Sunday, July 29, 2012

Two Dreams Come True!


I hope that you are doing well!  We're glad that you keep tuning in to read our blogs, emails and to watch our videos.  We are lucky to have such great friends and family.  We have had an exciting few months.  Let me try and share some of it with you.  

The first and most exciting news is that Gwen is seven months pregnant with a little girl!  Little baby Cesere is due October 21st! We can’t wait!  It seems our baby girl already enjoys swimming too.  Each time Gwen jumps in the water the baby starts doing back flips and rolls around as if she is swimming along side us. 
It's been almost 4 years of waiting and it is finally happening.  It's so hard to pick names, we've got a few ideas but we probably won't nail anything down until we see her little face.  We've already plastered her room with images of fish, octopus, jellyfish, turtles and whales as you might have imagined.

As if it wasn't hard enough to wait a few more months for the stork to show up, our cousin Amy just had her baby girl last week!  The good news is that we get to watch her and Jarett figure out how to be Mommy and Daddy first and we can take notes.  Little Celia Jean Fry is probably the cutest baby I have ever seen.  Gwen and I can't seem to put her down and even Dan softens up a ton around baby Celia.  She is the first Maui baby in our family so she will always have a special place in all of our hearts.

Celia Jean Fry - Born July 16th 2012
The next big news is that we went on a last minute photo trip to Tahiti!  We litterally put a trip together in two days because Gwen said "if you guys want to go somewhere, go now before the baby gets here and go while my Mom is here so I’m not home alone!”  So two days later we left for two weeks.

Tahiti - Tuamotu Islands
We searched all over the web for the best place to visit in late June early July and for some reason we kept coming back to Tahiti.  We really wanted to go someplace with shallow reefs, tons of fish, very clear water and small islands with palm trees near the water.  Our friends and our research led us to the lagoons in the Tuamotu Island Atolls which are North East of the main island of Tahiti. 

We decided to go to some of the remote islands outside Bora Bora and Morea. We ended up on three smaller islands called Manihi, Rangiroa and Fakarava.  I am pretty sure I can speak for Dan when I say they were some of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

Manihi and Rangiroa were great.  Manihi had some of the nicest people we met on the whole trip.  Most of the people we encountered hardly spoke English and we speak zero French or Polynesian but that still didn't keep us all from hanging out and being instant friends.  We even got invited to play a soccer game with all the locals in the center of town on the first night.  Then each day as we rode bikes through town everyone would stop to say hello.  

We will never forget Rangiroa because of the dolphin encounters; we saw several large bottlenose dolphins on each dive.  Most of the time they would come right up close as if they wanted to be touched.  It was pretty cool.  Even though it was a bit out of season, we also saw a Great Hammerhead and it was huge (possibly 16-18 feet long), which was amazing.

 Generally the diving in the Tuamotu islands revolves around the strong currents that the tide changes bring.  Without going into crazy detail, each island basically has one area to dive with many little dive spots in that area.  The area is always the "pass," which is how the ocean moves in and out of the lagoon in each Atoll.  The Atolls have such large lagoons and such small passes that the current can really rip!  Any idea what kind of animal loves a ripping current?     SHARKS!!! 

To be honest, we had no idea that we chose some of the sharkiest waters in the world.  We truly went for the shallow waters, pretty reefs and amazing island scenery, but we were not upset when we stuck our heads in the water and saw sharks on every dive and every snorkel.  The Tuamotu islands are amazing!

 We had some amazing “pass” dives in Manihi and Rangiroa but Fakarava was easily our favorite stop.  Luckily we had planned to stay in Fakarava longer than the other two islands because it was the most remote and was supposed to have the prettiest corals and clearest water – it did not disappoint.

The morning of our first two dives in Fakarava we noticed a large amount of sharks and Marbled groupers.  

At first we thought it was just normal for the area because of what we had witnessed in our first week of diving.  However, each dive we started to notice the groupers were piling up by the hundreds.  On the second day, after getting swarmed by 30+ sharks and thousands of Marbled groupers we had to ask the dive guide what was going on...

