Planting The Seeds

From the outside looking in, you may assume that I intentionally planned to become an adventure elopement and wedding photographer from the beginning, but that couldn't be further from the truth. This business model honestly feels like fell into my lap through a series of coincidences, but in retrospect, the building blocks for it were laid when I was a young child. Some of my earliest memories include going for short hikes in local parks with my mom, and watching my dad take photos with his 35mm Minolta camera at family events. You're probably expecting me to say that I grew up doing these things and just combined them to create this business, but the truth is that I never really enjoyed the hiking I did with my mom as a child - I thought it was pointless and boring, but she dragged me out anyway. In my early teens, my dad handed me his Nikon D40 DSLR and told me that it was now my job to photograph family events. This made photography a chore, and there was nothing I hated more than my chores. I was determined to be my own person and not do the boring things that my parents did, so I spent my early teen years playing video games, mountain biking, and dabbling in other activities.

Coming Around

Throughout high school I was never the most ambitious student, so I was always looking for the easy way out. When I enrolled in a photography class it had absolutely nothing to do with an interest in the subject, I honestly just thought it would be the easiest elective to sleep through. I never expected to actually enjoy the class or even pay attention, but half way through the year I found myself voluntarily spending extra time in the dark room and taking photos for fun. Even more surprisingly, I was carrying good grades in the class and understanding confusing topics like depth of field and long exposures better than most of my classmates. Something about the way a camera uses the objective physics of light to create something as subjective as art has captivated me since the very beginning.

Did any of us look good in high school?

Soon the class was over, but my thirst for photography knowledge remained. This led me to incessantly binge photography tutorials on a new website that had just come out - YouTube. I spent the remainder of my high school career learning everything I could about photography and practicing my skills by photographing everyone and everything around me. During this time I completed an informal photography internship with a local media outlet and began second shooting weddings for established photographers. I also began charging small amounts for portrait and sports photos, giving me my first taste of earning money as an entrepreneur. Truthfully, at this time I was still learning the basics of photography and had no business charging anyone for my work. Several more experienced photographers tried to tell me this, but I wasn't hearing any of it back then, especially from the "competition."

Are you really a photographer if you never took this style of mirror selfie?

Look how freaking cool I was!

The School of Hard Knocks

When I graduated high school and my classmates all began their college educations, I was left feeling confused and unsure of what I wanted in life. I joined a volunteer fire department, got a job working in a warehouse, and officially started my own photography business. Despite having relatively strong photography skills by now, this venture would eventually fail for other reasons. I had zero knowledge of how to manage a business, I failed to carve out a niche and instead tried to make money in every conceivable genre of photography, and I spent far more money on camera equipment than I made with it. While attempting to build a photography business, I was also pursuing additional education to build my full time career as a paramedic, and attempting to do both at the same time just wasn't working. This went on for about 5 years before I finally realized it was time to close the business and admit defeat, though my passion for photography never went away. I always planned to try again someday, but wasn't really sure what direction I wanted to head with it or when the right time would come. Once I gave up on my first attempt at a photography business, I found myself with a problem: I no longer had a steady flow of people willing to let me photograph them, This meant that if I wanted to remain active in photography I would need to find a genre outside of portraits/weddings.

Paramedic School Graduation - 2016

Developing a Love for Adventure

I began looking around for inspiration, and found that an old friend of mine named Ryan was quite active in landscape photography. I gave him a call, and very quickly we began traveling all over NY State chasing great light in beautiful landscapes. Rarely did a weekend go by that we weren't up before sunrise, driving several hours from home to photograph a waterfall, tree, or some other landscape during the morning golden hour. These early morning trips are some of my favorite memories, and led to conversations about just about any topic you could imagine. As we ran out of ideas for local photography spots, I found myself drawn to the Adirondack Mountains and took my first trip there with photography in mind. This trip is featured in my previous blog post, "A Promise to Mom, My Aspiring 46er Story." Today, I identify this trip as one of the defining moments in my life when I truly fell in love with the grandeur of nature. Experiencing the surreal vistas from Indian Head and Whiteface forever burned a love for the mountains into my soul, and I've been incessantly chasing summit views ever since.

Destin in the Adirondack Mountains - 2019

Combining Nature & Portraiture

In 2018, when I began dating Caitlin (now my wife), we spent most of our free time together going on adventures to incredible locations. Naturally as a photographer, I began bringing my camera along and using a tripod to capture photos that featured us within the landscapes. These photos quickly became sentimentally important to us, as they combined our love for each other with our love for nature and adventure. I recall many conversations with Caitlin about how glad we were to have these photos, but it still hadn't clicked to me that there may be a market in providing this type of photography for other couples. It wasn't until I proposed to Caitlin ("Photographing My Own Proposal") and saw the hugely positive reaction from people I had never even met that I began thinking about launching another photography business specifically aimed at this niche. It would take nearly three years of planning, hesitation, and sleepless nights before I would gain the confidence to formally file a DBA and begin building the groundwork for what is now known as Adventure Ahead Photography. I can honestly say that I never imagined myself doing this, but I'm glad that I am, because it allows me to combine my passions for photography and adventure in a way that provides other couples with photos they will cherish forever.