This one was a real climb. No, seriously! This is the story of how I hiked up a 1.5 mountain trail to capture this proposal.
I don't typically take shoots that are quite this last minute - it was late on a Thursday night when I received a message from a guy looking to capture his proposal to his girlfriend on Saturday near Kent Falls State Park. There's a hiking trail nearby that crosses the border between Connecticut and Wingdale, New York near the Housatonic River. The kicker: My very unathletic self was supposed to hike a mile and a half up a steep and winding mountain trail. Luckily for me, my boyfriend quickly obliged to join and make a day of it in Kent.
Also luckily for me, this would make it easier to camouflage myself; I wouldn't need to do any crafty hiding like I normally would, as there were other hikers on the trail, and my boyfriend and I would simply look like more inconspicuous hikers. Even the camera wouldn't look suspicious, as the top of the mountain was a very scenic view that overlooked the valley into New York.
The fact that I was told they would be bringing their corgi mix only helped to motivate me. So off we went, driving across Connecticut and arriving just about fifteen minutes before them to give ourselves a headstart. I'm not going to say it was easy! I'm by no means athletic in the slightest and was never in any sports in school, so I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain. Fortunately it was a cooler day, and there were lots of species of mushrooms and fungi on the way up to keep me entertained. We even conversed with a family along the trail about what we were doing there, and said they might even see the couple pass by them!
When we reached the top there was no one around, save for a single older man sitting on a rock nearby. Finally a young man and woman emerged through the trees and I immediately recognized the couple from their photos. The man briefly nodded at me and they continued over to the ledge with their dog in tow.
I made my over slowly, pretending to photograph various leaves and trees in case she glanced at me, but I never let them out of my sight. And then he did it! And it all went perfectly - the only thing inhibiting me being the somewhat harsh sunlight and the single man, who was briefly alarmed that I appeared to be secretly taking photos of a couple I didn't know. He laughed when he realized he had just missed their proposal and that I had, in fact, been hired to stalk them!
I loved that little Willow even looked back at me right at the perfect moment. Afterward, we officially greeted each other and continued to take a couple more formal shots. The family I previously mentioned finally reached the top of the mountain and applauded the newly engaged couple. And that's about where our story ends!
If you're looking for surprise proposal or engagement photography, contact me here! I'm local to New Haven, but I also photograph around Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Tolland, Middlesex, and even up around New London or down near Stamford and New York.
A few weeks after overcoming my fear of proposal photography and realizing how much joy I could capture (re: See my previous post about my first ever proposal/engagement shoot on the Lighthouse Point Park beach in East Haven), I got a new request. I was reached out to by a man all the way in New York looking to propose to his girlfriend in the coming weeks at the Purchase Golf Club, one of their regular venues. At first I was a bit concerned, as he was initially looking to find someone with an extreme telephoto zoom lens who could photograph the proposal from the club house balcony (about a third of a mile away!) though luckily, the staff members were more than obliged to help us get me a bit (a lot!) closer.
Normally, most of my photography sessions take place around the New Haven region, as well as a bit in Hartford, and even Litchfield and Fairfield counties. However, I'm more than happy to make up the difference with small travel fees for greater distances! And as I already needed to be in Norwalk that day, it wasn't too much further.
When I arrived, I was so lucky to be greeted and assisted by such helpful staff members. The plan was that they were going to be keeping track via radios of where the couple was, so they could warn us as they got closer to the 18th hole. In the meantime, and while they were still far away, I was taken down via golf cart (I'd never been in one!) to the last hole to figure out where I could hide. At first, I figured I could probably just climb into the edge of the forest and shoot through the leaves as I normally would, but one of the staff members had the great idea of just leaving the vacant golf cart down by the edge of the woods for me to hide behind.
From there we rode back up to the club house to wait, as it was very hot out. As soon as we got the call that they were almost to the 18th hole, we rode back down to get in position.
One thing I haven't mentioned - There was a fluorescent pink golf ball that he had written "Marry Me" on in sharpie and given it to the staff attendants. When I was driven back, the pink golf ball was placed inside the 18th hole and then I was left to wait, hidden behind the abandoned golf cart by the woods.
Wondering when they would finally come around the corner was nerve-wracking, mainly because I didn't want to peer upward at the wrong moment and have them spot me. When they did finally appear around the bend I didn't dare move, barely allowing myself to squint through the bars of the golf cart, as I knew the vacant cart might raise enough suspicions on its own.
As she hit her final stroke and walked towards the hole I couldn't help but hold my breath, at this point feeling safe enough to risk raising myself to focus the camera; I knew at this point she'd be paying too much attention to the hole and what was inside it to notice the mysterious golf cart anymore.
And then it happened, just like it was supposed to, and the staff members cheered from all the way up where they stood on the club house balcony. We think she was definitely surprised!
After that, we traveled around the whole golf course, me with their caddy in my abandoned golf cart and them in a second cart, to take some extra close-ups. And possibly my favorite line of the day: "You picked this out yourSELF? Without supervision??" It really was a stunning ring!
Looking to propose and want to have the moment photographed when you pop the question? I'd love to capture your proposal and engagement photos with you on the big day!
As I said a couple days ago, I'd really like to start talking about some of the adventures I've had so far as a photographer. It's funny, because something I said I'd never offer is shooting proposals. Engagement photography, sure, but the proposal itself? It just sounded too intimidating! What if I missed the moment? What if my camera malfunctioned? What if I spoiled the surprise? No way was I going to put myself in that position.
Except I did. And then I did again, and then again. And you know what? It's quickly become my signature (and favorite) subject that I offer!
The shoot that broke me into the world of playing hide and seek was back in July, when I received an email from a young guy on vacation with his girlfriend. They were traveling up north and he wanted to pop the question to her, and was looking to hire a photographer to capture the moment. I was terrified, as this was the one shoot I vowed I was not going to offer. But the desire for income and a new client got the better of me, as it usually does for freelancers, so I agreed to do it.
And that's how I found myself on a Sunday morning wandering around Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, searching for a lighthouse that took me surprisingly long to locate, considering what a large structure it is. Once I found it (after unluckily taking the long way around) I came to find that it was right next to the shoreline and surrounded by benches. But what caught my attention the most was a large fern bush growing directly between the lighthouse and the beach, where a large boulder sat right on the shore. That was exactly where he needed to do it!
I quickly texted him a couple of pictures to show him where I was located, and then it was time to wait. It wasn't long before I got the message that they had just parked, and soon enough they were rounding the bend and I caught sight of them.
I can't describe what it feels like to know you look absolutely inconspicuous, yet instead feeling extremely exposed, hiding in plain sight. It's also such a funny feeling to know someone, but to not be able to wave or show any form of recognition as you make eye contact. You're meeting for the first time, but you blink and look away in the form of a greeting.
But as much as I was pretending to ignore them, the moment they disappeared behind the fern bush I immediately leapt up and ran to crouch down behind the leaves. When I say my hands were shaking, that's no exaggeration; my adrenaline was probably almost as high as his!
As it turns out, I had little to worry about. My fear of missing the moment? The moment lasts surprisingly long. My fear of the camera being too far away? I should know by now that my lens and image quality are extremely sharp, they can afford to be cropped a bit.
And the most important thing I've learned? There is no feeling like getting to watch a girl experience so much joy and excitement, especially when you know before her what she's about to receive. If this means I get to vicariously experience surprise after surprise, I'm very okay with Proposal photography becoming my signature market!