Continuing a look at the winners of the 2021 BigPicture Natural World Photography contest., held annually by the California Academy of Sciences. Part 1 appeared in Bytes on June 6 2021 and can be viewed by clicking on:
The competition is centred largely around conservation and humans’ impact on the environment.
Following are the further winning shots and the finalists, together with text and photographer bios, from the competition’s site at:
Winged Life Winner:
Beak to Beak
Mount Seymour Provincial Park, Canada
After preening each other's feathers, the ravens took turns inspecting every nook and cranny in each other's beaks—talking to one another throughout the process. In three winters of observing the gift-sharing, grooming, and singing courtship behaviors of ravens on the mountain, the photographer had never witnessed anything like this.
Shane Kalyn is a self-taught photographer who works as a fisheries technician with the Canadian government—a job that takes him to some amazing and remote corners of British Columbia. He has travelled to 47 countries and counting, and is a Lead Photography Co-Instructor of conservation photography workshops offered by the Canid Project.
Other finalists in this category:
Kurt Bertels | Nicosia, Cyprus
Stages of Life
This camera trap image caught three young barn owls as they practiced flying from the top of an ancient well—while their parents were out catching rodents.
Anja Brouwer | Ameland, Netherlands
Red Knots, Red Knots and More Red Knots...
Thousands of red knots were packed together in a high-tide refuge on the edge of the Wadden Sea, one of the most important stops along their migration route. The photographer captured the moment after a young peregrine falcon came to hunt and the sandpipers took to the air en masse.
Ashane Marasinghe | Kadawatha, Sri Lanka
Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan junglefowl, the national bird of Sri Lanka, is a flightless bird with colorful feathers whose ancestor is closely related to domestic chickens. Not to be upstaged, the blood-sucking batfly has evolved to maneuver through such feathers.
Nicolas Reusens | Barcelona, Spain
After six days of shooting, the photographer caught a speckled hummingbird balancing on the beak of a sword-billed hummingbird—a behavior that he had not previously seen in ten years of observing hummingbirds. This stunning feat was his most extraordinary photographic moment.
Keding Zhu | Shanghai, China
Port Saint Johns, South Africa
Every August, millions of sardines migrate north along the South African coastline, and are herded by dolphins into bait balls to become mouthfuls of prey. As the fish try to escape to the surface, cape gannets dive bomb into the water to feed—the air released from their feathers creating dense trails of bubbles.
Yang Jiao | London, Canada
Flamingo Flying Over Lake Magadi
These greater flamingos were photographed from a helicopter over Lake Magadi, a salt lake in the Great Rift Valley of southern Kenya whose mineral deposits reflect light in ever-changing patterns.
Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora Winner:
Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland
What looked to be mountains from the ground turned out to be extinct volcanoes as captured by this drone shot taken on a cloudy day in June, at the time of the midnight sun. The unusual perspective of an inhospitable landscape stained by traces of iron oxide creates an otherworldly atmosphere.
Roquetas de Mar, Spain
Fran Rubia is an electrician who has studied photography via the Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía since 1997. His work has won numerous awards and he has contributed to many publications, exhibitions, and conferences. His most extraordinary photographic experience was his first view of the deep green sky of the Northern Lights on a frigid night in the Arctic.
Other finalists in this category:
Anette Mossbacher | Bergdietikon, Switzerland
Tree of Life
Ruacana Falls, Namibia
Light from the quickly setting sun highlights this cliff-dwelling baobab tree as shadows move up the valley. The waterfall is a surprising backdrop for this ancient tree, which has adapted to extremely arid conditions.
Justin Gilligan | Lord Howe Island, Australia
Lord Howe Island, Australia
Ghost fungi grow in wet forests of endemic kentia palms in the southern mountains on this tiny volcanic island. At night, the luminescence attracts snails and slugs, which might eat the fungus or brush against it and carry the spores elsewhere.
Patrick Webster | Pacific Grove, United States
Fight of a Light-time in the Kelp Cathedral
Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area, United States
The bull kelp streams towards the rays of sun that penetrate the kelp forest in a unique convergence of kelp species in Monterey on a rare sunny day. This thriving scene may also become increasingly rare as the kelp is being decimated by sea urchins whose population is no longer being held in check by their predators—due to sea star wasting syndrome.
Nick Kanakis | Dallas, United States
Brunswick County, United States
In this macro shot, the detailed structure of the Venus flytrap is beautifully apparent, as is its technique—with a captured hoverfly. This plant species is endemic to a small stretch of wet longleaf pine habitat in the sandhills and coastal plains of the Carolinas.
Ivan Pedretti | Cagliari, Italy
Stokksnes Beach, Iceland
A colorless Iceland sky over the snow-covered Vestrahorn mountain helped create a startling contrast to the black sand and dry yellow grass of Stokksnes Beach.
Kazuaki Koseki | Yamagata, Japan
Ten years ago, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami struck the Pacific coast and triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The photographer took this photo in Fukushima Prefecture, an inland area now covered with virgin forest.
Art of Nature Winner:
The Goblet of Fire
This mushroom, illuminated by a simple flashlight, was one of many fungi growing around the photographer’s house in the countryside. During the monsoon season, the mushrooms released thick, yellow-brown spores throughout the day for almost a month—a common but often ignored phenomenon.
Sarang Naik is a nature and wildlife photographer who specializes in creative and abstract photography. In recent years, he has been documenting the urban wildlife of Mumbai. He also works with Marine Life of Mumbai, a community-driven initiative that documents and raises awareness about Mumbai's marine biodiversity through shore walks and social media.
Other finalists in this category:
Angel Fitor | Alicante, Spain
Mar Menor, Spain
This unusual perspective of a barrel jellyfish—looking up through the tentacles and into the mouth, may be as close as we get to the fish-eye view as it is about to be eaten.
