Yosemite Adventure Elopement Photos : Chelsea + Mike’s Amazing Intimate Wedding

August 12, 2020

It’s so thrilling to finally share Chelsea and Mike’s Yosemite adventure elopement photos!

Flexibility is Key When Planning an Adventure Elopement in a Pandemic

Strange times we’re living in, right? The year 2020 is the year of the pivot. With COVID-19 forcing large weddings to either being postponed to a later date or altered in favor of a smaller event. Mike and Chelsea fall into the latter category. For them, flexibility has been the key in planning their Yosemite adventure elopement.

Originally scheduled for a small ceremony in Yosemite National Park in early May, Chelsea and Mike pushed their wedding out 8 weeks due to the park being closed. With the park open but wedding permits not yet being issued, Chelsea and Mike chose a lovely private residence in Oakhurst as the site for their ceremony.

Intimate Ceremony in Oakhurst

With an 8 AM start time, I arrive at 7 AM to begin shooting Chelsea and Mike as they get ready for their intimate ceremony. With an adventure elopement like this one, it’s just the family, hair and makeup, and me!

close up of bride holding coffee cup before yosemite adventure elopement

Without the crowd of a bridal party, Chelsea’s getting-ready room is wonderfully peaceful. It allows me to focus on details that illustrate tension and build-up, rather than just “stuff”. Here, Chelsea grasps her morning tea as Wildflower Beauty does her hair and makeup.

makeup artist styling brides hair before yosemite adventure elopement

I love frames where the bride and her hanging dress are in the same frame, but it rarely happens with a composition like this.

bride looking at makeup in mirror
mother helping bride with dress before intimate wedding in oakhurst

Chelsea and her father do a father-daughter first look. These don’t happen often at larger weddings, but they’re perfect for elopements! The emotions can be just as powerful as a traditional bride-groom first look.

bride and groom standing on deck during intimate ceremony in oakhurst

An adventure elopement is great because it allows couples to have just close family present.

emotional parents watching bride and groom during intimate yosemite elopement

For me, it makes it easier to capture emotions like this one of Chelsea’s mom!

And these two pictures of Chelsea and Mike reading their vows!

bride and groom kissing on balcony during intimate wedding ceremony in oakhurst

And with a kiss overlooking a gorgeous valley in Oakhurst, Mike and Chelsea tie the knot!

Best Spots for Yosemite Adventure Elopement Photos

There are so many wonderful spots in Yosemite for adventure elopement photos! Here are my favorites!

Ahwahnee Meadows Adventure Elopement Photos

Our first stop is Ahwahnee Meadows! There are so many great things about this spot. For example, access is really simple–there’s a great parking lot nearby and it’s right off Northside Drive. In addition, it has a wonderful view of Half Dome, just beyond The Ahwahnee.

bride and groom posing in ahwahnee meadow with halfdome in background yosemite adventure elopement

Another reason I love it is that it’s such a different look than the usual Yosemite adventure elopement photos. Don’t get me wrong, photos Glacier Point and Tunnel View are amazing, but this should definitely be on your list!

bride and groom laughing ahwahnee meadow yosemite adventure elopement

Tunnel View Elopement Photos

Driving in from Yosemite’s south entrance, as Wawona Road turns east into the valley, you enter a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel lies, quite possibly, one of the most majestic vistas in the world.

Tunnel View!

Spetactular. Amazing. Surreal. There are not enough words in the English language to describe this view. The minute you exit the tunnel and see the view, your breath is taken away. From the towering El Capitan above and to the left, all the way back to Half Dome in the distance–and all the nooks and crannies in between, it has to be seen with your own eyes.

bride and groom posing on wall at tunnel view with halfdome and valley in background yosemite adventure elopement

If you’re making a list of spots for your Yosemite adventure elopement, Tunnel View is a MUST!

Accessing the lookout is really simple. There are parking areas on either side of the road, so you can pull over while traveling in either direction. The viewpoint has ample room for pictures, too!

