When looking for new creative ideas, it seems like everything has already been done by someone. But there are still people, like Jay Philbrick, that manage to create pictures never seen or even never thought of before.
Climbing photography is quite impressive for those that aren't initiated, but it remains somewhat ordinary, as many outdoor sports and activities magazines require such images. What is a bit less common is seeing a ballet dancer or even more crazy, a bride and a groom standing on the edge of a cliff to have their pictures taken.
Jay Philbrick and his wife, Vicki, have owned a photography studio in North Conway for twelve years. Jay had the idea of placing a bride on the side of a cliff way before he became a photographer. The idea came up while he still was a full-time climbing guide. Then, a couple of years later, after he had launched his wedding photography business, a couple mentioned their passion for climbing. That is how the first bridal session on the edge of a cliff was brought to life. This was the only time the bride and groom were climbers. All of the other bridal sessions of that kind — 4 or 5 to this day — were with people like you and me, who had never really climbed before.
From what Jay explained to me, the organization behind these sessions is closer to what you would expect on a commercial shoot rather than on a bridal session. The sessions start usually well before the sunrise so that the couple can be in place before the sun comes up. This way, they can start with the beautiful morning light and then catch the sunrise, if the location isn't too foggy.
Despite his past as full-time climbing guide, Jay works with a highly trained mountain guide for the rigging and safety work, because of course, safety comes first in this kind of session. The guide, Marc Chauvin, and Jay usually start at about 3:30 in the morning, building the anchors and the raising/lowering systems. The bride and groom (or dancer) usually don't have to do much to go down to the ledge. They are brought down with one rope (a second one is also attached for safety) in a way that they almost have nothing to touch or do. Also, if the dress is too big to be put on before going, she will have to put it on with the help of the guide while on the ledge.
Once the bride and groom are in place, the photo shoot really starts and lasts for about 90 minutes. With the help of his wife and their assistant, Jay will photograph the couple. Each of them has a different angle and lens to create a variety of shots. They have to pose the couple and change their angle to try to hide the ropes and anchors as much as possible, as they want to avoid losing time Photoshopping them out.
To see more of Jay's and Vicki's work, head over to their wedding & portraits photography website.
Images used with permission of Jay and Vicki Philbrick.