A Wedding Photography Adventure

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By Jennifer Beene

In the enchanting world of wedding photography, where emotions and landscapes unite, Alaska and Texas emerge as two distinct realms offering captivating backdrops for the celebration of love. From the icy wilderness of Alaska to the warm, rustic charm of Texas, wedding photographers navigate diverse landscapes to capture the essence of romance against unique canvases. Join us on an immersive journey through one couple’s adventure to Alaska’s arctic elegance and back to the heartwarming charm of Texas.

Neither my couple nor I had ever been to Alaska, but they chose a destination wedding to experience the land of untamed beauty for their love story to unfold against the backdrop of lush foliage, rugged mountains, and helicopter-accessible glaciers. I knew and understood that wedding photographers in the Last Frontier face unique challenges as they strive to capture the ethereal grace of couples exchanging vows in this icy wilderness. While located in Lubbock, Texas, how can I get ready myself and my equipment for significant weather fluctuations, manage limited packing details for both airline and helicopter journeys, navigate the challenges of capturing natural light on glacial landscapes, and ensure a precise timeline for a wedding day spread across three distant locations? However, it was precisely these challenges that I was ready for. I was determined to transform my couple’s Alaskan wedding into a visual masterpiece full of true emotions and adventure.

Scaling down equipment for a destination wedding posed challenges, especially considering the weight restrictions of a helicopter and the limited space of one backpack. Instead of my usual 4.5-foot rolling equipment case with everything I could possibly need, including backups, a staging kit, and large light stands, I turned to the basics. A camera backpack with three lenses, a Canon R6 camera body, a foldable but sturdy light stand, a Godox AD200, a small light modifier, a neutral density filter, a camera rain cover, and extra batteries were all I packed. Being stripped of my usual collection of gadgets was both frightening and liberating.

A pivotal role in this journey was played by a professional wedding planner based in Alaska. The initial phone call established a mutual understanding of professionalism, setting the foundation for a seamless collaboration. Her thorough planning, from crafting a perfect itinerary to ensuring every detail was accounted for, contributed to a stress-free and enjoyable atmosphere. The planner helped keep the timeline flowing and navigated the different locations on the wedding day.

The wedding day began at the couple’s tri-level Airbnb, where each floor accommodated different aspects of the preparations. With equipment restrictions, I was unable to bring my ring kit. Instead, I chose to capture the bride’s details on top of a cast iron wood-burning stove that was in the master bedroom, and the window ledge that overlooked the mountains held her red bottom shoes. The top balcony provided picturesque settings, with the first look capturing a moment of sheer intimacy against the stunning Alaskan backdrop. The second part of this adventure was a 45-minute drive to our helicopter ride. During the drive, I was able to document the bride and groom discussing their wedding day, the beautiful mountains around us, and the bride swapping out her amazing high heels for more comfortable and practical snow boots.

One of the most thrilling chapters of this wedding photography journey unfolded high above the Alaskan wilderness. The couple had booked a unique experience for the bride to have a bridal session on top of a glacier! The helicopter, weaving through the rugged terrain, offered breathtaking views, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure.

As the helicopter touched down on the glacier, the bride, adorned in her elegant wedding attire, stepped into a surreal world of ice and awe-inspiring landscapes. Navigating the challenges of wind, bright sunlight, and frigid temperatures, I captured a breathtaking moment of pure white and icy cyan. With my travel light stand and assistance from the pilot, the bride bravely posed on the ice, letting her train and veil dance in the wind as melting ice merged into roaring waterways around us.

The couple’s reactions to the glacial photoshoot encapsulated the essence of their desire for a unique and unforgettable wedding.

