Orla & James Engagement
An engagement for the ages!!!
I was approached by James in August 2016. James explained to me that he was hoping to propose to his girlfriend, Orla, on one of our local beaches in Waterford and asked if I could capture the special moment for them.
Having photographed many engagement shoots but never a real, live, in the moment proposal I jumped at the opportunity and we set about planning the event.
James had enlisted the help of a local sand artist, the one, the only, the extremely talented Sean Corcoran from The Art Hand. James, Sean and I met up at Sean's art school in Bunmahon, Waterford. James initially wanted to keep the event a more intimate affair but, alas, ideas and intrigue took over. Sean pitched an idea to work the proposal into a project he was working on for the Comeraghs Wild Festival and with some gentle persuasion the excitement began to build as we moved closer to achieving a viable plan.
James, Sean and I met up another couple of times at Stradbally Cove, Waterford, the place where we were going to execute the plan with Swiss precision. James and Sean had been working on carving out a path along the cliff top to the viewing point where James wanted to bring Orla. I remember the first time I walked the path and thinking to myself "James is a hero if he pulls this off, there's no way I could convince anyone to come up here." and that was on a somewhat sunny day, but more on that later. James and Sean continued to work on the path with every opportunity they had, each time carving away more of the thorns and bushes. I scouted the location as best as I could and moved to scouting the cliff opposite, this is where I was going to get my shot, I'd be so far away from the action that Orla wouldn't have a clue. I wanted the moment to be real so this is where I had to be.
Before the day arrived, we had it all planned out, we knew when and where we were going to be, we knew what we had to do. I needed a couple extra items to make sure I could get the most out of my part, items that I've never needed on a photography venture before, binoculars and 2 way radios.
Then came the 18th of September 2016. This was the day, James was going to ask Orla to marry him and Orla was going to say "Yes".
The weather really wasn't co-operative, it rained so heavy all morning. Sean was at the beach since early in the morning, he had most of his art already drawn in the sand when I arrived there at 10.30am. I had a quick chat with Sean on the beach, we set our radios to the same channel and I headed to my viewpoint with my girlfriend, Jan. It was pouring rain and we had a bit of a trek ahead of us.
We reached the viewpoint just after 11am and we got as comfortable as we could in the midst of the rain and wild wind blowing across the unsheltered cliff top. A quick glance over the edge and I was able to let Sean know that his message looked spectacular, even upside down(it was aimed towards James and Orlas viewpoint on the cliff opposite my position). I set up my tripod and I decided that this would be an ideal opportunity to break in one of my brand spanking new Canon 5D Mark IVs. I locked in my composition, picked my settings, set my focus and we waited.
The weather was treacherous and still people began to gather on the beach below, eager to see what all this experimental sand art was about. The City Of Waterford Brass Band began to entertain the crowd, marching the outline of the heart which was created earlier by Sean and further enhancing it's texture and shading. They belted out a number of tunes from their repertoire before the rain began to take it's toll. Eventually, everyone present made for an alcove in the cliff face to seek any bit of shelter that it may offer. At this point the rain began to soak through our waterproof gear, the left side of my clothing was thoroughly saturated while most of my right side remained slightly less so.
We reached the point, just after 1pm, where the band doubted that they'd have any more opportunities to perform and they began to make their way back to the car park. But then...
A glimmer of hope, Donal Sheerin called over the radio to say a couple had just pulled up in the car park. The excitement levels started to creep back up. In an attempt to establish if it was James and Orla, I asked Donal if they were heading towards the pathway. They were!!!
The brass band rushed back into position, I began recording. The adrenaline was pumping now, I can only imagine how James felt while making the walk up the path. I had my binoculars out and caught sight of them moving occasionally through different hedges and bushes.
Then came the countdown, over the radio, 10, 9, 8, the band started to play Matrimony by Gilbert O Sullivan, a very appropriate piece considering what was about to happen, 7, 6, 5, we were really buzzing with excitement now, the rain no longer mattered, in fact I think it had pretty much been forgotten, 4, 3, 2, James appeared first, 1, and there was Orla. I had a running commentary from Jan behind me, almost screaming with excitement. James stepped up on to the perch and helped Orla up beside him.
It obviously didn't take Orla long to read the message as she gasped almost immediately before turning to James and then came the cuddles and kisses. The running commentary was continuing behind me, Jan became even more excited as she was narrating everything at least twice with her elevated pitch, "She's kissing him, she's kissing him", etc. As James searched his pocket, for the ring, Orla again turned to take in the whole scene. James regained her attention before dropping to one knee and completing the task at hand, Orla said "Yes"!!!
From there, we packed up the gear and made our way back to the beach. I grabbed both Orla and James for a mini group hug when I saw them, I had never met Orla before this and I don't know how she felt being hugged by a big soaking wet stranger but I made no apologies, I think everyone who was present was just really caught up in the moment, the positive energy was immense, it was still raining but nobody cared.
The intention, had the weather been dry, was to get a few nice photos of James and Orla together on their own. Not wanting to miss out on getting some shots from the actual day, I asked James and Orla if they'd be up for getting some quick pics in the rain and they were absolute troopers. It was very easy to tell that they were madly in love, the way they fit together was just so perfect!!!
Orla & James have since booked me for their big day in Stresa, Italy next September. We have also had another opportunity to get some great shots of the happy couple, minus the rain.
It's an incredible pleasure to have been given the opportunity to document Orla & James story from the moment of their engagement, next stop, Italy!!!
Have a look below to see some shots taken after the proposal and also from our second trip and stay tuned for the wedding.