A Love Story For the Ages...

Years ago, in high school in Alabama, Wolfe & Kassidy met eyes briefly from across the way. Kassidy thought Wolfe was cute and wanted to get to know him better, but never got the chance before she moved to Utah. Wolfe moved to Utah a few years later, and they crossed paths again, not remembering their high school encounter. One day, after they’d been dating for a while, they were flipping through Wolfe’s high school year book when Kass slammed the book shut in shock— she saw a picture of young Wolfe and realized that this man she was in love with was the same boy who caught her eye all those years ago...

A Tradition to be Kept

On New Year's Eve, 2020, Wolfe asked Kassidy to be his girlfriend under the light of the fireworks. This lead to fireworks being very special to the couple, and Wolfe wanted to surprise Kassidy under the fireworks once again.

The Challenge...

I was ecstatic when Wolfe reached out to me to take on this sacred task, but I was nervous as well. He requested that we find a very specific location— 1) Fireworks had to be visible. 2) It couldn't be too crowded. 3) It needed to be a beach with a pier. 4) It had to be at midnight (obviously).

The fact that it needed to be secluded meant it would be somewhere without streetlights or anything of the kind— very dark. I would obviously need my speedlight flash, but how would I focus the camera? I decided to wear a headlamp, and thank goodness my husband, Sam, assisted me and was able to wear a second headlamp and carry a flashlight. Turns out, that was almost not enough light and I had a lot of trouble focusing after all... something to remember for next time.

For photographers:

Light sources— head lamp and cell phone flash light pointed at the couple.

Focus mode— AF-A, single point, back button focus. Focus point moved to the brightest part of the couple's clothing.

Camera settings— ISO 400-1600 (I like to keep it as low as possible to avoid grain, but even so, low grain is never worth a missed shot), shutter 250 (can't go any higher than this with a speed light!), F/Stop 1.8-3.5 depending.

The Next Challenge

We did NOT want to risk missing fireworks in the shot. We weren't sure if the city would even be doing their annual fireworks show, and it was foggy so who knows if we would see them if they were there. To be safe, we bought our own fireworks and sparklers, and I am so glad we did! The city fireworks were far in the distance and we didn't capture a single one.

I will forever be grateful to my husband, Sam, who manned the explosives.

The Proposal

The proposal itself was sweet and emotional. The bride-to-be shed happy tears as she gleefully accepted and the couple embraced. Since it was a surprise, Sam and I had to remain as inconspicuous as possible beforehand, which meant no fancy lighting equipment or anything that would draw attention to the fact that I was a photographer. Fortunately, we remained hidden right up to the moment and were able to jump into action at midnight— Sam with his flashlight and me with my camera. Like I expected, my little DSLR had trouble focusing, but we managed to capture the pivotal moment. I can't wait to upgrade to my Nikon 7 Z mirrorless!

After the proposal itself, we got ready to do some staged reenactment shots.

Onyx engagement ring

The Trouble with Fireworks

At midnight on New Year's Eve, there was a high tide. This meant that the water was all the way up to the boardwalk and you couldn't get down to the beach unless you were willing to get soaked, so either we had to get creative with the fireworks placement... or we had to trudge through knee-deep water.

In addition to the tides, the winds were high and made lighting the sparklers very difficult. Fortunately, everyone was in good spirits and we persevered.

Sam, the true hero of our story, decided to brave the tide and made his way down to the beach. While on speaker phone, we coordinated a test shot with one of our fireworks and found the perfect placement. We took a few photos on the boardwalk, but then decided to brave the waters ourselves and all head down to the beach.

Sam came back to guide us along the treacherous path to the tiny sliver of beach that wasn't submerged. Here is where the magic happened that you see pictured throughout this post.

A Heck of a Payoff

This was, without a doubt, the most technically difficult shoot I have ever done. The lighting was nearly impossible and my equipment deficient, but my team was determined to overcome. I am full of gratitude for this opportunity to learn and grow, and delighted to have been able to deliver photos that this couple will cherish.