Best of 2018 // Weddings + Elopements // Western US Adventure Wedding + Elopement Photographer

We absolutely love doing this annual round-up! It's so fun to go back through the year, pick out some of our best work, and put together all the random stats. This year, we will be doing three installments: Weddings + Elopements, Adventure Sessions, and Our Personal Adventures. This is the first one!

Our Previous Round Ups can be found here:

2016 Weddings, Sessions, Couples in Love || 2016 In Review (Personal Adventures)

2017 Weddings + Elopements || 2017 Adventure Sessions || 2017 In Review (Personal Adventures)

I’ll be honest, as I sit down to write this post, I’m not sure how I feel about 2018. In some ways, it was the best year of our lives. We started the year with an incredible trip to Patagonia with some great friends. During the trip, Kim and Ryan’s Spacenet Wedding in Moab went mega-viral, ending up in publications like People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Buzzfeed, as well as the Today Show and local news stations around the country. Shortly after getting home, we hit the road and headed west for our first adventure elopement photography workshop with Maddie Mae in Yosemite National Park. Our route had a handful of detours, including an elopement in Sedona and a few days filming a RAM Commercial in our ProMaster Van! The workshop was incredibly fun, in fact we decided to do another one in Page Arizona in 2019 and it sold out in under 20 minutes!

We spent a few more weeks in Yosemite photographing a couple of snowy elopements and enjoying the winter (lack of) crowds and braving a few fresh snow storms, then trailed the coast for a few elopements, stopping in Eugene, Oregon to hang out with my brother Ben. We spent my birthday in Big Sur with my other brother Conner, who flew in to officiate his first of many adventure elopements with us. From there, we made our way to Joshua Tree National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Park, and finally Moab, Utah (our beloved home base) in the span of a couple of days. We settled ourselves in Moab for a few weeks, established a little neighborhood of new and old van life friends, photographed a few desert elopements in Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and the surrounding areas near Moab. We even found time for a few days off, doing nothing at all but sipping wine and exploring new dirt roads.

By May, Moab started to get a little too hot for us just in time as we headed Northwest for Mount Rainier National Park. Our road trips are never without side quests, and this time we got to stop and do a little photo session in some hot springs with our bud India Earl. It was such a treat to be in front of her camera - she is absolutely magic! It was a little wild to go from 90 degree desert temps to needing snowshoes in the span of a couple of days, but sometimes that is the beauty of road life! In Washington, we photographed 5 couples in 5 days, including my brother’s proposal to his now-fiancé! After Mount Rainier, we left the van and the dog with my brother in Oregon and flew down to texas for a week with our families. It was a rare week off and we were so thankful to have the time at home with them! When we got back, we made our way down to Yosemite for our busiest few weeks of the year shooting elopements and adventure sessions almost every day of the week. Our time in Yosemite was good, despite working almost every day, we got to dive deeper into some friendships and spend quality time with our people that live in the valley.

Once we wrapped up our summer season in Yosemite, we started heading north to cooler temps. We found ourselves back in Jackson, Wyoming, one of our favorite places (and where I happen to be writing this blog post from!) for a few sessions and an elopement in Grand Teton National Park. After soaking in the Tetons (and promising ourselves we’d return this winter to see it covered in snow, hence why we’re back here right now…it was worth it!!!), we hightailed it to the border, making a quick stop in Glacier National Park and then finding ourselves celebrating Canada Day surrounded by Canadians and the most beautiful stretch of the rocky mountains! We were finally headed to Alaska - possibly the highlight of our year (I can’t decided between AK and Patagonia and honestly, November in Moab).

Alaska was amazing, we had so much time off to explore and play and truly have a “summer break.” After two whole weeks of playing all over northern Canada and Alaska, we met up with some incredible couples for an engagement session, an anniversary session, a honeymoon session, and a beautiful intimate wedding! We even got to ride in a helicopter out to a glacier for Morgan + Evan’s epic first look before their wedding! It was mega.

Unfortunately, our Alaska trip wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I never want to give the impression our life is perfect, and if you follow me on my personal instagram account (@abbihearne), you’ve seen my posts about my Dad. This one explains it well, and the hashtag #DadStrickland has all of my posts together, but when we were in Alaska we got a call from my brother to tell me my dad has a terminal brain tumor. It was the kind of news that turns the whole world upside down, and like any horrible news, there wasn’t a “good” time for it to happen. We were all the way in Alaska, my family back in Texas, and had a week left in our trip, which included two sessions and a wedding. After talking with my dad and brothers, we decided it was best to stay throughout commitments, and then I’d fly home to be with them.

