Imagine being hundreds of feet above the valley floor, hanging by a single rope on the tiniest ledge on a sheer cliff. Now imagine doing that in your wedding gown. Adventure wedding photographer, Jay Philbrick takes his adventure seriously. While anyone can don a pair of hiking boots and go off in the woods to shoot, Jay, a seasoned climbing guide is also a certified alpine guide and certified rock climbing guide. And as a wedding photographer, he takes his adventure wedding photography to whole new level–one that happens to be 400 feet off the valley floor.
I caught up with Jay to talk about how he captures these amazing pictures and whether you have to be a world-class rock climber to get portraits like these. The great news is you don't. As long as you're reasonably in shape, understand the obvious risks and are brave enough to hang out on a cliffside for a few hours, you can get epic photos like these.
The Set Up
Epic images like these start well before dawn to get the warm, glowing light of sunrise. Jay and his partner Mark Chauvin, who is also an accomplished climber and international climbing guide, set up all of the rigging. The clients actually don't need any climbing, belaying or rappelling experience. Jay and Mark handle all of the tying in, raising and lowering the clients and oversee all safety.
Clients show up 90 minutes before sunrise. It takes about an hour to get them set up and tied in and they're lowered 30 minutes prior to sunrise. The groom is lowered in his wedding attire, but the bride is lowered in just a sports bra and tights. She'll have to change into her gown down on the ledge! Once on the ledge, the bride's harness is exchanged for a simple swami belt, which won't show in the final pictures, and she dons her gown.
Prepping the Dress
Before showing up to the shoot, the wedding gown needs to be prepped by a professional seamstress. A 1 to 1.5 inch corset hole but be cut and sewn into the back to accommodate the anchor that will hold her securely to the cliff.
Who this type of wedding portraits if for
Cliffside wedding portraits aren't for everyone, but they are accessible to more couples than you might assume. Most of Jay's adventure clients aren't rock climbers. In fact, you just need to be reasonably fit and feel OK hanging out on a cliff for 2-3 hours.
You need to be somewhat fit, but you won't have to pull yourself up and down the rock yourself, JAy and his partner do all of the raisings and lowering with their system.
You do need to be able to follow directions in an extreme environment. For your safety, Jay and Mark will be very close to you and guiding you every step of the way. If you have any body-space issues or don't do well under extreme situations, this may not be the adventure for you.
How and When to Book Your Cliffside Adventure Session
You don't have to wait for a wedding to do this. Jay has done this for Quinceaneras, birthdays, anniversaries and for dancers and models portfolios.
Consider the Season: The season runs from mid-end of April all the way to mid-October. The season depends on snowfall and weather, which closes the access road during the winter months when snow is on the ground.
Book early: LIke booking weddings, it's best to book a cliffside adventure portrait session early. Jay limits the number of sessions he does in a year and the book out fast.
Contact Jay: You can find more of Jay's work as well as his contact information on his website. PhilBrickphoto.com