The Big Picture 2022 Photography Awards: 30 Winning Images And Finalists Capturing The Rich Diversity Of Life On Earth Interview
It’s the ninth year that the California Academy of Sciences has held the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition - one of the top wildlife and conservation contests in the world. Like previous years, the winners and finalists of the 2022 awards demonstrated extraordinary talent and mastery in capturing the rich diversity of life on Earth.
Judged by nature and conservation photography experts, the competition’s winners and finalists celebrate Earth’s biodiversity and illustrate the many threats that our planet faces. Scroll down and see the inspiring images below for yourself!
Human And Nature Finalist - "Fox City" By Peter Mather
"After working with them for months, this photographer got to know the behavior of the local red foxes well enough to anticipate this one's arrival at a favorite outcrop overlooking the city."
These images originally appeared in bioGraphic, an independent magazine about nature and conservation powered by the California Academy of Sciences, and media partner of the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition.
Winged Life Finalist - "Beautiful Wings" By Takuya Ishiguro
Osaki-shi Miyagi-ken, Japan.
"Taken while the dragonfly rested in a swamp, this photographer’s close-up allows its magnificent wingspan to truly shine. Dragonflies in cooler climates tend to have more color in their wings than their warmer temperature counterparts, which makes a rainbow-winged dragonfly in the historically hot and humid July weather in Japan so dramatic."
Aquatic Life Finalist - "Danger In The Mud" By Jens Cullman
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe.
"Though the Mana Pools National Park has been beset by an ongoing drought, this photographer managed to discover a captivating crocodile lying in wait in a nearly dried-out pool. These muddy pools are often the site of wildlife rescues, including two baby elephants in February of 2022."
The BigPicture Photography Competition 2022 has announced 49 winning images and finalists in the categories "Aquatic Life", "Terrestrial Wildlife", "Winged Life", "Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora", "Art of Nature", "Human and Nature" and the final one - "Photo Story: Taking Action", which focuses on images - or the stories behind them - that show the power of participation on behalf of communities as we adapt and strive towards a healthier planet. As described by the bioGraphic "each photo, in its own way, inspires viewers to protect and conserve the remarkable diversity of life on Earth."
The competition received 7001 images. Grand Prize is $5000 and each of the First Place winners in the seven categories receives $1000.
Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist - "The Stoat's Game" By Jose Grandio
The French Alps.
"Its formerly brown coat now completely white thanks to the cold climate, a stoat makes an unusual appearance from its underground burrow to give our photographer a glimpse during an unexpected wintry jump. Could it be joy?"
Winged Life Winner - "Frame Within A Frame" By Sitaram Raul
"A fruit bat majestically makes its way to a custard apple tree for a feast, finding itself perfectly placed within the canopy opening. It’s no coincidence that the framing is so precise; the photographer spent nearly three weeks observing these bats’ behavior as they frequented the fruit tree, learning their habits and finally capturing this photo when the moment presented itself."
The winner of the Grand Prize is Karine Aigner with her photograph "Bee Balling". She is an award-winning photojournalist from Washington, the United States raised in Saudi Arabia. As mentioned on the BigPicture website, "Karine has traveled extensively to places like Taiwan, Africa, and the Galapagos in the pursuit of photography. Amidst her travels, she served as the Senior Picture Editor for National Geographic for nine years. Now, Karine’s an associate fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers and a member of Girls Who Click."
Grand Prize - "Bee Balling" By Karine Aigner
Texas, United States.
"A rare moment captured up close: Diadasia rinconis (Cactus Bees) swarming together in a mating ball, each male eager to become companions with a female. Native to America, these bees are considered a solitary species, meaning they live without the hierarchy and structure of their European counterparts—though they still work to pollinate cacti and help plants in the American southwest thrive."
Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist - "Ghost Of The Mountains" By Sandesh Kadur
"Snow leopards are masters of disguise, able to camouflage quickly in their harsh, mountainous habitats. Before technological advancements in trap photography, one could only catch a fleeting glimpse—thus earning them the nickname ‘ghost of the mountains’."
The Winner in the category "Aquatic Life" is David Slater with his photograph "Sea Lion Fall". Bence Mate's "Spider Web" received 1st place in the category "Terrestrial Wildlife". Winners of the categories "Winged Life", "Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora", "Art of Nature", "Human and Nature" and "Photo Story: Taking Action" go as follows: Sitaram Raul, Tom St. George, Pål Hermansen, Bence Mate and Nayan Khanolkar.
