1How did you get started in underwater photography?
2What came first – diving or photography?
3What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
4Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
5Most challenging dive?
6Who are your diving inspirations?
7Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list?
8What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
9Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
10What is your most memorable dive?
My most memorable dive would have to be the night dive in Fakarava that won me Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019. That night was the third time we had dived the south pass and the hunting action was intense. As soon as we descended there were hundreds of sharks covering the bottom and you could feel the adrenaline vibe in the water.
Each night we watched how close we could approach when the hunting was happening, but I never expected to walk away with a predation shot right in front of my camera. One of the best things was that most of my closest friends were also on that dive, so to experience all of it together and then have it remembered by winning the competition is just magic.
Richard Barnden has been guiding underwater in Palau for nearly 15 years. His passion is in unique underwater imagery, specialising in spawning aggregations and black water night diving. He has spent more than ten years researching spawning aggregations and their predictabilities, returning to Palau every six months to continue unravelling some more of their hidden formulas.
In 2012, Richard and Paul Collins co-founded Unique Dive Expeditions, a product of Sam’s Tours which was the first educational diving product of its kind targeting spawning events for recreational scuba divers. These spawning events are tailored around lunar phases to observe fish reproduction, mainly during the early hours of the morning. By night Richard spends most of his time drifting in the middle of the Pacific photographing blackwater diving.
Most recently Richard, Paul and their Unique Dive Expedition team, were the pioneer dive crew to crack the spawning timing of the camouflaged grouper (Epinephelus polyphekadion) in Palau, something that took them almost seven years. Three years later in 2018, Richard and Paul put together a team of JJ-CCR closed circuit rebreather divers to try and uncover some of the similarities and differences between the same species of grouper spawning in Fakarava, French Polynesia and Ulong Channel, Palau.
Although primarily there to document the grouper spawning, Richard and Paul were also in Fakarava to observe the shark hunting behaviour that Laurent Ballesta and his team had discovered a few years before. This expedition led Richard on to winning Underwater Photographer of The Year and British Underwater Photographer of The Year 2019 with his shot entitled ‘The Gauntlet’ of two grey reef sharks tearing apart a terrified parrotfish at night.
Find out more about Richard and his work on his website: http://www.richardbarnden.com