Winners of Natural World Photography Competition

The winners of the 2022 BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition celebrate life cycles and natural resilience. Each year, the California Academy of Sciences’ renowned competition celebrates some of the world’s best photographers and the year’s most striking images.


“Each photo, in its own way, inspires viewers to protect and conserve the remarkable diversity of life on Earth,” notes bioGraphic, the Academy’s online magazine of nature and conservation, and the official media sponsor of the BigPicture competition.


Grand Prize Winner: Bee Balling - Karine Aigner


Aigner captured this image in Texas on a warm spring morning after the female cactus bee emerged from her tubular underground nest. Upon arising, she was swarmed by dozens of patrolling male bees buzzing for a chance to mate with her. Aigner waited on the ground to snap the image of the frantic cluster of bees. Cactus bees are crucial pollinators to native plants in Texas.


Cluster of bees in Texas
Karine Aigner/BigPicture Competition

Aquatic Life Winner: Sea Lion Fall - David Slater


Slater captured this somber image of a California sea lion's final resting place at the bottom of Monterey Bay, covered by dozens of bat stars.


California sea lion covered in star fish
David Slater/BigPicture Competition

Terrestrial Wildlife Winner: Spider Web - Bence Máte


Máté laid still on a floating hide in Hungary's Kiskunsag National Park to shoot this image of a Eurasian beaver gnawing on a tree. The photo is backlit by dawn's early rays and highlights the beaver's whiskers and the spider resting in the middle of its transparent web.


Eurasian beaver gnawing on a tree
Bence Máte/BigPicture Competition

Winged Life Winner: Frame Within A Frame - Sitaram Raul


Raul's image shows a fruit bat as it flies towards a custard apple tree for a meal. The tree's leaves frame the bat as it approaches. To snap this stunning image, Raul spent three weeks observing the bats in his backyard to predict their behavior and eventually photograph the award-winning shot.


Fruit bat flying at night
Sitaram Raul/BigPicture Competition

Landscapes, Waterscapes and Flora Winner: The Hidden Beauty Beneath Our Feet - Tom St. George


Deep within the cave systems of Mexico's Riviera Maya, St George shot this spectacular dimly lit underwater cavern with thousands of stalactites. While the space appears lifeless, it is part of an extensive subterranean network of sinkholes, flooded passages and caves that are home to unique fish and zooplankton only found in the Yucatán Peninsula. George hopes his image will bring attention to the cave’s beauty and threats that endanger the fragile ecosystem.


Underwater cavern in Mexico
Tom St. George/BigPicture Competition

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