I had the opportunity to catch up with adventure wedding photographers Bergreen Photography, who have captured some of the most stunning adventure portraits in the wedding industry. They have hiked with their couples far into National Parks, forests and into the backcountry. I wondered how they make such amazing and adventurous wedding and engagement portraits happen. Below is the answers to all of those questions you have and some you didn't know you had!
How to get Stunning and Unique Mountain Wedding Portraits
Q: How do you make mountain wedding portraits look so darned easy in such a harsh environment?
A: A big part of it is a testament to the adventurous couples that we work with. Many of the brides and grooms we photograph are drawn to the mountains and other dramatic landscapes because of the way a setting can enhance an experience. Couples that want to get married or take portraits in the mountains are generally open to a little adventure. For us, climbing around in the mountains is where we feel at home, how we fell in love, and something we love to share with other couples. The mountains provide that inspiration that every artist dreams of. In other words, it’s easy in the sense that it’s so much fun and any effort is always worth it! To be fair, we generally warm up in a less harsh location so that everyone can loosen up, get comfortable, and start to have some fun. We focus on having a great experience and then it’s much easier to get excited about going somewhere or doing something that requires more effort.
Q: You take your clients out into some pretty remote places for portraits. What are the logistics of that?
A: On the wedding day, we don’t always have that much time for portraits so it really comes down to our ability to scout a location. We try to find somewhere both remote and easy to get to. If you look for them, there are some amazing places just off the road or the trail. We always talk to couples about the benefits of scheduling time for their portrait session. It’s not just about the photos, it’s a chance for them to pause and reflect. It’s time for them to just be together and take it all in.
When we do have more time, as with an engagement PhotoDate or elopement, getting to the place is part of the fun. While we are hiking, we get a chance to talk to the couple and connect. That time enhances our ability to tell their story. It takes planning, knowing how long it takes to get to a place, and the ability to be mobile. As photographers, we have to be able to carry all the gear we need as well as some water and snacks. The bride and groom often carry a change of clothes!
Q: Is the bride hiking in her dress and makeup, or is that done later?
A: This really depends on the day, the location, and the person. The biggest challenge, bigger than dress and makeup, is shoes! We’ve had brides with trail running shoes hidden under their gowns when they know we’re going somewhere more challenging.The last thing we want is someone to slip. Some Brides change shoes on location or the shoes are hidden from view and they don’t have to worry. For weddings, the hair and makeup is usually already done before the portrait session and then they can have it touched up afterwards, before going to the ceremony or reception. It would be nice to have the stylist with us but thats not often practical. There is also something beautiful about the a natural or imperfect look. It’s real, that’s part of the experience too.
Our engagement PhotoDates are often a little more elaborate because we have more time. Couples often have more than one outfit, one more casual and one more formal. They carry the more formal change of clothes and the outfits they are hiking in are photographed as well. I’ve been impressed witnessing transformations with a pocket mirror or wardrobe changes behind a tree. I get the feeling that the couples we work with have experience cleaning up after mountain adventures. This adds diversity to their images as they have some in “everyday” clothes too. We are capturing them in a more natural state doing something they love together, just slightly better dressed than usual!
Q: What about weather patterns like afternoon wind?
A: This is definitely one of the challenges of the style of work we do. We can have a pretty good idea of what a location looks like and then show up and due to the weather it’s entirely different. It’s actually good practice for weddings in general. We tell people to have a plan and then to let it go, to be adaptable and flexible. The weather is one of those things that we can’t control so we have a back-up plan or we just roll with it. Hair gets tangled, we get chilled, but we’re having so much fun it doesn’t matter. And the photos are almost always worth it. One thing we often is have the bride stand a certain way so that the wind blows her hair away from her face rather than into it. We tell couples to bring a sweater or jacket but often they’re just cuddling closer to their fiance instead!
Q: How do you choose the locations that you go with the couple?
A: We like to take portraits in a location that the couple feels connected to whether it’s a place they have always wanted to explore or somewhere they’re familiar with. On the wedding day, this is generally achieved by the fact that the couple chose to get married there. Often there is a reason why they chose that venue which helps us chose the specific portrait locations. Many mountain venues are known for a certain type of look and feel such as dramatic alpine views, lush forest and trees, beautiful rivers and lakes, or lush meadows. Sometimes we can combine more than one look if the location and timeframe allows. It is not uncommon for us to jump in the car with the couple and cruise over to a specific spot to take photos.
Sometimes couples come to us when specific portrait locations in mind. For example, we often do engagement PhotoDates at the place a couple had their first date or got engaged. Or we do wedding day portraits at a view at the wedding venue that impacted their decision to get married there. Other times they just have a general idea and we help them find somewhere that fits their vision. We love taking people to some of our favorite places that we know really well but we also get excited about exploring new places. For example, living so close to Sequoia we have a list of places that are great for portrait sessions but often we are at a location or venue we haven’t been before. In those cases we scout the location so that we can use our time effectively.
Q: Why do you feel that portraits like these are so important?
A: A wedding is a significant day for people in which they’ve gathered in a specific place with friends and family to celebrate their love. The party, the people, the excitement, and the celebration are all really important and we photograph that too. The portrait session is specifically important to us because it’s the time the couple gets to just be together. For that moment there is no more planning, no entertaining, no greeting, and no hosting. They get to pause, reflect, and take it all in. Sometimes they look out at their party and say, “Wow, we did it.” Sometimes they look at each other and get to just say, “Hi, you really do look amazing.” We all need that moment to say, “I’m so glad I’m marrying you.” When they are standing together overlooking the scenic views or watching the sunset, it’s like pressing pause and taking a deep breath. There is something meaningful and for some, spiritual, about that moment and the pictures that result. And then it’s back to the party, the people, the food, and the sore cheeks from an endless day of smiles and laughter.