Professional photographers Jay and Vicki Philbrick are taking wedding photography to the edge with daring destination photo shoots on mountain cliffs in New Hampshire.
The husband and wife team who make up Philbrick Photography are based in North Conway, New Hampshire and have been snapping photos together professionally for 12 years. Capturing thrill-seeking newlyweds posing on the edge of rock cliffs in the White Mountains, the couple have created their own brand of truly breathtaking images.
“I love all the weddings and sessions we do. But, the cliff sessions are a special thing. We love being in the outdoors and the couples in these sessions are extremely excited about these,” Jay tells The Knot. “The sessions are very challenging for all kinds of reasons, as you might imagine. Because they are so challenging, they are incredibly rewarding to our couples and to us.”
Utilizing many destinations in the surrounding mountains, the 62-year-old photographer and his wife have gathered a collection of favorites. Each one has its own set of unique obstacles and imagery, but safety is always a top priority.
“Safety precautions are extensive. We have an internationally certified mountain guide on hand,” the couple tells The Knot, “For winter and icy sessions we have to be pretty picky with our days. Lots of winter gear such as ice axes, crampons, ice screws, double boots, etc. may be needed, and our mountain guide handles most of this.”
It’s up to Marc Chauvin of Chauvin Guides International to evaluate the weather, secure the anchors, ropes, and rigging and overlook the safety of the operation, but the Philbrick’s brides and grooms are willing to go to extremes for their incredible photos. The newlyweds navigate the sheer drops and tough terrain and, more often than not, do so without a practice run or any prior climbing experience.
“Everyone is different, even within one couple, we’ve had one person hardly affected by the exposure and height while the other is noticeably uneasy about it. But, so far, all have coped fine and done well. No couples have ever backed out upon seeing the actual cliff,” Jay tells The Knot.
Only a few couples have stepped away from smaller cliffside sessions to which Jay joked, “It wasn’t a big deal (except the 3 mile hike carrying heavy packs for nothing!) and we just did other things.”
Thus far, each of the Philbrick’s cliffhanging clients dressed in wedding attire have been newlyweds fresh from their weddings the day before, but they do hope to have a couple on the ledge on their actual wedding day, soon.
Jay and Vicki’s introduction into what Jay calls “adventure based bridal sessions” started when the professional couple first collaborated on their photography business in 2007. Jay’s history of being a full-time climbing guide and his love of photography quickly melded together to create what you see now.
“In my photography I had always been attracted to contrasts of a beautiful subject in a stark or unlikely location and the cliff ledges I had in mind seemed perfect for this,” Jay explained. With the help of one climbing couple in 2008, Philbrick Photography packed up their gear and hit the cliffs. The photo shoot was a success and they’ve been living on the edge ever since!
The entire session on the rock ledge usually starts before sunrise and takes about 90 minutes, Jay tells The Knot. The couples are lowered one-by-one to the ledge and secured with hidden anchors. Vicki, Jay and their assistant Justin Macomber photograph from all angles and Jay tells The Knot, “For most of the images we try to use posing and camera angle to hide the ropes and anchors, there is no Photoshop whenever possible.”
Overall the photo sessions are complicated, well-planned, and deeply rewarding, garnering images of brides dangling off cliffs, couples cuddling on sheer rock faces, and scenery you have to see to believe.
“After one of these sessions we haven’t just provided a couple with some great images but also with an experience they will never forget,” Jay tells The Knot. “That’s why we don’t, as has so often been suggested, Photoshop them in. There is nothing memorable about that!”