High Desert 5-Year Anniversary Shoot at Vasquez Rock

The Ballentine’s wanted to commemorate their fifth wedding anniversary in a special way, so they decided on an anniversary shoot. Since their Palm Spring nuptials in 2015, the Chicago-based couple, had two daughters. Now, their first-born is four-year-old the newest addition to their family is six months. Z, their youngest daughter was born during the pandemic. Because of the quarantine, the couple had to skip on a newborn shoot. So what do you do when the country opens a little?

They went back to the place where it all started, picturesque Vasquez Rock in Agua Dulce, CA. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is located in the Sierra Pelona in northern Los Angeles County, California. It is known for its rock formations, the result of sedimentary layering and later seismic uplift. LA-based photographer, Zyaire Porter captured the family in this iconic shoot. 

How did you meet?

We met 12 years ago, I (Phoenix) was visiting a friend who had moved into the apartment building that Oliver was already a resident at. We said a quick greeting that day but after that point continued to run into each other often around the City of Chicago. One day while out at a club we finally exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up the next day and it was a whirlwind from there we were married in Palm Springs CA in November 2015 and recently returned to celebrate and do a photo shoot for our 5 year anniversary. We got married in the desert of Palm Springs and we were underwhelmed by our wedding photos it was always a dream of ours to return and get some photos that showcased the beautiful landscapes and wide expanse of land in the desert

What is your proposal story?

On Christmas of 2014 we were celebrating the holidays w/ my parents and Oliver’s mother. After dinner we typically open gifts to each other. After opening all the gifts Oliver let me know my “present” was on instagram. I went to get my phone and saw that Oliver had uploaded a video to instagram. In the video he walked by all of these signs that said “WILL” “YOU” “MARRY” “ME” while Outkast’s song “I Choose you” played in the background. When I looked up from my phone he was bent on one knee and asked me would I be his wife. It was very intimate with only my parents involved and felt perfect 

Tell us about your attire choices.

My dress was a custom design from a designer in Chicago named Suzette Opara (828 Collection). When we were married 5 years ago I reached out to her to do my reception dress but circumstances didn’t work out and we didn’t get a chance to work with each other. I still followed her on social media and she followed me and we interacted back and forth in that way.

When I knew I would be returning to do a photo shoot back in the desert 5 years later I felt that It would be a full circle moment. I reached out to her 3 weeks before we were to leave for California and let her know my idea and she was on board!! We met sometimes twice weekly for fittings and design updates and she was able to fit a dress that was custom made for me.

Oliver had a similar experience at Suit Supply the theme was all white in the desert so with it being the fall / winter it was a color that was out of season in Chicago…he worked with the sales associate at the store who found the jacket and had him fitted for the look he also had multiple meetings to work on fittings and have everything shipped really quickly to make sure it met the deadline we had before we had to leave town. We got both looks completed in 3 weeks which was a feat in itself 

What were your favorite parts of the day?

Unbeknownst to me my husband, sister, and cousin had planned a weekend of activities in California to celebrate our 5 year anniversary. After 8 months in quarantine away from family we were able to meet up for a small weekend of fun with those closest to us. He hired the same caterers that did our wedding dinner and reception dinner and had them come and curate dinners every evening. They hired a new chef to do brunches. He rented the same home that we stayed in for our wedding ceremony it was just a weekend of really thought out sentimental plans that was culminated by the photo shoot at the end of the weekend. We hired a photographer that was much better equipped in shooting in the environment and highlighting his subject matter and just gave the shoot an editorial beautiful vibe which is what we initially wanted 5 years ago.

I think the best part of the whole shoot was we got to include our 2 daughters Maxxwell and Zuri….it was like the initial photos came out not so great  just so we would have to redo them “properly” with our whole family. The final photos came back and it was exactly what I imagined in my head from the dresses and suit to the background and the composition of the images captured. Just perfect for what we wanted.

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