Forget "shotgun wedding," Jay Philbrick brings us literal cliff-hanging wedding photos that take more than a little preparation. Jay knew about the Cathedral Ledge at Echo Lake State Park in North Conway, New Hampshire because of his many years as a climbing guide there. Jay says that only two of their couples have been climbers, and this couple was not one of them.
To catch this particular sunrise shot, they started at 2:30 a.m. “It's a real leap of faith going over that overhanging edge in the pre-dawn darkness!” said Jay of his couples. It took a bit of convincing to get the bride to arch back over the void, but she pulled it off beautifully.
Jay's wife, Vicki Philbrick, usually catches these behind-the-scenes shots from the top of another part of the cliff. The images above are from a recent shoot this past July 19, 2017, but Philbrick Photography has been at this for a while.
Safety and Logistics
I showed this recent session to a few photographer friends of mine who immediately wanted to know how any photographer's insurance plan could cover such an adventure. Jay said that his insurance coverage is "no better than anyone else's" and would never cover a scenario where something went wrong here. For these sessions, Jay says the couples hire a mountain guide whose liability release and insurance are covering them.
They start this cliff side process by lowering the couple down without the bride's dress on and then anchoring them in, no climbing by the couple required. The gown is then brought down in a huge pack and the bride puts it on while on the ledge. Once the couple is anchored in at 400 feet above the valley, the dress is adorned and shooting begins. The way back up is simply an exact reverse of the process where they are securely anchored or belayed with backups during all transitions. As you could imagine, there are lots of safety precautions and back-ups each step of the way. Everyone is always anchored to the rock, or, while they are getting them into place, tied into multiple ropes.
To capture these moments, Jay's usual suspended setup consists of a Nikon D3S, 24-70mm lens, and some off-camera lighting from an SB-800. Since they are 400 feet above the valley floor, they enlist some lighting assistance from their guide as well. For this shot for example (above and below), the guide is hanging in the middle and holding the strobe on a monopod.
If you'd like to see more cliff-side work by Philbrick Photography, check out this gallery on their website.
All images used with permission of Philbrick Photography.