The thing about the Blue Ridge Mountains is you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to weather. So planning a session in Shenandoah National Park or off of the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive requires a good bit of an adventurous spirit.
Jessie and Juan-Miguel chose to hike Humpback Rock for their engagement session — Humpback is short (about a mile) but it’s a very steep climb just outside of Charlottesville. It is popular among locals and University of Virginia college students due to the gorgeous panoramic views and relatively short climb and can often be crowded – meaning it is a better choice for sunrise than sunset.
The morning of their session, the forecast called for about a three-hour break in an otherwise very rainy weekend. But Afton Mountain — where the north entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway is found — is a notoriously foggy spot, especially when the weather is calling for rain. When we got to the top, the valley was in total whiteout. Whiteout, in case you don’t know, is when the fog covers EVERYTHING. Although typically there ARE gorgeous views below, all we could see were blankets of white. In fact, the fog was so thick, we had to dance between the pockets of it so the camera could focus enough on the two of them to capture a shot!
The results, although not the epic sunrise shots we were hoping for, are beautiful, moody, almost ethereal images that remind me of parts of Europe! These two started out being good-humored contenders with the “bad” weather, yet ended up with uniquely awesome photos — It wasn’t what any of us were expecting, but we were all pleased with how it turned out.
So here are a few tips on how to handle the weather on your engagement or session day:
Have an adventurous spirit
Attitude really is everything. If you come into your session determined to have a good time no matter what the weather throws out, you (and I) will! It may not be a gorgeous sunset, but epic fog is pretty awesome too (just different!) and sometimes the breaks before or after bad weather lead to the most gorgeous skies of all.
Also, in the Shenandoah Valley, weather forecasts are often only accurate about 24-36 hours before the scheduled shoot time. So we won’t start thinking about rescheduling until 48 hours before your session AT THE EARLIEST — weather changes soooo quickly and often does!
Finally, your session includes one free reschedule for weather or “shit happens,” but I tend to book up pretty far in advance, so it could be weeks or months before we can find a date that works for both of us!
Bring a towel for yourselves and/or your pup(s) in case they get wet or dirty
Towels for wiping off mud, for a temporary changing room, for sitting on so your seats don’t get dirty…your life will be so much better if towels are involved after a rainy session =).
Bring a change of clothes to leave in the car in case you get wet or dirty
Getting rained on during your session is 100% a possibility — I only reschedule due to weather if that’s something you want or if it seems particularly nasty (basic rain is not a big deal, to my mind — gushing rain and really cold weather would admittedly be a challenge). Having an adventurous spirit goes a long way toward making your session an adventure no matter the weather, but having a plan for getting and staying dry and warm afterwards helps the whole day be a positive experience.
Wear sturdy, waterproof shoes
Many of my sessions involve a hike or at least a lot of walking. Heels are beautiful but are best left at home — ESPECIALLY when the weather forecast is for rain. Instead, embrace hiking boots or comfortable rain boots or little booties that will keep your feet dry, warm and, most importantly, blister-free while adventuring around.
Layers, layers, layers
The summit of many hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway and in Shenandoah National Park are steep to get to and very windy at the top. So often people will strip off layers on the way up and then be freezing at the top. I always hike with a backpack where I can tuck extra clothes — gloves, rain jackets, and sweaters are all great items that are easy to take on and off but will help keep you comfortable during your session.
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