Manuel Ismael Gómez | Almería, Spain
The Sands of Time
Near the tongue of a glacier, several days of snow and ice had melted into puddles over very fine sand. The slow drainage of meltwater filtering through different levels of sand created fractal configurations similar to the flow of meltwater creating rivers over mountain terrain. But here it's on a surprisingly small scale: only 2–3 square yards.
Florian Ledoux | Tromsø, Norway
Melting Ice Cap
This drone shot reveals the alarming rate at which the Austfonna ice cap is melting due to climate change. A few weeks before this photo was taken in the summer of 2020, the temperature in Svalbard reached almost 70º Fahrenheit*—its hottest day on record.
* 21 degrees Celsius
Peter Juzak | Springe, Germany
The Beauty Hidden by Malic Acid
This unique moment was captured during the crystallization of malic acid, an organic compound that makes fruit sour. The malic acid, sprinkled on a slide, melted on a hotplate, and then cooled, was photographed under a microscope with polarized light. The fantastic patterns continually change as the crystallization progresses.
Alexey Korolyov | Protvino, Russia
Snowflakes become comets flying through the air, and the dark trunks of birch trees sway lightly in the twilight of this painterly image. The enchanting illusion was achieved by combining an on-camera flash, high aperture, and intentional camera movement.
Petra Draškovič Pelc | Kočevska Reka, Slovenia
Lake Cerknica, the largest lake in Slovenia when full, disappears entirely during the dry season, which is typical of karst lakes (formed when caves collapse). As the lake begins to melt and ice skating gives way to hay mowing, the macro scale is revealed only by small bubbles in the ice.
Human Nature Winner:
Sign of the Tides
Monterey, United States
In this perfectly composed photograph, a discarded face mask in the shape of a sea turtle attracts a notoriously curious California sea lion. Shot in November 2020, this was the first time the photographer saw a mask underwater, but unfortunately he has seen many since. The effects of the pandemic will likely linger on our oceans for years to come.
Pacific Grove, United States
Ralph Pace holds a graduate degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he used surf economics and photography to stop construction that would have ruined a lagoon, a critical sea turtle nesting habitat, and a world-class surf break. His work is used by NGOs for educational, promotional, advocacy, identification, and enforcement purposes.
Other finalists in this category:
Ami Vitale | MIssoula, United States
A Daring Rescue
Ruko Community Conservancy, Kenya
Eight Rothschild giraffes were marooned as rising lake waters in Lake Baringo turned a rocky lava pinnacle into an island. During the ambitious rescue, the giraffes were hooded and transported on a makeshift raft across the lake to Ruko Community Conservancy. Saving the animals on an allegorical ark illustrates the extreme efforts required to keep endangered species alive.
Andrew Whitworth | Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica
Why Did The Sloth Cross the Road?
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Getting to the other side of a vehicular road is a challenge, especially for a slow-moving sloth. Due to speed up is the movement to create arboreal bridges for animal crossings in biodiversity hotspots like Osa. Here, amidst stormy conditions, this beautiful moss-covered, three-toed sloth survived.
Jen Guyton | Mainz, Germany
After the Irish red setter locates a snipe in the bog and points out its position, the unhooded peregrine falcon circles at the ready until the dog flushes the bird out of hiding. This form of falconry is a use of endangered Irish peat bogs that is more sustainable than the destruction wrought by harvesting peat for fuel, though hunting is a complicated approach to conservation.
Guido Villani | Pozzuoli, Italy
After a light storm drew a swarm of jellyfish and released a sizable amount of litter into the port of Bacoli, this mauve stinger carried off a discarded plastic chocolate wrapper in its tentacles. These beautiful little jellyfish, which phosphoresce when disturbed, are much feared for their painful stings.
Jaime Rojo | Seville, Spain
Puerto Nariño, Colombia
To document the first-ever tagging event of an Amazon River Dolphin, the photographer joined the scientific team on a weeklong pursuit. After six days in pouring rain, they found one—and en route to the veterinary station for tagging, a concerned team member soothes the dolphin.
Peter Mather | Whitehorse, Canada
A fox kit at its den in downtown Whitehorse, surrounded by other playful fox kits, photographed using a flash and patience. Urban foxes often den in fenced off areas, where they can quickly escape from coyotes and dogs.
Photo Story: Out of the Ordinary Winner:
Klukshu Ice Bears
Yukon Territory, Canada
Each winter, grizzly bears go fishing near Klukshu and other First Nations villages of the Yukon, delaying their hibernation to catch some of the late spawning salmon runs. Fishing in subzero temperatures, when the creek water freezes to their fur, the bears are covered in icicles that dangle as they walk, tinkling like chandeliers. But with winter arriving later each year, and rivers—which carry the salmon—disappearing due to receding glaciers, this extraordinary ice bear phenomenon may melt away.
Peter Mather is a photojournalist who focuses on long form stories about the wildlife, conservation, and people of the North. He is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, works with GEO Magazine, and is represented by Minden Images and National Geographic Image Collection. Peter has often been seen in BigPicture—his project on the caribou migration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was the 2019 winner of the “Pushing the Limits” Photo Story.
Full Photo Story:
An ice bear known to the locals as “The Mayor”— because he is the dominant male in the area—uses a fallen tree to cross Klukshu Creek.
The bears often hunt at night when the fish can’t see them, but the bears can sniff out the salmon spawning beds.
A small grizzly who ventures out in the less ideal daytime (to avoid bigger bears) is rewarded with a freshly caught salmon.
“The Mayor”—recognizable by his large size and unique blonde claws—finishes a salmon meal near the photographer’s remote camera.
Late December under the Northern lights, after the fish are finished, the bears move to the high mountains to dig their snow dens and begin hibernation.