has been a pleasure to watch the quality of the images submitted grow every year. From the start we have received world-class imagery, and somehow every year, the pictures just get better and better. We can’t wait to see what images will blow us away this year,” says Suzi Eszterhas, award-winning wildlife photographer and BigPicture Jury Chair. “Competitions like BigPicture have the ability to bring global awareness and attention to nature’s beauty, but also its fragility. Powerful images of conservation and species in peril are critical in creating change.”

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. In addition to several individual categories, listed in full below, the competition also includes a photo series category focusing on captivating, unique aerial photography.

Since launching in 2014, BigPicture has established a fast-growing reputation within the photography community, receiving a four-star rating (the highest possible honor) four years running 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.

Last year’s BigPicture competition received over 5,000 submissions from photographers representing more than 80 countries. The Grand Prize-winning image, by Maroesjka Lavigne of Ghent, Belgium, captivated judges and museum visitors alike while depicting a solitary black rhino (Diceros bicornis) encountered in Namibia’s Etosha National Park. Camouflaged and caked in dried mud and white dust along Etosha’s parched salt pan, the lone rhino stands in solitude along the remains of an ancient lake and calls attention to a majestic creature growing increasingly threatened by poaching.

Award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas will chair the competition’s panel of esteemed judges for a fourth year, joined by international photo editors Kathy Moran (National Geographic), Melissa Groo (Audubon and Outdoor Photographer), Sophie Stafford (formerly of BBC Wildlife), and award-winning nature and conservation photographers James Balog, Pete Oxford, plus founder and director of Minden Pictures, Larry Minden.

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 27, 2017. Awards include $12,000 in cash prizes with winning images to be featured in a BigPicture photography exhibit at the Academy opening July 28, 2017.

Paid image submissions are currently being accepted online at through March 31, 2017. Entry fees are $15 for the photo series category 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 (including penguins) or flying insects photographed anywhere in the world—in flight, perched, or in action.

Landscapes, Waterscapes & Flora

Captivating images of wild places with a unique perspective, from 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. Images should illustrate the impacts of humans on the environment and can be either positive or negative stories.

2017 Photo Series: Aerial Photography

A 3-5 image submission with captions. This year’s photo series calls for breathtaking views of Earth’s surface from high above—to give a much bigger picture of our planet. Photo series should provide a unique top-down perspective of natural world environments—and possibly include their inhabitants, as seen by photographers in aircraft, drones, or other methods.

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