Brian & Kelsey

When Brian and I initially discussed his surprise proposal to Kelsey, he considered using one of Newport’s gilded-age mansions, either The Breakers or the Marble house, but he wasn’t sure which would be the best fit. To ensure that he picked the best spot, Brian decided on a trip to inspect both mansions for their suitability.

We agreed on a date and an estimated time.

Unfortunately, the pandemic interfered with the plans as the Newport mansions required the use of masks indoors, and so Brian picked a Plan ‘B’: the 40 Steps on Newport’s famed cliff walk.

We discussed the 40 Steps location, and I had one concern other than dodging tourists, and that was parking. My preference is always to select a place where there is guaranteed parking. After discussion, we decided to roll the dice based on my plan to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes before the shoot.

On the day of the shoot, I sent Brian a text, once when I left home and again when I was safely parked; this gave Brian peace of mind.

Brian sent a photo he sneaked of Kelsey to let me know what she was wearing in addition to a picture of himself: I was all set!

I scouted out the area of the shoot; it was busy with tourists, too busy. In addition, the sun was high in the sky; it was hot and humid.

As I waited, the sun was piercing, and I sought out what little shade there was. As I was hiding from the sun, I saw a pickup truck do a u-turn at the end on Narragansett Avenue and recognized that Brian was driving; perfect, this would make recognizing them easy. As I watched them walk towards me, I hid my camera behind a wall, and so now I was just a guy amongst tourists with a backpack. 

Brian and I made eye contact; game on!

As they descended the 40-steps I followed, there was already a group at the bottom of the 40-steps. I had previously taken a couple of test shots, and so my camera was all set.

Problem: Brian and Kelsy had replaced the group at the bottom of the steps, and I did not have a clear shot as they climbed the steps, and then Brian dropped to his knee! Uh oh! I moved down a couple of steps and reached over the guardrail to shoot around the tourists. Job done, she said yes!

After the proposal shot, it was time for the mini-engagement shoot, but the sun was brutal. The shadows were too harsh, but I had previously scoped out a small area of shade that we could use.

The heat and humidity proved to be challenging; I was dripping sweat, soaking. My shirt was wet, sweat was dripping from my fingers, and Kelsey was dealing with similar issues.

What to do? Brian came up with this fantastic idea of cooling Kelsey off using his trucks a/c; perfect.

It was a scorching and humid August summer day, but we all persevered and produced a lovely set of images to memorialize this beautiful life moment.

Here is the history of the 40 Steps on Newport’s Cliff Walk:

  • The 40 Steps are a set of stairs that lead down from the Cliff Walk to the rocky shoreline below.
  • The steps were built in the 1830s by New York City lawyer David Priestly Hall, to provide access for his children from his summer house to the rocky shoreline below.
  • The steps were originally made of wood, but they were rebuilt in stone in the early 1900s.
  • The 40 Steps became a popular spot for the servants who worked at the nearby mansions during the Gilded Age.
  • The servants would use the steps to go to the beach for recreation and to escape the heat of the mansions.
  • The 40 Steps are still a popular spot today, and they offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

The 40 Steps are a reminder of the history of Newport, and they provide a glimpse into the lives of the servants who worked at the mansions during the Gilded Age.

In addition to the 40 Steps, the Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile long path that winds along the coast of Newport. The Cliff Walk offers stunning views of the ocean and the mansions, and it is a popular spot for walking, hiking, and biking.

The Cliff Walk was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1978, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Newport.