All dressed up: the photography of Emily Dickey and Dustin LeFevre
Utah Badlands, Utah
Emily Dickey and Dustin LeFevre are landscape photographers who seek out remote locations. A couple of years ago, they started to complement their standard landscape images with something a little different – portraits of themselves in formalwear, adding a human element and a dramatic sense of scale to their work. And it's no coincidence that Dickey wears a wedding dress in some of their images: the couple got married last summer.
Putting images of this nature together is no easy task, and a great deal of work goes into each image presented here. Find out how they do it by clicking through the Q&A above.
The ‘selfie’ has become all the rage in landscape photography as of late and you two have definitely taken that to a new level. What inspired you to work on such an ambitious project?
We were planning a trip to Iceland and saw elopement photos that had been taken there and thought they were stunning. After seeing them, we decided that we wanted a good picture or two of us dressed up while we were visiting. Since we weren’t bringing a portrait photographer along with us, we thought we could try to do it ourselves.
We found a location, set up the camera and took a few shots. We managed to get a decent photo and now whenever we go on a photo trip, we tend to pack some formals so we can get unique portrait shots in some beautiful locations.
How much planning goes into shooting these types of portraits in such remote locations? What are some of the challenges that you face?
Factory Butte, Utah
We usually will have visited a location a few times before deciding that we want to bring our formals along with us. If it’s a new location, we will research whether it’s a sunrise or sunset location and try to show up early enough to find a good composition. Some locations require us to pack our clothing with us and hike in a few miles. We usually have to find a spot to change, to fix our hair after hiking, etc. Wearing a dress is a challenge in most of the places we shoot in. It can be tricky to walk around in and it can be cold and uncomfortable.
Posing is the most difficult challenge because there isn’t anyone there to direct us and sometimes (most of the time) we don’t nail it and have to try again. It can be frustrating running back and forth to the camera to see if we got a decent shot. It’s also difficult giving up the good light to portraits rather than landscape photography. Since our passion is landscape photography, we usually hurry through our portrait shots, grab our cameras and tripods and frantically run around in our formal wear trying to get a landscape shot as well.
What gear do you use to ‘get the shot’?
The Wave, Arizona
We use a Nikon D810 for most of our shots and a Gitzo GT1541 tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball head. We use a RFN-4s Wireless Remote Shutter Release when we can but the range can be a limiting factor.
If we are too far away from the camera, we have to set the in-camera intervalometer to take a photo every few seconds.
Do you work with natural light on location, or do you bring other pieces of equipment (such as reflectors and flashes) to get the results that you’re looking for?
Rock Tsunami, Utah
We are both big believers in natural light and all our selfies were done without additional lighting equipment. Shooting with a D810 allows us to use the incredible DR that the camera offers to emphasize the natural light present in the scene through post processing.
What’s your favorite portrait that you’ve taken so far? How did you go about getting that shot?
The Wave, Arizona
Our favorite portrait of us was taken at The Wave, Arizona. Conditions couldn’t have been better. The temperature was just right, the sky had dark, dramatic clouds all morning and there was a slight breeze. We hiked up to the top of a butte right above the famous Wave formation. Dustin told me to lean back as he held my arm and the wind caught my dress. The pose ended up looking like figurines on top of a wedding cake, so we like to call the photo 'Cake Toppers.'
It was very hard to try and look relaxed as I was leaning backwards over what would be a very steep fall. Another random visitor there was videoing us, just waiting to catch the moment.
What’s the toughest location that you’ve ever shot in?
Grand County, Utah. After a trying hike and challenging shoot the previous day, Dustin set up his camera and surprised Emily by asking her to marry him.
We decided to hike up on a butte in the desert and planned to spend the night there, so we had our backpacking gear and our formal clothing with us. We hiked up late in the afternoon on Memorial Day so it was quite hot and there was no shade. Even though it’s a fairly short hike, it was a very long hour to make it to the top. We finally made it to our location and a few minutes later, the wind started howling. There wasn’t a place for us to pitch our tent with the wind. Finally, the wind died down and we took some formals.
Do you have any big portrait locations planned for 2017?
Avenue of the Giants, CA
We haven’t planned anything specifically, but we are planning a trip to Oregon later this year and we will be bringing our formals along with us. The wedding dress is still in good condition, so I'm thinking we might have to find a fun way to destroy it.
Who or what inspires you to continue shooting?
White Pocket, Arizona
Instagram is a great community where we are constantly finding inspiration from fellow photographers. We have met so many good friends and talented photographers online, too.
Do you have any tips for aspiring landscape and/or portrait photographers?
Inspiration can come from anywhere and strike at any time. Don't get hung up on what other photographers/artists have or have not done. Almost all of us have started out by trying to emulate photographers that we admire and there is nothing wrong with that. It's a great way to learn.
If you limit yourself to what has not already been done, you are allowing yourself to be influenced by others, almost as much as copying them. You will develop your own 'voice' over time, through practice. Lots of practice.