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.

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#1 Bee Balling

photographer-: Karine Aigner

Washington, 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.”

#2 Sea Lion Fall

photographer-: 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.”

#3 Spider Web

photographer-: 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.”

#4 Frame Within A Frame

photographer-: Sitaram Raul

Badlapur, India

“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.”

#5 The Hidden Beauty Beneath Our Feet

photographer-: Tom St. George

Muyil, Quintana Roo, Mexico

“In taking this photograph, the photographer wished  to highlight the incredible natural beauty found in the underwater cave systems of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, but also to draw attention to threats to its fragile ecosystem. Even though these caves are an important part of the aquifer, they are under increasing tourism pressures leading to the over-development of the region. A large-scale rail link across the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula is currently in the process of being built, putting both jungle and cave in danger—as well as potentially displacing local Mayan communities. “

#6 Insect Diversity

photographer-‘: Pål Hermansen

Ski, Norway

“A tragically beautiful tapestry of insects— inadvertently killed after being drawn to an outdoor lamp with an unintentional opening. While cleaning the light, the photographer discovered a veritable treasure trove of dead insects and decided to create this collage demonstrating the expansive, if overlooked, diversity of small, winged insects. “

#7 Sickening Delicacy

photographer-: Bence Mate

Covasna, Romania

“While traveling in Romania’s Carpathian region, this photographer happened upon frogs being hunted at spawning time. After their legs are removed for consumption, the frogs’ remains are thrown back into the water— a horrific swirl of spawn and viscera, expertly composed into a heart-breakingly tragic scene.”

#8 Coexistence With Predators

photographer-: Nayan Khanolkar

Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, India

“In Mumbai, it’s not uncommon to come across a big cat. Here, there is a unique relationship between leopards and humans, developed thanks to the efforts of the indigenous Warli community, the Maharashtra Forest Department, and local citizen groups. For many years, they have cultivated awareness around these creatures in order to help craft a careful coexistence. Though incidents still occur, this photographer hopes to demonstrate that a harmony can exist between human and non-human animals.”


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