Bored Panda got in touch with Rhonda Rubinstein, the creative director and a co-founder of BigPicture to get to know more about the competition. According to her, this year's submissions seemed to reflect the darkness of our times. "Great photos often depict the natural cycles of life or the dramatic capture of prey—which was formerly another living animal, but this year felt different. Just beneath the beautiful surface of these photos, we could plainly see the biodiversity crisis and the human toll on the rest of the natural world. But just to keep it interesting, amidst all this death, the Grand Prize winner went in the opposite direction, with a rarely seen, phenomenal display of sex!"
Aquatic Life Winner - "Sea Lion Fall" By David Slater
Monterey Bay, United States.
"Batstars encompass a lifeless sea lion at the bottom of Monterey Bay. While this scene appears melancholic, rest assured the sea lion is giving back to the community with which it once swam. When the batstars have had their fill, any number of creatures big and small will be able to derive energy and shelter from what’s left behind for years to come."
Landscapes, Waterscapes, And Flora Finalist - "Ice Cream Cake" By Bart Heirweg
Disko Bay, Ilulissat, Greenland.
"A fluffy iceberg set against a gorgeous purple sky, illuminated by a red-hued moon. The photographer hoped to show the soft (serve) side to icebergs, which are often presented as imposing, even threatening subjects. Nature has never looked more delicious!"
Rhonda shared that each photograph is judged on originality (unique perspectives, rarely captured moments), overall impact (evokes the diversity of life, inspires conservation, tells a cohesive story), aesthetic merit (composition, lighting, framing, perspective, use of color, etc) and technical excellence (sharp, exposure, depth of field, tonal range).
The six judges vote on every individual image and the highest scoring image in each category becomes the winner of that category. The Grand Prize image is awarded to the image that has the highest score overall, regardless of the category into which it was entered.
Aquatic Life Finalist - "Shooting Star" By Tony Wu
"An illuminating look at how sea stars reproduce—and it’s not by conjuring lightning! Sea stars spawn; releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously from their arms into the water, where fertilization occurs."
Winged Life Finalist - "A Feathered Home" By Pallavi Laveti
Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India.
"In early November, this photographer went through a challenging process—from a distance, and on a moving boat— to capture images of these prehistoric-looking spot-billed pelican chicks. Her efforts paid off, as she’d hoped to produce a photo that evokes emotions of nurturing and safety."
Art Of Nature Finalist - "Gold From The Bay" By Steve Mandel
San Francisco, United States.
"Should you find these under your microscope, you’ve discovered something as valuable as gold– these diatoms absorb CO2 and help produce 20-30% of Earth’s oxygen. Collected from the San Francisco Bay, the photographer notes that these diatom’s colors are the result of the light being routed around the sides of the slide in the microscope, then refracted by the structure of the diatom wall."
Terrestrial Wildlife Winner - "Spider Web" By Bence Mate
Kiskunsag National Park, Hungary.
"Once nearing extinction, the European Beaver population now flourishes under new protections, allowing for renewed photography opportunities. However, this beaver’s presence is not the only moment that makes this shot special—a spider in its web clings to the nearly-gnawed-through tree, making for a spectacular, if short-lived, scene."
Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist - "Embryology" By Jaime Culebras
Yanayacu Biological Station, Napo Province, Ecuador.
"A gelatinous mass of developing glass frog embryos hangs from a leaf over a stream. Unfortunately, not much is known about nymphargus wiley; in fact, this species is listed as data deficient on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species."
Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist - "Prey" By Takuya Ishiguro
Osaki-shi Miyagi-ken, Japan.
"Normally found in humid grasslands, this Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia) makes an unexpected roadside appearance while devouring its mate—a not uncommon act sometimes, but not always, reserved for when prey is scarce and the female is very hungry."
Winged Life Finalist - "The Forest Elf" By Mario Cea Sánchez
"Though a common species in Spain, the Eurasian nuthatch or wood nuthatch (Sitta europaea) is agile and hard to photograph as it spends most of its life in the trees—thus earning the title ‘the forest elf’."
Aquatic Life Finalist - "Underwater Colorful Snowstorm" By Tom Shlesinger
"Catching a coral spawning is tricky business! Occurring only once a year and determined by the lunar cycle, this spectacular event can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the coral’s species and location. This photographer spent years attempting to get the timing just right during free-diving efforts, finally snapping an image of this magical underwater snowstorm— during a June dive."
Aquatic Life Finalist - "Goliath In Lilliput" By Tom Shlesinger
Palm Beach, United States.
