When Tina, Aidan’s mother, first contacted me, I was on a bike-packing trip riding from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. on the ‘Great Alleghany Passage’ and the ‘Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Tow Path.’ I had set up an auto-reply on my email, but I also (when cell signal permitted) would send a short response to my clients each evening. It was such a response that I sent to Tina and would follow up with her upon my return on 5/12/22; she was good with that, perfect!

The location for the proposal was Scarborough Beach just before sunset. It is not a great location for a sunset photoshoot because the beach is east-facing, but we should have a beautiful golden hour light if the sun were out.

The plan was simple; the couple would have dinner at the Spain restaurant, return to their accommodations, and then make their way to the beach, which was only 100 yards from the condo. The couple would arrive at the beach at 7:15 pm; sunset was 8:10 pm.

Logistically, this was a challenge for me because there is no street parking, and the beach parking lot would be closed by the end of the shoot. I asked my wife to drive me and drop me off at the spot, and being the trooper that she is, she agreed.

Surprise proposals at sunset concern me, especially when following a dinner, because three parties are involved in the proposal, and one of the parties (Erin) does not know the plan! We have a hard stop with the sun setting, and if the couple runs late, it will jeopardize the shoot. No one wants to rush a nice dinner, and Spain is a beautiful restaurant, but fingers crossed.

I coordinated through Tina to keep the proposal communications far away from Erin. I don’t particularly like working with a 3rd party to organize a shoot, but it worked very well with Tina. Kudos, Tina!

On the day of the proposal, thunderstorms were forecast for the period around the scheduled photo shoot, but fortunately, as the day progressed, the weather cleared up. Phew!

When I pulled out of my drive, I sent Tina a text to let her know that we were en route and another when Mags dropped me off at the beach at 6:45 pm, 30 minutes before the planned arrival giving me time to scope out the lay of the land.

Our plan was simple; the couple would walk onto the beach and lay down a blanket. And because I did not know precisely where Aidan and Erin would sit down. I would wait on the beach until their arrival and then walk off to a hiding place. When I evaluated the area, I noted that there was no good hiding place; it would be hard to remain concealed.

Both Aidan and I use iPhones, which permitted us to share each other’s locations; I watched Aidan’s progress, and it was not on the agreed schedule. At 7:15 pm, they were still in the restaurant, but at 7:28 pm, they started to move; Tina sent me a text which confirmed what I saw on my phone. I stood on the beach alone as I looked at my phone, and I could see that they were at the condo.  As they made their way to the beach and as luck would have it, a group of folks walking their dogs arrived;  I inserted myself into the group, chatting with them as we followed Aidan and Erin; a great disguise!

people walking on the beach I watched the picnic blanket be set up through the side of my eye as I walked off the beach and up an access trail, which would now become my hiding place. I tucked in behind the dune grass and watched my target couple through the grass. Erin had her back to me, which was perfect, but she would turn her head in my direction now and then, keeping me on my toes. She later told me that she was turning her head to see what was distracting Aidan.

Aidan took the longest time from arrival to propose in all of my proposal photoshoots. Typically, this would not have concerned me, but I was sharing the dune with voracious sandflies feasting on me. The sunset would not wait for Aidan; as the minutes ticked by, I kept increasing the ISO on my camera to accommodate the dropping light. I like to shoot with a faster shutter speed for a proposal because sometimes we have a lot of movement, and I need to be ready. My preference is to shoot 1/400th second for the initial shots, but I lowered the shutter speed to 1/320th second and set the ISO at 640, not desired but doable.I used a 70mm to 200mm f/2.8 lens with the lens wide open. As I made this final adjustment to my camera, Aiden dropped to his knee at 7:50 pm, or to be precise, 7:49:53 pm.

As I said farewell to my sandfly buddies who left my legs looking like ‘Monkey Pox,’ I ran towards the newly engaged couple shooting as I did; they were utterly thrilled.

.Erin, who was a trooper, informed me that her mother is a photographer and thought that  I was her mother when she heard the camera’s shutter release. With 20 minutes before sunset, I was concerned about the dropping light but she said that with a mother as a photographer, she knew how to move the photoshoot along quickly. She was true to her word.

If you would like to learn more about surprise proposal photoshoots, pop-over to the Proposal/Engagement web page for details on pricing and lots of information for planning the perfect surprise proposal.


After photographing many, many, surprise proposals…

Never do anything different. A behaviour change will give the game away!