Five years married, ten years together. We met up in the middle of the Joshua Tree desert for these anniversary portraits, which ended up being the first “professional” photography experience for these two. I was intensely flattered to receive such a sweet inquiry from Jessica and Darnell for this crazy-cool celebratory occasion, and in one of my favorite places on Earth too! This was a bit of a first for me as well — I’ve wandered my way over to Joshua Tree before, but this was the first “professional” session there for me, not counting personal desert headshots for friends in the past.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of driving up into that otherworldly desert scene. I made the drive solo and listened to all my favorite playlists on Spotify, with nobody to complain if I replayed a track twice or a hundred times over. I pulled over from time to time to check out the views and grab landscape shots (like the first one below). A couple times, somebody would pull over with me to check and see if I was okay, and in these weird pandemic times, it was a very kind and appreciated human gesture.
I had spent a good amount of time online prior to our session, virtually scouting possible Joshua Tree locations and staring at satellite maps and sun charts. Based on previous photos taken in the park, I decided to start our session at the Hidden Valley campground. The diverse scenes, easy to walk pathways, and dedicated parking lot made it an ideal spot to meet up in (especially as all of Joshua Tree National Park has extremely limited cell service). I think oftentimes, we assume location scouting has to happen in-person. In reality, so much of how I choose to photograph is determined by the lighting conditions on the day-of, which makes location scouting in-person ahead of time less helpful than people may guess. I find that I can do my best work by just researching the direction and timing of the sun, and making sure whichever locations I ultimately choose are easily accessible to my clients — typically all details I can gather by sleuthing around online.
These ended up being some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. I’m so flattered to have been asked to create these photos for Jessica and Darnell, photos that feel weighty and full with all of the memories these two have created together. Across countries and hemispheres, through art school where they met, through many, many life changes and more yet to come, it’s comforting to know these two will experience it all hand-in-hand.
I love a good sunset and a good love story, don’t you?