Richard Barnden is a professional underwater photographer based in Palau. He has a passion for photographing fish behavior in particular spawning aggregations and blackwater diving.


Born in 1978 he grew up in south east England where he was always drawn to the ocean. In 2003 he set out for an adventure in Fiji that would change his life forever. Spending the next six months learning to dive and learning how to identify fish species Richard worked for a non profit organization setting up marine protected area’s around one of the northern Fijian Islands. That would later be the building blocks for his future diving and underwater photography career.

After building up enough dives to do his divemaster and later instructors Richard set sail for the Great Barrier Reef, Australia where he worked for one year as a PADI dive Instructor. His passion however was in underwater photography and in 2005 Richard started work in Palau on a liveaboard as a photo and Video Pro.

The Birth of Unique Dive Expeditions

After five years of filming and guiding Palau’s dive sites, he started to notice pattern’s emerging in his log books and stock photography catalog’s. Fish kept appearing in larger than normal school’s at certain dive sites around certain moon cycles and seasons. These he later was to learn are spawning aggregations and he soon became fascinated with understanding their regularities, reading any scientific or documented material he could get his hands on and trying to figure out their formulas.

In 2012 Richard teamed up with Paul Collins to manage a brand new product called Unique Dive Expeditions, operated by one of the most popular dive shops in Palau, Sam’s Tours. These expeditions are based around the moon’s lunar cycles throughout the year to see unique fish behaviors mainly spawning aggregations and blackwater diving. 

Blackwater diving in Palau

In an effort to understand more about gametes and newly born offspring being released into the open ocean, Richard and Paul started to pioneer blackwater diving in Palau. A dive style originated around ten years ago in Hawaii. By driving ten miles offshore, hanging lights down at 15m at night and drifting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to witness the nightly biomass migration. Richard has cataloged creatures divers rarely get to witness. In 2015 while on a blackwater dive he was able to photograph something he has been longing to see, a pelagic octopus called a paper nautilus (Argonauta sp), a first in Palau waters.

Recent Accomplishments

Richard has spent the last few years diving at sun rise and drifting in the middle of the pacific ocean at night to photograph and document some of these little known about events. While not spending time underwater Richard likes to write about what he has learnt and been able to witness. He has published articles for Asian Diver magazine, Scuba Diver, Diver Training, Tauchen, Alert Diver, Submerge and Dive Photo Guide.

Richard has also worked with numerous production companies including ABC (Australia), Brazil TV, and most recently BBC (NHU) - Shark.