Reilly's surprise proposal to Lauren at Watch Hill, RI

Reilly’s surprise proposal to Lauren at Watch Hill, RI

Reilly's surprise proposal to Lauren at Watch Hill, RI

Reilly’s surprise proposal to Lauren at Watch Hill, RI

When Reilly first reached out to me, I wasn’t overly excited because Watch Hill in the summer is an absolute nightmare for parking; I must be able to guarantee the ability to park, or I will not be there for the moment of the proposal. That said, we set up a ZOOM meeting where we could explore the details and figure out how to make it work. During our Zoom, Reilly explained that he and Lauren would be in Watch Hill for the day, with dinner at the Ocean House Hotel. I explained that to the best of my knowledge, even though they had dinner reservations, they would not have beach access, in front of the hotel, without a room card. However, it is possible to get on the beach using the public right-of-way access beside Taylor Swift’s property. One of the benefits of a Zoom meeting is that I can share my screen and, by using Google Maps in satellite mode, describe in detail how to arrive at the proposal spot.

Any Rhode Island beach at 5 pm on a July evening will be very busy, making it pretty impossible to take a ‘clean’ shot of the couple. I had completed one other proposal on this beach, and I knew it would be possible to use the rocks at the foot of Taylor Swift’s home to hide most of the folks on the beach while including the Watch Hill Lighthouse in the image.

We had a location plan.

Regarding logistics, we discussed the parking difficulties; I offered to ask my wife to drop me off for the shoot – it would cost me dinner, but in this way, I would not have any parking issues. Fortunately, her calendar was clear, and she was happy to volunteer with the dinner tease!

In the days leading up to the proposal, summer had arrived with a vengeance, and the weather was forecast to be splendid.

Beach shoots are not without issues for photographers; generally for a proposal, I use three lenses

  • 70mm to 200mm f/2.8 (sometimes with a 1.4 extender – the extender would be used for this shoot) used for the initial proposal shots
  • 85mm f/1.4 used for ring detail and portrait shots
  • 24mm to 70 mm f/2.8 used for definition, wide-angled shots

I excluded the wide-angled for this photoshoot to avoid changing lenses in the sandy environment. I use two camera bodies (EOS 1DX and an EOS 1DX Mk II) which would permit me to avoid any lens changes.

On the day of the proposal, Reilly shared his GPS location with me, and I with him, he sent me a couple of photos of Lauren and himself to assist me in recognizing them. Lauren was wearing a long green dress that would be easily recognizable on a summer beach!

With the shoot at 5 pm, Mags and I left home with enough time to arrive at the location by 4:30 pm. I texted Reilly to let him know I was en route and another when Mags dropped me off.

As I walked to the beach, Reilly sent me a text asking if the beach was busy?; it was. It was a beautiful summer evening and the masses were there enjoying it.

A group of folks with their picnic blankets and beach ‘stuff’ was right at our spot which ruled out our plan; it was time to call an audible. I looked around, and everywhere was busy; then I figured the quietest part of the beach would be nearest to the Watch Hill Lighthouse. While there were still a bunch of people walking to the end of the beach before returning to their starting points, this was as good as it would get. Thinking through the logistics of photographing this proposal at this location, I decided to sit on the rocks and have Reilly and Lauren walk past me. I photographed my ‘yellow happy bag’ so Reilly would recognize my location, and texted ‘Plan B’ to Reilly, along with the photo below. As an afterthought, I sent my final text instructing him not to stop close too me as I was set up with a long lens. 

I began to monitor their GPS location, and while doing that, Reilly texted me that there were at the beach entrance. I am glad he did because the signal was weak, and the GPS app was not working well.

As I waited, I set up my camera for the lighting conditions, and while peering through the beachgoers to my left, I saw Lauren’s green dress. I hid my backpack behind me and pulled out my phone; I was just an old dude with a phone and a yellow bag; nothing to see here. I looked at my phone as they passed by only 3 yards away.

I was not sure where Reilly would stop, I picked up the ‘yellow happy bag’ and followed them at a distance of about 30 yards. My bag is a top opener to permit easy access to the camera while keeping it disguised.

They stopped; I stopped!

Reilly began to talk to Lauren as I watched from a distance, the conversation continued for a minute or so, but it seemed like an eternity. I put my hand on the camera grip and waited. I could see Reilly pull the ring box out of his pocket, but still, I kept the camera concealed. I have a firm rule: the camera only makes an appearance when the knee goes down because, at that point, they only have eyes for each other and not some guy on the beach with a telephoto lens.

Reilly went down on one knee…

To say that Lauren was elated would be an understatement; her happiness was contagious; I could not help but smile as I was shooting.

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!