Tina and I have been wanting to get some professional pictures taken of us in the water for quite some time. We always seem to be taking pictures or video of each other, and never have any of both she and I in the shot. So I contacted Lauren and Jon Kieren to see if they would be interested in a photo shoot. Lauren and Jon of Kieren technical, are cave, technical and open water instructors based in High Springs. We’ve gotten to know the Kierens over the last few months and they are just wonderful people. Lauren is a fantastic photographer and I’d seen her work before. So when she said yes to us coming up for a photo shoot, we were super excited.
We booked the EE house for the weekend of June 9-11 which also happened to be our wedding anniversary. This made it even more fun since our wedding was on the cheap and we actually didn’t even hire a wedding photographer (a point of regret on my part over the years). So in a way this was like us getting wedding pictures done.
We planned to dive Friday morning and meet Jon and Lauren at EE, then head out to Orange Grove for some cave diving and photos. Once we arrived at the dive site, Lauren briefed us on what the photo shoot would be like. It was as professional as it gets and I was really impressed by the thoroughness of the briefing. It’s obvious that they both love what they do. Lauren went over exactly what the dive plan would be and emphasized safety above all else. She showed us how to manage the strobes including holding them correctly and adjusting the settings, and what she expected during the shoot. She also went over different hand signals to be sure we were all on the same page.
Once in the water we all did our GUE EDGE and began the dive. This was the first time we’d actually had a chance to dive with Jon and Lauren and I must say it’s impressive how well they work together. We went just a little ways into the cave for our first photo session.
Jon was the safety diver and Lauren wielded the camera and housing like a cave ninja. Tina and I were having a blast during the first shoot and it was such a cool experience. We have seen some beautiful photos over the past few years and always wanted to be able to take part in a shoot, so this experience was surreal.
The first session ended in what seemed like a blink of an eye and we surfaced to discuss what the next shoot would be. We were having such a good time and realized that a photo shoot is much more challenging than what it seems. The level of control to hold a pose and position for 20 minutes takes everything we learned in our training to a whole new level.
For our next shoot, we did some reel work and that was fun and challenging as well. It was like running the reel in super slow motion. Lauren shot tons of photos of us the whole time and we were having such a good time. Orange Grove basin was a murky green which made the shots really dramatic because of the contrast between the clear water in the cave and the hazy green of the basin.
Again it was fun to watch Jon and Lauren work like a well oiled machine. Later Tina and I commented that, if this is anything like they teach, their classes must be just amazing and fun.
The photo sessions go by super fast and we were done our overhead shoots for the day before we knew it. Tina and I learned a lot about the details of what it takes to make a good photo in a cave setting and it was just a ton of fun to be part of.
We all got out of the water and it was close to 3pm. Everyone was hungry so we decided to get a late lunch/dinner back in high springs. And because we’d been shooting photos and not really cave diving we all decided to go pay an evening visit to Ginnie after dinner. Dinner was served at the Great Outdoors and it was excellent as always. I really haven’t gotten sick of that place yet and I tend to get the same thing almost every time. Call me a creature of habit but that “Ginnie Burger” is tasty and add on the sweet potato fries for a well rounded meal. During dinner we talked about the following day’s shot schedule. We planned some photos at Ginnie, in the ballroom. As it turns out, neither Tina nor I had been in the ballroom (well I had been in just a few feet past the entrance but not further) And the ball room is great because the depths are shallow, visibility is fantastic and you can spend a good bit of time taking photos while remaining on cave1 gas rules. So this was going to be a new cave/cavern for us too. The ballroom tends to be the cavern dive people do before they do cave so it was somewhat ironic or fun to think we did our cave first then did the ballroom.
Following dinner we gassed up at EE and headed over to Ginnie for a quick dip in the eye. Tina and I always love to see how other divers dive Ginnie. It’s like a chess game for us. Ginnie takes many dives to figure out the perfect path of least resistance and it’s nice to see how Jon and Lauren do it. We dove as two teams of two while sharing a reel. The dive was very relaxing and it was nice just follow Jon and Lauren. We learned a few new tricks from watching them and that was really fun. I feel like every time we dive ginnie we learn something.
We ended the day after the first dive because we were all tired. It was pretty much a perfect day.
The following morning we met at EE for gas fills and headed over to Ginnie before the craziness started. And by craziness I mean all the tubers and general mayhem that happens there during the summer on the weekends. We arrived shortly after they opened and it was already very busy. We quickly found a parking spot near Ginnie spring and did our dive briefing. Again the briefing was very professional and with the limited depth we had plenty of time to take photos. One of our photo goals was a fun shot of Tina and I holding onto the grate at the back of the ballroom. This was a tongue in cheek shot for us and we were probably more excited about that than anything.
Soon we were in the water and it was a relief from the heat already building at 9am on a hot summer day. We did a few shots in the run in shallow water and then headed into the ballroom. Our first order of business was to get the grate shots and Jon ran a line to the grate. Remember, safety first always.
Once at the grate, Tina and I held on to the bars with one hand and turned for a “Thumbs up” to the camera. I was pretty amazed at the flow coming out of that grate. I thought the ear had high flow. But this seemed much higher. It always amazes me how much water flows out of the springs on a daily basis. After our “grate” shot we went up into the ballroom for some more photos. We had tons of gas at this depth so we could do nearly an hour dive and still not hit our turn pressure.
Once the photo shoot was over we went to the Ear for a dive. This was just a fun relaxing dive back to around the beginning of the mud flats with a nice slow drift on the way out. No pictures, no video, just 4 friends having a good dive.
Overall we had a very fun and relaxing weekend and I finally got to dive the ballroom. It was a pleasure working with Jon and Lauren and I look forward to diving with them again. Be sure to check out the Kierens on facebook and follow their page here.