Jocasta+Nick’s Alaska Engagement Session and the $4,000 photo

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words but what about $4,000?
Here’s the story of the $4,000 photo. Settle in. Get your comfy pants on because this is a good one.


Being an adventure engagement and wedding photographer definitely has its perks. Traveling to locations that I would not otherwise be shooting if I was always in Tennessee is great fun, even exhilarating at times. This trip was all of that and more...however; being an adventure engagement and wedding photographer can also provide some challenges. There are more details and planning that goes into finding THE location, the perfect time of day, and the outfits…oh, and there even might be some hazards involved in these sessions. For this Alaska engagement session we made our way to Matanuska Glacier. Nick and Jocasta flew me out to Anchorage from Tennessee and we spent a couple of days shooting their engagement session. The glacier provided the $4,000 photo though. The drive was incredible from Anchorage to the Matanuska Glacier with the snow capped mountains, blue skies, and beautiful rivers. Once we got the glacier we were connected with our tour guide where we began our 1 hour hike. I had 30 pounds of camera gear on my back, the outfits for Jocasta and Nick were on their backs and we settled in as we walked over the steep, rocky moraine of the glacier to reach the ice cave that we were searching for. When I got my first glimpse of the ice cave I was speechless. My jaw hit the ice and my eyes lit up. These are the things I dream of and it became my reality. I dream of taking couples to places like this, and I visualize shots in my head before I ever get there. Having your dreams come true always feels surreal. Almost like an out of body experience.

We were told we had about 30 minutes in the ice cave and then we should move on to the face of the glacier. GREAT! Thirty minutes is PLENTY of time!! I was shaking from excitement as I clicked away on the shutter. Before we knew it 30 minutes came to a close, and I wanted one final shot in the cave. A silhouette of Jocasta and Nick with the entrance to the cave in the background. My backpack was safely lying on the ground, and I didn’t need to move it for the shot but the guide picked up my bag and 2 of my lenses hit the ice and rolled down into a puddle of glacial silt and ice, cold water. As soon as the guide said she was moving my bag she had her hand on the strap, and I reached both arms out…it felt like a slow motion movie…I said, “Noooooooooooooooooo” as they tumble out and roll down into the water. I couldn’t believe it. It felt unreal, and I didn’t know what to do. The guide felt HORRIBLE and my first reaction was to make her feel better. “You know, I have insurance for things like this, it’s ok,” I said as she kept apologizing. I continued photographing the couple right after the tumble happened because I didn’t want to think about the fact that my lenses are FULL OF WATER. I started directing Jocasta and Nick on where to stand and how to pose like nothing had happened. I might have been shaking a little now from nervousness, but I ignored it. We finished up in the cave filled with 600 year old ice and the moment I stopped taking photos was the moment it hit me. $4,000 worth of lenses just rolled into an ice cave puddle of water and glacial silt. Once we made it out of the cave, a few tears trickled down my cheek, Jocasta and Nick checked on me, but I kept reminding myself internally (and some externally) that it’s not a big deal, this is exactly why I insure my equipment, but it stings a little...ok maybe a lot. We also weren’t finished with photos and those two lenses I use in almost every photo shoot. On the hike back out, I was constantly looking around at the beauty even though my mind wanted to focus on what happened to my gear. It’s just gear, it can be replaced, but it’s my livelihood, I have insurance, this sucks, it’s ok it will all work out, I could be dropped from my policy because of a claim, look at those mountains and that glacier....get over yourself, Emily. Accidents happen. Life will go on. The internal battle was real, but I brought myself back from those negative thoughts to finish up the glacier tour on a positive note and the fact that I was in AN ICE CAVE ON A GLACIER taking photos for such an awesome couple. Was it worth seeing $4,000 worth of lenses bounce off of ice and roll into a puddle, the stress of renting lenses to be at my house when I got back to Tennessee, shipping the lenses to Canon before I left Alaska, and hoping all of the insurance stuff works itself out? I think it was worth it. To be with a couple who was literally up for anything, to see the wonders of our world from inside an ice cave, to feel that we really are just tiny specks on this planet of ours, and taking some of the best adventure photos that are hopefully just the beginning of this journey toward more epic adventure engagement sessions...yeah, this $4,000 photo feels like it all might be worth it in the end and maybe even a life lesson. We will be in tough situations in life from time to time and we have the choice on how to handle them. I could have been angry with the guide, but I knew it wasn’t intentional. I dealt with it the best way I could. Trusting good intentions and knowing that material things can be replaced. Also, this is a great reminder to always pay my camera insurance bill.

Photography: Emily Lester Photography

Jocasta’s outfit: Amazon

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