A few weeks ago I was hired to document a surprise marriage proposal. The groom-to-be thought it would be great to have someone take a picture with an iPhone after she said “yes.” But the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to have a professional on board to photograph what would be one of the most important questions he’d ever ask. (Smart guy.)

The proposal was to happen during an idyllic weekend getaway. The couple had never been to southeastern Wisconsin, but had heard about a pretty place called Devil’s Lake…

Jeremiah set the time for 1:00 on Sunday. I waited in the parking lot of the north shore entrance wearing my baseball cap. (I’ve always wanted to be a spy, so this was my chance.) In furtive texts, Jeremiah prepped me on the make, model and color of their car. I knew what he would be wearing. And he told me what she would be wearing, right down to the stripes on her sweater and the shade of her pink top.

I was pretending to talk on my cell phone when a guy walked past my car and said, “Look. That’s a nice car.”

That was my cue. It was them. I  grabbed my gear and started up the trail.

Did I mention they were swift hikers? And that my lenses weigh as much as a small child? Well, they were, and they do.

After pretending to take pictures of trees, rocks and the backs of tourists, I made myself invisible when I saw Jeremiah find the perfect spot on top of the west bluff. He slipped the small white box out of his backpack and got down on one knee.


I couldn’t hear them, but I didn’t need to. Her body language said it all. She was surprised. She was thrilled. To say she was taken aback would be an understatement.

And I captured it all. Other photographers would say, “She overshot.” I took many more pictures than I had to. Or that I needed. And that’s OK. Because to that couple, each tiny movement of her hands, the tilt of her head, and the tentative smile on his face as he waited to hear her hushed reply expressed all of the emotions, and more, from the time he knelt down, to the time she threw her arms around him and whispered, “We’re engaged!”

I wanted them to see each and every second, just as it happened on top of that bluff, on that Sunday, at 2:15 pm.

As a professional, seasoned photographer, I used my technical expertise to judge the light and distance. I chose the proper lens and knew how to achieve the perfect depth of field. I knew where to stand to get the best capture, and I framed each image well.

But I also used a skill that only comes with experience and empathy. I told a story using the photographs that I made. I turned a fleeting moment into a forever memory.

I am honored to have been asked to document that day. It made me proud to be a photographer.