An Adventure Elopement in Anza Borrego Desert

I've been wanting to get into adventure elopements for a while now. I have a couple friends who do them and always get FOMO when they describe their sessions (and when I see the photos). You won't often see folks branded as "fine art" photographers offering adventure elopements, but I really wanted to shock the plot on this one. I mean, there's got to be some adventure-loving couples out there who AREN'T boho obsessed, right?

Cue Teddy and Erin, a couple out of Oakland, CA, who wanted to do an elopement sessions out in the beautiful sands and rocks of Anza Borrego. Willing to hike into canyons, drive far past the paved roads, and make some magic.

While I'd previously been to Anza Borrego, I'd never scouted either of the locations we shot at, so I told them we'd probably spend the first part of the day just enjoying the hike. It was over 100 degrees on the day of our shoot, so as soon as I got out of the car I was concerned, especially since I once had to treat a groom for heat stroke.

Thankfully, as soon as we descended into the slots, the temperature dropped considerably. The shadows of the canyon and air flow in the narrows kept the entire hike about twenty degrees cooler than the sunbaked sands up top.

Erin's energy during the session was incredible. She's the extrovert of the couple, and it shows in the photos. Teddy was much more reserved, but between Erin dancing around him and coaxing laughs and a couple posing tricks I keep up my sleeves, his personality started to really shine through.

The first part of our session was at the slot canyons. We hiked all the way in and admired the canyon, and being such a short (only a mile!) out and back hike, we were able to backtrack to all the best spots. Towards the far ends of the trail the canyons open up, allowing for some beautiful wide shots of the rock formations. The white sandstone walls bounce the sunlight all throughout the slots, meaning anytime shortly before or after noon provides plenty of gorgeous, sandy sunlight.

We moved deeper into the canyon to really drive home the landscape. Deeper in the slots the frame becomes much narrower, but the light is streamlined into some amazing backlight. Plus, I could climb the walls to get a high angle.

And yes, if you elope in the desert, I may wear my jorts. Behind the scenes taken by my lovely assistant/florist, Kae!

And of course I had to make time to capture some individual portraits of Erin and Teddy! Erin's movie-star energy was too powerful to let slip by without taking a dramatic hair-whip shot.

We finished up the first part of the session in the narrowest part of the canyon. Framed in the zigzag of the slots with the light filtering through, this was an incredible opportunity and gave me one of my favorite shots of all time. Posing was a huge challenge in this tight space, but Erin and Teddy pulled it off better than I ever could have hoped.

After a change of attire and a short off-road drive, we made it to location #2, Anza Borrego's dry lake bed. Getting here was the biggest challenge, especially since the road can be covered in deep sand. Would not recommend making this drive without a 4WD. Even my Rav4 almost got stuck on a turnaround.

Beautiful desert bouquet by the talented Kae Cosgrove.

Kae (Florist + Assistant), Me (Photographer), Erin, and Teddy!

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