After we wrapped up our last wedding, we drove four hours straight to Anchorage and I flew out at sunrise. I arrived in Austin that evening, and despite my absolute exhaustion and lack of sleep, I was able to spend some great time with my dad before his surgery the following morning. I spent the week in Austin, caring for Dad and spending quality time with my family. It was sweet, and only possible because Callen willingly drove the van back to the lower 48 without me. His friend Patrick flew to Anchorage to ride back with him, which was such a gift to me and my family to know Cal wasn’t alone. I eventually flew back to Colorado and met Callen there. August was one of the most stressful and emotionally taxing months of our lives, figuring out how to move forward and continue with what we’re doing knowing my dad is sick and our time with him is limited.

On top of all of that, we had bought our new truck before the Alaska trip and had a couple of weeks in Colorado to “move in” and sell our van before we had to be back in Yosemite. I am so thankful for our best bud, Maddie, who lent us her driveway for our rigs, her home for us and Charlie, multiple meals when we couldn’t begin to think about feeding ourselves, hugs when I needed them, deep talks, and so much more. I honestly don’t know how we would’ve survived August without her. Thank you, Maddie ❤️

Once August was over and we were moved into the truck, we headed out with a “home-stretch” mentality, knowing we could make it to the end of the year and knowing we’d have good times on the horizon despite the horrible month behind us. We went through Moab, which was a treat despite the 100+ degree temps. We made our way to Yosemite for the wild month of September in which we photographed 5 elopements in 6 days after a busy multi-day wedding week. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, it was followed by a drive straight to Page, Arizona for an elopement and then to Telluride for another wedding before the week was over! After Telluride, we found ourselves back in Moab for three wonderful weeks of adventurous elopements and fun adventure days as the temps started dropping and looking more like fall.

After a quick dash to Colorado, we found ourselves in Zion for a way-before-sunrise hiking elopement that ended up in the latest issue of Rocky Mountain Bride Magazine! From there, we made our way back to California one last time for a couple of weeks in Yosemite shooting elopements and; super casual, Callen climbed El Cap for the third time with our buddy Jordan! Our time in Yosemite was brief, but fall is my favorite season in the valley and I (mostly) enjoyed soaking in the time alone while Callen was on the wall. From Yosemite, we went through Sequoia National Park for a couple of elopements and then pointed ourselves for Utah.

November in Moab is one of my favorite things on earth and this year did not disappoint. In addition to some wonderful elopements and adventure sessions, we got to really get amongst it with the adventures. I climbed a desert tower that’s been on my list for a long time, my family came up for Thanksgiving, our best friends all made their way into town for more block parties and van neighborhoods, and we finally got to ski Moab!

December began as November ended, with more Moab adventures and our last couple of days in the desert paradise we call home. After a delightful blanket of snow in the desert and our last Moab adventure session of the year, we made our way to Salt Lake City for a couple of weeks with great friends and a visit from Callen’s family. At the time of writing this, we are in Jackson, Wyoming for our last adventure session of the year. We’ll fly back to Salt Lake City tomorrow and then drive our camper truck back to Texas for Christmas. We plan to spend the holidays and most of the month of January relaxing at home with our families.

2019 GOALS

I realized as I went to type these out that my goals for 2018 were really good. The pursuit of those goals gave us more control in our business and personal lives, made our life better, and grew us in ways we are so thankful for. I am choosing to stick with the same blanket goals in 2019, and will hold myself to even higher expectations of how I reach those goals.

Book Less » By booking less, we will be opening ourselves to an even better client experience. We are so passionate about our relationship with each and every client, we want every single person we work with to know we love them and we want to really get to know them. I'm convinced the amazing relationships we form with our couples are a huge reason we take such amazing photos, so I want to hone in on that even more in 2019.

Play More » Here's the thing. Do you want to know why we're so psyched all the time? Why we love Moab so much? How we find all these amazing locations? It's because we love to play. We spend our free time exploring, hiking, biking, rafting, skydiving, skiing and climbing all over these places! We didn't get to know Yosemite by shooting weddings there, we got to know it by PLAYING there. We also know we perform way better and deliver a much better experience if we've taken the time to enjoy ourselves instead of work all the time.

