Zebedee Films is known for its video work, but not everyone knows they have their roots in photography. John Goodbrad started doing photography for fun in high school and moved to films in college but occasionally a friend comes to him with a photography project that he just can’t pass up.
This project seemed impossible from the beginning but the challenge was what excited me the most! A friend named Joel called me a few months ago and talked to me about wanting engagement photos. His idea was to propose in the morning and photo-document the day so that he could give his fiancé (Emily) a scrapbook at the end of the day. The idea is crazy. To get all the photos printed and scrap-booked in the same day would be hard, but then he hit me with the real challenge,
“I want it to be a surprise!“
Whoa, he wanted me to become a stealth photographer for a huge day in his life. These photos were important and logistically it seemed intense. How could I pass it up!?
The day started at 5:30am with a trip to the beach for breakfast at sunrise. I found a cozy spot behind some sea oats to catch a few shots.
The plan was that they would get up and go for a walk while I planted a rose on their beach blanket. When they returned he would propose. Everything was going well and they got up to go on the walk. I had the flower, so I snuck up to the blanket and looked down the beach. They were pretty far away and looking the other direction so I planted the flower. Just as I did, as if Emily had a sixth sense about it, she turned and looked at me. She grabbed Joel and said, “I think someone is stealing our stuff!” Joel was caught by surprise and said the first thing that came to his mind, “Look at the ocean!” He reassured her everything was fine back at the blanket and by then I was gone. They continued their walk. I will note that I had not met Emily before that day and I was pretty sure she wouldn’t think about it after the proposal.
They returned from their walk to find the rose and I was safely hidden about a hundred feet way. The proposal was beautiful.
I told Joel that if he took pictures with his iPhone, he could send them to me and we would include them in the scrapbook. This idea proved to be a great way to get pictures of them up-close and smiling at the camera, genius!
The next location was Lido for kayaking! One of Joel’s brothers, Jer, was my gondolier. It was crazy to sneak around and find cover to get pictures. Cell phones were critical! We were text messaging Joel most of the day to get updates on where they were and to help buy more time to get things set up. We found a dock to sit on and get photos from while they were in the bayou. Vignettes are beautiful for photos, but I knew there would not be time to get into photoshop, so I used trees and the dock to make borders for my photos.
After kayaking, they stopped on a semi private beach where other members of Joels family had set up a beautiful lunch spread. The beach was small and almost impossible to find a good place to take photos from.
I ended up jumping on shore and trying to get near them. I was getting pretty close when another kayaker yelled to Joel and Emily, “Is that guy taking pictures with you?” Emily turned and looked right at me! Crap! Think fast. She doesn’t know you. I walked up to them and pretended I didn’t know them. I said, “Sorry, I have never seen anything like this before. It is very cool!” They agreed. I asked them, “How did you get the table in the kayak?” They laughed and explained that it was already setup. I told them I didn’t want to be a creeper and that I would leave them to it. I turned to leave and Joel seized the moment and said, “No, wait. You can get a photo.” I asked Emily if that was ok and she said yes. I got a great picture of them at the table and with a sigh of relief I walked away.
Still…. the day wasn’t over. Would she now be looking around for a creeping photographer? Would she see me again and recognize me? I just had to be more careful.
We were rushed to make it over to the next location in time and I almost missed them leaving on jet skis.
With them out on the water we took some time to get started on the scrapbook. CVS Photo Center was the closest place to get prints done. We met up with Mary at CVS. Mary is a friend of Emily’s and is an incredible scrap-booker! She already had a head start on the scrapbook and the pictures fit in perfectly. After Jet skiing, Joel and Emily went to the RItz Carlton for a spa treatment and to relax. The whole time Joel was sending me photos from his iPhone and we were making prints.
We got most of the scrapbook done. The only location left was dinner at a restaurant in the Ritz. All the staff was in on the engagement and photo-documentary. They seated me and a friend at a table near where Joel and Emily would be seated and I got a couple photos while we waited. Joel and Emily arrived and their waiter Keith was incredible! He made sure they were entertained long enough for me to get a couple good photos and get out.
Joel made sure to get a good photo as well.
Now we were on a race against time! We had to get the scrapbook done and back to the Ritz before sunset. Mary did an impressive job with the last few photos and we raced back to the Ritz. The sun was about 15 minutes from setting! We set up a small pedestal n the courtyard and put the book on it. Jer and I hid as the waiter told Joel and Emily about the romantic sunset they should go watch. That was Joel’s cue and they left the table and started walking toward the courtyard.
After such a long day, Jer and I leaned against a balcony and watched as Joel led Emily to the pedestal. You may recall the scene from the end of Oceans 11 where all the stars have a moment in front of the fountains in Las Vegas. They look at each other so proud of what they accomplished. This is the feeling we had as we watched Emily and Joels surprise and amazement at the pages in the scrapbook. She couldn’t believe it. She was so thankful to have so many photos from such a beautiful day. As the sun set, they kissed and we knew the day couldn’t have gone any better. Jer and I left to go meet up with the rest of Joels family for an after party.
It was a beautiful end to a great day! I was finally introduced to Emily and she thanked me for the photos. We all swapped stories for a few hours and re-lived what ended up being a perfect day.