It turns out that once a year at the first full moon of July that thousands and thousands of the Marbled groupers in the area come to this one spot in the pass to spawn for one hour!  We just happened to plan our week in Fakarava perfectly around this once a year event.  The other divers had planned for this trip for a year and came from all over the world.  Quite an impressive group of divers had assembled, a group that included famous underwater cinematographers, marine biologists and a few lucky photographers!
The night before the big dive felt like Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to come,  we could hardly sleep the night before the big dive!

We were up before  sun rise, so we took early morning sky photo's while we waited for the current to be moving in the right direction.  Then, we sat waiting on the edge of the boat holding our cameras and imagining what we were about to jump into.  

We dive a lot, and have seen a lot, but nothing to date prepared us for what we were about to see...  We back rolled into the water off the little boat and started to sink to about 100ft.  As we descended we noticed that so many of these Marbled groupers had come to the area that it was almost impossible to see the actual reef and sand.  They were piled on top of each other and created a 3 foot layer of grouper soup on the bottom.  They all stayed in tight groups and all at the same depth as the hundreds of sharks circled above.  It was like everyone had a pre-arranged layer that was like a safe zone, the groupers got the first 3 feet, the sharks got the next 10 feet, then the rest of the fish took up the upper layers followed by a surface layer of spinner dolphins.  It was so full of animals that it was hard for Dan and I to see each other when we were 10 feet apart!  Oh yeah, and the visibility was over 150ft when you actually had a clear line of sight.  Which you didn't.

We weren't sure what to do at first so we hovered in the shark layer and just watched for a minute.  A female grouper would swim a foot above the group with one male who seemed to be rubbing bellies with her.  Together they would spray out eggs and sperm all over the place, instantly two to 6 more males would shoot up and add their sperm to the collection.  The visibility would quickly drop and become murky all around the area and at the very same time when the water was murky and the groupers were preoccupied with spawning, sharks would come flying through the murk with mouth wide open hoping to grab a grouper or two.  The sharks didn't care who or what ended up in their mouth, so you had to keep your head on a swivel or get the heck out of that layer of the water.

For the first few minutes it was hard to shoot a picture or take some video because the scene overwhelmed us.  The few other divers that were with us decided to stay about 20 feet off the bottom and just watch the madness.  Dan and I decided to sink to the bottom and hang with the groupers so that we could get as close as possible to the action.  Eventually we found our place and we started shooting in the middle of feeding sharks and spawning groupers.  There was so much sperm, eggs, blood and guts in the water that it was hard to really get any images or video that is worth showing, but it was an amazing adrenalin rush.  You would hear the slight snapping sound of the groupers spawning inches from your head and then turn just in time to see shark teeth zip through the murk by your head.  Seconds later it would happen on the other side of your face, then on top of your head, then on your camera.  Groupers would swim through your legs, under your arms, between you and the camera and sharks would almost hit you every other second.

What made it really special is that it was all natural, no feeding, no cages and barely any humans at all.  By the end of the dive it the spawning was slowing and the groupers were beginning to leave and the madness was over.  The 3D guy was swimming just a few feet from us and we all looked at each other and smiled.  Apparently he had been coming to this spot for this one-hour a year for 10 years and this was one of the best he had seen!

I've already written way too much so I'll try and stop now, but WOW was that a cool experience.  I feel like I’m leaving so much out too.  Needless to say we are energized to start going on more trips.  We've got to wait until October and see what the new babies needs are, but you can bet we'll be planning another trip soon and you don't want to miss it!  We’re thinking Tiger Beach in the Bahamas…

Here's a quick video from the trip.  They don't let us post it here very large, so make sure to click on full screen or watch it on YouTube to see it larger. (Once you've hit play, those options show up on the bottom right of the video screen.)

We also have lots of new pictures to go through so we'll be posting them on our website under the "Latest Works" tab.  We'de love to hear your thoughts, so stay in touch.  

I've got some more to share about this trip, so I'll try and write again next week...  Here's a teaser:

Remember to Follow Your Dreams and always keep in touch!

Talk soon - John

p.s. - Please post comments or send emails, we love feedback and questions.  The easiest way to get in touch with us is on our new business Facebook Page.  It's called "Cesere Brothers Fine Art Photography."  Make sure to go "like" the page and talk to us through there or just leave a comment below.