Hiding in the Grass during a Beach Proposal

Peggy Farren 2014-05-26

What to do when a client says your first priority is to stay out of sight by Tom TracyThere’s always a first time for something in the photography business, and my most recent first-time request was from Ben, who called and asked if I thought it would be weird to secretly photograph a marriage proposal to his sweetheart.

After recalling how many times we’ve all seen those sort public marriage proposals on TV news, and after talking with Naples' very own Peggy Farren (who’s done five or six of those proposal shoots), I told my client: it’s absolutely OK, lets plan it out and have some fun.

Ben lives in New Jersey, and he gave me his preferred beach location right down to the exact spot near a residential section of Juno Beach south of the Juno Pier in Palm Beach County. I would hide in the sea oats and get in position before he and his fiance would arrive, with a little wiggle room in the location to allow for whatever might be going that day in terms of fishermen or other beach-goers.

Naturally, I went and had a look at the site a week in advance, and found an area where a condo boardwalk and stairway to the beach sliced through the sand dunes and sea oats, so I would get there early and wait. Tom Tracy Engagement 3

Ben said my first priority was to stay out of sight and keep this a surprise for Kelly, his fiance. Even if it meant I didn’t get the shots, which for me meant a kind of failure and disappointment for Ben too.

The longest lens I own is the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 so to get a little more optical reach I could either put than lens on my cropped-sensor Rebel T3i, or borrow a buddy’s 2x teleconverter for my 6D body. Canon extender

I decided the 6D probably offered the best image quality and its terrific silent shooting mode, which might be helpful, but I think either solution would have been done the job just fine in retrospect. The teleconverter was best used in strong light, a little less so in weak light so I was relieved when Ben moved his proposal time up 15 minutes to about avoid weaker dusk lighting.

Everything went as planned and we got the shots, quite a few actually as Ben played it to the hilt, picked her up and swung her around and gave me a lot to work with. When the time came, it turns out some of the condo dwellers over my shoulder were watching me and the whole situation unfold -- I was worried they were going to kick me out of their sand dune walkway. Tom Tracy Engagement 4
But when Ben got down on his knee in front of Kelly the condo people cheered him on, which caused the two of them to look back my way and I got even more good shots of their faces and reactions. Tom Tracy Engagement 8
Tom Tracy Engagement 6
Even then they never saw me, and Ben confirms that Kelly never did know I was taking their pictures -- even though I schlepped right past the two of them and their beach picnic set up after we were done. Tom Tracy Engagement 5
Tom Tracy Engagement 2
Tom Tracy Engagement 1
I put my camera gear in a beach bag, throw a towel over my shoulder and emerged unnoticed from the grass, and walked right past them on my way to the car.

Tom Tracy is a writer, photojournalist, wedding and event photographer in West Palm Beach. He has traveled extensively as a travel & religion writer. www.TomTracy.com

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