Most of the time, happily ever after begins with some kind of adventure. To some, that could mean an exotic honeymoon to Bora Bora. To the clients of Jay and Vicki Philbrick’s, it could mean a mesmerizing post-wedding photo shoot atop the stunning Cathedral Ledge in North Conway, New Hampshire.
Would you climb a mountain for your spouse—literally?
Jay and Vicki have been working together as portrait and wedding photographers at Philbrick Photography in New Hampshire for the past fifteen years, yet it wasn’t until 2008 that they decided to take their services to the next level (or higher).
Jay, a former climbing guide, has admired Cathedral Ledge for years, and something told him it had more of a purpose than just looking pretty. “I’ve always had this idea of getting a couple on that one ledge,” Jay said. “I just thought, it’s such an improbable place to have a bride and groom standing.” He decided to suggest a day-after cliffside shoot to a couple he was currently working with—and to Jay’s delight, they were on board.
After several shoots on the ledge, the stunning photos started to get famous on the Internet. While the response is mostly positive, “some people immediately thought the photos were fake or edited in Photoshop,” Jay said. But actually, there’s no editing done to the photos; everything you see is what he sees through his lens. “No harnesses, no ropes, no anchors—nothing. It’s all hidden,” Jay said.
Other immediate reactions to the photos are that it seems irresponsible or unsafe. Jay has an answer to that, too: “Statistically, we’re all at much more risk driving to and from the cliff than we are on [that cliff]. It’s really quite safe.”
So how does this extreme wedding photography actually go down (or up)?
Photo shoots start super early in the morning—or late at night depending on how you look at it. Between 2:30 and 3:00 am, Jay and his professional partner, mountain guide Marc Chauvin, begin setting up the ropes, anchors, and everything they need to make the photo shoot happen. Vicki, who takes behind-the-scenes photos during the shoot, comes by as well.
“The goal is to have the couple securely anchored before sunrise,” Jay said. The team always goes for two different shots: one before sunrise and another after sunrise, both of which have completely different vibes. “We go the extra mile to get something unique for our couples,” he said.
Once everything is set up and the bride and groom arrive, the two are lowered down in harnesses onto the ledge. While the groom can don his pants, shirt, and tie before being lowered, the bride is told to wear baggy clothes or something she can hide under her wedding dress. Once securely on the ledge, Marc will dangle down with the gown, veil, and any other accessories. Nothing like a wardrobe change hundreds of feet off the ground!
The bride transitions out of her harness and into a slimmer harness that can fit under her dress, and a small hole is made in the back of the dress to feed the rope through. The best kind of dress for this type of shoot? “Ones with a corset back—you can easily fit the rope through it,” Jay said.
More often than not, Jay and Vicki are working with couples who aren’t professional climbers. But out of twenty photo shoots, they’ve never had anyone bail out. “We love that couples are always very excited to go through with it—it’s something they’ll never forget for the rest of their lives,” Jay said.
Whether you aren’t a fan of your wedding photos or just want to do something unique (an anniversary celebration, anyone?), Jay and Vicki Philbrick offer something truly unique and magical. Each session costs $1,500 (though the memories are priceless). To learn more and see photos of past photo shoots, visit philbrickphoto.com and philbrickphotography.pixieset.com/cliffsidephotos.
Written by: Diana Whelan