The back story: when I got an email from Nathaniel about photographing his proposal, my first thought was that I wasn’t sure how we’d pull it off, but I was game to try. Over the next few days, through surreptitious phone calls and texts, we concocted a plan: my cell phone pictures mapped out a scenic spot, while my last minute instructions (face her towards me, but not directly, don’t stand in front of the sun on her face so there’s a shadow, start walking back up at just this time, etc) and the innocent bystanders I brought in as decoys all added to the nerve-wracking deception and fear on my part that the surprise would be ruined before we could accomplish our mission (luckily, it wasn’t).
I put up a secret blog post for Nathaniel with instructions for setting up his proposal spot – some of that is still here as evidence that a marriage based on lies (so many lies! so much planning!) is not all that bad when the lies are finally revealed as just part of a master plan for love. As if he wasn’t nervous already, he had to keep track of my tour of a place he’d never been, all the while pretending nothing was up…
This picture shows one of the paths to get down to the lighthouse from the grassy area. I am planning to be at the grassy area at 5:30, so when you get here, I will be sitting on one of these benches waiting for or else sitting with a mom and daughter who are going to be my decoys. There isn’t really a good place for me to hide in the bushes and still get a clear shot without rustling like a bear through the poison ivy, so I’m going to do the decoy thing where it will seem like I’m taking pictures of them but really I’m taking pictures of you two. Hopefully she won’t notice because she’ll be into you and whatever you’re saying — we’ll be like 25 feet away I’d say, off to an angle, standing on the sandy pathway. My suggestion is to walk down to the lighthouse together (you and she) and then to walk back up around 6. When I see you starting to walk back up, my decoys and I will start walking down to the rendezvous spot to get set up.
When you are walking back up from the lighthouse, you’ll walk back across the spit of land with the pond to your right now and the harbor to your left – when you get across that spit, the path will fork (seen below). To your left is a wooden dock kind of walkway. To your right is the path to take! Then you’ll be walking along a sand path, with the Harborview up above to your left, the lighthouse to your right.
Once you take the path towards the right, it will look like this. Do not take that first branching little path off to the right there, in the middle of this picture. Walk past that and walk past those bushes.
The spot you want is roughly behind that bare tree in the foreground of this picture, but closer to the pond.
Keep walking down the path, past the little tree, and right there before the rushes, that’s your turn off – right before the road curves to the left – there’s a small pathway there to the right. Walk down there and go to a sandy patch down by the water. My decoys and I will be standing in this pathway – we’ll probably wait until you get down to the sandy patch and then emerge to start taking some “tourist snaps”.
You can sort of see the sandy patch — it’s past the tall grass here. There’s an area of open sand about 4 or 5 feet around.
Zoomed in on your spot, feigning surprise.
This is the Google satellite. You’ll be roughly at the red X.
Ta-da! At some signal from you that you are ready to not be alone, the ruse will be over and I will have to identify myself and we can take some posed portraits.
And now, the plan in execution. I was also so nervous about not being spotted that I almost didn’t turn around in time for the big moment…
She said yes!
The moment I think I’ve been spotted! Quick, I duck away and pretend I was just photographing the lighthouse.
I wasn’t spotted, but by now the ruse is up and these are the authorized photos…
I was glad to be there for this special day and I wish Nathaniel and Rachel all the happiness for their future together. And, hey, I hear the Vineyard is a great place for weddings!
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Vineyard Photographer, AKA Maria, Writing with Light, AKA Maria Thibodeau is a family and portrait photographer on Martha’s Vineyard.