A proposal in Duke Gardens in Durham – Stephen and Kate

Kate is shocked as Stephen proposes to her on a bridge in Duke Gardens

Not even the rain could dampen Stephen's proposal to Kate at Duke Gardens


I was referred to Stephen by a friend of mine who works at Duke University. It was a week before Christmas, and Stephen and his girlfriend, Kate, would be coming to Durham from Boston to visit Kate’s family. Stephen went to law school at Duke and wanted to propose to Kate at Duke Gardens, the site of their first date, and he wanted pictures of the proposal. Could I do something like that, he asked.


I was excited, of course. I’m always around couples on one of the best days of their lives — their wedding day — but being there to see the beginning of that journey would be truly special.


My challenge became, how do I capture the beauty and emotions of the moment while being as unobtrusive as possible? I had to be close enough to get capture the moment but far enough away to allow Stephen and Kate some privacy. I made some suggestions to Stephen about sites at Duke Gardens, and after looking through pictures, he decided he wanted to propose on the Arched Bridge in the Asiatic Arboretum section.


The day of the proposal, the weather was mild, but the forecast called for afternoon rain. Stephen was going to propose at 3:30, so I got to Duke Gardens about 45 minutes early, to scout things out and try to find the best location to shoot from. As soon as I stepped out of my car, it began to rain — hard. I took an umbrella and walked over to the bridge, to check things out. Since it was winter, there wasn’t a lot of cover for me to conceal myself very well for the photos. I didn’t want to be some guy hiding in the bushes, but I wanted at least some cover, so I wasn’t too obvious.


The rain actually ended up helping out in two ways. First, it cleared everyone else out of Duke Gardens, so I didn’t have to worry about people wandering through my photo. Second, the cool rain caused steam to rise off the warm lake, creating a really mystical, fairytale atmosphere. I texted Stephen and told him I was in place. Now, we just need the rain to stop.


It finally did. I’m not sure how Stephen convinced Kate to take a walk along the rain-soaked paths, but he did, and I was there waiting, as casually as I could, pretending to photograph the beauty of the surroundings. Fortunately, right as they started to cross the bridge, a blue heron landed in the lake right across from me. What perfect cover! Kate told me later she thought I was there photographing the bird; she never suspected that Stephen was going to propose or that I was there to take pictures of the proposal. I think you can tell from her reaction in the photos that she was truly surprised.


Thank you, Stephen and Kate, for letting me be a part of your special moment. Now you’ll have photos to remember that wonderful day forever!


Proposal on bridge at Duke Gardens

The moment before the moment


Stephen proposes to Kate on Arched Bridge at Duke Gardens

I think she is surprised


Proposal on Arched Bridge at Duke Gardens

BTW, she said "Yes"


Stephen proposes to Kate on red bridge at Duke Gardens

Did I mention she was surprised?


Proposal on red bridge over lake at Duke Gardens

Here's a wider view showing more of the surroundings


Portrait of couple in front of red bridge at Duke Gardens

The happily engaged couple


Portrait of newly engaged couple at Duke Gardens

Kate was certainly overcome with emotion


Photo of couple on arched bridge on foggy day at Duke Gardens

The steam coming off the lake added a nice effect


Stephen and Kate in front of bridge at Duke Gardens

I love this picture


Engaged couple posing in front of arched bridge at Duke Gardens

I love the look they're sharing!


Couple kiss in front of red arched bridge at Duke Gardens

One last kiss...


If you would like to see more of my pictures from Duke Gardens, check out Mandy’s and Mike’s engagement/family shoot; Cassie’s and Sam’s engagement session and Marilyn’s bridal portraits. Thanks for looking!