The helicopter flew us from the top of the mountain to the ceremony location, where the groom and close family eagerly awaited. Positioned on a picturesque boat dock, everyone was outside, buzzing with excitement to hear about our glacial experience. The vows exchange took place at Mat-Su Resort in Wasilla, Alaska. The couple exchanged vows at the top of a floatplane dock, surrounded by stunning Alaskan views that included the Wasilla Lake in the Chugach Range. The atmosphere was complemented by heavy cloud coverage, intensifying as rain began to fall. Just as a heartfelt kiss sealed the deal, everyone hurried inside to start an intimate dinner celebration while waiting for the rain to light up so they could finish up family photos. The couple posed in the enchanting Alaskan mist for some unforgettable wedding day images. As the day drew to a close, the clouds lifted slightly, revealing the snow-capped mountain range and setting the stage for visual masterpieces of backlit photos bathed in hues of blues. This is exactly what I had envisioned.

Returning home to Texas, the couple hosted a grand wedding reception for all their family and friends in an old, reclaimed cotton gin turned into a venue. Tin Top Gin infuses industrial charm and elegance with an indoor and outdoor feel. Having experienced a first look in Alaska, the bride and groom decided on a unique twist as they prepared for their reception, opting for a shared getting-ready moment that added an intimate touch to their celebration. The amazing bridal suite has ample room with lots of natural light, allowing the photos to be captured in a candid way. As the newlyweds fastened buttons and delicately clasped jewelry, their four large dogs could run around the room and partake in their human’s celebration. The guests were treated to a display of their stunning Alaska wedding photos, a mosaic of large-format prints that showcased the journey’s highlights.

Back home, the towering mountains and lush foliage may be absent, but Texas unveils its own beauty through breathtaking sunsets. Crafting a meticulous itinerary, whether done by a wedding coordinator or personally-written, is crucial. Crafting the perfect wedding day requires more than just capturing moments; it’s about orchestrating an experience that all my couples will cherish. As a wedding photographer, my focus extends beyond the lens. I become the timekeeper, ensuring every element flows seamlessly. One key to this harmony is advocating for the “first look” magic, a moment when the groom sees the bride for the first time, creating a relaxed atmosphere for the rest of the day. By completing most photos before the ceremony, the couple can fully savor their post “I do” celebration. Sunset portraits are non-negotiable, with careful calculations based on seasonal nuances, guaranteeing a breathtaking backdrop for their love story. In the realm of wedding photography, it’s not just about freezing moments in time; it’s about curating an unforgettable narrative that unfolds effortlessly for the newlyweds.

In the culmination of this captivating wedding photography adventure, the journey unfolds from the untamed beauty of Alaska’s arctic elegance to the heartwarming charm of Texas. Facing challenges ranging from equipment constraints to navigating diverse landscapes, the photographer’s determination to transform each moment into a visual masterpiece shines through. From the intimate preparations in a tri-level Airbnb to the exhilarating helicopter ride and glacial photoshoot, each chapter adds layers to the couple’s desire for a unique and unforgettable wedding. The ceremony against the backdrop of Alaskan vistas, marked by rain and mist, and the grand reception in a reclaimed cotton gin in Texas, where the journey is shared with family and friends, complete this extraordinary tale of love, adventure, and the artistry of wedding photography.

In the heart of Texas, where mountains give way to expansive skies and lush foliage yields to mesmerizing sunsets, the beauty takes on a different, yet equally enchanting form. The journey from planning a meticulous itinerary to orchestrating the day as a storyteller is not just about capturing images. It’s about crafting an enduring narrative. As a wedding photographer, my role transcends being a mere observer; it is a commitment to curate moments that resonate with the essence of the couple. Texas may lack towering peaks, but within its vast horizons, love unfolds against a canvas painted by the hues of captivating sunsets. In every carefully timed shot and artfully crafted moment, the story of the bride and groom is told, a narrative woven seamlessly into the fabric of Texas beauty and timeless love.

Jennifer Beene is based in Lubbock, Texas, operating from a brick-exposed downtown studio since 2013. She specializes in weddings with the goal of providing that couples receive exceptional memories. She received her Master of Photography degree in 2021.To learn more about Jennifer, visit: www.StudioJ.photo