Hamilton photographer breaks deepest underwater portrait record


Published November 20, 2023 at 11:46 am

Steve Haining

A Hamilton-based photographer, Steve Haining, has broken his own Guinness World Record for the deepest underwater portrait photo shoot.

Haining launched his career almost ten years ago. He began shooting concerts for various rock bands and then moved on to ads and album art. In time he worked with  numerous large labels such as Universal Music, BMI, Vagrant as well as MTV and Much Music.

By 2015, Haining moved into directing ads for Toyota and Tim Horton and had been featured in GQ magazine and numerous others. He’s shot landscapes in more than 30 countries and has had his work in galleries in the USA, Canada, Europe and the UK. His work has sold for up to $200,000.

He’s since moved into film direction, releasing the documentary The Long Ride Home in 2020 about “a brave group of natives set off on a 600-mile horse ride to bring awareness to the inter generational trauma.”

In 2021, Haining added a major win to his ever-growing list of accomplishments. He had recently launched a new project to perform various shoots underwater at iconic shipwrecks across North America.

That July, Haining, model Ciara Antoski and dive safety Mareesha Klups went to Tobermory, a small community way up at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron. Antoski wore a 12-pound weight belt and sparingly used a dive mask and regulator to pose for the deepest underwater portrait photo shoot at the time at 6.4 metres (21 feet).

Antoski posed on the WL Wetmore shipwreck. This 819.74-ton steamer was driven ashore by a storm in 1901 and has since become an iconic and popular dive site. Once submerged Antoski lost most of her visibility so they had to create many safety precautions and develop underwater sign language beyond dive hand signals. The photographer, crew and safety divers all had scuba gear on. Antoski had to hold her breath for more than a minute for each shot.

“The three of us since then constantly thought about building on the photo series and one day while I was in Miami shooting with Fujifilm with Mareesha their team asked us what’s next and we kind of picked something we knew would be a challenge,” Haining said.

Two years later, Haining, Antoski and Klups returned to Tobermory for a second shoot, this time 30 metres (100 feet) below the surface. “Because the 100-foot dive is nearly five times deeper than the original shoot and it was twice as cold there are a lot of problems and risks,” Haining explained.

As a result Antoski became the teacher, instructing Klups how to pose. Klups is a Dive Master trainer, and a free diver. She has a more than six-minute breath hold from Penn and Teller magic shows, “She’s no stranger to cold water and has free-dove the Niagara wreck,” Haining added, “We were shooting on in nothing but a tutu in the past so it made the whole team feel a lot safer that way.”

The crew dove on Sept. 18 and successfully beat their record after 30 minutes underwater.

“The collection of photos added to this series is really special to me in many ways, the shots of Ciara really set the mood to compliment the environments we were in, the 100ft shots of Mareesha are a literal testament to how well the entire crew worked together to make something incredible,” Haining said, “Huge thanks to Mareesha and Ciara for being not only models but a fundamental part of the record and series.”

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