"While capturing this image, the photographer was reminded of a moment in Gulliver’s Travels: When Gulliver arrives at Lilliput and sees how he towers above the inhabitants, he walks carefully so as not to hurt them. However, it is unlikely that this Goliath Grouper—typically the predator in any scenario—will tread lightly."
Aquatic Life Finalist - "Curious Co-Parenting" By Domenico Roscigno
"A male Goby Fish protects the female's eggs laid inside a shell alongside a pregnant Long-Snouted Seahorse. It remains unknown whether they are working together to protect their potential offspring."
Aquatic Life Finalist - "Weedy Scorpionfish" By Magnus Lundgren
"Nocturnal hunting sensibilities and the ability to camouflage make sightings of the brilliantly colorful Weedy Scorpionfish ironically rare. This stealthy species attracts prey by blending in with their surroundings all while remaining completely still. You might say this makes them the perfect photography subject—but only if you can find them!"
Landscapes, Waterscapes, And Flora Finalist - "The Forest Nymphs" By Juan Jesús González Ahumada
Sierra Blanca Natural park, Ojén, Málaga, Andalucía, Spain.
"These mystical-looking mushrooms (mycelia seynii quél) grow almost exclusively on fallen pine cones. Set against the magical atmosphere of an autumn afternoon, the photographer felt the image evoked visions of fairies."
Art Of Nature Finalist - "Hero" By Juan Jesús González Ahumada
Sierra Blanca Natural Park, Spain.
"Agave leaves tend to become extremely heavy, sometimes even bending and producing a ‘wound’ that creates unusual textures when it dries. This photographer noticed this particular agave leaf and saw a superhero in the making, taking advantage of the curvature of the leaf, and lighting the scene with his flashlight to produce a single, watchful eye."
Art Of Nature Finalist - "The Last Frontier" By Florian Ledoux
"The dichotomy of sea ice scene, taken from above. On the right side is fast ice, where both man and polar bear can roam, to the left, a beautiful, yet precarious pattern of refreezing ice and drift."
Human And Nature Finalist - "Cumbre Vieja Volcano" By Arturo Rodríguez
Canary Islands, Spain.
"After chasing the opportunity for nearly two weeks, this photographer was able to accompany intrepid volcanologist Raul Pérez to collect liquid lava samples and measure temperature close to the volcano vent. Though its destruction potential is debated, the Cumbre Vieja Volcano is hypothesized to have the potential to create a megatsunami that could reach as far as North America, making any further discoveries about its volatility extremely important."
Landscapes, Waterscapes, And Flora Finalist - "City Of Angels" By Silvano Paiola
Pecinci, Obedska Bara, Serbia.
"Spindly, spectral arms reach out as a drone flies overhead—is this a snow-coated black poplar forest or a ghostly retreat?"
Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist - "Between Fennels" By ruben Perez Novo
Ares (La Coruña,) Spain.
"When this caterpillar goes through metamorphosis, it will emerge as the gorgeous Papilio Machaon—named for a Greecian mythological figure from the Trojan War. For now, it will crawl among the fennels, occasionally munching on them for lunch."
Human And Nature Finalist - "Blue Steel" By Matt Theophile
Australian National Botanical Gardens, Australia.
"A male Bowerbird strikes a pose for a female in the background, surrounded by bright blue bottle caps. It’s all part of an elaborate mating ritual wherein these birds build bowers: two-structure columns made out of sticks and colorful objects. The males then take one or two of the objects in their mouth while dramatically displaying their feathers to the female."
Winged Life Finalist - "Hey, Good Lookin'" By Benjamin Olson
Baudette, Minnesota, United States.
"Perched on a log used to attract mates, this ruffed grouse is displaying for a female just out of frame. The photographer notes that normally the male would be drumming (beating his wings on his chest), but due to the camera trap delay, he instead captured a fanning display—something he’d never seen on a drumming log before."
Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist - "Road To Nowhere" By James Gifford
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana.
"Historically, Botswana's huge expanse of Makgadikgadi Salt Pans sees very little wildlife outside of the rainy season. In 2021, a combination of unusually heavy early rain and an increase in artificial waterholes enticed these wildebeests to embark on their annual migration much earlier than normal. Between the vastness of the salt pans and the network of gamepaths, this herd only appears to be on a road to nowhere. "
Human And Nature Finalist - "Dancing Bears" By David Hup
"Home to 60% of Europe's brown bears, Romania has a complicated relationship with these animals given their increasing presence in human environs. Between Christmas and New Year’s, several communities across Romania don ensembles made from these bears for a ritual aptly called the Dance of the Bears—a dance performed in hopes of chasing away evil spirits and welcoming in the new year."
Note: this post originally had 49 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.