Where do we begin with this incredible opportunity to photograph Jaimee and Matt in one of our favorite travel destinations, the state of Oregon! Jaimee and Matt booked our wedding photographer Steven Miller to capture their big day later this year at Highland Manor, definitely one of the best wedding venues in Orlando! However, when they met us, they were immediataely blown away by our passion about preserving dark skies and our signature night sky engagement sessions! When we actually had a chance to sit down and discuss all of the work it takes to plan a dark sky portrait session, they wanted to truly make the most of the opportunity, so they asked where we could go for the darkest sky opportunities here in the United States! After some voluminous research into light pollution maps, weather patterns, and milky way viewing opportunities, Oregon was one of the top contenders, so they said, YES LET’S DO IT!! We all booked our flights, packed our bags, and traveled out to Portland, Oregon, for their destination engagement session!
Lucky for Steven, Jaimee and Matt are no strangers to travel. They’ve taken trips together in so many parts of the US, including areas of Europe; so of course they had already compiled a ‘location’ shot list before we even landed, which Steven truly appreciated!! There’s nothing better than photographing an organized couple lol! We landed in Portland, and immediately hit the road towards Bend! Our first stops on Day 1 were scenic points along the Historic Columbia River Highway, including the famous Vista House, Funk’s Island, and Latourell Falls! Unlike our summer weather here in Florida, it was a cool, humidless 80 degrees, so hiking was NOT a problem for us at all!
Jaimee and Matt were also pretty adventurous in spirit, so they had no issues taking on posing challenges that Steven requested; for instance, hiking close to the very bottom of Latourell Falls! There may have been some wind and water present…
We still had a driving schedule to maintain, so we did our very best to make good time while taking advantage of endless photo-spots! Unfortunately, we took more time than anticipated capturing photos during the day, so we were not going to make it to Bend before sunset. Instead, we hastily changed our itinerary, stopping at a few more scenic areas to take advantage of the beautiful sunset lighting!
We then decided to grab a quick Thai dinner in Hood River, Oregon, then proceed straight to our night sky destination that evening; an amazing location called Dee Wright Observatory! One of the first dark sky photo searches I did for the state of Oregon was ‘Observatories’. You would assume that observatories would automatically take you to the darkest sanctuaries of any location, however Dee Wright Observatory was not one of those search results!! One of Jaimee and Matt’s great friends named ‘Bird’ recommended this location to us casually, having just recently heard about it a few days prior to our arrival in Oregon! After a quick google search, this WAS the place to drive!! The catch is that Dee Wright is not an official observatory, housing telescopes, astronomers, and red lights. Adversely, it is simply a lone building made of rock back in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps that overlooks much of the Willamette National Forest and the countless lava rocks that once inspired NASA to conduct drills with astronauts who were preparing to travel to and traverse terrain on the moon! We didn’t arrive at this location until late in the night, so we didn’t get the opportunity to appreciate the scenery, but the only direction we were looking that evening was…UP!
To their knowledge, Jaimee and Matt had never seen a natural night sky this dark, which was so rewarding to us!! Traveling to a true dark sky sanctuary is one of the few remaining opportunities we have to experience now what our ancestors understood in the past! Upon exiting the truck, (and after a frustrating ten minutes figuring out how to turn all of the lights off…pretty near impossible in a Ford Edge!!!) they asked Steven for just a few minutes of peace so they could just stare at the thousands of stars above their heads!! Almost instantly, shooting stars began racing overhead, which made for a fun ‘I Spy’ challenge throughout the evening! We then grabbed all of our gear, hiked up to the observatory, and began capturing what would be one of the darkest night sky portrait sessions in our history!!
We found out quickly that we were not alone…noooo we don’t mean in the cosmos, but instead we found other astro-photographers scattered around and on the observatory! We made sure to photograph respectively around them, making sure to use only red lights when needed, and avoiding flash when they were capturing; astro-photography is not easy!! As usual, though, they were all so friendly and embraced our interest in incorporating the night sky into our engagement session! There’s one detail we have to make sure that people appreciate about these images; there is NO photoshop involved. Each one of these photographs is captured in real time, requiring Jaimee and Matt to hold perfectly still as long as they can, so there’s no superimposing here! That is what makes these sessions so special to us; we take couples to an environment that remains naturally pure, something they may never have seen before, and let them stare at it while being photographed in such a unique way!! All the while, we are helping raise awareness to the benefits of reducing light pollution for our wildlife, health, and ability to see and study our own cosmos!
Before long, we were one of the only groups remaining, so we had the entire forest to ourselves! However, to ensure that we still had enough energy to drive to Bend, we had to pack it up and drive back into town! After all, we had Day 2 to plan for!! Stay tuned for the next half of this amazing Oregon Engagement Session with Jaimee and Matt (and Steven!)
Interested in Combating Light Pollution and Learning About Dark Skies?! Click here to meet the IDA, International Dark Sky Association!
Tags: columbia river gorge, dark sky oregon photography, dark sky photographer, dee wright observatory, funk's island, highland manor, historic columbia river highway, international dark sky association, latourell falls, milky way galaxy, milky way wedding photographer, oregon engagement session, oregon wedding photographer, willamette nationa forest