Story and Images by Todd Shapera Photography
When Evan led Amanda down a farm path at Blue Hill Restaurant near Tarrytown, New York, she was entirely unaware that this would be a momentous occasion. She was also unaware that two photographers were documenting the couple's every move along the path.
This wedding season, covertly photographing wedding proposals has become more in vogue. For photographers, it's becoming a specialty that is not only exciting, but also a bit nerve-racking.
Evan sought a classy experience. He selected one of the most beautiful locations in the Hudson Valley, which also happens to be the site for one of the world's top 50 restaurants, not to mention a highly sought after wedding venue.
Photo by Emma Shapera
To pull it off, our advance planning became more involved than many weddings we shoot. A few weeks prior to the proposal, the bride's mother had called me to float the idea. It seemed endearing that Evan confided in his future mother-in-law to be part of the process. Once she had secured my availability, she had connected me with Evan to arrange the details.
Throughout several telephone conversations, Evan had said he wanted his proposal to unfold during a walk on the farm's stone-walled trails. It helped that I am familiar with the site. I live nearby, and often walk the grounds with my dogs. I have also photographed weddings and engagement sessions at Blue Hill before, so I had a clear vision of what would work well. As part of our planning, I scouted the site with Evan, and reported on various appealing options that would be available to him. It was important for his conviction and to avoid any confusion that we arranged a final site visit together a few hours before the proposal. It was then and there that we settled on a stone-walled path that let to a hilltop pasture. It was a magical setting for him that also had good site lines which allowed me to photograph furtively.
Now that we knew where to be and when, Evan drove to Amanda's family home nearby to pick her up for their pre-arranged farm walk, and what she thought would be just a private dinner together. At the same time, I returned to the farm with my second photographer, Emma, and we positioned ourselves above and below the designated pasture, waiting to photograph. We knew that under no circumstances could the bride see us or suspect something was up. Even so, I boldly placed Emma in the couple's path leading to the pasture, figuring that she would seem like just another hiker with a camera out on the farm trails.
It turned out that Emma was better positioned to capture the moment when Evan dropped to his knee, while my higher position provided the beautiful perspective for photographing their loving embrace after she said, "Yes!"
During our run through earlier in the day, I had advised Evan not to let on to my role, even after the proposal. "You are going to feel like you are on Cloud 9 together," I advised. "The longer you wait to tell her about photography, the more opportunity for us to capture the spontaneous emotions that you will be sharing." Evan followed suit, which allowed us to photograph their bliss as they walked off the farm and toward the restaurant.
Evan had arranged for their families to surprise Amanda by greeting them both at Blue Hill. As they uncorked champagne, I overwheard Amanda exclaim, "I'm still trying to process all of this!" Only then did they reveal that it had been photographed. No longer undercover, I was able to capture family portraits in the farm setting before they sat for dinner.
Todd Shapera is a widely sought after wedding photographer based in the New York area. He has photographed in 56 countries for some of the world's leading publications, foundations and agencies, and is the recipient of numerous photography awards for his work in weddings and special occasions. You can view more of his work at www.toddshapera.com.