Sunday, November 08, 2015

Live-Photographing my Engagement

As I mentioned in my previous post, wedding planning is a very exciting and a very busy time, so it's been a while since I blogged. But I wanted to write this down so I can recall it in the future and also to share with you, dear blog readers, my fun and exciting experience of live-photographing my engagement as it happened.

The setup
Already a lot of secrets were in motion for the engagement day. This was a long time in planning because I had spent about 3.5 months custom designing her engagement ring. During that time I also had the chance to plan a few other fun things for the "Engagement Weekend". I dropped the question on the day before her birthday, on August 8th, 2015. This then allowed us to have a whole weekend of fun activities surrounding the engagement, all of which I planned (or, helpfully, SHE planned!) under the auspices of this being her "Birthday weekend".

The location
It was very important to me that we get engaged at the same place where we had our first date. This is on "our bench" at the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco. It is a beautiful spot -- and it's a complete and utter description of me as a person. It's just on the outskirts of the Ferry Building. For 10 years now I have been picking up some tasty local produce and baked goods and coffee in the midst of the madness and swarms of "localvores" and over-energetic tourists (of which I was one in the past). I am undeniably in love with this place. It is magnificiently meaningful. While the market is amazing, the bench is even more -- it allows you to take part in the bustle and the fun madness and then to withdraw from it, and people-watch it from a safe distance. I go on a Saturday, so in a way it's my "Shabbos" -- it's a place where I can turn off my iPhone, be relaxed, and slow down for a moment. Also in bright white letters, the title "Port of San Francisco" is there, reminding me always after a busy or hectic week at work to be grateful. To remember that I am so lucky to live in San Francisco. To remind myself that I had always dreamed of moving from tiny London, Ontario to epic California, and how somehow I have managed to achieve that in my life. This place means everything.

Since our first date, "my" bench has quickly become "our" bench. We take the time to enjoy it, to "sip and savour" as they say, and to sit back and relax and enjoy the magical and crazy world of San Francisco. Of course, we are crazy. As my buddy Alex wisely said, "You are the only person I know who would go to the busiest place in the city to get some peace and quiet." This, of course, is spot-on. We are busy, bustling, locally-integrated, excitable, hectic people. But yet, we know how to step back, how to pause, how to be calm and to stop, smell the roses, and appreciate what we are so lucky to have in our lives. So this is what the bench means. As you can see, we obviously had to get engaged there.

Planning the photography
As well as being blessed to live in this epic city, we are also blessed to have so many amazing friends who are incredible photographers. Since I work in Visual Effects, most of my friends have at least a Canon 5D Mark II camera, and are only called "Amateur Photographers" rather than "Professional Photographers" because they have another job already. I see them all as being absolutely stellar at their photography skill, and my buddy Sean Wells was the obvious choice.

"Have you ever photographed an Engagement before?" I asked Sean. "Well", he said, "I have photographed a lot of Weddings before and also done Engagement Photo sessions -- but I have never shot a live Engagement, AS IT HAPPENS before!! I am as nervous as you are!"

Of course, I knew he would do an amazing job and since we are colleagues at ILM/Lucasfilm, that implies a certain amount of artistic obsessiveness and perfectionism -- generally a trait in all of my friends and colleagues. :) This was, of course, a perfect and necessary skill to pull of this kind of photography "heist" as I called it.

In true form, after sending Sean a Google Maps pin to show him the exact location of the bench, he went out to "location scout" the place and to photograph it with his girlfriend Crystal in place of where Michal might be standing on the actual day-of. This was perfect and he tested out some lens options and generally made some great planning decisions in advance. Sean, you are epic.

He sent me these "proofs" and I was very pleased with the style of the photos -- getting the "Port of San Francisco" sign in frame as well as capturing the action. Approved!!

