Born on the South East Coast of England, I was always drawn to the beauty of the ocean, but I can honestly say that scuba diving got me into photography.
Working as an expedition guide in Palau I would do hundreds of dives a year. Spending so much time underwater gives you a great understanding of fish behaviour and one of the main reasons I seriously got into photography was to document some of the massive spawning aggregations we had been researching in Palau back in 2012.
These events had rarely been seen and I wanted to learn as much as I could and document these unique behaviours. It’s quite challenging photography and I became obsessed with working out the formulas of when fish would spawn and trying to capture this artistically. This would later be my first published work.
Since then I have gone on to lead multiple expeditions each year around the globe in search of unique behaviours or other spawning events.
I mainly shoot wide angle photography and have been shooting with Nikon DSLR cameras for the last ten years. I use Nauticam housings and ports and love the products they have.
I need a camera that has amazing low light capabilities combined with incredible focusing speed and housed in a durable, solid yet versatile underwater housing. As the cameras over the last decade have improved with both of these abilities I have kept upgrading best I can.
These days mainly due to travel bag restrictions and weight limits I try to keep my gear to the main essentials. So a fish eye wide angle (guide), a mid range zoom like 17-35mm and a 60mm macro would be my go to lenses on most expeditions or shoots. If it’s more of a macro destination then I would add a 105mm and maybe leave my fish eye lens behind.
Nikon D850 – Over the years I have constantly been upgrading to faster and faster focusing DSLR’s as this was one of the most important things for me. I really love this camera not just for its fast focusing but also for its incredible dynamic range.
Nikon D7200 – I love using this camera for all my topside imagery.
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 – This is my go to lens for wide angle underwater photography. I just love shooting super wide and getting really close to my subjects. This lens is really sharp and has a nice close focusing of just shorter than 15cm.
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 – It is not always possible to get super close to some subjects no matter how hard you try, especially if you are after a special behaviour. In this instance, I would use my 17-35mm zoom lens. Giving the subjects a bit more distance and having the ability for some nice portrait shots.
Nikon 60mm f/2.8 G – For photographing blackwater night diving and small critters in the water column. I like using this lens for blackwater as it gives me plenty of distance to find my subjects unlike a Nikon f/2.8 105mm or similar. It’s also very sharp and swift.
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR – I like using this lens for macro subjects and portraits. You can give your subjects plenty of room not to disturb them and get really amazing close-up shots using diopters.
I use two Sea & Sea YS250 Strobes for underwater lighting. These strobes have a very fast recycle time which is perfect for shooting fast action and spawning shots. These strobes have unfortunately been discontinued but I hear the latest Sea & Sea YS-D3 are just as good and not as big and bulky.
I also use DivePro lights for off camera lighting in caves or wrecks and for video.
I have always used Nauticam housings and have been very impressed with there products and amazing customer service. Because I spend so much time underwater on expeditions my housings do hundreds of dives each year and I really put them through the tests. So far to date, they have never let me down.
I use a variety of Nauticam’s diopters like the CMC-1 and CMC-2 for more than 1-1 magnification on macro subjects. I love using these special underwater optics to be able to make things larger than life.
I use a variety of cinebags for my underwater equipment. They make great camera bags and backpacks for all your expedition and in the field needs.
I use a DJI Mavic Air to capture any aerial images and a GoPro 7 for behind the scenes stuff.
Hardware & Software
I have a Macbook Pro 15” for editing on expeditions and in the field and at home, I use an iMac 27”. The software I use is Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop for stills and Final cut pro X for editing video.
Cressi 5mm Wetsuit
Cressi 3mm Wetsuit
Scubapro Exo Drysuit
Cressi Freediving Fins
ScubaPro Jet Fins
The more time you spend underwater the more you learn, just don’t forget to come up for a breath now and again or buy a rebreather.
www.richardbarnden.com | @richardbarndenphotography
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