Julie & Charlie's Enchanted Forest Engagement

It's a peaceful Sunday morning as I enjoy finishing up this blog.  My drink of choice: fresh made ginger & lemon tea with some wild raw honey.  Newest song in my head (& that you should check out): Adele - When We Were Young (live)

When the beautiful Julie asked me to shoot her fall engagement pictures, I was very excited for the opportunity to tell her and Charlie's love story.  Besides being a long time friend of Julie's, I could see they were both very in love, photogenic & stylish.  I knew it would be a great opportunity to create really beautiful images if we had the right scenes and got some killer light.

Part of me was also a bit nervous as Julie's extremely talented sister Rita is awesome an wedding planner who works with a lot of excellent photographers so I knew the bar would be set high.  Since seeing these photos she's been extremely supportive and has even recommended couples my way (thanks for the support & kindness Rita, you rock!).  If you're planning an epic wedding or intimate event you definitely need to check out her elegant, lavish & perfectionist style.

Although we attended french school together over 10 years ago, we had lost touch a bit since going off to University and despite having met Charlie once before at a friend's dinner party, I really wanted to know more about how they met and fell in love.  Turns out it started as a strong friendship, which gradually progressed far far beyond.

In Her Words:

Charlie and I met through our sisters when we were 15 years old. We were all part of a church youth group and one day we were invited over to his house which is where I met him the first time... We started out as friends and remained good friends for a very long time. As good friends, we always made sure to be part of each other’s lives and be there for each others birthdays and events. We even went to each other’s proms in grade 12. What’s great about our relationship is that we grew up together and we were best friends before anything!

Inspiration for the Shoot:

When asking her what makes them unique or what they love to do together she said:

We love to go on picnics, and go for walks and explore new places. We are always up for any type of activities such as biking, exercising together, bouldering (rock climbing), cooking together, skating etc. Although we’re not pros at these things, we enjoy doing them... a lot of the things we like doing include supporting each other, whether it’s helping each other to solve a bouldering climb or a crossword.
— I thought

I knew a really cool forest nearby which was accessible and provided us lots of space and privacy to shoot.  Joker's Hill, one of my favorite places to walk Maple (my Rhodesian Ridgeback pup) has this amazing pine forest with rows and rows of trees which created a great setting for the first part of our shoot.  In my head, I imagined bringing down the already dim available light and using off camera flash to really make things seem more intimate and enchanted.

The foundation and inspiration were set, my imagination was running wild, and that's where Julie really took it to a new level with props and details for the shoot.

Blanket, Lanterns, Wine, Grapes, Cheese, Flowers, Baguette, Custom Cookies etc.  This couple really knocked it out of the park on the details side of things!

Blanket, Lanterns, Wine, Grapes, Cheese, Flowers, Baguette, Custom Cookies etc.  This couple really knocked it out of the park on the details side of things!

With props, lighting, camera gear, food, wardrobe change, etc. in hand we hiked 5-7 mins in where we nestled into this grassy valley surrounded by thousands of pines perfectly lined up just as they were planted years & years ago.

While Julie and Jessica (my wonderful fiancee & occasional creative director/assistant) were setting up the picnic, I took Charlie to the side for some natural and flash lit portraits.

Remember I said these guys were photogenic?!  The above looks more like a rugged GQ shoot than anything.  Charlie is an awesome guy right through & although he had never been photographed professionally before was a complete natural!

I loved this setting so I called Julie over who was equally as natural in front of the lens.

Julie on Charlie's Epic Proposal:

Charlie proposed to me the day before my birthday. He was taking me out that Sunday as an “excuse” to celebrate my birthday. He planned 3-4 activities but in order to get to these activities, he kept giving me 2 hints/choices for each activity (ex: Morning hints: Temple, or Artist = Restaurant Names: Mildred’s Temple or Starving artist).

We kept doing that until the 4th activity where he didn’t let me choose. We went to ESC-IT, a room escape challenge (we have done them before). What I didn’t know was that Charlie had gone the week before to get the solution to unlock the door to the second room. These challenges are tough, I was getting really frustrated and not understanding what to do, while he kept trying to give me hints and get me to figure it out... At the time I was really reluctant.

Finally, after much frustration on my part, I unlocked the door and found the second room filled with candles and flowers. I turned behind me to find Charlie on his knees saying: This is the last decision you have to make for the day! And there it is... Simple, sweet and thoughtful!

Hats off to ESC-IT in Markham, ON for facilitating Charlie's request to organize this awesome surprise!

Picnic Time:

The picnic setup, the late day light peeking through the trees and their outfits all came together perfectly for some really intimate and stunning picnic shots.

Next it was onto enjoying the custom cookies Julie had created for the shoot which we all happily devoured.

Picnic done, it was time to change & move to the wild fields nearby for some natural late day light.  While they were switching outfits, I took the opportunity to capture some macro shots of the the beautiful ring Charles gave to his beloved Jou Jou.  It was so much fun using available light & details of our special shoot to showcase this gorgeous oval cut stone.

Off We Go:

Before getting to the field I couldn't help but notice the perfect leading lines of the tree rows so we played, the stump providing a perfect place for Julie to stand.

Then who could resist these late fall colours?

I knew the field pics were going to be special.  My dear clients had now forgotten about the camera.  We were using natural golden light without the need for camera stands and soft boxes, so I basically just captured them interacting naturally as they walked among sumac trees and tall grasses.  Blankets & layers were key as temps were chilly!

As they often do in my shoots, piggy backs ensued.  Waist high faded grasses provided a stunning backdrop and color palette to create some of my favorite images from the day.

All in all, we had a blast of an afternoon together. 

Reflecting back while looking at these images, I was blown away by their HUGE natural smiles, bright eyes & attention to each last detail in their props & outfits. All the more special was showcasing an amazing location so close to home & being of service to a long time friend. I’m so grateful to have been there to witness & capture their enduring love.

A bientôt mes amis,