If traditional wedding photography gives you a case of the yawns, consider taking your big day portraits to new heights by posing on the side of a cliff.
Jay Philbrick and his wife Vicki, of Philbrick Photography in North Conway, New Hampshire, specialize in portraits of people perched 350 feet above the Mount Washington Valley floor.
Prior to starting his photography business, Philbrick was a full-time climbing guide from 1994 to 2004 and a U.S. Air Force pilot before that for 14 years. With that kind of resume, it would be easy to assume that Philbrick has always felt comfortable high up in the air, but that’s not necessarily true.
“Let’s just say I have a healthy respect for heights,” he told The Huffington Post. “I don't run around a cliff without a fear in the world and I still get little butterflies for sure."
It was only a matter of time before he merged his passion for climbing with his craft.
“In my photography I had always been attracted to the contrast of a beautiful subject in a stark or unlikely location,” Philbrick said. “And the cliff ledges I had in mind [from guiding] seemed perfect for this.”
In 2008, four years after starting his photography business, Philbrick finally got the chance to try out his idea when a couple that were climbers hired him to cover their wedding.
“I asked them if they were up for it and they were,” he said.
To date, no other client has actually had climbing experience. Philbrick claims that even without having climbed before, the shoot is completely safe.
“In fact, we are all probably at greater risk driving to and from the session than we are when cliffside,” he said. “The only issue we have really had has been with the weather, and unfortunately, we don't have much control over that.”
For each shoot, Philbrick works with a trained and certified mountain guide named Marc Chauvin. On the day of the session, Philbrick and Chauvin wake up as early as 3:30 a.m. to build “anchors and raising and lowering systems we'll need for the couple, myself and Marc.”
Once Philbrick, his wife Vicki, Chauvin, and an assistant are on site, the bride and groom are lowered one at a time and tied into a hidden anchor on the ledge. When the couple is in place, Philbrick directs them into different poses while hanging off the side of the cliff secured in his own gear.
“I am sometimes to the side, right above, or even on the same ledge with them,” he said.
While he shoots, Vicki and their assistant also snap shots, getting pictures from different locations and angles. The sessions usually last about 90 minutes and are typically completed an hour or two after sunrise.
Philbrick says that there is barely any retouching involved in the editing process.
“There is no Photoshop whenever possible,” Philbrick adds. “Sometimes something sticks out a little due to an oversight and I remove it in post, but I try really hard to just have all the safety gear hidden.”
Check out photos from a wedding shoot below:
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