Gorilla Hugs, Sea Dragons and Curious Bears: See the Best Nature Photos from the Past Year

After reviewing over 6,500 entries from talented photographers from across the globe, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has found their winners for the 2019 BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition.

All of the images were taken with an eye for conservation. Photographers submitted the photos the thought captured the mystifying, magical and amazing natural world, so those who viewed the shots would be moved to protect our planet and everything on it.

A panel of respected judges, made up of photographers and photo editors, carefully chose the competition’s 50 winning images, including the grand prize photo: “Black Grouse Showing Off” by photographer Audun Rikardsen of Tromsø, Norway.

These images originally appeared on bioGraphic, an online magazine about science and sustainability and the official media sponsor for the California Academy of Sciences’ BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition. Animal lovers can see a selection of the winning images below, including the grand prize winner.

Those interested in seeing all the winning photos will have an opportunity to do so at the BigPicture photography exhibit, set to open on July 26 at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Grand Prize Winner 

“Black Grouse Showing Off”

Taken in: Tromsø, Norway

Photographer: Audun Rikardsen of Tromsø, Norway

Art of Nature Category Winner

“Clouds of Salt”

Taken in: Salar de Antofalla, Argentina

Photographer: Chiara Salvadori of Savona, Italy

Terrestrial Wildlife Category Winner

“Brown bear. Underwater view.”

Taken in: Ozernaya River, South-Kamchatka Federal Sanctuary, Kamchatka, Russia

Photographer: Mike Korostelev of Moscow, Russia

Terrestrial Wildlife Category Finalist


Taken in: Vivonne Bay Kangaroo Island, Australia

Photographer: Julie Fletcher of Island Beach, Australia

Terrestrial Wildlife Category Finalist

“Boneyard Waltz”

Taken in: Kaktovik, Alaska, United States

Photographer: Daniel Dietrich of Inverness, California

Terrestrial Wildlife Category Finalist

“Traveling to the Edge”

Taken in: Namib-Naukluft Desert, Namibia

Photographer: Prince (Buddy) Eleazer of Allentown, Pennsylvania

Aquatic Life Category Winner

“Sea Dragon”

Taken in: Galápagos, Ecuador

Photographer: Pier Mane of Cape Town, South Africa

Aquatic Life Category Finalist

“Bohemian Skirt”

Taken in: Anilao, Philippines

Photographer: Jingong Zhang of Beijing, China

Human/Nature Category Winner

“The Human Touch”

Taken in: Senkwekwe Center, Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Photographer: James Gifford of Maun, Botswana

Winged Life Category Winner

“Losing Wings”

Taken in: Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

Photographer: Piotr Naskrecki of Gorongosa, Mozambique

Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora Winner


Taken in: Senja Island, Norway

Photographer: Armand Sarlangue of Nantes, France

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