Wedding + Portrait

Adventure Elopement Photography: A Starry Night in Moab 

June 12, 2024

By Abbey Pleviak

“I wasn’t even sure if the shot would be possible, but we got it!” says Traci Edwards. She and her husband, William Young are elopement photographers with their studio Adventure & Vow. They are also Rangefinder 30 Rising Stars of Photography for 2024. When asked to share an image that they are crazy about, they shared the most technically challenging elopement photography shot they have ever taken – an image that showcases the stars, the stunning features of Moab, and the newlyweds dangling from ropes — mid-rappel. 

© Adventure & Vow

Romantic Adventures and Technical Challenges 

The two describe their work as a mix of romance, candor, and adventure, but ultimately, each gallery is a collaboration between them and the couple. This shoot was for a couple who share a passion for climbing and star gazing. Edwards says, “After getting engaged in Moab while climbing, they decided to elope there — while climbing!” She goes on to share that the most challenging part of this shoot was for the couple themselves. Hanging mid-rappel means that they are engaged in a mental game as their photo is taken. They were suspended in the air for a long time with the rope spinning them around – an uncomfortable sensation to be sure. 

To reach the location, the couple had to climb several pitches to get to the top of the rope. Then as they rappelled down, Edwards let them know where to stop – right in the center of the arch. The couple wore lamps to help them stand out from the night, and Edwards and Young also had lights on the ground that they shined on them. Edwards captured the shot with a Canon R6 with a 35mm lens. She used a tripod for the long exposure. 

© Adventure & Vow

Try Something New, But Scout it Out First 

For photographers considering doing a similar shoot, Edwards recommends, “Do it!” She says that photographing starry nights requires taking time to play with lighting and settings. It might fail, but it might not. Be sure to communicate your ideas to your couples and make sure it aligns with their own vision. Also, make sure they are aware of any extra effort that might be required when going for a special shot. 

Edwards and Young also strongly recommend getting “boots on the trail” in advance of any outdoor elopement shoot. There are a lot of surprises in the great outdoors, so it’s important for you to be as prepared as possible. Make sure you’ve explored the area, ensuring hospitable conditions and planning out compositions you hope to capture on the day. Not only does this help you get in the zone and prepare your mindset for the day, it also will provide peace of mind to your clients – some of whom have never been to the areas they are eloping to. 

© Adventure & Vow

Adventure & Vow’ Tips for Star Shoots

  1. Practice with just a landscape to get your night photography skills sharp! Night images with a couple can take a lot of time and be a game of trial and error since people typically move during longer exposure.
  2. Start at ISO 2000, F2, 1/30th of a second just to the barrings, and then adjust as needed from there. Edwards uses a Canon R6 because they do well in low light. She tends toward 35mm for stars, but also sometimes needs the 24mm or 16mm, depending on the landscape and proximity to the couple. She uses manual focus and focuses on the stars (for landscapes).
  3. When photographing couples with stars, shine a light on them to lock focus, switch to manual, turn off the light, and click the shutter. You can consider lighting them in silhouette. You can use a phone light, strobe, or flashlight, or have them light each other with headlamps.
  4. Expect this to take time! You’ll need to play with the formulas of lighting the couple and the exposure for each couple because some couples can be very still and others cannot!
  5. Useful apps to plan star shoots are Google Earth Pro, Nightsky, and Photo Pills.
  6. A great time to photograph stars is 1.5 hours after or before sunset — unless you are chasing the Milky Way!
  7. Have fun! And don’t be afraid to try new things!
© Adventure & Vow

Epic Experience, Lifelong Memories 

For Adeventure & Vow, elopements are all about couples being immersed in their love for each other and the great outdoors. Edwards says, “To us, an elopement is an expression of your love story, of your hardships and celebrations. It is a chance to experience something new, challenging, deep and filled with love in the most freeing way.”  

She goes on to say that her goal as a photographer is give her couples a voice and a space to freely showcase who they are as a couple. That extends into giving them a wedding day they will never forget. Edwards says that the day this couple put in an order for a large print of this article’s featured starry image for their home, she knew they had been successful in creating something for them that is not only beautiful, but profoundly meaningful for them.  

For every elopement shoot they go on, Adventure & Vow focuses on creating a memorable experience and epic photos that create lifelong memories. Edwards says, “Every elopement we photograph is greatly different from the next one or the one before, but they all have the same thing in common – heart.” 

To follow Traci Edwards and William Young’s epic adventures, follow them on Instagram. View the full 30 Rising Star Winners Gallery for 2024 here. 

 [Read: Legend Awards Elopement Photography Competition: Open till June 30]

As a thank you to our readers, we’re pleased to offer you a Rangefinder exclusive discount code to get 25% off The Portrait Masters course below. Use the code RF25 at check out to redeem. This code cannot be used in combination with other sales.