Tag: Connie LoRe

Eating Cookies, Looking for Crocodiles

Eating Cookies, Looking for Crocodiles

_tsl7253The title is no joke. That’s exactly what was happening in my world this morning before diving at Cenote Carwash. Except I wasn’t eating the cookies….but I was quite interested in the crocodile. For more than one reason.

_tsl7274It’s been years since I’ve been cenote diving in Akumal, Mexico. After participating with Connie LoRe’s Cave Dive Mexico for several trips, there has been a break of six or seven years…or maybe more.

_TSL5656My attention in diving has turned to working with my Nikon D800 in an Aquatica housing. I’ve had great joy photographing dolphins, whale sharks, humpback whales, sea lions, manatees and other marine creatures and have enjoyed every second of it.

I was looking for an autumn trip and nothing worked out with the destinations I was considering….Bonaire, Baja. Nothing. The idea of a trip was released and up went the hands one morning, “I give up. If there’s a trip…show me!” Within a couple hours the idea of returning to Akumal surfaced. And before day’s end, it was booked.

_tsl7324It’s the first time I’ve been in an overhead environment with my big camera rig. That’s why I chose to cavern dive in open water gear rather than cave dive. Task loading in diving happens when you add elements to a dive….overhead environment, big camera kit and I’m still relatively new to sidemount cave diving having switched from back mount a couple years ago. Just didn’t want to mix all of that up.

_tsl7319Daniel Ortega Moran is the guide Connie picked for me and I understand why after diving with him today. He’s a cave instructor, cave guide and has a warm, inviting personality. It made for a wonderful day and by the second dive, I was beginning to get the lighting right with my strobes and the hand-held HID cave light I use.

_tsl7432Granted, there was use of Lightroom’s magic in adjusting the lighting during processing but that’s the digital darkroom these days. And those skills are just as important as neutral buoyancy and untangling your regulator hose when it gets tangled in the strobe cord.  Just sayin.’

_tsl7463It’s thundering off shore as I sit and gaze out into the choppy ocean. Excited about three more days of fun diving and playing with the formations, lighting, and camera settings. And of course being under water underground.

_tsl7231A sea turtle nest hatched right beside the patio here last night but sadly a raccoon or similar creature and his buddy ate the babies. No tracks made it to the water. And yes, I am here unwinding from a very eventful sea turtle season in Alabama and thought I’d come here and let all of that go for a few days. But no.

_tsl7483The lesson of the day is this: You cannot escape what you love. Sea turtles and cenote diving in Akumal are just two of those ‘things.’ There are more for certain.

When’s the last time you ate cookies while looking for crocodiles? Hmmmm? That’s exactly what I suspected.


Thank you Daniel for enduring the strobe flashes and letting me practice lighting techniques on you. Your patience is infinite.



No Ego Needed

No Ego Needed

Pam Wooten, Jill Heinerth, Simone Lipscomb. Photo by Rick Crawford.

The weekend before the New Year found me in Cave Country–North Florida–once again. I was drawn there to take a course in side mount, or so I thought. It wasn’t until after the trip was over and I was home that I realized the deeper reason I made the trip.

My friend Pam and I decided to take the class with Jill Heinerth. Pam knew Jill but I simply followed the recommendation of another friend and cave instructor. I won’t go into the details of the course because that’s not my focus. But I would like to share about the women that were present that weekend.

Connie LoRe, a role model for me in cave diving.  She has led trips to the beautiful caves of Akumal, Mexico for many years. Photo by Ed Jackson.

Cave diving has progressed from a male-dominated sport to one in which women are routinely participating, instructing and exploring. I thought it was rather awesome to be in a cave course taught by a woman with a female classmate who excels in the field of dive instruction. One of Jill’s friend’s was teaching a cavern course. Renee was another outstanding woman. As we were figuring out our new gear yet another amazing woman showed up to dive. Barbara am Ende, cave explorer and writer, came over and started chatting. I was a bit distracted with all the learning to realize the powerhouse of women standing around us.

Renee Power
Renee Power

Our first day ended with a dive in the Ginnie Bowl and Ballroom. Renee accompanied us. I’m not sure if it was because Pam and I were giving Jill more challenge than she bargained for and she was about to pull her hair out in frustration or if Renee just wanted to come along for the fun. Regardless, it was a very nice dive once we got our gear situated. We played around for over 30 minutes in the cavern and it was quite lovely surfacing after dark to a beautiful sky and clear water surrounded by cypress trees. After we finished Jill left to join her husband for dinner while Pam, Renee and I chatted. I felt an immediate kinship with Renee as we shared about our experience instructing scuba with wounded soldiers. Exhaustion finally overcame me and I headed for a hot shower and food.

At lunch Jill was telling Pam and I about an expedition Barbara had been on and mentioned something about a book. I emailed a note to myself to read the book…Beyond the Deep.

Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long
Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long

The following day of class I got to chat a bit with Barbara. She was super-nice and was interested in my photography of the trees, water and light. She shared her card so we could keep in touch but we didn’t have a chance to really visit too much. And for some reason I didn’t associate her with the expedition and book Jill had referenced.

I had to end the diving a bit early due to a cold virus that had been challenging me during the course and the dives. I had no energy and had to focus really hard just to stay present so perhaps that’s why I ‘missed’ the profound women gathered together. Or maybe it was because there was no ego, no chest-beating, no race to see how far or how deep cave penetration was that day. It was friendly, supportive sharing and everyone was equally bringing her best self forward.

WAWhandLOGOwebsiteOnce I got home and was recuperating on my sofa, I watched Jill’s video. We Are Water is a beautiful story of water and the importance of it to us but more than that, it is the story of Jill’s passion and love for the planet. And that resonated deeply with me. Her words echoed my own as she described entering the caves as a spiritual experience; a kindred soul indeed. I’m not an explorer into the deeps of caves or icebergs but I am an explorer of our relationship to nature. I see that in Jill as well.

After the movie, I wanted something else to help me make the best use of my down-time so I downloaded Barbara’s book to my iPad. As I started reading I thought, Oh, my goodness! This is the woman I met? The expedition to the cave in Mexico in which Barbara participated was intense. Over a ton of gear was transported by a system of belays to sumps far below the surface. I couldn’t put the book down and so stayed up late reading in awe of such an amazing journey. It was a powerful venture into the unknown.


I emailed and chatted with my friend Pam after the trip and shared with her my disbelief that such powerful women came together that weekend. It wasn’t planned. The timing of meeting Renee and Barbara was truly profound. I think this is so because there was such friendliness and approachability with everyone present.

It wasn’t just Jill and Barbara that brought tremendous strengths and gifts to those picnic tables at Ginnie Springs. Each one of us has an authentic way of interacting with the world and we each have something beautiful to offer the world. But so does every woman…every person.


Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director.
Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director. Photo by Simone Lipscomb

The weekend was made especially meaningful as Pam and I shared about our lives…openly, honestly. What a gift to experience the deepening of friendship.


Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson
Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson

Terry Tempest Williams said that if a woman ever honestly wrote about and shared her life story, the world would split open and be forever changed. As I reflect back to that weekend, gratitude overflows as I treasure the gift of wisdom each one shared. Perhaps the biggest gift I received was the assurance that wisdom comes with gentleness, straightforwardness, honesty, play, self-awareness in a space where no ego is needed.