I can be a pretty picky business owner. I like to travel, but not all the time. I like to shoot in different weather conditions, but not always. I like doing newborn photos, but only for people I've done maternity photos for and only if we're doing a casual, lifestyle-type session. You see what I'm saying! One of those things I was pretty picky about was inquiries for photography help at the Grand Canyon. In the last few months I've felt like there must be a massive shortage of high quality photographers willing to travel to the Grand Canyon for projects - so it's not just me. And I've always said "no" to inquiries coming through for this area. Why? I just didn't want to. The drive is long. The tourism is like nails on a chalkboard. I'm not super familiar with the area and it's a mission to get there for any quick scouting. My pricing wasn't motivating enough. But every time I said no to one inquiry for the Grand Canyon, two more popped into my inbox. So finally I bit the bullet. I found good podcasts to keep me entertained on the drive (I've been listening to the Hey Babe Podcast), I took a day and a half to scout less touristy areas (albeit that's nearly impossible!) and I raised my damn prices. BOOM. Two bookings in a day.
With that being said, overcoming the technical hurdles was only half the battle. The day-of hurdles that came on proposal day were a whole different battle! We'll get to that. Jose was referred to me by one of the girls in my photography community, Gabby from Odd Fox Photography. He and his soon-to-be-fiancé had a last minute period of time off from work and the two, being lovers of national parks, decided to use that time to visit a park they'd never seen. You guessed it, The Grand Canyon! Janelyn being camera shy, Jose had the hopes of proposing at sunrise. We worked up a contract and got them on the books! Step one was done. Step two was taking a day to wake up and do a test-run earlier in the week. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, the canyon is about 1.5 hours away. So in order for me to arrive on time for the sunrise session I'd be waking up around 5:00am, leaving by 5:45am, arriving around 7:15am and getting to the location ahead of the client so that I could ensure our location was clear and settings were on point for the 7:30am sunrise. Smooth enough!
I woke up on Tuesday before the session to make sure I liked the location in mind and.... wait... is- is that snow?! Around 6:45, about 30 minutes from arriving at the canyon I was going a snails pace because snow was dumping! I was actually kind of excited to see the canyon during a little snowfall. However, as I pulled up to the overlook I realized the canyon was completely out of sight because of how foggy, cloudy and snowy it was. This purpose of this early morning drive was completely negated. I tried looking at one other location I wanted to scout and it was also void. All trails would be unidentifiable. Pointless. AGH. Luckily I saw some elk and I laughed at the silly mistake of not checking weather apps the night before. We're only human! It looked like Jose and I would have to do a little bit of improvisation. We could do that, right?
Fast forward to Thursday evening. I check the weather and Flagstaff is expecting sleety, icy, freezing weather overnight. Jose and I text back and forth about potentially dangerous driving conditions, options of moving the proposal to later in the day, etc. We'll touch base in the morning.
Friday morning is here. Proposal day! Fortunately, I actually bumped my schedule up one hour to anyway to hopefully catch some scout time prior to proposal. But with it being 4:45am when I hit the road, the roads were mildly plowed and coated with ice. Oh man, don't let momma read this part. It was very likely the most dangerous road condition I'd ever experienced. Not necessarily because of the roads, but the other factors. The highway out of Flagstaff to the canyon has quite a few bends. The weather was still a little on and off at points. Deer could pop out anywhere. I was not comfortable and even texted my boyfriend Tony to tell him I was probably going to turn around when I was about halfway there. I had pulled off because of snow and after waiting it out for a little bit I re-centered and kept going, slowly but surely. About 15 minutes after talking to Tony, I got a text from Jose suggesting we move the proposal back a day to avoid snow and hopefully find a trail. I pulled over again and cried because there was no way in any way shape or form I was going to be able to wake up at 4:00am again and do this drive again. I let myself say, "no" to that and reassured him that we were going to make this happen.
I want to pause and share that in all this chaos, Jose was incredibly patient and understanding, grateful, flexible and positive. His energy was a huge reason I kept pushing through. I knew that I wanted to help this kind man propose to his girlfriend. They deserved it and I felt it to my core.
I arrived to the meetup spot at 7:05am. With reduced speed and the uncertainty of if this could even happen my 1.5 hour drive took over 2 hours. Not ideal! Could it get worse - yes! - this location I arrived at was nothing like the one I thought I was going to. I picked the wrong area! GRRRR. But at that point we were just going to make it work. We were at the Grand Canyon visitors center and they definitely have great outlook spots, what I was looking for was a spot with no fencing blocking the view. The best gift of all was the the visitors center was being plowed so I had a relatively easy (still super icy!) walk to the viewpoints. I found the spot I felt would work best and texted Jose my location. "I'm standing on a rock! You can't miss me!".
After all of that, this session will go down as one of the most memorable in my career. This was my first time doing a proposal or even an actual photoshoot at the Grand Canyon. It was the first time I'd seen it at sunrise. It was the first time I saw it after a fresh snowfall. It was worth overcoming every hurdle.