Grand Prize winner

Grand Prize: "White Rhino" by Maroesjka Lavigne of Ghent, Belgium.

SAN FRANCISCO (July 6, 2016)—On Friday, July 29, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco will open BigPicture, the museum’s third 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 October 30, 2016.

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Over 5,000 photographic submissions were reviewed by a judging panel of esteemed professional photographers and photo editors. The exhibit will feature 48 works by photographers from 27 different countries. In its first two years, 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 here), titled White Rhino, was taken by photographer Maroesjka Lavigne of Ghent, Belgium. During a trip to Namibia’s Etosha National Park, Lavigne was greeted by a solitary southern white rhino, camouflaged and caked in dried mud and white dust, along Etosha’s parched salt pan, the remains of an ancient lake.

“Lavigne’s image is absolutely stunning. I love the camouflage and the texture—you can almost feel the cracked mud. But this photograph also has a poignant, ghostly quality that reflects how rhinos are slipping away before our eyes,” says Suzi Eszterhas, award-winning wildlife photographer and Jury Chair. “I see this as both a work of art and a strong message for rhino conservation.”

This year’s first-place winners include: Nayan Khanolkar of Mumbai, India (Human/Nature), Manoj Shah of Nairobi, Kenya (Terrestrial Wildlife), Francisco Negroni of Frutillar, Chile (Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora), Eduardo Acevedo of Los Realejos, Canary Islands, Spain (Aquatic Life), Marco Urso of Milan, Italy (Winged Life), and Peter Juzak of Wennigsen, Germany (Art of Nature). For the first year, the competition included a photo essay category focusing on coral reef ecosystems and conservation, one of the Academy’s core areas of sustainability research. The category’s first-place winner, Eric Madeja of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo, impressed judges with his five-image photo essay highlighting the diversity of reef ecosystems found in the Coral Triangle. The Grand Prize winner and finalists will receive $12,000 in cash prizes, in addition to having their work featured in the exhibit.

Award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas chaired the competition’s panel of esteemed judges for a third year, comprised of international photo editors Sophie Stafford (formerly of BBC Wildlife) and Kathy Moran (National Geographic), and award-winning nature and conservation photographers Neil Ever Osborne, Ian Shive, Brian Skerry, and Paul Hilton.

Focusing a visual lens on the Academy’s mission to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth, the exhibit’s design blends captivating imagery with perspectives from Academy scientists. It also 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.

“We’re thrilled to display this year’s winning BigPicture images and invite visitors to marvel at the wonders of the natural world captured so magnificently by these talented photographers,” says Dr. Shannon Bennett, the Academy’s Chief of Science and Sustainability. “We hope these images speak to visitors and leave them excited to discover the beauty of the world around them and inspired to sustain it for the future.”

Winning photographs will be honored at a special BigPicture NightLife event (21+) on Thursday, July 28 from 6-10 pm, featuring an awards presentation hosted by Adam Savage (Mythbusters, Guests will be among the first to see the new exhibit, learn how aerial drone photography provides new views of our planet with the pros at ZM Interactive, and see closer-than-ever views of scientific specimens with GIGAmacro’s extreme resolution photography equipment. Plus, see the Academy’s planetarium transformed during a special presentation of Art Gallery Earth. For more information on the BigPicture exhibit, click here.

Note: Members of the press are invited to a special exhibit preview on Thursday, July 28 from 5-6 pm, just prior to the BigPicture NightLife event. Photographers, exhibit developers, and scientists will be available for interviews. Light bites and refreshments will be served.

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