split image of model ciara antoski at shipwreck

Steven Haining and his model Ciara Antoski caused quite the comm-ocean when they decided to deep dive into history. 

On 26 June 2021, 21 feet (6.40 metres) below the surface of the Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada, Steven and his crew staged a photo shoot, making it the deepest underwater model photoshoot.

The crew held a 16-minute photoshoot located at the rudder of the W.L. Wetmore Shipwreck. 


The idea for the shoot initially began as a joke during the pandemic. 

“In Canada, they kept pushing this ‘don’t breathe in other people’s airspace’ campaign with weird rules so I suggested doing a shoot in our scuba gear so we could only breathe our own air,” said Steven. 

“That joke turned into ‘let’s practice shooting underwater with borrowed air’ and that eventually turned into combining the underwater model shoots I do in pools with a stunning location I’ve always wanted to scuba dive to make one epic photo series.” 

Steven says there were several personal and creative reasons as to why he decided to dive to this depth for the photoshoot. 

“I’ve built sets in pools with a depth of 7 feet (2.1 metres) meaning the model was just a few feet below the surface but what is impressive is building that process and trust with a team to be able to take that foundation and create a controlled environment to shoot in a stunning location,” he said. 

“The other reason for the demote was simply that the location I wanted to shoot these portraits is one of the most stunning places underwater in the entire world. We wouldn’t be able to get that location anywhere else.” 


The entire photoshoot process took a few months. 

Steven began working with his model, Ciara, who he trusted could work with him to bring the idea to life. 

Ciara practiced holding her breath in cold bathtubs and would shoot with Steven underwater in shallow pools to get the posing and movements right while working to practice buoyancy and control. 

Coming into the final week before the actual photoshoot, Steven and his crew arrived at the location early and stayed in town to go over notes, plans, and safety precautions. 

Steven introduced Ciara to his dive safety coordinator, Mareesha, and they all went through a run down of how everything would go in theory, as well as best practices about safety and temperature because the water was freezing cold. 

The day before the big dive, the crew did a shore dive to nearby shipwrecks at only a depth of 10 feet to see if Ciara could handle the cold and to troubleshoot for any variables they may have missed.

The crew did a few dives that day to get ready and then went for the actual shoot the following day.

“On the shoot day we went to three shipwrecks over a day,” said Steven. 

“The first one we went to was the Sweepstakes Shipwreck. This was an easy 12-18 feet (3.6 to 5.4 metres) first dive we shot along the bow and in very open spots to test the real-world shoot.” 


It went incredibly well so the crew went on a second dive of that wreck and went inside the hull to shoot.

“After two successful dives we went to the W.L. Wetmore Shipwreck and the Niagara II Shipwreck, so in total I guess the shoot itself was a whole day between different locations and decompression time between shoot locations,” said Steven. 

“The longest the model stayed underwater shooting was 30 minutes.” 

Although Steven says the shoot at such a deep depth isn’t any more difficult than a normal shoot, there were some differences. 

Because the model was not in a full wet suit, the crew had to keep an eye on her body temperature and made sure they were close enough to the safety diver to provide her with air between shots and a mask any time they needed a break to reset the pose. 

“Being unable to be vocal underwater made the shoot more challenging,” said Steven. 

“I would do a short dive with my safety diver before we brought the model in so we would know the location and the shoot angles and so when I surfaced, I could tell Ciara the location and how I wanted her to pose.”

Steven says they also brought along an underwater notepad to communicate details at depth, but the crew was comfortable enough with hand signals and reading each other’s body language that they didn’t end up needing it.


Steven says what made the entire process so impressive was that Ciara didn’t resurface during the photoshoot. 

“We would get to the location by boat, and I would do a dive tour of the wreck with my safety diver, and we would find out the exact spots, angles, and poses,” he said. 

“We would then surface and go over the goal with Ciara, describe the location, and work out the plan.”

Ciara was given a dive mask and a regulator with spare air that was connected to Mareesha and the crew would descend to the shoot location. 

“At the location, we would point out the location and get Ciara into position. We would then remove Ciara’s dive mask,” said Steven. 

“With her vision blurred, she would be able to identify me as the photographer by my studio lights shining in the water. She would also be able to identify Mareesha’s location by a coloured light on her.”

Once Ciara was relaxed and comfortable, her air supply was removed, and Mareesha would float out of the frame with the air ready and Steven would begin shooting. 

Once Ciara needed more air, she would signal Mareesha or Steven to come to her and hand her a regulator and she would take a break to breathe. 

“We basically repeated this until we got the shots we wanted and then depending on how Ciara felt we would either surface temporarily for her to warm up on the boat or we would move to another location on the wreck while underwater,” said Steven. 


“This meant shoots at locations would be anywhere from 10-20 minutes shooting and a maximum bottom time of 30 minutes, moving to two or three locations along the same wreck occasionally.”

The photoshoot was the first time in a long time that Steven had put a vision and a challenge together and worked hard to make it happen. 

Before the deepest underwater model photoshoot, Steven had never attempted an underwater photoshoot deeper than the bottom of a pool. 

Although he had done some shallow scuba shoots in the Caribbean, there was never a model without scuba gear involved.

“The accomplishment of such a planned out shoot with the challenge of being at depth was incredible on its own,” said Steven. 

“Getting the record was just the icing on the cake!”

Steven says when people see the shots from the photoshoot, they can’t believe it’s real at first until they see the video proof of it happening. 


“When they see that it was real and they see the artwork from it they’re completely blown away and I love watching the ‘OMG’ moment of when people understand how crazy the shots actually are and the effort that went into it,” said Steven. 

“I’ve had a couple of people in airports recognize me from that shoot too which was really cool to experience.”

Next, Steven would like to break his own record. 

The written goal is a staggering 100 feet (30.48 metres) for 20 minutes which means Steven will need to upgrade a couple of certifications and will need his Nitrox. 

He would also like to tackle the opposite side of the spectrum and find a way to complete a photo shoot at the highest altitude.

For those thinking of attempting a similar record title, Steven says safety and trust are monumental. 

“When you’re dealing with scuba and removing air from a model at depths that are not easy to surface from and in open water there isn’t a margin for error because lives are at stake,” he said. 

“If it weren’t for Mareesha being as experienced as she is and Ciara working for so long with me, this shoot simply wouldn’t have been possible and while the record is cool, and the experience is so fun, at the end of the day making sure everyone feels safe and trusts the process is the most important part.”


Steven is also incredibly proud of his record achievement and says he loves working on photoshoots that push his boundaries.

“Being able to look back at that whole adventure that started out as a covid joke about air and turned into something incredible that pushed all of our limits in one of the coolest places in the world is something I’ll hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.”

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