A rock climbers wedding part 1 : North Conway, NH

I grew up in New Hampshire, and the North Conway/Franconia Notch region has always had a special place in my heart.  My black lab Jackson is named after both Jackson, NH and Jackson, WY.  Need I say more? Meet Lidiya and Ilya.  Both are Russian immigrants who moved to the U.S. about 10 years ago.  They met each other here in the U.S. and they love being active outdoors - while dating they took rock climbing lessons at the Boston Rock Gym.  When Ilya proposed, he did so while scuba diving off the island of Jamaica.  They decided to put their passion for rock-climbing to work on their wedding day.  When they emailed to inquire about our availability and they told me their plans,  I insisted they come in right away so we could meet.  I had to know if it was real!

I had never climbed before, but after about 20 minutes of talking with this adventuresome couple I offered to make the ascent with them.  They were incredibly gracious telling me I didn't have to actually climb in order to photograph their wedding.  When they realized how much I wanted to do this they offered to take me on a few practice climbs over the summer.  Umm, I'm a wedding photographer, I have no summer:)  So I emailed my good pal Shawn Reeder who does climbing photos in Yosemite and he gave me the low down on how to document such an event.  I then invited one of my closest friends, Paul McNerney, to come along (Paul is a seasoned climber).  Paul and I drove up on Wednesday, I hired a private guide (Charlie at EMS) for a lesson on Thursday, we practiced on Friday, and photographed the wedding on Saturday.  I never really learned how to climb, instead I learned how to repel and ascend.  According to everyone I spoke with, when you're hauling camera gear and need to move around, this is the most secure and flexible way to be on the cliff-face.  It worked beautifully. I must add: the Black Rapid camera strap was perfect for this type of shoot!  I'd like to thank them for sending me some complimentary gear, and my buddies at Lens Pro To Go also hooked me up with some killer gear.  I felt totally spoiled!

Cathedral ledge is 400 feet tall.  I'll invite Ilya to leave a comment here about their chosen route:)  I hung around the base for the start of the climb, then went to the top and repelled down to meet them for photos midway, and then climbed back up ahead of them.  Paul was able to walk out on a ledge at mid point to grab a killer shot from the side.  Paul then went to the top, anchored in, and sat on the edge to document not only them, but me as well.  Thank you amigo!  The climb was beautiful and when they reached the top, their family and friends were there to celebrate.  They exchanged vows on the top of the ledge, and danced the night away at the Farm by the River.  It truly was an amazing experience.

I have so many images to share I'm going to start by teasing you today with the getting ready photos:)

Our guide Charlie from EMS


My first repel




Ilya getting ready090919_Tartar_0080




Lidiya's mom altered the dress to accommodate a climbing harness.  Lidiya could anchor in through the zipper.


Ivan (owner of the Boston Rock Gym) sang Russian folk songs while they started to climb


Ilya ready to go


Lidiya ready to go


Tomorrow's post: the climb :)