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Yosemite Adventure Elopement

Wedding Couple Travis & Liz
Yosemite National Park, CA.
Adventure Wedding Photographer Charleton Churchill

epic mountain couple wedding photos camping on ledge with headlamps at taft point yosemite photographed by Yosemite wedding photographer Charleton Churchill

The Beginning

Adventurous couple, Travis and Liz, reached out to me wanting to elope with small number of family in Yosemite. They wanted something epic and unique. They were willing to camp out in a tent overnight. Both were willing to hike whatever miles to get dreamy photos. Further, Travis and Liz were willing to do whatever it took for the best adventure wedding photos. And because they were committed to try anything, they gained quite a few images that I’m proud to share here.

Just before sunset, they hiked to Taft Point with an intimate number of people for a short elopement ceremony. The booked me for two days, so after their ceremony, I was to meet up with them to hike, explore, and capture their love together as a wedding couple around Yosemite. And it seems like the longer I guide couples around adventurous destinations, the more crazy stories I collect along the way. Yes, I will explain later.

Adventuring in Yosemite

As we started our journey, I wanted to attempt something with my couple that nobody had done before in the park. First, it would take more time, and second, more logistics in planning the shot. It had been in my head for a while. It was a massive cliff face where I would have to get to the other side of the canyon for the image. So we did it. I have included the image below as a vertical if you want to view from a desktop.

Later, after discussing which waterfalls were actually flowing this time of year and getting input from locals, we decided on one. Our couple threw their backpacks on and hiked in their wedding attire like beasts. They are involved in quite a few athletic circles. When we arrived, the waterfall was slim, but I was planning on it and I brought the appropriate lenses to get more oomph out of the images. The images turned out better than I expected.

Accident at Taft Point

Later on that day, our plan was to head up to Taft point for sunset photos on Glacier Point road. We decided to forgo it until the following evening. I had some new ideas I wanted to try out on my couple that would require hiking back in the dark. The following morning, we got word that a couple fell to their death from Taft Point (which is where we were originally supposed to be when that happened). Had we followed through with our plans to take photos at Taft Point until after dark, we might have been a part of a rescue situation. That would be have been very emotional.

After experiencing the massive 7.8 earthquake on Mt. Everest back in 2015 which killed nearly 10,000 people and caused emotional trauma to my adventure wedding couple, I’m thinking it would have been not good for us to be there when it happened. It’s not something a wedding couple should experience for their wedding memories, unless there was an opportunity to save a life. It was sad enough just hearing about it in the park. With my couples, we are always promoting safety. At Taft Point, you can stand 10-15 feet away and still get that cliff photo without having to stand at the edge.

Exploring Photos at Yosemite

That being said about safety, you have to know your boundaries and the people around you on your journey. Travis and Liz are both adventurers and great people to be with on the trail. We had good conversation and I trust their judgement. We captured a few images that required more thought, safety, and communication, so we played it safe.

On the short way down the 4-mile panorama trail, off to the side of the canyon, before sunrise, I was hiking. I saw a guy with a wing-suit who was just about to base jump. I scared him as I came through the bushes. He thought I was someone else, as I learned it’s illegal to base jump in Yosemite. As he jumped, I got a few images.

The last part of the day, we headed up to both Sentinel Dome and Taft Point for some image during sunset, which was amazing! By the time the sun had dipped and it got dark, everyone had left except us. We were excited to experiment with a new idea for a photo (or maybe I was; I think by this time, we were a little tired and hungry). Plus the joy of hiking back in the dark and stars above us.

As I left in my Tacoma, I saw Travis and Liz pulled over on the side of the narrow road ahead. I stopped in the middle of the road, rolled down my window, and asked if everything was okay. They smiled and said they were just sitting and staring at the rise of the full moon together through the mountains. And that was coolest end to my time with them.

Please leave a comment below and say hello! Let me know you visited.

Piper’s Angels

Lastly, Travis and Liz are amazing, not only because they are good people, but because they started a non-profit organization called Pipers Angels Foundation, with a mission to support and improve the lives of families in the cystic fibrosis community. They want to make a huge difference in the lives of those who are living with CF day to day. Why? Because you need to hear his story on Tedx. Their daughter’s name is Piper. Listen here in the first three minutes and you’ll be hooked.  If you would like more information on how you can get involved or would like to donate to the cause, you can go here:  www.pipersangels.org

 

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Below are the images where I photographed the wing-suit base jumper just as he was jumping as I explained above.

