The winners of the California Academy of Sciences annual nature photography competition went to great lengths — and heights and depths — to create unique images of wildlife around the world.
These images “convey science to the general public in a way that is compelling and digestible,” says California-based wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas, who chaired the committee of judges that selected eight winners out of more than 6,500 submissions from 67 countries. “Statistics and graphs are great — but theres nothing like the power of a visual to help people understand the natural world,” she says.
Photographer and marine biologist Audun Rikardsen, who won the 2019 grand prize in the competition, says “science and photography are just a perfect combination for me.” Rikardsen, who studies whales and fish migration at the University of Tromsø in Norway, says he often brings camera equipment along on research trips. “Really its a win-win,” he says. “My scientific knowledge helps me better understand and photograph wildlife, and then my pictures really get people interested in my research.” Although Rikardsen is a prolific underwater photographer, his photo of a male black grouse won him the top prize this year.
He got the shot after more than three years of habitually visiting a particular perch along Norways northern coast, where he set up a motion-activated camera. The grouse in his winning image quickly grew comfortable with the noise of the cameras shutter and flash, Rikardsen says, even appearing to bask in the attention.
Other winning finalists depict a Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) grazing underwater, a rarely seen underwater view of a brown bear fishing for salmon, and more.