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October 21, 2018

Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session

Casey and I have been friends since we did theater together in middle school. Because of that, photographing her engagement was a blast from the past and super fun for the two of us to do together. We loved getting to travel to do this shoot and explore Old Town Alexandria together. An engagement shoot that’s also an adventure is one of our favorite kinds!

Twilight in the Capitol

It was actually graduate school that brought Casey and Jim together. This is a strong argument for getting an advanced degree in my book! The two sat directly across from one another in one of their classes. Before Jim asked Casey out, she wasn’t sure he was interested. All Jim talked about was school. When Jim finally plucked up the courage, he asked her if she would ever want to go to a movie? Or eat dinner together? Or go get coffee? A drink? Ice cream? Jim’s enthusiasm and ability to cast a wide net of options made Casey laugh and quickly won her over. She said yes.

Impressively, Casey and Jim actually did all of the above activities on their first date! As if that wasn’t enough, they rounded off the evening with a twilight walk around the D.C. monuments. That magical first date kicked off the nearly three-year relationship that now leads them to the altar. Perhaps the sweetest thing about Casey and Jim’s graduate school beginnings comes from the classroom. The professor of the class where they met is also officiating their wedding ceremony!

Behind the Curtain

Like myself and Casey, Jim was also a huge theater kid in high school. They have matching embarrassing show pictures, costume collections, and video recordings! Unfortunately, Casey has assured us those will definitely not be on display at the wedding. (Maybe Allen and I will be able to sneak a peek behind-the-scenes…) Their shared interest in drama means that Casey and Jim love going to shows together and talking all things drama. Their senses of humor and goofy attitudes really compliment one another. Casey and Jim often improvised ridiculous scenes or stories, joking around with one another until all four of us were couldn’t stop laughing. Doing a shoot with them was like watching a two-person show full of smiles and lots of love.

Their great sense for comedy doesn’t mean that Casey and Jim can’t get serious. They live in the DC metro area and both work for the government. This hardworking determination for their dual careers also applies to their desire to build a life together. Casey says that Jim is her partner through any turbulence in life, big or completely insignificant. She values his thoughtfulness, support, and very cute dimples. Jim also thinks of Casey as a teammate as they undertake problems together. He says that Casey looks out for him in ways that he would never think to look out for himself, making him feel special and important.

The Proposal

Jim put a lot of thought into how he would propose. He researched locations, asked friends for advice, and searched far and wide for the best ring. Feeling unqualified to pick out a gemstone, Jim decided to make Casey a ring instead. He broke a branch off of a magnolia tree in their community and fashioned it into a ring while Casey slept. One night Casey woke up unexpectedly, but she was too tired to ask any questions about what he was doing. She must have been really tired–Jim was covered in sawdust! A few weeks later at a family party in a local winery, Jim pulled Casey and their dog Harper aside for a private walk. He knelt down and proposed in the beautiful pagoda where the winery hosts weddings. Casey said yes, and they were both thrilled. (Harper saved his excitement for later. According to Casey, he was visibly pooping on the scenic rolling hills while Jim asked her to be part of his family!).

Despite their best efforts to keep the engagement quiet so that it didn’t become the focus of the family party, one whisper led to another. Eventually, everyone found out and the party culminated in a big celebratory toast to the newly engaged couple.

Photographers’ Highlight

On the latter end of the shoot we took a hike through the Great Falls trail of Maryland outside of DC. The scenery is absolutely stunning there, but a good portion of our shoot took place overlooking a cliff. While I knew there would be beautiful shots in that area as soon as we saw it, I also wanted to be safe and make sure Jim and Casey were comfortable. Watching one another climb over the rocks and hang precariously on the verge of a several hundred foot drop was unsettling! But as always, we were very cautious and we didn’t do more than Jim and Casey (and our delicate camera equipment!) could handle. And the reward was some truly gorgeous photos. That experience was the most memorable!

Tips & Tricks for Your Engagement Shoot

Embrace the unexpected. Jim and Casey chose Old Town Alexandria, a location close to where they live, but not a super familiar one to them. Since Allen and I flew in from California, we knew even less about what to expect. But by exploring the area together we were able to bond with Casey and Jim as a couple. Our research about the area in advance was super helpful, but some of our best shots came from unexpected places we never would have discovered if we’d only stuck to what we had planned. Allen’s favorite example of this is the tiny Christmas shop we came across, which was so quaint and classic. (And meant photos right in time for the holiday season, too!)
Don’t be afraid to improvise! Climbing cliffs are definitely not for everyone, but ending up on a different hiking trail than we’d originally planned meant beautiful sunset shots of Casey and Jim holding one another and looking out into the distance at their shared future. That’s the best kind of theater and the best kind of photo–the one that can’t be scripted!

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