Do you ever wonder what it would be like to capture a couple’s love out in some of the most breathtaking landscapes the world has to offer? Colorado elopement photographers Austin and Jess Drawhorn can definitely help explain it to you. That’s because they are the two behind The Drawhorns, a husband and wife duo who capture and officiate weddings across the globe.
You might be wondering what being a Colorado elopement photographer entails, and how it differs from shooting in places with big cities, crowds, and endless views of buildings. And, while there’s beauty in every backdrop, there’s something about adventuring into untouched nature that really makes you dream. Since we have The Drawhorns as an incredible Colorado elopement photographer and officiant for Simply Eloped, we were able to ask some common questions we see and hear all the time and get answers straight from the source.
How do you find the locations you bring your couples to? Is it best for couples to choose on their own, or have an expert (like their elopement photographer) guide them?
We spend a ton of time exploring and hiking in our free time, so many of our locations we share with our couples are places we already love and have gotten to know throughout the seasons. If a couple comes to us with a location or hike that they really love already, we’re always happy to see something new! But overall it works out best when we can give our expert opinion on not just the scenery, but the seasonal weather, crowds, and permit requirements for any given spot. Even if we’ve never personally visited a location, we’re pretty good at digitally scouting!!
Do most “hidden gem” spots require a lot of hiking? In general, is there typically a lot of hiking that goes on for Colorado elopements?
Colorado is so beautiful to drive through, and there are certainly many gorgeous roadside locations to visit throughout the state. But for us, what makes something a “hidden gem” is a sense of being immersed in nature. Even if you only hike out a mile or so, that will get you far away from the sounds of cars and the cities and into the quiet beauty of the wilderness. We usually hike 1-4 miles on our adventure elopements.
What, in your opinion, does an adventure elopement mean?
It’s an experience, first and foremost! We never refer to our adventure elopements as ‘photo shoots’ because we strongly feel like the photos are actually secondary to the experience two people are having together. It’s not about standing in front of a beautiful mountain peak for the best picture ever, it’s about connecting with your partner while taking in the sights, sounds, smells and feeling of being somewhere really special.
With that said – you can get really creative with your interpretation of adventure! You don’t have to hike super far by any means. You could go for a chill walk down a coastline, go kayaking, explore a new city, rent four wheelers or a sailboat, etc. An adventure elopement is all about two people who are really immersed in having a good time exploring together.
What’s one thing most couples don’t necessarily think of when it comes to shooting in Colorado?
The elevation —it can get to anyone. We obviously hike a ton, but still get winded sometimes. So don’t feel bad at all if you’re huffing and puffing during your time here, it happens to everyone!
If you’re coming to Colorado from sea-level, you should slowly acclimate yourself by stopping in Denver or Boulder to walk around for a bit before heading up to the mountains. Elevation sickness is rare, but it does happen when people drive straight to the mountains from the airport and try to hike at 10,000ft right away. Drink lots of water, bring lip balm and SPF, and take it easy on our famous craft beers and local whisky!
As a Colorado elopement photographer, how do you both work around the ever-changing weather?
Setting expectations is the first step! We can get snow from October through June in the mountains here, so we let every couple know about the odds of snow on their wedding day. Layering is key for everyone – we keep a huge duffel bag full of puffy jackets, base layers, and extra gloves in our car at all times just in case. Even in the winter, if it’s a sunny day we usually end up hiking in a t-shirt, so it definitely pays to bring light layers over bulky ones for easy stowage.
From a Colorado elopement photographer’s perspective, what do you tell couples who are looking for the best lighting for their big day?
We don’t really get golden hour too often out here because the mountains block the sun before it gets low enough on the horizon, but we DO get alpenglow, which is the fantastic phenomenon of the mountains lighting up brilliant orange just before sunrise. We always advise our couples to be in their “main attraction” spot for the best light of the day – which is the hour before sunset or the 30 minutes before and during sunrise (the blue hour!). If you plan to get married mid-day, definitely ask your photographer to show you examples of mid-day light! It will be beautiful, but it’s so different than soft indirect light that it really helps to know what to expect.
If you could give couples eloping in Colorado advice, what would it be?
Stay open minded. Colorado is a wild place with so much to offer, and being flexible will serve you well! We never really know when it’s going to snow, when the wildflowers will explode, or when the aspens will reach their fiery peak – so try not to fixate on exact mental image of your elopement day. Instead just show up and enjoy the ride! It’s going to be beautiful no matter what.
About The Drawhorns
Colorado elopement photographer and officiant Jess and Austin Drawhorn have spent the last three years guiding hundreds of couples through adventurous elopement experiences all over the world. They love discovering hidden alpine lakes and four-wheeling through wide open deserts. This year, their work is taking them to beautiful experiences in Costa Rica, Iceland, Sedona, Lake Tahoe, France, Italy, the Pacific Northwest, and Japan – but they’re most at home in Boulder, Colorado with their sweet dog Cooper.