Just a couple of weeks ago, Chantell and I had the privilege of meeting Briana and Gary just moments before their engagement photo-shoot at the base of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico on a very chilly March morning. The booking of this shoot was made through my daughter-in-law Laura who works with Briana.
In many of our planned location shoots, we typically scout out the area a day or two in advance during the time we intend on photographing the session. We take the time to look at the setting, evaluate available lighting, brainstorm compositions and fire off some practice shots. In this case we were unable to make the preliminary location check and had to rely on our experience and hope our new clients would be flexible with the environment and conditions.
We had been looking to shoot some back-lit shots of the sun breaking above the peaks of the background mountains. The challenge was determining when that might take place. It's easy to find the time of sunrise for a location online, however, that is based upon a level horizon plain, not the interference and height of foreground mountains obstructing the sunlight you wish to capture.
Briana and Gary arrived a few moments before us and we began unloading camera gear for the shoot at 7:00 am. The temperature was below freezing as we all gathered our things and trekked up the trail from the parking lot to a clearing about 200 yards away. Chantell, Laura and myself were dressed quite a bit warmer than our clients as they were not looking to model for an ad for North Face outfitters, they were looking to have a casual dressed engagement and save the date session.
My first thought was to wait on the sun, because those were the images I had in mind for the shoot. However as we unpacked out gear it became quite obvious that the sun was not going to break over the mountains for sometime. We opted to begin the session without the sun relying on open apertures in the camera and an off camera Speedlight. Making due with the small amount of ambient light along with the Speedlight we were able to quickly capture some amazing shots early on in the shoot. That being said, we are shooting in freezing temperatures and my clients are trying their best to look warm and cozy for the camera without jackets or appropriate clothing. As we all shivered in the early crisp air, it truly provided us a way to "break the ice" and get to know Briana and Gary.
We would take a time-out between settings and the two of them would cuddle up and wrap themselves in Gary's jacket. Briana was barefoot with flats and would wrap her feet with Chantell's jacket as we prepared for another setting. They both had a great sense of humor and energy and we truly enjoyed their spirit and willingness to stick it out during these pre-dawn hours. About three quarters of the way into the shoot the sun broke above the mountains and we went ballistic firing off the camera to get the most out of the setting we had come to capture. The images came out great, the early light upon their faces glowed on their skin and cast amazing and pleasant shadows. The air quickly warmed up and there was no doubt, we had come to the perfect spot thanks to Laura's pre-planning on this shoot. We captured an amazing couple who are due to marry this coming September.
To Gary and Briana we wish you an amazing future and we thank you for the opportunity to capture these early memories of your lifetime together.