First things first, I just LOVE Ashley + Mike. I met Ashley via Instagram not too long after both of us moved to Bozeman: I found her feed and loved her interior decor sense and she just seemed like someone I could click with. She loves her husband Mike and their dog Sage, the mountains, great furniture (seriously, go check out her couch at @ashley.joyfullygrowing), coffee, and Friday nights in. Side note: IG has been a blessing in that sense to the introvert in me: I'm able to get an idea of who people are before having to exert the energy of going out into public, socializing, and deciding after I've invested the energy whether I want to be friends.
Back to the point: I've had the chance to photograph Ashley + Mike on a couple of occasions and I'm constantly grateful to them. They put up with me, they let me creep on them, and they let me try all kinds of things that I might not ordinarily try. For this session, I'd had the word "freedom" in my head for a while, and when Ashley said they wanted to do a mountain session, I jumped at the chance to put that word into motion. With a crazy busy legal work calendar and a full wedding and portrait schedule this summer, I've been feeling strapped to a schedule and deadlines and my commitments to others. So as we started this session, I really just wanted to focus on a feeling, rather than hitting specific poses or checking any of the boxes that I would normally check during a session. That means I focused less on how things looked and tried to capture their sense of freedom and adventure. Summer all wrapped in a neat little package: chilly mountain air first thing in the morning, no obligations, the rapid upswing in temperature as the sun makes its way over the treeline, the smell of pine trees, the feeling of your person's embrace...all that good stuff that seems to just come with summer. I threw out the rules and embraced a feeling.
Thank sweet baby Jesus, Ashley + Mike were game for all of my silly requests and are the quintessential embodiment of this sense of adventure, playfulness, hope, potential, and freedom (and Sage definitely didn't hurt either!). They ran, they jumped, they twirled, and talked. They danced, climbed, cuddled, and told secrets. And this morning in the mountains, with these people, filled my proverbial cup. This was exactly what I needed to keep pushing through this season of chaos.
Jessianne + Ryan said "I do" in the heart of Paradise Valley, Montana yesterday, surrounded by the mountains and their closest friends and family. It was truly remarkable: every last detail of their day bore some significance to them and shared a piece of their story. Ryan and Jessianne have created a life of adventure for themselves: he is a hunting guide and she can often be found right by his side. They even got engaged on an extended pack trip through the Beartooth Absaroka Wilderness last summer! This sense of adventure was present in every last detail.
Jessianne's mom made her bouquet, complete with a shed and a horsehair braid. They both wore custom-made cowboy boots with "R" + "J" inscribed on them. Ryan's mom did Jessianne's hair and makeup and adorned her hair with an oosik from a bear Ryan harvested (if you don't know what this is, Google it!). Ryan wore a silk scarf and a cowboy hat - a nod to his lifelong dedication to the cowboy lifestyle, and during the ceremony, Jessianne's cousin read a poem called "Cowboy Wedding." The sausage they served during cocktail hour was made from an elk Ryan harvested, and Ryan's mom also made the most beautiful Belgian Miserables cakes! During the reception, they showed a video of the pack trip on which they got engaged and it was such a beautiful portrayal of their adventurous life together: just them, three horses, and their hound dogs in the mountains, surrounded by the wildflowers. I know I'm forgetting so many details right now, but rest assured their wedding was a perfect depiction of their story.
My favorite moment of the day? The moment Ryan slipped Jessianne's gold band onto her finger. The look on her face was the most heartwarming combination of excitement, happiness, and realizing it was officially official. Jessianne + Ryan, thank you for having me!
Scroll on through for a few more of my favorite moments.
Every once in a while, you meet someone (or two) who inspires you to be better just by being her - or him - self. Kirsten + Dakota are two of these people. They support and encourage each other, and even more admirably, they work together to improve the lives of so many others. In fact, they are heading to Ethiopia for a month right before their September wedding. Yes: instead of immersing themselves in pre-wedding festivities, they'll be serving an incredibly underprivileged population and I admire them so much for this.
Kirsten + Dakota are a beautiful reminder to put faith and service at the center of our relationships. Developing and encouraging a heart and mind for service in each other just seems like a great way to foster devotion and service to one another. Guys, I could go on and on about all the beautiful life lessons I took from these two, but I'll stop here.
Anyway, we had a beautiful evening, full of love, laughter, deep thoughts, a little wine, and a sunset we didn't think we'd catch. We had rescheduled this session several times due to the crazy, erratic Montana spring weather (okay mostly blizzards). Watching the clouds swirl all day, we were sure we'd have to either postpone again or forego the sunset they wanted so badly. Ultimately, we opted to go for it. The clouds hung low for most the session, but parted just in time to catch a little glow on the horizon. It was a great evening, indeed.