A photographer takes the world’s most extreme wedding pictures – by dangling newly-weds 350ft from a CLIFF.
Daredevil Jay Philbrick offers couples a truly unique wedding album by encouraging them to put their lives in each other’s hands and suspend from a sheer drop.
They test their new marriages to the limit by holding on for dear life while dangling from a rocky ledge.
In some jaw-dropping images, bride and groom Christie Sulkoski and Kevin Coleman can be seen hanging off the cliff in their full wedding outfits.
Jay, 62, said: “The ledge is about 30 feet below the top and 350 feet above the valley floor.
“We lower the bride and groom down to the ledge on one rope while they are belayed with another.
“The systems and back-ups are quite advanced, redundant, and safe. In fact, we are all probably at greater risk driving to and from the session than we are when cliff side.
“The bride and groom are lowered one at a time and tied into a hidden anchor on the ledge.
“Depending on the bride’s gown she may wear it down during the lower or put it on while on the ledge.
“I don’t really have to twist any arms to get models or subjects into the locations I’m interested in.
“We are sort of known for this kind of photography, so many come to us looking for something different.”
Jay, who lives in North Conway, New Hampshire, US, found his forte for extreme photography after spending years working as a mountain guide.
He claims not to go “looking for trouble” but sets up shoots in the most weird and wonderful locations, including ice cliffs, steep snow slopes and even underwater.
“They are all fun but have their own special challenges, they usually come off without a hitch,” said Jay.
“We don’t go looking for trouble. I was a climbing guide for a long time and have had extensive training in risk management, client care, rope work, avalanche hazards, and so on.
“So, these are all environments we have a lot of experience in.
“Once the couple is in place, I direct them into different poses and shoot from different locations and angles with different lenses to get a variety of looks.
“I am often hanging off the side of the cliff and am sometimes to the side, right above, or even on the same ledge with them.
“For most of the images we try to use posing and camera angle to hide the ropes and anchors, there is no Photoshop whenever possible.
“Sometimes something sticks out a little due to an oversight and I remove it in post, but I try really hard to just have all the safety gear hidden.”
For each 90-minute shoot, which take place in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Jay works with his wife Vicki and they occasionally take a third mountain guide to help with lighting.
They did their first extreme shoot in 2008, after a couple getting married asked them to do the photography before letting slip that they were also mountain climbers.
Jay said: “A couple who had just hired us to cover their wedding mentioned they were climbers and that got the ball rolling. I asked them if they were up for it and they were.
“When we began our wedding photography business I had a couple places in mind from my guiding days that I thought would make great backdrops for a bride and groom.
“In my photography I had always been attracted to contrasts of a beautiful subject in a stark or unlikely location and the cliff ledges I had in mind seemed perfect for this.
“We have done 4 or 5 couples on the cliff and have another booked for next season.”
However, Jay claims it’s only once that a bride has got cold feet after stepping out on to a sheer cliff face.
He said: “The model was very excited about the session and seemed OK with the whole thing until we got her right on the edge where she had to go over.
“She said, ‘no way’. We talked about it a bit and tried a couple things to reassure her but she wasn’t comfortable with it so we moved on.
“There were plenty of other things to do.
“These sessions usually begin well before sunrise so we can have the couple in place before the sun comes up to catch some beautiful light and to catch the sun rise, if there is one.
“Some days we have had a lot of fog and mists which we weren’t hoping for but made for some dramatic images.”
On another occasion, the fog was so thick that by the time the newlyweds had been lowered into position, they couldn’t be seen.
Jay said: “The fog was that thick. I couldn’t see them at all from where I needed to shoot.
“That poor couple waited on that ledge for maybe a couple hours for it to clear up and it never did.
“We got some great shots of them by rappelling down very close to them and shooting from above.”
But it’s not just those getting hitched who get the sky-high service as Jay also offers his services to anyone wanting to live on the edge.
His portfolio include models, pageant queens, and dancers, all looking for a “photographic adventure”.
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