Glacier Point Curve Viewpoint

Our next stop is the Glacier Point Curve viewpoint!

The main lookout at Glacier Point has some of the most commanding views of Yosemite. From here you can see the valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and the high country–all at once!

While many couples opt for adventure elopement photos at the Glacier Point lookout, I actually prefer to go up the road to the curve for a few reasons. For example, the lookout can get pretty crowded, which can be intimidating to some couples. In addition, the I find the composition a bit flat and too similar to that of Tunnel View.

bride and groom kissing on road to glacier point with halfdome in background yosemite adventure elopement

If you park at the main lot, a 5-minute hike back up the road gets you this view. I love the lines made by the curve in the road.

bride and groom walking on road to glacier point with halfdome in background yosemite adventure elopement

Note: The road to Glacier Point will be closed all of 2021 for rehab, so get it in this year if you can!

Taft Point

Our final stop is Taft Point!

Of the two other Yosemite adventure elopement photo spots I’ve mentioned, this one is the most work. From the trail head, it’s 1.1-mile hike to the point. The hike is fairly easy, although there are a few parts of challenging terrain.

groom holding bride's hand as she walks over creek during yosemite adventure elopement

For instance, there’s a small stream to cross a few hundred yards into the hike. Here’s Chelsea, proving it can be done in a wedding dress!

bride and groom kissing amongst large trees on trail to taft point

In addition, the hike takes you through towering evergreen tress. Sometimes it’s nice to stop and kiss for a bit!

bride and groom walking on trail next to deer on way to taft point photo shoot

It’s also a great spot to interact with some true Yosemite locals, like this deer!

couple pose at taft point yosemite elopement

That feeling when you get to Taft Point…

couple posing with heads together and veil in front of lens taft point yosemite

One reason I love shooting Yosemite adventure elopement photos at Taft Point is that the flat rocks make it easy to play with different poses. You can shoot wide, landscape images or work more closely.

groom looking at bride with veil swirling in wind taft point elopement
bride and groom embracing taft point
bride twirling dress taft point

Intimate Wedding Reception

Since your Yosemite adventure elopement will have a very low guest count (if any), your reception can be very intimate and close.

intimate wedding reception outside at oakhurst private residence

Chelsea and Mike booked a private residence in Oakhurst for their intimate ceremony and reception. The home offers unmatched views and a wonderful deck for gathering.

groom popping bottle of champagne while bride smiles and covers ears

Even though your adventure elopement will lack the fanfare of a larger reception, you can still pop a bottle of champagne and start your own small party!

father of bride shares toast during intimate wedding reception at private residence in oakhurst california
bride and groom kissing after cutting cake at intimate wedding reception at private residence in oakhurst california
father cries while dancing with bride daughter

As a photographer, small weddings are great because they allow me unfettered access to the emotions of the day.

mother and son dancing under moonlight during intimate reception in oakhurst
bride and groom doing first dance at intimate wedding reception in oakhurst
bride kicks over a life-sized jenga game intimate wedding reception oakhurst

When the champagne flows, so does the fun!

bride and groom and family play beer pong on patio of private residence during intimate wedding reception oakhurst

What’s an intimate elopement without beer pong with your parents?!

bride and father react to winning game of beer pong

Final Tips for Your Yosemite Adventure Elopement Photos

Here are a few final tips for your Yosemite adventure elopement:

  • Secure proper access to Yosemite: Especially now due to coronavirus, YNP is limiting the amount of cars that can enter the park. This is good because it keeps the crowds down, but you need to make sure you can get access on your preferred adventure elopement date.
  • Plan your Yosemite photo session accurately: Yosemite is a huge park and many spots are separated by a long drive. Carefully map out your spots so you’re not wandering the park and wasting time!

Planning an adventure elopement or intimate wedding ceremony? I’d love to chat! Fill out the form below to set up a consultation!

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