Sequoia National Park, Utah

the hearnes » adventure elopement photographers

Kelsey + Andy’s adventure elopement wedding in sequoia national park

During every adventure engagement or elopement photography session, I make sure to take a step back and appreciate everything going on in front of me. I used to wonder if beautiful or exciting things get lost on people who do them professionally. Like, do bands ever forget playing in front of thousands of people or athletes who play the game they love for a living ever forget, even for a moment that, "wow, this is the coolest thing I could ever imagine." Does the cast of Parks and Rec ever not laugh or struggle to keep it together when Andy does something hilarious?

I kept thinking about this during Kelsey and Andy's elopement in California's Sequoia National Park. We do a lot more sessions up in Yosemite, in our backyard of Taos, even all the way up in Alaska - and this 'out of the way' location brought us back to our roots of exploring a new and beautiful place. Andy and Kelsey are a lot like Callen and I. They love adventure; they have gotten closer through multiple thousand-mile-long road trips. They even got engaged at the end of one of these road trips, up in Banff on Moraine Lake after they'd already explored three other national parks.

When they wanted to get married to Sequoia, it made sense to me. It made sense because their love is the kind that's dreamt up in a bit of whimsy starting in a coffee shop. Their love is the kind solidified during late night conversations about adventures and realized on the nth thousandth mile of some long road as each person silently comes to the understanding that the person in the seat next to them is their forever person. These giant trees merely serve as proportionately sized exclamation points to this kind of love story.

And that's precisely how the day unfolded - a giant exclamation point at the end of the best sentence. We met up at a beautiful lodge for their first look. Andy was stunned at first sight of Kelsey. Everything was perfect. Lodge's like this are both gigantic and warm, old and welcoming - timeless, really. We took a few photos before leaving the lodge to hike among the giant sequoias.

One thing Kelsey wanted to do was stop in the museum to get her National Parks Passport stamped. We love doing the little things that make our brides and grooms day extra special and unique to them. When we walked inside, I immediately noticed the looks on the faces of everyone at the museum. They were in awe, smiling, chatting quietly to their partner. They even cheered for them as they punched their passport. It was such a happy moment, and I'm so glad Kelsey wanted to do it!

We left the museum and hiked around for quite a while. Kelsey's bouquet from rustic florals looked so beautiful next to her wedding dress and among the giant redwoods. The juxtaposition between this rugged environment and elegant beauty of our couples decked out in their wedding attire is something of which I'll never tire. A recent wildfire brought a haze which caught sun shining between the trees in the form of fairytale-like beams of light. Andy barely ever let go of Kelsey's hand as they walked through a tunnel carved out in a giant tree, around the massive base of tree trunks the size of our camper, but in places like this time flies. Before we knew it, it was time to head up to their ceremony spot on a rocky overlook. They recited their vows to each other to officially tie the knot and popped champaign before we had a little picnic.

The truth is, when you're standing between giant sequoias or are looking out over hundreds of miles of nature, when you're watching couples begin their enormous love in amazing places, there is nothing but feeling a beautiful, uniquely, "holy crap this is amazing" kind of special. When I started shooting adventure weddings, I wondered if a day could come when I would in any way lose grasp of the specialness of photographing love and adventure in beautiful destinations. The truth is, this is a job but what I feel is, I think, on the same note as Aubrey Plaza cracking a slight smile (for non-Parks & Rec fans, this is her equivalent of hysterical laughter) after Nick Offerman nails a deadpan joke. The joy is the same when some band plays encore after encore merely because they are having fun playing music with their friends. The happiness is the same as when some sports ball player has a huge grin after making a good play in the biggest game of their life - the same happiness when they were a little kid with big dreams making a play in the smallest game of their life. Before the actor filmed their 100th episode, they loved the theatre. Before anyone heard a bands song, they loved playing their instrument. And before any athlete had spectators, they had a craft they repeatedly worked at with loads of love. Before I ever took a picture of anyone or put up an image on Instagram, I was in love with the art of photography, with capturing a feeling, with showing emotion. Having elopements and engagements as my theme and people as my subject is a craft I've dedicated myself to, and for which I am incredibly grateful. 

So does it ever get old? Do you ever forget the specialness while standing among giant trees which fade out into a fog? Does it ever not hit you in your core watching while two people fall deeper in love with each other before your eyes, or as you discover in real time a beauty that's better than any imagination could dream up? Could you ever not feel this is one of the most amazing things this side of heaven?

Elopement Location: Sequoia National Park, California

Photographers: The Hearnes Adventure Photography

Bride’s Dress: Allure Bridals

Bride’s Bouquet: Rustic Roots Floral Design

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, allowing them to serve a large portion of the western US. You can typically find them in Moab, Utah or Yosemite National Park, California, with side-quests to Patagonia and Alaska. They believe love is the greatest adventure and strive to create photos that are epic, romantic, true, and timeless.