Keya + Eric's Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset Engagement Session || Asheville, NC
When Keya messaged me on Instagram last year inquiring about my wedding photography services, I had no idea just how fun this partnership was going to be. Initially, she and Eric were planning an intimate wedding at Pisgah Inn with just their parents and her children. This in itself already sounded beautiful! But, several months into planning, family health issues arose and Keya and Eric decided that rather than try to push it to have everyone there and possibly uncomfortable, they could simply enjoy the wedding they’d been planning just the two of them, and then have a family celebration when they got home. The best of both worlds.
We kept everything the same: the cake, the attire, the ceremony overlooking the mountains. The only thing we changed was my coverage, taking the hour we’d allotted for family photos and instead adding it to their engagement shoot. Keya and Eric are avid hikers and lovers of all thing Blue Ridge Mountains - so much so that after their mountain ceremony they’d planned a quiet cabin getaway for their honeymoon. So I knew that they’d be the perfect couple to truly appreciate the beauty and the effort of an adventure engagement session, that they’d enjoy both the view and the hike to it.
This was the first client photoshoot that Emmaleigh of Just Bloom Together and I worked together through the majority of the process (they had hired me before she and I met), and it was great to have another professional on-board when planning the session. For me, it’s really important that I get to know my clients before our photoshoots. I can certainly do so on the fly as we photograph, but I’ve found that the more time I spend getting to chat with my couples before they get in front of the camera, the more comfortable they are and thus the more personality comes out in their photos. The week of Keya and Eric’s celebratory weekend, Emmaleigh and I videochatted with them for our final meeting, looking over their engagement outfits, planning the final timing details and making sure we knew what locations they were most interested in exploring.
We’d taken an afternoon to explore Pisgah Inn and the surrounding Parkway, so we knew that while they were initially interested in having their session at Craggy Gardens, finding a more secluded spot for a summer Friday evening was imperative. Luckily, Emmaleigh has lived here all her life and knows all the secret spots, so yet another asset of partnering with her company for planning and styling my photoshoots is getting to shoot in breathtaking, uncrowded locations.
Before we even started hiking, one of my favorite parts of the shoot was our little dance party in front of the tunnel. As a sucker for on-site framing devices, being able to use the leading lines of the lane dividers and the archway of the tunnel was the perfect way to compose my sweet couples against their chosen backdrop.
Both of our business are centered around creating an unforgettable experience for our clients, both through an easy and enjoying planning process and because of a gorgeous final product. And part of that experience includes showing off the beauty of the place we live.
The hike up provided us with an abundance of greenery that perfectly accented Keya’s purple floral dress. It also gave me several opportunities to capture Eric being the ever-gallant fiance - this uphill hike being a metaphor for the difficulties that they will surely have to face, ameliorated by their strong partnership together. When we finally reached the top of our hike, I had Keya and Eric pause before walking out onto the overlook while I set up my shot, then Emmaleigh led them onto the overlook while they kept their eyes closed. Finally, we had them hold hands and open their eyes. Keya let out an audible gasp as they gazed out over the clear mountain range where the sun was just beginning to set. It was right then that I knew we were really onto something, that this wasn’t just a photoshoot, but the perfect way to spend their last evening before becoming husband and wife.
For the most part, after photographing the initial surprise, I took a step back to let these sweethearts soak up the sunset together, intermittently dancing giddily or cuddling up in silence.
To me, the importance of the engagement session is documenting this season of life full of excitement, hope, nerves and a wide open (and often unclear) future. One of the things I strive to capture during each engagement sessions is how each person looks at their chosen life partner. I’ll take a solo portrait of each person looking at me, and then tell them to look at their partner. The results speak for themselves.
My other favorite thing to do is ask each partner to whisper in the other’s ear what they’re most thankful for. As I said, these photoshoots aren’t just about the end product of photos to use on save-the-dates or as reception decor. Rather, they’re about creating time to spend loving on each other and simply enjoying being together, without any outside stressors.
The best part of this adventure session - aside from having an epic summer sunset - was that the hike in and out gave us time to chat even more, not just about the next day’s elopement but about life in general. As we returned to our cars, despite the two hours of walking and photographing, we were all energized for the next day. We were ready to carry the exhilaration from our adventure celebrating the end of this leg of their journey into tomorrow as they began their next chapter.