The cover story was set, and Sarah appeared to believe it.
Our Toyota Tacoma truck lumbered down Colorado Highway 7 just outside of Winter Park, Colorado, following Travis and Sarah in their Ford F-150, snow steadily falling and feet of snow already blanketing the road, which turned from plowed asphalt to unplowed dirt road. We were searching for a place to pull off in National Forest Service land so Travis and Sarah could cut down their Christmas tree — and Travis could ask for Sarah’s hand in marriage.
We were admittedly nervous. We hadn’t done proposal photography for Colorado couples before (we’ve done lots of engagement photography in Denver and elsewhere in Colorado), but this was new. We knew we couldn’t just hide out in the woods and feign ignorance for being there (that’s just a bit creepy and, well, bizarre). So we had to come up with a plausible story, then we had to rely on cues and signals we coordinated ahead of time to ensure that Travis knew when the moment was right.
We told Travis to tell Sarah that we were photographers working on a story about families and couples who cut down their Christmas trees. Anya and I both do freelance work for a variety of publications, so a quick Google search by a suspecting fiancé-to-be would have checked out fine. Later, we learned Travis had done just that, showing Sarah some of the stories we had written and photographed previously.
With the story in place, we set our plan in motion: We trudged through the forest, taking pictures during the walk, then found a clearing in the trees — surrounded by towering evergreens covered in fresh, powdery snow. The landscape was peaceful and immaculate. Someone else had already trudged through the snow to give us a path to follow, but so much snow had fallen, that the snow was still waist deep in many places.
After about 10 minutes of walking, we reached a clearing, and we asked Travis and Sarah to pose for a portrait — with Sarah on the left side, Travis on the right. Anya positioned herself to the right side, ready to capture Sarah’s reaction as I set them up looking head on.
After a few photos of the couple, I told Travis to step away and asked Sarah to turn around, facing the trees, and then to look back toward me so that I could capture just a single portrait of her. Once she was safely turned around, Travis bent down on one knee. I took a few photos of Sarah, before she caught Travis’ movement from the corner of her eye.
She turned around, and her reaction was unbridled joy.
Congratulations to you both, and thanks for allowing us to be a part of the moment!