angel island proposal | san francisco engagement photography

When I got the call from Andrew and heard his plans to propose to his girlfriend Alicia, I was so excited - not only did I get to take their pictures, but I got to play spy too! He had planned out a whole clandestine operation where I would discreetly follow them on a hike around the island and capture the moment at the top when he dropped to one knee and popped the question.

It was a perfectly sunny and clear December day, which was in our favor, but it was the Friday just before Christmas, which meant there were very few people heading to Angel Island that day. In fact, there were only six of us on the ferry ride over from San Francisco, so hiding in plain sight was the only option. I decided to play the part of the "travel photographer" doing a destination piece for a local magazine - nobody asked, but it was fun to have a backstory anyhow.    

You can see the whole group of ferry passengers here; fortunately, Andrew & Alicia were too busy taking in the scenery to notice the big red-head at the end of the boat loaded down with camera gear. :)

The ferry ride from San Francisco to Angel Island is pretty magnificent, and I managed to turn my attention away from the lovebirds along the way to catch a few of the sites...the Golden Gate Bridge will do that to you...did I mention this was late December?

When we arrived at Angel Island, a new problem presented itself - there were now just six of us on a small island with lots of hiking trails...it seemed unlikely that I could follow two of them without arousing any suspicions, but fortunately I had my trusty long lens...although I still felt a little weird stalking these two.

Lucky for me, Andrew and Alicia were too busy taking in the amazing sites to pay too much attention to me...I was communicating occasionally with Andrew over text to make sure things were going smoothly and he played his part like a champ too, setting up all sorts of photo ops where I could catch them along their trip. 

When I made it to the peak, I found a nice little patio area just below the radio tower, and let Andrew know that he could pass me and setup the scene there...it was about our only option, but I think it worked reasonably well for a scenic backdrop: 

The plan was that Alicia wouldn't know I was there, even after the proposal...Andrew was planning to surprise her with the photos leading up to their wedding. I was concerned that with just the three of us up on the mountain, even at ~50m away, my camera clicking was about the only sound you could hear; I was sure my cover would be blown once the moment started. Fortunately, Alicia was so shocked that she didn't even notice the sound of my camera in the distance!

She said yes (duh!). 

After a few quiet moments, I got a text from Andrew to come down to them. I thought the jig was up, that Alicia had heard me taking photos up top, but it turns out my cover was intact! When I came down, he said hello and told me that they had just gotten engaged, and asked me to take a photo of them. The true romantic, Andrew had not only planned to have me there, but had also made a sign to take this "candid" photo of them to announce the event to their friends and family. Needless to say, I caught some heat from my wife when I got home for not having put as much thought into my proposal!

At that point, the main part of the job was done. I'd kept my cover intact - and completed a successful spy mission! I headed down the hill while the two newly-engageds enjoyed a scenic picnic lunch at the peak. On the way down, I captured a bit more of the scenery, and then caught the ferry back to SF where I caught a few last pics of the happy couple.

Oh deer, I think he's on to me.