Gang aft agley

So. A friend contacted me about two weeks ago, wanted to see if I could come down to Atlanta airport to film the wedding proposal of her son to his girlfriend; they had met at a particular gate there, and he planned to propose at the same place. How sweet!

[I’m not a sentimental type, so yes, there’s a certain amount of sarcasm there, not at the idea itself, but at the number of people who would actually respond that way.]

Anyway, my friend was covering the airfare, and I’d only be gone a day, so I agreed. I ended up getting too little sleep the previous night, but I knew I’d catch up within the day, so no biggie. The plan was, the girlfriend (no, not The Girlfriend we all know, this is a descriptor rather than a title) would be coming in on a later flight by herself, so the three of us – my friend, her son [who is also my friend, but again] and I – could plan out how we were going to capture the event. I had never met the girlfriend in question, so I would just be “random airport person” to her and could hang around with a camera as long as I didn’t act too suspicious/creepy – yes, this would require great acting skills on my part, but you don’t doubt I was up to this, do you? Meanwhile, my friend, the future mother-in-law, was of course well known to the future fiancée and would have to remain incognito so no suspicions were aroused, and she accomplished this with a heavy flannel shirt (something she never wore) and a huge wool camo hunting cap, or “beanie” I think is the current vernacular. And sunglasses. It was hideous, and thus hilarious, but I’m not sure “incognito” is exactly the right word.

Anyway, we talked over where everyone would be for the best views, especially to capture the look of surprise and such, not get too many people in the way, and so on. We semi-staged positions, and enlisted the airport staff’s help in a couple of details – including, one of the gate agents would do video on a smutphone, while I was doing video on a DSLR and the friend was doing the still shots. With great luck, the entire gate became deserted between flights, only ten minutes before the future fiancée’s flight was due in at another gate. The son went off to meet the intended and bring her back to our trap under some pretense or another, and the rest of us got into position.

Almost immediately, the area flooded with people; seeing an unused gate, Delta decided to put it to use and switched another flight into it. Word that the couple were returning came very quickly and I raised the camera and tried to get them into frame. Only, the future fiancée paused too far back, not framed against the proposal banner and actually blocked from my view by a column and several people. I could see that her boyfriend was already down on one knee and I maneuvered for an unobstructed view, struggling with autofocus which tried to capture everything that crossed my frame, and when I finally got into the clear, the gate agent with the smutphone repeatedly blocked my view, trying for his own good vantage. Meanwhile my friend, taking the still photos, also had a bad angle initially and had to shift around everyone else, hampered by poor indoor light and her own excitement which didn’t help her steady hands at all.

Having done quite a few weddings in my past, I can say that this was hardly unexpected; the ‘serious’ portraits tend to be elaborately staged and lighted, kept under strict control because that’s the only way to guarantee results, while the reception photos and candids are often dicey, especially those portions which are not part of the routine wedding events. When there are a lot of variables not under anyone’s control, a lot can go wrong, and the best you can do is plan for as many contingencies as you can imagine and adapt to anything else as it occurs. And it sometimes means that the nice situation that you had planned doesn’t come to pass at all.

This is all, naturally, from a photographer’s perspective, which is not the most important one in any such situation; the future fiancée was completely taken by surprise, and overwhelmed by the proposal. The various people around the gate, passengers and staff, were delighted, and applauded happily. Delta Airlines was enormously generous and showered the couple with various gifts before they caught their connecting flight back out, and we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to those staffmembers at the gate who helped make it all work out. Right at the moment, I am maintaining my usual policy of not naming names or picturing people without express permission, but perhaps later on there will be actual photos.

And of course she said, “yes.” Congratulations, Drew and Allanah – we wish you all the best for your future together! And for my part, it was a lot of fun, despite the issues described here.

The post title, should it be unfamiliar, is better known by a slightly ‘translated’ version – I am not completely without literary knowledge…

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