What They Don’t Tell You About Adventure Elopements

Have you ever had “one of those days”? You know what I’m talking about. One of those days where everything goes wrong. You’re out of hot water, the dress you want to wear is at the cleaners, you’re running late, you hit every red light, and then you throw up in front of your clients seven times. No? Just me?

Every wedding photographer has some horror story about shooting a wedding under extreme circumstances. Susan Stripling has done it with shingles, strep throat, with her shooting hand in a cast, and she’s driven through a blizzard to get to a wedding. We’re in contract with our clients, so unless we’re dead, we’d better be there. That makes wedding photography one of the hardest jobs out there. You must be incredibly tough and resilient to do this job.

So when I see all these photographers making amazing photos in majestic locations, all I can think about is why I’m not shooting an elopement inside a volcano from a helicopter! How come my clients don’t get married on an icecap in Antarctica?! I never get to take wedding photos on the island where they filmed Castaway! This is so unfair! I decided I needed to do something drastic to pull myself out of the boredom that is Modesto.

When I started booking jobs in Yosemite, I knew that was the perfect place to market myself. I grew up in the area and know the park so well that I don’t even need a map. We live nearby. Everything is gorgeous, so it’ll be easy to take amazing photos.

This is going to be a piece of cake!

It wasn’t.

I’ve never worked on a project so hard in my life, and it’s seriously paid off. I’ve gotten to capture some beautiful photos in the most beautiful place in California, while enjoying the surroundings, animals, and clean air. The first several shoots were pretty easy and fun, and went off without a hitch. Then came Jessica and Tyler’s elopement…

Let’s face it, weddings and elopements rarely go like they’re supposed to, especially when it’s a destination wedding.



Right off the bat, things weren’t going well. I was with two of my staff, and when we checked into our Airbnb, it was a fiasco. We were staying in Oakhurst, which is only twenty minutes from the park’s gate, which makes it a perfect location. We were promised a beautiful studio apartment above a BBQ restaurant in a Victorian building. It was a filthy abandoned. The building has four units upstairs, and each has a key code to get in. I had sent the host a message asking for the code the day before, but he didn’t get back to me until right before we arrived. We got into our unit, and we noticed our neighbors meandering outside their room. The host never got back to them with their key code. We tried OUR code on THEIR lock, and it worked. It seemed that every unit had the same key code, above a dark and abandoned restaurant.

So here I was, traveling with an assistant and thousands of dollars of camera gear, and we had no way of being secure. I ended up wedging a chair under the door. I’m not sure if that was the worst part, or if it was the public hairs in our shower. Let’s just say it wasn’t clean.

We did what we always do and made the best of it. We binge-watched Life in Pieces and had an Italian picnic in bed with wine. It was so much fun, and we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt.

So there we were, right outside Yosemite National Park, the infamous serial killer Cary Stayner’s hunting ground, and Jenny said, “Have you ever seen that movie where the couple stay in that old hotel, and the killer locks them in and…” as she’s looking around at the ugly dark wood paneling. And I say, “Thanks a lot!” Because yes, I’ve seen the movie and our room DID look like that.

The next morning we were running behind I got really irritated. I hate being late. I haven’t been late to a wedding in three years. So when we were finally packed up, I said I’d drive. The problem was, it was a rental car, and so when I hit the breaks, it took off like a rocket, and I thought, “OK cool, we’ll be there on time.” As soon as I thought that, I got pulled over.

Long story short, I didn’t get a ticket, and I totally thought I was going to. I was driving someone else’s rental car, and I wasn’t on the paperwork, so I wasn’t insured at that moment. When the cop asked for the rental paperwork, I started to panic, but he came back without any questions because the paperwork they give you doesn’t list additional drivers. Yeah, I didn’t drive the rest of the way.

After a long drive up to Glacier Point, being stuck behind a bus, we weren’t too behind, and the couple arrived at the exact same time. So I thought, “Great! We’re off to a good start!”

That didn’t last long.

On the way to the point from the car, I had my usual shortness of breath from the altitude, but I wasn’t worried about it. The ceremony was overlooking Half Dome, and was absolutely gorgeous. It was only about six minutes, and after everyone who stopped to watch finished clapping, I set them up for their first portrait, and I took a photo, then I started feeling dizzy and short of breath. I sat down on the ground and sipped water, and assured my clients that it would pass in a few minutes. It was ninety degrees, even up there at 7,500 square feet, and I was moving around and working. My assistant asked if I was OK, and I turned away from my clients and threw up. Like projectile vomit of iced tea.

I haven’t thrown up in front of anyone but my husband in like twenty years, so… Yeah. Then my assistant says, “We’ve got a piper down! A piper down!!!” (If you know where that reference came from, comment below.)

But then I started feeling better, so I got up and we started working again. Five minutes later, it happened again. I was down on the ground throwing up. Jessica kept saying, “You poor thing!” Taylor went to the car for Gatorade and a banana. They were so sweet about the whole thing. And then there’s my assistant, who says, “There’s no app for that.”

Seriously though, I’m very lucky to have Jessica and Taylor as clients, because I went down and threw up like seven times.

I knew altitude sickness was no joke. I’d seen that movie Everest, and I know that if you get altitude sickness, you die. You just die! If you’re climbing Everest, and you get altitude sickness, you die and they leave your body up there forever.

So of course, I was thinking, “This is it. It’s actually happening. I’m going to die shooting a wedding. It took me so long to write this blog because I have PTSD!

Every time it would happen, I’d just get back up and keep shooting. At the beginning of this blog, when I said wedding photography is one of the hardest jobs out there, this is what I mean. We put ourselves through so much and push our bodies beyond what we’re usually capable of. We work through extreme pain and misery. So the next time someone says, “Wedding photography is way too expensive! Why does it cost so much?” I’m just going to punch them in the face.

Eventually, we got the vomiting to stop, and finished up at the tunnel view below Glacier Point.


As you can see, I’m quite sunburned. That’s because I forgot the sun screen.

The good news is, I got Jessica and Taylor’s film back from the lab, and the photos are GORGEOUS! If you’re not subscribed to my blog, scroll to the bottom and do so. Don’t miss out on the majestic views of Yosemite National Park!


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July 7, 2017

"Iiiiiif you want me booooooody, aaaaand you think I'm sexy, COME on baby, let me knoooooowww" ;) Glad everything worked out, Dawn!

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