The lead-up
Leading up to the day-of, on the Thursday (we got engaged on a Saturday), I talked with Sean at work and hashed out the "action". We decided that it made more sense for Crystal to come along as well as that would both add Crystal's lovely personality into the mix, as well as being a great distraction to Michal for a moment as I would need to futz around and get the ring box out of my shoulder bag. We made a rough "script" and test out our Improv Acting skills, "Oh, hey, is that Sean??! Hey man! What are you up to?" "Oh, just trying out some new lenses..." haha. So cheesy. But so good. I figured by the time Sean was almost set up for the photos, Michal would likely click into the idea and realize I was about to ask her to marry me... and almost on-cue on the day of, that's exactly what happened. :) But I figured it would be a good enough distraction that I could get prepared, into the right location and down on one knee just as she was piecing together what was just about to happen.

The big day!
The big day arrived and I texted Sean well in advance. First from Michal's place as I secured the ring (side note, why the hell are ring boxes so damn large?!??! It makes it near-impossible to secretly put it anywhere if you're trying to keep a secret!). We then headed off on a walk (as I had set up) to the Ferry Building as we usually do on a Saturday. The Saturday before I had declined a trip to the Ferry Building (claiming "Oh, I REALLY want to go pick up my new bike today!") so that I would make sure there was no discussion of to whether or not we should go to the Ferry Building this week "since we just went last week". So that all worked out like a charm. I had to take my shoulder bag, which is unusual since I never take it (to secure the ring), but I figured it might be sortof an OK sneaky plan. She thought it was a bit odd, but I did skirt around it carefully so she wasn't too suspecting of it. Of course she had SOME idea the engagement might be somewhere around then (notice her perfectly manicured nails!) so she also gave me the benefit of the doubt if I was being particularly odd compared to usual.

We headed to the Ferry Building and I texted Sean again on arrival with a 30-45min out warning. He got prepared somewhere else downtown and then said he'd wait for my final "NOW!" text which would be a 5-min warning.

We picked up some food, and I ate next-to-nothing as the butterflies in my stomach would not allow it. :) We went to the bench and sat nicely for a bit, talking about I-have-no-idea-what. I had planned to ask the question sometime around 12:30-1:00 and at about 12:23 it started spitting rain, just a tiny bit. I literally looked up to the skies and thought ("Please, just give me 5 minutes!") It was good motivation. :) I actually was hoping for grey skies because the contrast is really nice and there are no harsh shadows on your face like you would have in bright sunlight. The Ferry Building bench is usually in bright sunlight so this was very lucky... but the rain was no good! So I went to "throw out the garbage" in a bin and texted Sean "NOW!!!!!". Michal told me later she thought it was odd that I was texting from the Garbage Can, but didn't piece it together yet.

3-4 min later, Sean and Crystal started walking towards us. As expected, eventually Michal noticed, "Hey, is that Sean?!" "Nah, I don't think so", I said oh-so-slyly. Of course I was trying not to look over there constantly and nervously for the previous 5 minutes straight. :)

They got closer and Sean used his great line, "Oh just trying out a new Lens!" haha. Awesome. I got into place, and down on one knee... and the rest, as they say, is history. :)

Sean captured some incredibly amazing photos, all live and as-it-happened. I am so grateful to him and to Crystal for helping with my crazy idea, and for helping make these photos just perfect. They are amazing. You'll see in some of the photos I am down on one knee but she already has the ring on -- this because I had a 2nd "ring" proposal for her. I had promised we would move in together only after we got engaged, so my first act as an Engaged man, immediately after she said "Yes" to the ring, was to get back down on one knee and to make true on my promise -- the 2nd "ring" was a "keyring" to my apartment, along with the phrase, "Will you make my apartment our home." Success. :)

Thank you to Sean and to Crystal for putting up with my insane amount of detailed emails in advance, and to Sean for capturing this incredible moment as it happened.

Thankfully, the rain held off and we spent the next 3.5 hours sitting on the bench and reveling in teh joy, and personally calling all the close family around the world. I had planned a block of time right after the engagement time (before we had a "birthday"/congratulations on your engagement party for Michal later in the day) because I knew she/we were going to want to personally call a bunch of people. It was awesome. And it worked out perfectly.

Hilariously, the sun came out in full force at exactly 1:00pm. The photos were done (and were not shot in direct harsh sunlight, wahoo!!!), everything was a huge success, and we got to bathe in the glorious sunlight as we called so many important family members from our glorious Ferry Building bench. :)

What a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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