When Jessica and Cameron first contacted me about photographing their wedding in Sequoia National Park, they really want to have their portraits taken at Moro Rock. I had never been up to Moro Rock before, but the pictures I found online looked like it was a beautiful location for wedding portraits. I was definitely on board.
The only problem was that Moro Rock was bare minimum a half hour drive from their wedding venue. To hike to the top would also take another twenty minutes. Of course, if we went to all the effort to get there we’d want to stay for a while, too. All in all, I estimated it would take two hours for the expedition. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make it work with their wedding day schedule. We were all a bit bummed about it. However, I reassured them that I’d do some extra scouting and come up with a different, cool location.
While scouting the day before their wedding, some very helpful park rangers pointed me in the direction of the Parker Group. Parker Group is a closely cluster family of giant sequoias, which would be much easier to reach, the rangers said. The moment I drove up to Parker Group I was like, “THIS. IS. IT!” It was absolutely gorgeous with towering Sequoias that created this beautiful, natural symmetry. There weren’t too many other tourists around either. I made up my mind and I felt confident that Jessica and Cameron would be stoked about the location.
With a little extra time left in the day, I decided to drive up to Moro Rock anyway, seeing as how we wouldn’t be shooting there. I wouldn’t have another opportunity to check it out. Moro Rock is basically a rounded fin, almost a dome, jutting out into Kings Canyon. It has near three hundred and sixty degree views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a spectacle to behold at sunset. However, it’s highly trafficked by hikers, and because of the precipitously slopped summit, the park has installed metal railings that form a narrow chute at the top to prevent people from sliding off to their deaths. It’s a pretty good idea for such a popular spot, but perhaps a bit overzealous in the safety department for experienced hikers. That said, the railings were ugly. I was actually kind of glad that we decided not to shoot there.
Feeling content in our decision, I continued to stand for an hour in this corralled area with about twenty others appreciating the sunset. Soon two park rangers appeared out of nowhere. They casually hiked up the farthest rounded slope of Moro Rock from well beyond the corralled area. They didn’t have any climbing equipment on them, so they had to have hiked up. I didn’t think it was possible to summit from that direction. But I was now convinced that where they came from was perfectly manageable and super cool. I had to check it out.
As soon as the park rangers had hiked back the way all of the tourists had come up, I slipped underneath the railings and followed the ridge’s spine. And what do you know?! There was an absolutely perfect rocky landing just below and out of sight from where the railings forced everyone to stand. The views were completely unobstructed. It was at a great angle to the sun. And it was safe. It was pretty much an ideal shooting location. I would kick myself if I didn’t take advantage of it. I had to convince Jessica and Cameron to do a day-after portrait session.
However, there was one significant problem. Like all national parks, Sequoia has terrible phone reception. It would be impossible to get ahold of Jessica and Cameron until their wedding day. I worried that things wouldn’t work out if I made the suggestion at such short notice. So I resigned myself to accepting that I’d probably have to save the location for another time.
After sunset, I made my way back to the main lodge to use their wifi and get some work emails sent off before bed. I was just wrapping up around 9 pm when by complete coincidence Jessica and Cameron came strolling up to check in. What were the chances? It was meant to be. The stars had aligned. After greeting them, I threw out my idea for us to hike up Moro Rock the day after their wedding and they were game! After all of us had originally completely given up on the idea everything worked out. The photos turned out incredible. Check them out below. Be sure to stay until the end. 🙂 — KC