A Wedding on Top of the Mountain: Dan and Krissy’s Wedding on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona
We were at Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona at sunrise. The weather was perfect, a little chilly, but perfect for a serious hike. It’s a good thing, because that’s what we were in for. Krissy and Dan planned their wedding on the top of that mountain. Well, not on the tip top, but pretty high up there. My associate, Eric Greenhaulgh and I spent a good 15 minutes deciding what gear needed to come and what gear could stay down below. Any photographer knows exactly what I’m talking about. Equipment is heavy, so you don’t want to take something you are not going to use, but you would hate to be at the top of a mountain and need something that is in your car at the bottom of the mountain.
First, we made sure not to duplicate anything. We did not bring any duplicate lenses. Between the two of us though, we had a full compliment of lenses. A Canon 16-35, 28-70, 70-200 and a 50. I carried my 1D Mark IV, he had his 1D Mark III. We had one small hand held post with a Canon 580 EX flash and a set of Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5 radio slaves. It is important to have your hands free, when hiking up a mountain and shooting others who are hiking up with you, so we couldn’t take reflectors and such with us and not self standing light poles, etc. Everything strapped nicely onto our one backpack (which we alternated carrying up and down) and we had only the gear that was necessary in the backpack, although Eric was a little over zealous about what he was willing to carry up the mountain. My backpack was a small one and I was still able to fit a bottle of water in mine. I had to convince Eric not to take everything he owned up the mountain. The truth is, I didn’t want to have to take my turn at carrying it. Maybe I am lazy, but I prefer to call it “smart.”
Opportunities for challenging wedding photography are wonderful. I enjoy them because they force me and my crew to work and think differently about the job and how to accomplish it. We still need to get great images, but we have to think differently and sometimes find ways to capture them with less. Granted, I have done entire weddings with far less gear than we had here, but it was a very bright, sunny day, so we definitely needed some kind of lighting solution to match the sun and shadow sides of faces. Also, because of the wide variety of opportunities for a great shot up there, and the limited options for the photographer to stand (we were on a mountain with cliffs and cactus etc.), I needed a good compliment of lenses to be able to capture the images on my terms.
A Native American flutist meat us at the top of the mountain. As we neared the ledge, where he was playing, Dan (for whom this was a surprise) thought it was just great luck that on the day he was getting married, a Native American flutist was up on top his the mountain playing his flute. Krissy had lots of little surprises like this throughout the day.
It was a good hike to get to the wedding location, but is was indeed, a beautiful morning.
Getting ready occurred at the top of the mountain. The guys took on side of the hill and the girls took the other side. I did appreciate that the groomsmen all work black hiking shirts and shorts. Those were their tuxes. That was cool. The only two that dressed UP for the wedding were the bride and groom. Otherwise, dress code was very casual.
Here is the bride’s room. And quite frankly, I think it was one of the most beautiful and well decorated bridal rooms I have ever seen. Most of the time, the bride is getting ready in a hotel room, or a sitting room. Which, even if decorated nicely, can’t match the grander of the top of a mountain. They just needed a sheet to sheild Krissy from the onlooking hikers and photographers. Oh, wait, I was one of those, but I had a press pass.
Surprise 2: Krissy took all of Dan’s love notes and poems and printed them out on origami style paper and made her own bouquet out of love poems. I really enjoy an original and personal bridal bouquet. I love it when brides put more of themselves into their wedding details. This was a great surprise for Dan.
I love a good wedding on a cliff. Up to now, I have only done cliff weddings at the Grand Canyon, which has some magnificent cliffs. It was nice to witness a cliff wedding closer to home.
For the photographers out there, you can see that the sun is shining very bright now on the bride and groom. You can see the crest of light on her dress, and on his face. But you will also notice that the grooms back is not in complete deep shadow, the bride’s face is lit, as is her dress, etc. But you can still see the direction of light from the sun. There is a clear direction of light here. This is the use of the Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5 with a Canon 580 EX Speedlight although now you can use the 600 EX. We set it on a rock and I just turned on and off my TT1 transmitter when I needed or didn’t need the flash. This was an indispensable part of capturing this wedding. Without it, we would have extremely dark shadows or blown out highlights. The light is set to fill in from the left of the frame at one stop less than the ambient. If we had set it to equal the ambient light, the flash would have attempted to equal the sunlight and thus eliminate all the volume in the shot.
This is the entire wedding watching the ceremony. I love a small wedding. I really do!
Here are some of my favorite images from the portrait session after the wedding.
Yes, Krissy is an amazingly gutsy bride! If that doesn’t look safe, it is because it is not. I think Dan was a bit worried about her, but Krissy was game for anything. I wasn’t worried about Dan, he’s a police officer. He’s a tough guy.
Dan is also sorting a boutonniere made of his own love poems.
I was working on this image and my wife came in and commented on it. How tiny is she?
I don’t always pre visualize and image at the shot; meaning that I don’t always know exactly what I want to do with an image in post-production before I shoot it, but in this next series of images, I knew what I wanted to do before I even started shooting the photos. We were stating back down the mountain and the bride and groom were going to be walking by me at any moment. I knew I wanted this image to be extreme selective focus, I wanted to make it look like it was taken at the end of the 19th century. So I opened my lens all the way up and made the appropriate exposure adjustments (which can barely be done because at f 1.2, at 100 ISO, you have to expose at 1/8000 of a second). Anyway, I rattled off a bunch of shots with this concept in mind and I was pleased with the result. I am always more pleased with the results when I pre-vissualize the end from the beginning. I suppose it is more satisfying to know I pulled it off, but I also think that if one can see the end from the beginning, it makes every step in the process more valuable to the final result.
I thought this was just a great comparison/contrast.
Down the mountain! At times, Camelback Mountain is a bit steep. For a girl in a wedding dress, it seems even steeper.
This is one of my favorite series of shots. We got a few grumbles from a team of repellers that wanted the cliff all to themselves, but if they only knew what we were accomplishing in the two minutes we were imposing ourselves on their rock, I think they would have been much more supportive. I really like this shot.
This is my official wedding attire for all super casual hiking to the top of a mountain weddings. It’s quite frankly the most comfortable wedding attire I own.
Krissy and Dan, thanks for letting me be a part of such a wonderful wedding. It was a pleasure.
Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Location: Camelback Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona
Slideshow Music by Daniel Ho, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music