Micheal and Suzy, traveling from out-of-state, planned a winter weekend in the ‘City by the Sea’ (Newport, Rhode Island); and Micheal had plans to make it forever memorable with a ‘surprise’ marriage proposal. He asked me to photograph his proposal, and together we set about hatching a plan. I suggested a few suitable locations, but with their hotel being close to The Cliff Walk, proposing on the walk along Newport’s eastern shore made sense!

Photographing surprise proposals are a lot of fun but can be logistically challenging. We agreed that the proposal would occur at 3 p.m. on a cold and breezy February afternoon. There is limited parking at The Cliff Walk, and I figured that it would not be too busy, and I was utterly wrong; it was bustling. As I always do, I arrived early and snagged one of the few parking spots at 2:15 p.m.

Earlier in the day, Micheal had sent me a photo of Suzy to assist me in their identification because I had not met either of them before. So I could be easily identified from a distance, I wore a blaze orange parka. I sent Micheal a text when I left my home in Richmond to let him know I was en route and another when I was parked in place.

I got wrapped up for the cold weather, put on my backpack, and carried two cameras:

  • Canon EOS 1DX with a 70mm-200mm f/2.8 which would permit me to shoot the proposal in a clandestine fashion
  • Canon EOS 1d Mk IV with an 85mm f.1.2 for post-proposal portraits

Each camera had a Canon 580 EX II Speedlite and a Gary Fong diffuser.

The Cliff Walk is very narrow with no place to hide, and so I do what I always do in situations like this: hide in plain sight.

Michael notified me via text that they had arrived. I immediately pointed the camera, with the long lens, at the Common Merganser Ducks swimming below me; however, my left eye watched every person walking towards me, and there were many. To make matters worse, every person walking was wearing a mask! Eventually, I saw my couple, and you can enjoy the results below.

Suzy was not only completely surprised with Michael’s proposal, but she had no idea of my presence, even with my blaze orange parka!