The winners of the California Academy of Science’s Big Picture Competition were recently announced, with the grand prize going to award-winning American photojournalist Karine Aigner for her shot of cactus bees swarming together in a mating ball.
But it’s the “Aquatic Life” category that underwater shooters will appreciate most, including the category winner by self-taught photographer David Slater, which shows a swarm of starfish devouring a sea lion corpse on the seafloor. Captured in the shallow waters of Monterey Bay, the eerie photo includes sea lions swimming in the background—probably California sea lions but possibly Steller sea lions—and the multicolored scavenging starfish are bat stars (Patiria miniata), which grow to be up to eight inches across.
“I knew this image was special when I first published it but words cannot even describe how I feel taking first place in such a prestigious contest,” Slater writes on his Instagram page. The photo shows that “beauty and adventure can be found in unexpected places,” he adds.
Check out the other stunning winners and finalists in the “Aquatic Life”, “Terrestrial Wildlife”, and “Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora” categories, below.
Finalist, Aquatic Life: “Shooting Star” by Tony Wu
Finalist, Aquatic Life: “Underwater Colorful Snowstorm” by Tom Shlesinger
Finalist, Aquatic Life: “Weedy Scorpionfish” by Magnus Lundgren
Finalist, Aquatic Life: “Danger in the Mud” by Jens Cullman
Finalist, Aquatic Life: “Curious Co-Parenting” by Domenico Roscigno
Finalist, Aquatic Life: “Goliath in Lilliput” by Tom Shlesinger
Finalist, Terrestrial Wildlife: “Embryology” by Jaime Culebras
Winner, Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora: “The Hidden Beauty Beneath Our Feet” by Tom St. George