I was asked to take engagement photos of a couple I have known for a few years through the fire department. I was super excited they asked me to be their cameraman. As we talked I knew we would have some great photos. I knew we would certainly be doing some photos at the fire station and as we talked we would be heading to Bend, OR - specifically Smith Rock. Smith Rock is the birth place for sport climbing and the Misery Trail takes non-climbing adventurers to the top of the rock. Smith Rock would be my crux shoot on this Grand Session. This would be where the best images would come from, if Mother Nature wanted to show off for the camera.
Our day started off at The Eugene/Springfield fire department training center where they pulled out the tiller for us. The tiller would offer a great backdrop due to its length and give us plenty of other options. We had to move quickly to beat some of the rain that was teasing us. I had forgotten my phone in my truck back at Steve’s house so I had to go off memory. But I powered through, falling back on my fire experience and other portrait sessions I had done. We narrowly beat the rain and got some great shots in the can.
Our next stop in this Grand Session was to head up the McKenzie River trail to Sahalie Falls. I had just bought a 10 stop ND filter for Iceland and knew it would play here. My goal was to have them in front of the waterfall and have the water silky smooth. This required a long exposure and for them to remain still. Out of a dozen photos I got 2 that brought all the elements together. What I didn’t take into account is how much Steve’s jeans would soak up the spray from the waterfall. Oh well, it is a memory now! Just as we finished and got back to our car, the skies opened up and it poured. Pretty much knew our time on the river trail was done and we were onto Sisters for a burger, fries and a shake.
Along the way to Sisters, we stopped and drove down a fire service road to get into a grove on Ponderosa Trees to get some shots in more western wear. I knew I had great coloring and lighting to work with. One challenge was that Steve’s wardrobe pretty much blended in like a hunter. So getting him to stand out was tough. I worked to contrast him against some of the patchy snow on the ground. I also had Ashley change into something more colorful to help her standout too. The maize yellow sweater she brought really matched the tint of the pines. It worked so well with the surroundings. Next was to switch lenses to my 70-200mm to get some compression from the photos. I shot at 2.8 to get the depth of field + the compression. I did some static shots with them, then also did some moving, flowing pieces to get a different look. I her to grab him by the hand and take him behind the tree. All they are not actors by trade, they did an excellent job.
After a burger, fries and a shake we moved onto the grand location - Smith Rock. This is where I was going to bank everything on. These images could not fail and would be the best of the group - or so I hoped. Natalie and I packed our bags full of gear. My camera bag was the heaviest it has ever been. I always measure it against an SCBA pack a firefighter wears. This was pretty close to the same weight.
Misery Ridge lived up to its name with the weight of the pack. I have been running and really hoped for a better showing, but being dehydrated and working off a burger I was struggling a little. We still made good time to the top despite my slow ascent. I knew roughly where I wanted to go, but still wasn’t sure if Mother Nature was going to show off for us, or if she was going to be shy. I knew if anything we had the rain band that was behind to the west. That in itself will be a great back drop. I found a large, flat table top rock for them to stand on. I gave them a few cues and hiked my way back to get everything into frame. Mounted the 70-200mm and put my camera on a tripod for the best possible image. I didn’t need it based on the shutter speed, but I didn’t want to chance anything. A couple pops of the shutter and I knew I was on my way to perfection. Once I told them to dance and for Steve to twirl Ashley I knew I had photographs that nobody had and that I had achieved something I had been chasing - perfection. It was the crossroads of location, backdrop, Steve and Ashley, gear, my vision and faith. I don;t think I could have pulled this off with anyone else. I makes it even more special reflecting back on the day we spent together and our friendship. I always tell Natalie to “just believe” and have a little faith. I always have faith that Mother Nature will show off for me when we are on a photo shoot like this. For a very brief moment she showed us her colors and it was amazing.