Have A Positive Impact » This is the first goal I am changing from last year. Last year, I explained how we wanted to “get off the beaten path more” and be creative by “avoiding popular destinations” but I’m here to eat my words. Taking things literally, Leave No Trace requires that we STAY on the beaten path. All the artists reading this just cringed, but hear me out. I’m not saying to do what everyone else is doing photographically, but I have learned a lot about sustainability this year, and have begun working closely with National Park and BLM officials to figure out how to lessen the impact of adventure weddings in the wilderness. We have learned there are ways to have weddings in unique and new places while still staying within LNT standards and having a low impact. We have learned about how the National Parks are prepared to handle more people and, to put it simply, more foot prints. Imagine a field of flowers, if you have 100 people walk across it with arms linked, they’ll trample much more of the field than if they walk single file, each following the footsteps of the person in front of them. Now scale that to the entire Moab desert. It will be much less trampled if people walk the same paths, following already laid footprints, vs trying to spread out and having every visitor make their own path. Preserving wild places comes first on our priority list, and we want to structure our approach around that in every way possible.

Automate More » Okay, this one might get boring to non-entrepreneurs, but the truth is I hate when I'm spending time doing something when I know a computer or assistant could do it for me. In 2019, I want to hone in on my tasks and figure out which ones I can outsource. Obviously a lot of things will still be done by me, but there are a few random tasks that can definitely be taken off my plate! The less time I spend behind the computer, the more I get to play (see above!)

Be a Better Wife, Daughter, Friend, Human » This one should be obvious, but honestly in 2017 I was a really good photographer, businesswoman + entrepreneur, but the other things mostly took second-priority. I realize that's how it goes when you start a business (or in our case, drastically change it and grow it), so I'm glad my people stuck with me while we skyrocketed to success, but now that we're where we are, I want to focus more on the other aspects of my life. I want to spend more time with Callen (QUALITY time), more time calling friends and family, and more time enjoying myself and others without thinking about or talking about business. Any tips for overcoming workaholism are greatly appreciated!

Woah, humble pie. I wrote the above paragraph for 2018, and while I do believe I’ve made steps in the right direction, I want to see a drastic change in 2019. This year my Dad was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. I learned, in one phone call, how quickly life can be turned upside down. I am so thankful for the time I had to spend with him in 2018, and I want even more of that in 2019. I don’t want work to ever stand in the way of time with my people.

Keep Growing, Learning, and Improving » Scaling back booking numbers doesn't mean we're going to stop pouring into this business, it simply means we'll do a better job of pouring ourselves into what matters! We absolutely love this job and are so thankful (and amazed) by this past year. Next year we will aim to work smarter and make our clients even happier than ever. I never want to think I know it all and I'll never stop growing and improving. One of my favorite pieces of advice I've received as a skydiver is to learn something new with every single jump. I believe in applying that to all that I do, so in 2019 I hope to learn something new with every adventure session and wedding we shoot.

Lead Our Industry In A Positive Direction » I’ve realized this year how big of an impact we have on the photography industry. A lot of photographers look up to us, follow our lead, and strive to do things like what we’re doing. Whether I like it or not, we have a lot of power over the direction this industry goes. In 2019, I want to do what I can to lead in a positive direction. I want to encourage photographers to care for the environments they’re shooting in, to put sustainability at the forefront of their minds, and to prioritize the longevity of these beautiful wild places. I am excited to be working directly with Moab BLM as well as consulting Park Rangers and staff members in multiple National Parks to learn how to make Adventure Wedding Photography a positive force in the outdoor world.

Maintain The Right Priorities » This one sums up most of what I’ve said above. This year, I want to keep my priorities straight. I don’t want to care about popularity or how cool people think we are or how successful we look. I want to prioritize my personal relationships, my beloved wild spaces, and my incredible clients.

Lastly, in 2019 we need to remember to take more photos with our couples. It’s shameful that of all the incredible couples we worked with this year, we only have photos with 6 of them 🤦🏼‍♀️😝

If you made it to the bottom of this, you're an angel. Please comment on this post so I can thank you!! There is no way we could do what we're doing without the support of our online community. Every follow, comment, like, share, and late night spent browsing the website means the world to us - it literally gets us to where we are now (what a time to be alive!). We are so appreciative of you. I know it sounds silly, but I honestly feel like we have a little family of online buddies that love us and when I'm sitting in the rig in the middle of nowhere feeling a little lonely, it's awesome to feel connected to all of you. 2018 was a wild year and I know 2019 will still blow me away. I can't wait to see where it takes us!

The Hearnes Adventure Photography is run by Abbi and Callen Hearne, a husband & wife wedding photography team with an emphasis on adventure. They live on the road as full-time nomads in their big white van, allowing them to serve a large portion of the western US including California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming. They believe love is the greatest adventure and strive to create photos that are epic, romantic, true, and timeless.