Sometimes the universe works in strange, mysterious, and beautiful ways. As a photographer, you chase down jobs in every way you can think of, but every once in awhile a very special opportunity just falls in your lap.
Awhile back, via social media, a friend of a friend of a friend (yes, you counted the amount of "friends" correctly) contacted me because he was bringing his longtime girlfriend to Chicago for a vacation away from their hometown of New Orleans.
His name was Phillip, and he wanted to propose to his girlfriend Taylor in a beautiful spot in Chicago, and he wanted the proposal surreptitiously photographed.
"What fun," I thought, and I thanked my friend Chip Aucoin (a longtime comedy friend and lovely human being) for being the friend of the friend of the friend who'd thought of me and introduced me to the future groom, and after a few emails with Phillip, I accepted the job. We went back and forth a few times about how to find a spot that would be easy for them to find, easy for me to get to, and, of course, beautiful.
Luckily for me there is a gorgeous one-mile long Chicago public park right by my house where I photograph clients as much as the weather allows, and I just knew it would be the perfect place for this special moment. Phillip texted me a photo of himself and his intended, and I did the same. We coordinated our timing and crossed our fingers.
As it happened, that day was a bit overcast (natural overcast light is the best, most beautiful light for photography), so I felt good about that, although I was a little worried about the small sprinkles of raindrops that were flitting down from the sky intermittently. Would I get raindrops on my lens? Would the rain get harder? I had an umbrella, but would I be able to wrangle it and the camera?
We had chosen a specific spot for Phillip to pop the question, so I found the ideal location for myself to sort of hide in some pine trees with my zoom lens. Due to the weather, the park wasn't terribly full, so I felt a little self-conscious pretending to take photos of trees and an empty park until they arrived.
At one point a man walked by with his two dogs, looking at me, clearly a little puzzled about what exactly I was doing, but luckily for me I'm a pretty non-threatening-looking person. Nevertheless, I did get a little nervous when a Chicago Police SUV pulled up behind me at the same time that I saw Phillip and Taylor stroll into the park.
Everything went PERFECTLY. I could tell Taylor was a little unsure as to why they had pretty much gone directly from the airport to this park, beautiful though it was. I realized my hands were shaking with excitement and nervousness a little bit as he hugged her, gave her a big romantic smooch, and gave me our agreed-upon and unmistakeable signal (one arm waving frantically up and down). This was the moment! Phillip got down on one knee, the beach, the beautiful blue sky, and the beach behind him, and a beautiful woman in front of him. He pulled the box out of his pocket and she immediately began to cry tears of happiness.
She cried and he teared up a bit and they hugged and hugged and hugged (and I wished I was close enough to hear their happiness), then I saw him point to me, and explain that I'd been there the whole time, and we walked toward each other. I hugged them both and congratulated them. Their joy was palpable and I was delighted to be a part of their special moment.
Then the police in the SUV behind me flipped their sirens on for a moment and we all looked over as they gave Phillip and Taylor a congratulatory thumbs up.
They were so cute and so happy I invited them back to my home studio for a few special bonus photos. I had some hand-made heart-shaped decorations left over from my last Valentine's Day shoot, and I wrote "engaged" and put the date on one, and laminated it as a keepsake for them for their special day. We took some cute couples photos and some closeups of the ring, which was stunning.
I wish I had kept the texts I got from Phillip when he reviewed the photos and chose the ones he wanted finalized and Photoshop - it was another testimonial from a happy client that made me feel proud, and happy, and very very lucky to do something I love so much.