engagement,  pnw

plan, play, photograph | rainier

To be quite frank, this was my first big phototshoot. Well, I had done a few projects here and there, but this was my first legit photoshoot and I am confident to say that I’m proud of my work. Not that it’s perfect, but I’ve accomplished so much more than I had imagined from start to finish. And I loved every single aspect of this adventure engagement photoshoot.

Kate and Jack were awesome to work with – not only were they close friends, but they were flexible and open minded about the session and had the same curiosity for adventure as I do! I was thrilled that they allowed me take photos for them without having a solid portrait portfolio to show for. I’ve done plenty of landscape shoots and candid shots of adventures, but comparatively few portrait-style ones. So to say the least, I’m thankful that they placed their trust in me and for their patience as we worked together to create these awesome images that showcase both their love for each other and their love for the outdoors.

Here’s to kick-starting a new photography journey for me!

Location: Mt Rainier National Park

One of my favorite parts of this photoshoot was not the session itself, but the planning done beforehand. When brainstorming, Kate wanted something with mountain views and potentially fall colors too. That meant we’d have a short window of time during autumn and playing with PNW weather is always risky. But surprisingly, we had a blue bird day for the day we had picked several weeks in advance. With the date set, we would play it by ear with the weather and take our time to figure out the location. We knew we were headed somewhere in the Cascades, and eventually, Kate and Jack had narrowed it down to Mt. Rainier, the volcanic gem of Washington State. 

An avid hiker myself, I knew a few spots around Rainier, but had not explored anywhere other than the south side of the park. So I took WTA (Washington Trails Association), Google Maps, and CalTopo to good use. I even gathered some ideas from other photoshoots I’ve seen. However, my planning method truly evolved when I started looking at potential hikes through Caltopo. I could see what views would be possible by what landforms based on the elevation map. From there, I’d then refer back to Google Maps and use the street-view images to gauge what the location would look like. Google Earth was also helpful for 3D imagery. That’s when I started narrowing down to 4 different spots on different sides of the mountain. Although we ended up choosing one hike, we got not just one backdrop but many more! Later, as I scrolled through Instagram, I realized that the main destination we’d pick was precisely the same spot that other couples would use for engagements and elopements. Truly validated my research!

The location!

Although we had sunny weather, the previous days were rainier, creating a perfect light dusting of fresh snow on Rainier. Over the summer, snow melts and rocks fall, which makes the snow on Rainier look “dirty”. But every new snowfall creates a blank slate again, which is what we got on this gorgeous day. As days were turning into winter, we ran into patchy ice on the trail, but Kate and Jack conquered it with backpack and all! We strayed onto an unmaintained side trail to get to the viewpoint. It was far less busy so we could take our time and not worry about other people intruding or us taking up other people’s views. It’s remarkable when a couple feels so at ease and content while enjoying themselves and the spectacular backdrop. And it’s these kinds of moments that I try to capture the joy and warmth that ignites the love between two people.

On the way down from the viewpoint, we took a few detours for some additional backdrops, adding a bit more fall color! After the hike down, we found ourselves a spot at Reflection Lake, which was more popular than the hike we did. As a result, we felt the presence of people watching our photoshoot. Although we were more nervous with strangers, it did not deter us from finishing out the photos. I like to think that the time we spent on the trail and at the top help set us all at ease and forget all the surrounding people. Kate and Jack were getting used to being photographed and being intimate in front of others and I was getting used to taking pictures with onlookers. After all, who’s to judge?

As a bonus, we made a trip back to a beach on the Puget Sound for a final sunset session. Wow, Kate and Jack definitely knew the best romantic evening spot. The sunset was gorgeous against the Olympic Mountains and a most peaceful way to end a full day of adventure! Congrats to Kate and Jack!

More from the gallery

And if you’re interested in my adventure photography, check out my other website at www.cherlynelizaphoto.com

Photos shot on Canon Rebel T6

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