Ronny Kiaulehn was born in a little town near Munich, Germany
in 1968. He received his first camera, an Agfa Pocket on his 6 birthday, then bought a Pentax ME with his brother when he was 12. At 14, Kiaulehn had the key to his school’s darkroom, from then on; he spent more time developing his photos than focusing on school work. It was at the same time that Kiaulehn discovered windsurfing. In 1986, he moved to the Canary Islands in pursuit of his dream to become a professional windsurfer. Kiaulehn was already shooting windsurfing as well as his friends in and around the water at the time.
In 1989, he began working in the R&D department of a large windsurf company. His job was to test their equipment, boards and sails, in oceans and seas all around the world. After leaving that job in 1996, after 10 years of being in touch with water and the power of nature every day, Kiaulehn couldn’t imagine getting an office job– that’s when he decided to spend all of his savings on professional camera equipment to get back into photography.
He started out doing mainly surf/windsurf photography in the beginning, and then extended into mountain biking photography. His work then began including all kinds of outdoor sports, like running, road biking, sailing, and stand up paddling, etc. Now he also does other kinds of photography such as lifestyle, fashion, portrait and quite a bit of studio photography. Working for some of the leading sports brands in the market.
Yes, I have to admit I am a full on tech-freak and I love to face difficult shooting situations. Specially when I need to modify and build equipment to make it work the way i need it to. Underwater photography is the perfect subject for this.
I love to create my own lighting, that‘s why I work with battery studio flash units most of the time when I do outdoor and action photography for my clients. I like the challenge of setting up my studio set also under really difficult conditions, like carrying 150kg of lighting equipment up a mountain top to do some mountainbike action shots for a clients catalog.
When I decided to get into underwater photography it was clear to me that i wanted to adapt the same lighting techniques I use above to water. There was no way I was screwing some normal underwater TTL flash onto my housing to blow it straight in the faces of my models.
So before I got in the water for the first time I spend weeks with building all sorts of custom housings. For my flash remote triggers, for some of my on camera flashes, and even a huge to fit one of my studio flash heads, to also get the big power units below the surface. Now I was able to work the same way I was used to on land also underwater, having the freedom of wirelessly trigger all kinds of strobes positioned outside and inside the water, ready to get creative without having cables floating around all over the place.
After stressing out with setting up the location with all the lighting gear, checking all the equipment and rushing the MUA to get the models ready, when the moment arrives when I pick up my housing and I submerge in the water and keep my breath, I can totally relax, enjoy the peaceful silence and the beauty of everything moving like in slow motion. It‘s just magic moments.
Another thing I really love about shooting underwater is the fact of mixing controlled lighting and the uncontrolled, weightless and smooth movements and posing of the models. Sometimes my models were getting really nervous at the beginning of the session, as precise posing underwater is very, very difficult. Telling me: ”Sorry, sorry but I can‘t hold my postion and I feel really stupid and out of controll.” Then I always tell them to not worry about it and just let go. ”Float, be weightless, don‘t fight it, let it happen.... that‘s what it‘s all about.“ The unexpected pose is what makes the beauty of a underwater shot. Models getting in positions you could never think of shooting above the surface. I just makes me happy when I am looking thru my view finder and the models are randomly floating around thru their poses and the moment arrives when I am thinking: ”Yes, this is it... I never thought of that pose before... but this is it!“
Considering I have a quite wide range of different kind of jobs I probably enjoy the underwater ones most because they need a lot more planning, preparation and skills. They are not as predictable as studio or outdoor shoots, but this is what makes them very special and a real challenge. And in the end it makes me feel like I got back to my roots... in the water... below the surface!