2024 BigPicture Contest Winners Announced: People’s Choice Contest Launches

2024 BigPicture Contest Winners Announced: People’s Choice Contest Launches

2024 BigPicture Grand Prize Winner “Forest of the Monarchs,” © Jaime Rojo

San Francisco, CA—A stunning sunset snapshot of fir trees weighed down by millions of monarch butterflies took the grand prize at the 11th Annual BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition. The California Academy of Sciences announced all the 2024 BigPicture contest winners.

Titled The Forest of the Monarchs, photographer Jaime Rojo captured this unique image after spending years studying the iconic butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico. Rojo’s image documented the epic migration monarchs undergo every year, as they journey from summer breeding grounds to the same overwintering sites in Mexico’s mountainous forests.

Also published as part of a 2024 National Geographic cover story, Rojo felt this image presented a rare view of the monarchs huddling together to conserve warmth in the remote winter habitat that has supported them for countless seasons.

Underwater Harmony and Chaos by Franco Banfi

“At first glance, Jaime Rojo’s winning image may just look like a pretty forest photo. But a closer look reveals an absolutely magical world,” said Suzi Eszterhas, BigPicture jury chair. “As our eyes focus, the details of hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of monarch butterflies emerge. Just as each butterfly clings to a tree, we are reminded that this entire species clings to existence as its future generations are threatened with extinction. Jaime’s image is an absolute wonder and unlike anything we have ever seen before.”

2024 BigPicture Contest

Furthermore, world-class photographers representing nearly 70 countries submitted 7,393 images to this year’s competition. Each submission captured the remarkable beauty and awe-inspiring splendor of the natural world. A gallery of this year’s winning images as well as select finalists was just published by bioGraphic. It is the academy’s independent online magazine about biodiversity as well as the official media sponsor for the BigPicture competition.

In Celebration by Geo Cloete

This year’s category winners are:

· Aquatic Life Winner: Tadpole Migration by Shane Gross. It chronicles hundreds of polliwogs as they journey from a lake’s depths to the water’s surface in Vancouver Island.
· Winged Life Winner: Underwater Harmony and Chaos by Franco Banfi. This photo illustrates the chaos as well as the beauty of the Northern gannet’s daily fight for food and survival.
· Terrestrial Wildlife Winner: Beauty of the Desert by Hema Palan. This image depicts a sand racer slithering between the branches of a bush in India’s Thar Desert.
· Human/Nature Winner: Good Fire by Maddy Rifka. Rifka shows a Hoopa Valley tribal member lighting a patch of forest brush on fire during a cultural burn.
· Landscapes, Waterscapes and Flora Winner: In Celebration by Geo Cloete. The photo captures a blanket of sea anemones blooming in a South African tidepool.
· Photo Story Winner: Ghosts of the North by Peter Mather. This five-photo series documents the eerie, ghostlike nature of the Arctic’s elusive wildlife.

Ghosts of the North by Peter Mather

Check out all of this year’s grand prize, first place as well as category finalists here.

BigPicture People’s Choice Award

Additionally, the academy announced the launch of its first-ever People’s Choice Award. The program asks BigPicture’s audience to vote on their favorite images from a pool of high-scoring BigPicture submissions. Further, they range from sunbathing elephants to grimacing cheetahs swimming in a river.

The winning image will receive $300. All voters will automatically enter a drawing to receive the academy’s latest photography book, Seeing It All. Members of the public are only allowed one vote per household. Please refer to the competition terms and conditions for more details. 2024-BigPicture-Contest-Seeing-It-All

So, check out the People’s Choice finalists and cast a vote for your favorite here. The voting period is now open until July 31, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

“BigPicture receives around 7,000 image submissions each year. Yet less than one percent become the winners and finalists displayed in the exhibition. There are so many charming, funny, gorgeous, surprising, dramatic as well as bizarre images that also awed our team—those that depict playful encounters, unlikely collaborations, frightful moments, and curious behaviors,” explained Rhonda Rubinstein, creative director at the Academy and co-founder of BigPicture. “With the introduction of the People’s Choice Award, we are thrilled to showcase an additional batch of top-ranked images and their photographers and see how they resonate with the public.”

Stardust Forest by Kazuaki Kosek

What’s more, awards from the competition include $12,000 in cash prizes. Competition entries were judged by a diverse panel. It included jury chair and renowned wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas; international photo editor Sophie Stafford; as well as award-winning nature and conservation photographers and filmmakers Jahawi Bertolli, Sandesh Kadur, Karen Kasmauski, Jo-Anne McArthur and Kiliii Yuyan.

This year’s photo essay category, Unusual Perspectives, shows how unusual perspectives bring new insights on this ever-changing planet, highlighting artful angles, bird’s-eye views as well as remote locales


Since launching in 2014, BigPicture has established a strong reputation within the photography community. It received a four-star rating from The Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests by Photo Shelter six years running. Moreover, in 2018, Chronicle Books released Wonders: Spectacular Moments in Nature Photography. It features  more than 100 breathtaking images from the BigPicture competition. Last year, to coincide with BigPicture’s 10th anniversary, the academy also produced Seeing It All: Women Photographers Expose the Planet. With a foreword by renowned marine scientists and ocean advocate Dr. Sylvia Earle, Seeing It All is a dramatic photography book featuring 11 visionary women photographers from BigPicture.