We’ve been all over Arizona with our clients for engagement photography shoots. We love working with “our” brides and grooms to find the perfect backdrop to show off their lifestyle and personality. The Tonto National Forest, just a few hours northeast of Phoenix, is a favorite go-to location for engagement portraits, and up until recently, we thought we’d already discovered all the best spots for a Salt River engagement session that the area had to offer.
Then, we met Alexa and Charles.
We found ourselves in a little know area perfect for Alexa’s and Charle’s Salt River engagement with all the iconic characteristics of Arizona in one setting: Towering, pristine saguaro cacti. Red and pink desert sand. Graceful cottonwoods and mesquite. And, of course, the geological beauty of jagged mountains, painted by time and the afterglow of the magic hour.
This is the stuff of a wedding photographer’s dreams.
Actually, not quite. Rare and stunning scenery and perfect weather are the stuff of a landscape photographer’s dreams. In our line of work, you can’t experience perfection without the added human element, and Alexa and Charles were the ideal subjects.
Dressed for the Setting
Brides often ask us what they should wear during an engagement session, and I often defer to my wife Joy… but the usual answer is, “whatever makes you feel romantic, comfortable, and you.” She advises our couples to select timeless designs that won’t become outdated before their first anniversary rolls around, and dares our brides—many of whom are most comfortable either in jeans and hiking boots or in custom-cut power suits—to indulge in ultra-feminine, bohemian dresses for the most romantic and classic appeal. Our clients usually bring a “costume change” or two, and everything works out beautifully.
There isn’t often much discussion about color coordinating with the environment. But this couple? They nailed it.
Alexa’s flowing wine-colored gown perfectly matched the desert palette, while allowing her to stand out and be the focus of attention. The halter-style top and delicate, crisscrossing straps on her back showed off her beautiful skin and drew attention to her gorgeous waist-length hair. A simple waistline and loose pleats gave way to a luxurious skirt of sheer-over-opaque fabric, allowing her to let the light and the wind play with the textures.
Charles chose a classically-cut suit in just the right rich blue to match the desert sky and complement the blue-green hints of color at the base of the mountain. Most importantly, it paired beautifully with Alexa’s simple yet elegant burgundy dress. Look closely; do you see the weave of dark and light fibers in the suit’s fabric? Contemporary and fun, but it’s a look that never fades from fashion. His open-collared shirt dressed things down a bit, and Charles really wore the look well.
The True Focus of the Day
When you have the setting and the wardrobe figured out, the glue that holds everything together, of course, is the couple. Joy and I really enjoyed interacting with Alexa and Charles, and their laid-back and playful personalities made the day go by too quickly and easily. When everyone’s just being themselves, there’s not much we have to do in terms of direction.
That’s the magic, right there; when our couples feel the vibrant atmosphere created by their chemistry, their choice of clothes, and the environment that holds a special place in their hearts. It’s that feeling that helps us create our favorite engagement and wedding portraits, and it’s the feeling that encourages our couples to give themselves permission to indulge in the sheer romance of it all.
Engagements often signal the beginning of an overwhelming period in a couple’s life. We like to think we make a difference in helping to slow things down a bit. Enjoy this time. Engagement photos aren’t a task on a checklist; they should be fun and memorable events all on their own.
So, once the light had faded and it was time to pack up and drive home to Phoenix, we couldn’t help but take one last look at the beautiful mountains against the darkening sky. We wondered if the late, great landscape photographers—like Ansel Adams or Galen Rowell—ever come back in some ethereal form to “scout out” their afterlife bucket list photo shoots. If they do, they’d love this place… and if they had the same access we did, they’d be among a privileged few to capture this dramatic, iconic Arizona setting.
But they’ll never be as lucky as we are, thanks to Alexa and Charles and their romantic Salt River engagement session.
Please contact us at Benjamin Clifford Photography to get to know Joy and me, and to find out how we can help you tell your engagement and wedding story! To see more of this beautiful engagement session click here!