If you’re an avid hiker, then hiking wedding photos at Yosemite are a must when getting married at the one and only Yosemite National Park!
Yosemite Photographer | Yosemite Elopement Photographer | Kathryn Cooper Weddings
2020 meant more time for elopements and local travel, and since I only live a few hours from Yosemite at my West Coast (California) home, it was the perfect time to capture this hiking adventure wedding session for Christiana and Roger.
As a Yosemite photographer specializing in adventure weddings and offbeat elopements, I rarely say no to capturing photos in this national park—even if it means sub-freezing temperatures in our tent! When photographing weddings in Yosemite, it’s necessary to have a place to stay nearby since it gets dark and cold fast (and you’ll be using the last of the light for photos, meaning you’ll be driving in the dark). I like to camp whenever possible, and luckily had a campsite reservation. Was it cold? Oh, it was just about 26 degrees F. Yes, there was ice on the tent that morning. But back to being a Yosemite photographer and getting to take these beautiful fall hiking wedding photos!
When is the best time of day to take wedding photos in Yosemite?
Yosemite is best to see during the day time, but best for wedding photos at sunrise or sunset. On this particular day, we had the most MAGNIFICENT sunset I’ve ever seen in all my years in this national park as a Yosemite photographer. It lasted quite a while too, which meant Christiana and Roger got a variety of colorful, fun photos up on the mountain.
After getting married just a few weeks prior in a smaller COVID ceremony in LA, these two went for their honeymoon in Yosemite National Park—and I got to lead them around the whole park for their very first time!
For their hiking wedding photos, I brought them to a lesser-known location with stellar views and 0 crowds.
Here are my tips, as a Yosemite photographer, for your hiking wedding photos around Yosemite National Park:
- Bring boots! This is no time for high heels or flats. You want full-on hiking boots. I use Keen hiking sandals for hikes of just a few miles in warmer months, and in Merrell boots or Oboz boots in winter or for long hikes, and recommend a good pair you’ve broken in. You can bring fancier shoes in a backpack
- Dress in layers. Whether sunrise or sunset, you’ll be cold AND warm within a few hours. Have on leggings for guys and girls, and bring sweaters/jackets/shawls.
- Bring a headlamp! Make sure you can see, because you’ll either be starting out in the dark or ending in the dark
- Get your permit. Permits for Yosemite wedding photos take at least 3 weeks to process, but if you can start 3 months or a year out, that’s even better since permits in 2020 seem to be taking months and months. It costs $150 for a permit, and you can discuss this with your photographer (who needs a second permit to photograph). There’s an additional fee of about $25 to enter the park…or just get a national pass for $80, good for one full year at any national park.
- Make sure your Yosemite photographer knows some great spots without crowds! There are SO many visitors to Yosemite even during COVID times. I hate having an audience, so I always try to whisk my couples away from the crowds and choose locations that are peaceful and lovely. Make sure you’re not going to the same places for every single shot!
- The best spots are only open June-early November (unless you want to hike/snowshoe 8-22 miles for the best spots). This was a fall photoshoot, so we only had limited road access. All the same, you can get great hiking wedding photos—it just depends on what kind of vibe you want! Check the current weather conditions on their main page.
- Know what’s open and not during the season you’re there. Springs means lots of waterfalls are flowing, winter means lots of road closures and different wildlife. Summer is very crowded, and fall is beautiful but without much water.
As so often happens during sunsets at Yosemite, the mountains turned pink and then purple, and whisps of fog around Half Dome finally lifted. Pro photo tip: If you’re photographing a Yosemite wedding or engagement session here, you’ll want to make sure you have flashes/strobes/light in place. You can do just natural light shooting here, but you’ll miss out on the true colors if that’s all you do. I had my trusty assistant hike up with us and host my off-camera flash in order to light some of my favorite shots of the night.
Another fun twist was getting to use my handmade veils! I love little projects, and made this flower veil and this aqua green boho veil for Christiana to wear. She modeled it UP! These hiking wedding photos weren’t too intense, and only took around 50 minutes round-trip. Is it easy in a wedding dress? No, but you can always change at the top or tuck your dress in. I’ve done multi-mile wedding adventure sessions on mountains, mountain elopements, and hiking wedding photos all around the country (and world), so I’m used to hiking miles with my photo equipment AND, often, my clients’ outfits. What can I say…this Yosemite photographer LOVES hiking, whether it’s in Yosemite, Hawaii, Uganda, or New Zealand. Well…sometimes I love the views more than the sweating 😉
(That’s me above, hiking and carrying my clients’ wedding dresses in Acadia National Park.)
Where is the best sunset you’ve ever seen? Hawaii still wins for me (I used to live there, so I got spoiled), but I have to say that these Yosemite sunset wedding photos made my job even more fun that November evening. And because Christiana and Roger had to change their wedding plans so many times due to Covid, I know that these fun adventure wedding photos gave them something extra beautiful to look back on!
Kathryn Cooper Weddings | Yosemite Adventure Wedding Photographer | California Elopement Photographer