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  • Steffani Abercrombie - Truly amazing! The images took my breath away! I imagine it was even more so for you and the couple. Great job.December 1, 2018 – 10:40 pmReplyCancel

    • Charleton Churchill - Thank you Steffani, great to hear from you neighbor, hope you’re all doing well.December 3, 2018 – 12:31 pm

  • Lora Ward - EVERY single one!December 2, 2018 – 6:30 amReplyCancel

    • Charleton Churchill - Thank you Lora, great to hear from you, much appreciated!December 3, 2018 – 12:31 pm

  • Tim - Such a GREAT collection man!!!December 2, 2018 – 4:26 pmReplyCancel

    • Charleton Churchill - Thanks Tim, you’re the man! We need do some hiking later this winter in the Sierra Nevadas sometime if you have winter camping clothes.December 3, 2018 – 12:30 pm

  • Jerrie Anne Salvato - These are amazing Charleton!! Makes me want to get married again and book you for an adventure wedding ?. So proud of you.December 3, 2018 – 11:16 pmReplyCancel

    • Charleton Churchill - THank you Jerrie, it’s been a long time,hope you’re doing well, thank you for stopping by!December 4, 2018 – 12:04 pm

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Adventure wedding Photography in Glacier National Park, Montana

Adventurous couple, Brent and Emily, called me and wanted an adventure elopement somewhere in the mountains. Their desire was to hike and stand on a peak overlooking beautiful scenery. They wanted a wedding ceremony with close family away from the crowds. They wanted something epic and beautiful. I typically explore and photograph couples for a few days on my wedding adventures, but this couple simply wanted an epic ceremony with some beautiful photos. After the ceremony in the following days, their plans were to hike and explore on their own as a united family.  As a result, Montana was chosen as the adventure destination and we started planning.

I arrived a little early to hike myself, scope out locations for the future couples, and just to explore Glacier National Park. I stayed at Many Glacier Lodge the first night and met people over food sharing stories. What I found interesting is that many of them had encounters with grizzly bears. One of the couples had run into a grizzly along the trail within 20 feet or so. They had to walk backwards along the trail for about 15 minutes as the bear followed their pace. They even collected other hikers behind them until the group size grew too large for the bear to continue. I saw a few grizzly bears my first day there, but they were busy eating plants.

The next day I hiked near fifteen miles, mostly with a couple I had just met on the trail. They were good people and conversationalists. Not only were we beat up after the trail with blisters, but I would hike the same trail again the next day with my wedding couple. My couple saw the video I posted and loved the area. We had contemplated other trails, but this looked great to them for a private ceremony.

I woke early the next morning to meet them for the hike before sunrise on the “Going-to-the-sun-road. We were all in good spirits and having conversation along the trail. After eight miles, we arrived to our iconic location, taking a break, and preparing for the ceremony. Even though it was hazy from the California fires, along with the harsh lighting from the dominating high noon sun, it was still breathtaking. Brent had his two daughters along and Emily, her two sons. They all took part in the ceremony, dressed up, and ushered in each other. Once Brent saw Emily in her wedding dress, he became emotional. Their first priority was to pray, intertwine hands, and show their completeness and commitment as a family. It was powerful.

They then exchanged vows and rings overlooking the lakes and mountains around us. Their kids watched with anticipation as tears formed. Thankfulness overwhelmed my heart because I was present to witness and capture this unique family’s moment on top of a mountain. I just can’t believe I get to do this with people. After the ceremony, Brent walked over and held his two girls snug for a long time, taking in the moment. Even I was caught up.

We then took a few family photos, captured some bride and groom photos at the top, then prepared to return down the mountain. I had mentioned to the Emily that my brides don’t ever hike very far in a wedding dress and usually change before hiking in or out, even though I did have a Yosemite bride hike to Vernal Falls and back. Emily took that as a challenge to hike the entire eight miles back in her wedding dress, which she accomplished. By the time we reached the trail head, everyone was toast and wiped out.

Our trip was short, but successful. I hope to return to Montana for more wedding and elopement adventures, as there’s more to see and photograph. Congratulations to Emily, Brent, and their awesome family.

 

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