PHOTOS: Here Are Winning Photos From Cal Academy's New Show

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Three polar bears walk by a pile of dark whale bones in Kaktovic, Alaska.  ("Boneyard Waltz" by Daniel Dietrich)

The winners of the California Academy of Sciences' annual nature photography competition are available to see in an exhibit that opened today in San Francisco.

Now in its sixth year, the BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition, solicits pro and amateur photography from around the world. The hope is to elevate global images of nature, wildlife, and conservation.

With this year's theme of "Pushing the Limits," the exhibit highlights the edge of nature, and adventure through remote and intense landscapes.

Rhonda Rubinstein, the Academy's creative director and founder of the competition,  said that this year's show is different from other years.  She sees more personality in the creatures and demonstrations of unusual behavior.

She pointed to "The Human Touch," taken by James Gifford, who captured an orphaned gorilla embracing its human caretaker in Virunga National Park in  Democratic Republic of the Congo.

André Bauma, the head caretaker at the Senkwekwe Center for orphaned gorillas in Virunga National Park. ('The Human Touch' by James Gifford)

The show includes some ominous images like "Boneyard Waltz"  (at the top of the story) by Daniel Dietrich, who photographed three polar bears, their white muzzles stained red with blood from a recent meal, walking past a dark pile of whale bones.


Some photos show the beauty and wonder of world's most distinct landscapes, like Chiara Salvadori's "Clouds of Salt," a picture of one of the world's largest salt pans located in northwestern Argentina.

Salar de Antofalla, Argentina ('Clouds of Salt' by Chiara Salvadori)

Photographer Audun Rikardsen nabbed this year's grand prize with "Taking Center Stage," a photo of Norway's northern coastline from the perch of a black grouse.

View of Norway’s northern coastline from the perch of a male black grouse. ('Taking Center Stage' by Audun Rikardsen)

"People can expect to see mind-blowing images," Rubinstein said in her email. "Photographs that are not what you think they are, or maybe you can't even imagine what it is. Photos taken up high from drones or up close with microscopes. Or just a paw's length away from a brown bear."

You can view more of the winning photographs here. The exhibit includes 50 photos.

Photographers representing 67 countries submitted more than 6,500 images, according to a museum release.

BigPicture is chaired by California-based wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas.

The exhibit, which is free with admission, will be open from July 26 through October 20.

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.