I never would have imagined when Kat & Ryan originally reached out to me to photograph their engagement and wedding that we would have become such close friends but I guess that’s what happens when you get stuck on top of Mount Hood in terrible weather for 48 hours and then see the most incredible sunset of your life together.
Years back, I started something that I called “Pioneer Sessions”. The intention was to take couples on extreme adventures into the backcountry, hiking up in the mountains or road-tripping to far off places that most people down typically go, especially for a photo shoot, and make an experience that was epic-story-worthy. At the time, I thought this was just a side offer I had but after a handful of them, I found this is what I truly want all my work to be based around.
The idea of “Pioneer” was all about adventure and exploring the unknown. Doing something adventurous and wildly fun but also unknown. throwing yourself into the elements and watching what magic could emerge when you let go. Exploring the inner most parts of yourself through conversation as we journeyed together their. I’m someone who has been on a deep inner world journey for nearly a decade now and it has changed my life coming to understand myself better. Engaging in these conversations with the people I’ve photographed has brought such a breath and richness to the experience we all have together.
When we hiked up Mt. Hood on that Friday afternoon, the weather looked good… at lower elevations. When we got up to the stone shelter, a dense fog and mist made shooting nearly impossible so we all set up our tents inside the stone shelter, made some backpacker meals and talked for hours into the night. When we woke up, the fog had dissipated just enough to create the most beautiful diffused light and we spent the morning making breakfast, collecting water and shooting around camp.
Part of my intention with these sessions was that they would last more than one day and bring elements of super casual hang out vibes mixed with an epic stylized shoot in a crazy place. That morning was so unbelievably good and I absolutely love the images we created together.
By afternoon, the weather hadn’t changed even though the forecast said it would. We collectively decided to take the chance and hike as far up as we could to hopefully get above the clouds for sunset and as we set off from camp, we had no idea what we were about to experience.
We climbed a high alpine ridgeline as far as we could go and I’ve never been more stunned by Mt. Hood. It wasn’t super windy but the clouds were coming across the mountain and slamming into the banks of the ridgeline and then exploding upwards towards us and cascading over us into hues of red, orange and pink. The more the sun set closer to the horizon, the more insane it looked.
This was the first “Pioneer Session” I did and it set off something within me that to this day I haven’t been able to shake. This was the shoot that I feel in all the years of photographing couples, I finally found what I truly wanted to do with my work.
If this inspires you and lights you up to do something like this with your partner, I can’t tell you how excited I would be to hear from you.