Audun Rikardsen

A humpback whale swimming off the coast of Tromsø, Norway. Taken by Canon Ambassador Audun Rikardsen on a Canon EOS-1D X.
Canon Ambassador Audun Rikardsen captured this split-level photo, Arctic Underwater Dance, off the coast of Tromsø, Norway. The humpback whale, photographed in a graceful spin, was just about to begin its journey south for the mating season. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 11mm, 1/100 sec, f/5.6 and ISO1600. © Audun Rikardsen

A love of the Arctic led Norwegian marine biologist and photographer Audun Rikardsen to blaze a trail that combined both his passions.

It's fair to say there aren't many photographers like Audun. Not only is he a professional wildlife photographer, but he is also a science professor at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway. He possesses talent, knowledge and resources that have allowed him to capture spectacular scenes above and below the water and, just as often, in-between the two with equipment adapted for split-level photography.

Audun's close-up yet wide-angle images typically feature whales, caribou and many species of invertebrates, fish and birds. Expect to see an Arctic creature basking in the icy seas below the low-lit backdrop of snow-clad landscapes, or enigmatic night skies illuminated by the Northern Lights. "I often get ideas for 'impossible' pictures that have not been taken before," he explains.

Canon Ambassador Audun Rikardsen. Photo by Tor Evensen.

Specialist areas: Nature, landscape, wildlife
Favourite Kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

Audun designs and builds his own specialised photography equipment. "Often there is no equipment available on the market for such specific pictures, and therefore I have to make the necessary accessories myself. For example, I've made special underwater housings for low-light conditions, flash systems, floating remote-controlled camera rigs or other types of remote-controlled camera systems. Many of them have given me some great pictures, but others have been a total failure. It is all about thinking differently, being creative, daring to try and never giving up. And yes, if you develop your own system that works well and no-one else has, you will, of course, be able to take different pictures that may be unique."

A black grouse with ruffled feathers in Tromsø, Norway. Taken by Canon Ambassador Audun Rikardsen on a Canon EOS 6D Mark II.
Audun took this image of a black grouse showing off in Tromsø, Norway, using a camera trap. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D Mark II with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 17mm, 1/320 sec, f/16 and ISO400. © Audun Rikardsen

The result is a unique perspective, leading to some truly incredible images that have been greeted with international acclaim and an impressive collection of accolades, including a Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio award. Audun has also been named the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and won the Fritz Pölking Prize and a Siena International Photo Award.

Growing up in the small fishing community of Steigen, in Northern Norway, inspired Audun's two loves, biology and photography; but it was as a science professor completing Arctic fieldwork on Bear Island in 2009 that his photographic ambitions became reality. Two years later he won his first large international award and his photography career took off.

The Northern Lights in the shape of a heart over an islet inside the Arctic Circle. Taken by Canon Ambassador Audun Rikardsen on a Canon EOS-1D X.
To capture this image, Aurora's Last Love Affair, of the Northern Lights over an islet inside the Arctic Circle, Audun used a long exposure. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24m, 13 secs, f/4.5 and ISO1600. © Audun Rikardsen

Audun admits that it's a challenge to have two jobs and to be a father to his young daughter. However, being able to combine his photography and his science work can save him time and give him opportunities that he otherwise might not have had. "It is a great advantage to have the scientific knowledge of the ecosystem I photograph," he says. "This helps me to take better pictures, and also to tell the full story behind them. I often use my pictures to publicise my scientific work, and I've seen what a powerful tool pictures can be in this regard. It is often the pictures that sell the stories to the media. Therefore, combining my photography and science is a win-win situation."

Audun's unique skill set has led to him becoming a highly sought-after speaker, competition judge and tutor, and his images have frequently appeared in the Norwegian and international press, including National Geographic, GEO, BBC Wildlife Magazine and others. He has also made frequent appearances on television programmes and documentaries, talking about both his photography and his scientific research.

A golden eagle flying low over the water is pictured from underneath the surface. Taken by Canon Ambassador Audun Rikardsen on a Canon EOS-1D X.
Audun is keen to capture the world from his subject's perspective, as with this image of a golden eagle flying low over the water. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, 1/2500 sec, f/8 and ISO400. © Audun Rikardsen

What focus type do you use?

"Usually Single Point AF; I place the focus towards the edge of the image in order to compose the picture as much as possible in camera. Many photographers prefer to use a centre focus and then compose the picture by cropping it in post, but they will lose pixels."

Do you use a tripod or do you prefer shooting handheld?

"With the exception of most of my night shots and when I'm using camera traps, I rarely use tripods. I find I'm much more flexible without one – and I often like to get down for a very low perspective."

What do you do in post-production?

"Adjustments like colour temperature, exposure, sharpness and contrast. My split-level shots are obviously high contrast, so I adjust the highlights and shadows to make the final image appear closer to the way our eyes would see it."

