Feb. 16, 2011
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I hope he remembered the designated place to make his move. Underneath the birdhouse. Look for the birdhouse in the pine tree! Of course, there are lots of pine trees in the forest. Just one birdhouse, but lots of pine trees. I hope he had good vision.
This shoot assignment was a pure pleasure for me. Nate wanted photos of his marriage proposal to Meleah. I was hired by his friend (who is my neighbor) to secretly capture these very special moments on a snowy hillside in February 2011.
Meleah was unaware of all the secret planning that went into documenting their special day. I scouted out a place to hide behind a fallen tree, and fashioned a pine branch canopy to conceal my location. It was cool and windy that afternoon, with six inches of snow on the ground.
Nate & Meleah were brought up the mountain by their friends under the pretense of a routine afternoon trail hike. But their friends lost the trail, and the entire group began wandering around somewhat aimlessly in the woods.
I checked my watch. Where are they? A huge cloud mass was moving in on the warm sunlight. It was getting windy. I was freezing. My shutter finger was losing feeling.
What would we do without cell phones to save the day? I heard voices below me on the hill. Then I spotted them. By cell phone I helped direct them back to the trail and upward towards the designated spot. Under the birdhouse! Meleah was clueless about what was really going on.
My neighbor faked an incoming phone call that unfortunately required he and his daughter turn back, and forgo the rest of the hike. This left Nate & Meleah by themselves to make the loop to the summit.
But now they were coming up the trail from the opposite direction we had planned. I had to make some quick adjustments to my hiding place, covering myself with even more pine branches, and nestling on the ground in the mud and snow. Only my zoom lens poked through the foliage, aimed carefully at the spot where a little bird house hung on a pine tree. That was the place he would drop down on his knee. In direct line of my camera.
Wouldn’t you know a huge gust of wind came swooping across the hilltop just before their arrival. The wind blew the pine branches over my lens! I did my best to get it cleared in time for the big moment, without making so much noise as to be discovered by Meleah. My heart pounding with adrenaline and excitement, I peered through my lens—and there they were. In perfect position. Click, click, click. It all worked out.
Now they will have that moment to relive for the rest of their lives.
After the surprise, the emotion, the tears, the “YES!” and the hugs, he got the ring on her finger, then directed her attention to the paparazzi hiding behind the fallen tree, forty feet away, on the other side of the trail.
I spent a few more hours with them, recording various joyful interactions and footloose outdoor fun. They were a photographer’s dream — photogenic, casual, relaxed, lost in the moment, immersed in their very happy world, oblivious to me and my camera, oblivious to everything going on around them. Just the way it ought to be.
Nice work, Nate. Thanks for allowing me to share in your magical day. As you two spend your lives together, remember…… it’s not a big deal if you lose track of your designated path now and then, and maybe even get lost in the woods, as long as you always hike together. Happy trails!