What happens when a wedding photographer decides to photograph his own Petoskey proposal? Cameras. Cameras everywhere.
Ok, so here is the long story short: I am not really one to step in front of the camera. After all, it is my job to tell YOUR story, not mine. But, every once in a while, I muster up the courage and step in front of the camera to document, what I feel, is a significant moment in my life. And one of the biggest moments in one’s life is when they decide to spend the rest of their life with someone. Last Labor Day weekend, that is what I decided to do.
Petoskey has long been a place of significance for me and my…fiance (ahh!). We have shared many walks, talks, late nights of stargazing, and personal memories on that pier. I wanted to create one more memory for her. Since I wanted it to be “our” moment, I didn’t want to have anyone around. I convinced her that I wanted to capture a sunrise photo of Little Traverse Bay and downtown Petoskey. We didn’t make it for the actual sunrise, but that was okay. I wasn’t there for the morning colors, just an empty pier. After snapping a few photos of the landscape, I set up my camera on a tripod and set up the shot. She is used to my always having a camera with me and, lucky for me, is super patient when I shoot. She also stands in and follows directions without thinking anything of it, which was pretty important for me on this day. With the image composed, I set the camera to take one photo every second for 400 seconds to make sure that many moments were captured even after the proposal.
Along with the camera taking stills, I propped up my iPhone on my tripod and recorded video. A few months ago, when I photographed another proposal, I did the same thing as a little bonus for the couple. While the photos were great, the video added a little something extra to remember it by. I also bought a RingCam box, which is an easy-to-use ring box with a built in camera that can record up to 45 minutes of video. The proposal and reaction itself only lasts a few seconds, but having that on film was pretty important to me. The audio isn’t the greatest, but it already provided us with some laughter and tears when we rewatched it as we both were unsure exactly what I said. As it turned out, the Petoskey proposal would become my favorite place.
With the cameras set up and shooting, I approached Becky, waited a few seconds to compose myself, and got her attention with a simple, “Hey babe…” As she turned around, we both stood silent for a few moments. For me, a feeling of matriculation and responsibility came upon me. I felt as if, in that moment, I became an adult and agreed to take care of this person and all of their emotional, spiritual, and humanly needs before mine. Becky was a bit shocked and excited as the reality of the gesture and moment sank in. I thought I would naturally speak from the heart and have some profound and poetic things to say, but I didn’t. Instead, I just lived in the moment and watched as her excitement grew; her hands first expanding and later clenching into a fist, her rocking up on her tiptoes and tilting her head back in disbelief, and finally, she broke the silence. “Is this really happening?” she asked. “Absolutely. Will you marry me?” Following the Petoskey proposal, I decided to start She Said Yes! Detroit.
We hugged and held each other for what seemed to be forever. All of our hopes, dreams, and promises finally came to fruition. It was an amazing feeling. The next few minutes were filled with moments of tears and laughter as we switched between our emotions of excitement and gratitude. As the only bystanders on the pier passed by, I shouted, “We just got engaged! Sorry, I just felt like I had to tell someone.” This was such a beautiful Petoskey Proposal by She Said Yes! Detroit. We wanted to soak in the moment for as long as possible so we sat on the pier for another hour as I told her the story of all the planning that went into it. Her family knew; my family had no idea of my Petoskey proposal.
On our way home, I called and convinced my family to meet us at Hoppies, a local restaurant, for lunch. It took some convincing, but luckily they agreed. As my dad got out of the driver’s seat, he saw my camera in hand and asked, “So did you get any good pictures?” “Yeah. I got one I think you will like.” Once my family circled around the camera, I turned the playback on to reveal the my favorite proposal photo. My sister-in-law recognized what was happening in the photo first and bust out screaming. My mom and dad quickly followed suit as the proposal photo registered with them. Hugs, tears, and laughter ensued. We would spend the next two days celebrating with family as we drove around the state visiting and reliving what we would describe as the “perfect” day.
As I sit back and reflect on the day, I have begun to experience something that in my nine years of professional photography, I have never once experienced: the emotional importance of a photo. As the photographer, I am always chasing, envisioning, and trying to create art. Lighting, posing, emotion, connection, romance, anticipation, timelessness are all the marks of a “good” photo to the artist. I can’t feel or ever fully know what one of my images means to someone because I experienced that moment differently as the creator of the image. For the first time, I got to feel and fully understand what seeing a pivotal moment in MY life looks like on film: it is amazing. It reinforces my two core beliefs about photography: it is the most important investment you can make for life’s biggest moments and photography is best enjoyed printed. Since taking these photos, I have already designed and printed an album to one day become our family’s first heirloom.
I know that, while the proposal was a success, real success in a relationships is created on a daily basis through acts of kindness, forgiveness, patience, understanding, humility, communication, laughter, and serving. I know that life brings a broad spectrum of emotions and that love offers some of the highest highs and can also bring you to the lowest of lows. I also know that love is what can bring you through those lows. As I start on this new journey in life, I am excited to see what is in store for us. Sorry to inform you, but you probably won’t be getting a sneak peek into those days of my life. Petoskey proposals are our specialities.
*Special thanks to Richard at Astrein’s Jewelers in Birmingham for the beautiful ring and amazing customer service. The Petoskey Proposal by She Said Yes! Detroit was a total hit among family and friends.