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  • Writer's pictureJessie Hardy

wild wind + warm hearts

I just want to clarify, this was officially my coldest photo shoot to date. It was a whopping -25 degrees outside. If you’re not from Eastern MT (in this case Western North Dakota), or have never been here, there isn’t much to protect you from the wind. No mountains, no hills, very few trees, or what I like to call “texture”. If it’s windy, it makes the cold pretty unbearable. I’ve done photo shoots this month that have been sub zero. One was -16, another -10. It was cold, but not windy and laughter still came easy to everyone.

Wind. That was the difference between this photo shoot and my other negative degree photo shoots.

On my drive to Williston, ND, about a two hour drive from my house in Scobey, I was pumping myself up for the cold. I was getting mentally prepared, not for the cold, but for the damn wind. Tyrel was working in the oil field in Williston, and his fiancé, Kaylee, was visiting for the weekend. Kaylee found me on social media, and asked me to do an engagement session for them. We went through our schedules and decided on a Sunday afternoon for the shoot. There was no way to know what the weather would be doing a month or two in advance when you live in Montana, so you just have to basically hope and pray the weather behaves.

In this particular situation, we didn’t really have a choice. We knew we had to do the photo shoot on this day because Kaylee was leaving back for Idaho early the next morning. When two out of the three people are traveling to a photo shoot, it’s pretty hard to reschedule. We knew we had to suck it up, put our big girl pants on, and do the damn thing.

We drove out of Williston about ten miles to a location I have shot at before, somewhere with some hills and a few pine trees. When we got there though, the snow was up to our knees, so we knew we had to find somewhere else. We drove around the country side for a while and picked a couple spots that would work.

Now, it was time to actually get out into the cold. We had a game plan. I told them the first three “poses” we were going to do, power-shoot for about a minute, then run back to the cars to warm up. The first area we were at had some trees and was blocked from the wind pretty good, so it actually wasn’t horrible. Smiles were genuine, we spent about 5 minutes at a time outside before taking breaks. This was by far the warmest we would be the entire photo shoot.

The next place we went was a few miles down the round, overlooking the valley, while the sun was setting. I mean, gorgeous. We got out there, and the wind hit us. One minute of shooting, back to the vehicle. Game plan. One more minute of shooting, back to the vehicle.

Kaylee still had one outfit left, and I was determined to give her the gallery she and Tyrel deserve for their engagement photos. We go to a white field, with these pretty, tan plants sticking out from the snow. We start shooting, and no joke, we stop within 20 seconds. The wind was blowing directly into Kaylee’s face and I thought she might cry because of the -25 wind hitting her poor cheeks (I freaking would have).

We decided to try to find one more spot that had a little more coverage, mainly protection from the wind. We drove down the highway for about 3 minutes until we saw a row of trees right off of the road. This was our chance. We literally stepped out of the car, took 3 steps forward, popped a bottle of bubbly, and called it good. We didn’t even stay there and chat for a minute before we went our separate ways, it was painfully cold every single second we were out there.

I called Kaylee from my Jeep as they headed back into Williston and I went west to Scobey. We talked about how cold it was, and how we were so thankful we could now go and get warm.

I was frustrated because one of my absolute favorite parts of doing engagement shoots is getting to know the couple. I want to know the story, their love story. How they met, how long they dated, their engagement, everything. We didn’t get to do this because of how short and chaotic this shoot was.

During the first 20 minutes of actually taking pictures, I could tell how much they loved- and just genuinely enjoyed, being around each other. While we were chatting on the phone, I wanted to look at my camera to see how many photos I ended up taking, and realized there were no photos showing up on my camera at all. I was (sorry for the french, kids) shitting my pants. I went through what could have happened and realized the cold must have done something to my camera or the memory card. That drive home felt like FOREVER. All I wanted was to get my hands on my computer, insert the memory card, and see that the photos were still on it and safe. I’m sure Kaylee was sitting on pins and needles my entire drive, too. Finally, I made it home, and could breathe because all 700 photos were on the card. I texted Kaylee to tell her she could breathe again, and I began to look through them. I love how these photos turned out, mainly because they are real, raw, and true. Her hair was everywhere, their cheeks were pink, the air just looks cold. What a story for these two though, they will never forget their engagement session, and I guarantee their grandkids will know this story in 50 years, I know mine will.

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