It only seems fitting that my first blog post for Moments and Mountains Photography would be for Shirley and Bryant's engagement session in Yosemite National Park. Besides photography, writing is another big creative outlet for me that, of course, with two kids and a business, is something that has taken a backseat to everything else.
As mentioned before, between my love for hiking and photography, adventure sessions are something that just call to me. So when Shirley reached out about booking an engagement session for December with her fiancé Bryant, I let her know that the month was pretty packed with holiday sessions but mentioned that I would be in Yosemite for the week of New Years Eve with my husband, AJ, and our kids. I asked if her and Bryant would be interested in doing their session that week in the area. I was beyond thrilled when they both loved the idea and wanted to move forward.
After they booked their session, we set up a call and did a little bit of chatting to get to know one another. I learned that they both LOVE hiking and that Yosemite really held a special place in their heart. While speaking to them on what they wanted their session to look like, I learned that Bryant really wanted some shots with Half Dome in the landscape and Shirley wanted some trees, preferably sequoias, and ideally with snow. I let them know that I would try to find something that worked but that I couldn't make any promises about the snow---it is California after all!
After our little virtual meeting, I spent the next few days researching spots within the park that would work for what they both wanted. I found a few sequoia groves within the park but neither were close enough to the valley that we could do all in one session. I let Shirley know that I had found two good options: one was north of the valley and about one mile to get to the grove of trees and the other was south of the valley and two miles to get to the grove. Both would require some extra time and would ultimately turn into an adventure session. Shirley and Bryant replied, both wanting the two mile option, which lit up my adventurous soul.
As the date for their session neared, so many things threatened their session: a surge in COVID-19 cases forced Yosemite to reduce their park hours; a potential government shutdown due to congress's unwillingness to pass a budget which would have resulted in all national parks being shut down; and of course, weather. Shirley was hoping for snow (I was too, of course) but it is always a fine balance between snow and too much snow that closes roads. Of course, in the days leading up to their session, the forecast called for a big storm two days prior. I had a back up plan but was really hoping we wouldn't need it.
The day before Shirley and Bryant's session, AJ, the kids, and I went down to the valley to scope out the area and gawk at all her beauty. Half Dome, El Cap, and Yosemite Falls are always stunning but with a nice little layer of snow, they were out of this world. I was able to speak with a park ranger about the new reduced park hours and find out what our adjusted plan needed to look like since we had originally planned on starting at sunrise for our sequoia hike. I called Shirley and Bryant that afternoon and went over the new plan, which was to be the first ones at the entrance gate at 8am so we could get started right away. I reminded them to bring their traction devices for the hike, just in case we ran into ice.
When we arrived that morning, the trailhead parking lot was empty and we had the trail to ourselves. It only took a few minutes of hiking before realizing we definitely needed to put on our traction devices, as there was snow and ice everywhere. As we walked the two mile trail to the Mariposa Grove, we chatted and got to know each other. They told me the story of their engagement and Bryant told me a little bit about his job working with individuals with Autism. The whole hike into the grove felt so magical with snow on the ground but little did we know we were in for even more of a treat up in the grove itself.
When we finally reached the grove, all three of us were stunned by the sight of these massive sequoia trees covered in snow. Not only did Shirley get her wish, but I did too, as it had been a dream of mine to see the giant beauties with snow for some time now. Shirley and Bryant took a few minutes for a quick outfit change before we set off into the to see more of the sequoias.
As we walked the boardwalk through Mariposa Grove, we continued to be in awe of what we were experiencing with the added benefit that we literally had it all to ourselves at that point. Shirley and I noticed that it was so quiet and empty, our voices were echoing as we laughed and chatted. Every turn was an opportunity for a photo and more fun.
After walking to the Grizzly Giant and spending some time shooting over there, we found a nice little sunny spot to take a little rest before heading back. I had asked Shirley and Bryant previously if they would be open to celebrating with something fun; they both agreed so I picked up a 12-pack of Stella Artois (it was NYE the next day so I knew they wouldn't go to waste) the day before and packed a couple in my pack. Shirley and Bryant found a big log to sit and enjoy a nice little beer picnic. We chatted and I kept shooting as they downed their refreshing beers. Once done, we began to make our way back to the trail.
Of course, I couldn't help but stop them when we passed the Bachelor and his Three Graces (that is the name of the set of sequoia trees) so we could get a few shots. By this point, we started to see a few people so we knew it was definitely a good time to start heading back to the car.
After we left the grove of sequoias, we returned down the same trail we came up through and passed lots of families making their way up to the grove. Before I knew it, we were back at our cars. I reminded them of our plan: go back to the Airbnb, relax for a bit, grab something to eat, and then meet at Tunnel View for the second part of their day. We all agreed to keep in touch and call if anything came up. We said goodbye and left, excited for the next portion of the shoot.
Stay tuned for part two of Shirley and Bryant's Yosemite engagement session---the valley!
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