What's been the toughest Arctic species to shoot?

"The white-tailed eagle. I wanted images that had never been taken before: a wide close-up of the eagle grabbing a fish from the water, and one from a fish's perspective underwater. It took years to develop the right system and find the right eagles, light, wind and current conditions to make it finally happen. But it was worth it!"

What's the best way for a new wildlife photographer to develop their skills?

"Practice as a 'couch photographer'. Play with your camera on your sofa and learn all of its possibilities and functions. That way you know exactly what to do when a possibility appears in the field, increasing your chances of a successful and unique picture."

Facebook: Audun-Rikardsen-Photography

One Thing I Know
Audun Rikardsen

"Many photographers overlook their own backyard. It's a myth that you need to travel on long organised trips to remote areas to take unique wildlife pictures. Going on organised trips may give you great experiences, but you'll probably just get the same shots as all the other participants. Explore your own surroundings, even if it is just your garden, city park or local riverbank. Then you can take your time and be in the right place at the right time. With some planning and creativity, you'll create unique, self-made images that are hopefully different from other pictures."

Audun Rikardsen's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Audun Rikarden's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Delivering high-sensitivity performance reducing noise in both high and low ISO speeds, this camera produces images of a beautifully high quality. "This is the camera I use during the most extreme conditions. It always delivers!" Audun says.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

This accomplished all-rounder is engineered to give high-quality performance in every situation. "My favourite all-around camera for most conditions both above and below the water's surface. Maybe the best camera I have ever owned," says Audun.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

With a full-frame sensor and compact design, this 26.2-megapixel DSLR is ideal for portrait photography, offering tight control over depth of field. "A great full-frame camera that works well. I use this when I need to travel light or for my camera traps," says Audun.

Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III

Blending speed, quality and resilience with lightweight handling, this camera is ideal for photographers looking for an 'all-in-one' alternative to a DSLR. "A great super-compact camera that I can carry in my pocket," says Audun.


Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Combining high-quality optics with a four-stop Image Stabiliser, this lens delivers ultra-sharp images across its zoom range. "It's very flexible and delivers excellent sharpness. It works especially well when you have to compose your framing fast – for example when you don't know when or where your subject will show up. It's my most-used lens for whale photography," says Audun.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

This professional-quality standard zoom offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "My 'all-round' lens – the one that is always in my bag," says Audun.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

A versatile fisheye zoom lens offering a choice of full-frame or circular image. "My go-to lens for underwater shots and split-level pictures," says Audun. "It's very flexible and also great to play with if you want a picture with a different perspective, or to add a little humour."

Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

The complete range of ultra wide-angle focal lengths in a single high-quality zoom lens, perfect for those shooting landscapes, architecture and interiors on location. "My favourite extreme wide-angle lens. Super sharp, flexible and very wide, it's probably the best on the market," says Audun. "I use this for landscapes, split-level pictures and close-ups of wildlife."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

Fast, flexible and built for any assignment, this lens is a popular choice for professional photographers. "An excellent and extremely sharp lens," Audun says. "I use this often under low-light conditions, for example for whales during the polar night in the north. It also works great with teleconverters."

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

Advanced three-stop Image Stabiliser (IS) technology makes this the ideal telephoto zoom for shooting in dim light and at slow shutter speeds. "A compact, sharp and flexible lens that I often use when I need to travel light," says Audun.

Canon EF 600mm f-4L IS II USM

This high-magnification, super-telephoto lens features integrated Image Stabiliser technology and a fast f/4 maximum aperture, perfect for wildlife photographers in the field. "The lens I use for long-distance photos and/or close up portraits of wildlife," says Audun. "The optical quality of this lens is superb. It also works brilliantly with both the 1.4x and 2x converters."

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

A fast, ultra wide-angle zoom lens offering excellent optical performance throughout the whole zoom range, with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture that is ideal for low-light photography. "A great and flexible wide-angle lens," says Audun. "I often also use this in my camera traps as I can attach a screw filter (usually UV) to further protect it from extreme weather conditions."

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

This precision-designed ultra wide-angle lens boosts image quality while correcting for distortion. "A very good, compact and sharp wide-angle lens that I often use for underwater and split-level shots," says Audun. "I often bring this if I need a super wide-angle lens and would like to travel light. Also great for Northern Lights or other low-light photos."


Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Engineered for fast frame rate shooting and usable off-camera or in the hotshoe, allowing you to take complete control over lighting. "It has a powerful flash, is very versatile and gives me multiple options for light settings," says Audun.

Canon 10x32 IS binoculars

Enjoy beautiful handheld views of birds, nature and spectator sports with these premium 10x binoculars with Powered Image Stabiliser. "These are extremely good binoculars that I've used for 15 years," says Audun.

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