Sunday, December 20, 2015

How to photograph a surprise proposal (wedding, engagement, marriage) Photography, videography overlooking Downtown Los Angeles GoShiggyGo

Surprise Wedding Proposal in a hidden gem of a tiny park overlooking Downtown LA.

Photography & Videography 
by Shiggy Ichinomiya (itchy-know-me-ya)
of GoShiggyGo Photography 
{Facebook--->>> Click HERE }

with much love & light


Over the summer I was commissioned to photograph fitness and lifestyle photographs for my friend Monica at the Manhattan Beach Pier here in Southern California.   A few months later Monica contacted me wondering whether I could take photos of her son's surprise wedding proposal.  I was given Anthony's email and the date was set for Tuesday, December 8th.

Wedding proposals are among some of the very special moments in people's lives so I wanted to go above and beyond of just taking still photographs and wanted to add some videography as a little bonus.

Since Anthony was going to surprise Anais with the wedding proposal, I almost hesitated adding video for it could potentally ruin the surprise. Why? It's hard to hide a video camera....... that is on a tripod........ in a park.... in a location that screams....."dude, out of all the places in the park, why set up right there with nothing around?"  

Kinda like sticking out like a sore thumb!!  

BUT, I had a plan!!!! 
Fail to plan.
Plan to fail.
I had a plan!!

I agreed to meet Anthony at 3pm at this incredible little park.

I had actually driven right by the park and had to ask a local man out on a walk where this special park was located.
It's a tiny oasis of a park with some green grass that leads up to 
two back-to-back benches that overlook Downtown LA.  

It's a total hole-in-the-wall and probably one of LA's 
best kept secrets.  This can be both good and bad.
Good because of the stunning view.
Bad because it's popular. 
And popular = crowded. 
And we don't want crowds that could obscure this unique view or detract from the couple's special moment. 

The night before and days leading up to this special day, I was having anxious thoughts of crowds and photobombers and of people sleeping on the benches.  I had a plan!!! 

Bring a few bucks to give to the person on the bench in order to vacate it for the couple.
(Remember planning is key!!! Even though I didn't need it, I had a couple of $20 dollar bills in my back pocket, just in case!!)

Back to the park.

The way this park is configured, it is very obvious
that people are around and anyone walking, is in plain sight and highly visible. No hiding. No trees close by to sneak behind and take photos.

My plan: I brought a foldable beach chair with me and a couple of blankets, as well as my camera bag and a back pack. Going camping? (hehe)

It looked really odd, but I had the beach chair with the back to 
the park bench.  Odd because the great view was behind me. 
But, that way,  when Anais walked to the bench from a path in the opposite direction, she wouldn't see me.
I also had to position myself close enough to the couple so that I could perhaps intercept anyone wanting to go and look out of the view of DTLA. My eyes were darting left and right looking for people approaching.  Kinda exhausting. But worth it!!

I covered my camera bag with a blanket and then I set my video camera on a tripod and placed a black blanket over it.

I wanted to give the impression that some regular guy was having a picnic and reading a magazine. If I stood there with just a camera in hand, it would be like wearing red in a field of pristine white snow in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  Why Idaho? I did my first Ironman triathlon there. But I digress.........By having all this stuff with me I wanted to detract from the fact that I had a camera with me. I mean who would come with a beach chair, blankets and all these bags, just to take photos?  Hmmmmm!!

I also placed a couple of bags on the bench in order to secure it for as long as I could before the couple arrived.

Anthony and I did some run throughs. 
We met for the first time at 3pm, established a great rapport,  and immediately hit the ground running. 
We checked the framing and composition of the video and
 were happy.

A couple of high school students sat on the bench behind us.
And then a couple more high school students came along and went down the slope so they could, well, let us just say, they liked
um, er, the grass!!! It was very fragrant!!

The high schoolers left, and then some more gals came and sat on the bench to take some photos with a selfie-stick.

Anthony and I continued practising to see which knee he would go down to. Left knee down or right knee down?
We had to do a  couple of run throughs so it would be smooth and natural for when the big time came!! 

Anthony even asked me which knee to go down to.
From my experience (I'll save that story for another time,)
 I told him to go to the knee that he feels most comfortable.

(BTW, I went down on my right knee.)

Anthony left at 4pm to pick up Anais.
He told me that he would text me at the parking lot when he returned with her.  The walk from the parking lot to the bench was 3 minutes. That would give me time to do my final preparations.

I did some final checks with my camera to make sure the ISO, the shutter speed and f-stop were good-to-go!!

And then completely out of nowhere, this lady walks towards me with a camera and tripod.  Eeeek!!! My heart started pounding!! T minus 3 minutes!!!   We chatted for a second and I told her that in a couple of minutes there would be a wedding proposal and if she would be so kind as to move.  She was totally understanding and would take a few more photos of DTLA (downtown LA)  for her....get class!! Click, click and she left.
Where did she go? Ohhh, about 200 yards away to the other side of the park. Facing where? You guessed it. The bench where the couple were coming to.  So much for hiding a camera.

Around 4:20 pm I got the text message that Anthony was with Anais in the parking lot. I texted back,  "K" because I'm young and cool like that!!! heheee

Problem: Sunset was at 4:47pm which means it was getting darker and darker, literally by the minute.  This meant that I had to make a quick last minute adjustment of the exposure setting on both my video and on my camera to make sure that everything 
was exposed correctly. And problem number two: people were approaching this location because the sunset over Downtown LA is gorgeous!!

I covered up the camera and video camera and took out my monthly subscription to "Success"  magazine to pretend that I was reading,  all the while with my back to the bench and to the couple that were approaching the bench.

This amazing location overlooks Downtown LA and you can get a glimpse of Disney Hall.  When the couple arrived at the bench, the natural thing to do is to sit down.  To get Anais to stand up from being seated on the bench, and to give me a heads up to get ready, Anthony would ask Anais, "Where is Disney Hall?"  

Disney was our code word. 
When I heard "Disney" this would be my cue to
 start taking pictures.

The problem: Anthony doesn't speak loudly and why would he if he was within inches of Anais?  Solution: I used my cellphone and put it on "selfie" mode. This way, with my back to the couple, I could "pretend" that I was taking a selfie, but I was actually using the screen as a mirror to see what the couple was doing.

To be honest, I couldn't hear a word, because my next immediate focus was on a couple happily throwing around a rugby ball, totally unaware of the wedding proposal,  y'up.......walking straight towards us!!!  (More on this in a few paragraphs.) 

Since I saw Anthony and Anais  were now standing,  it was game time.   It was time to start taking pictures. 

I quickly and stealthily turned around and pulled the blanket of my video camera.  I pressed the "on" button, looked in the viewfinder,  established focus and pressed record. 

Then I took my Canon 5D Mark III camera with a 70-200 mm lens on it out of the bag, and like a skilled hunter and sniper, 
I started shooting.  
A hunter of memories. 
Capturing images.
Preserving them. Forever. 

Anais had no clue that I was there. And I didn't want to make it obvious because I wanted natural, unposed and 
candid photos of  her expressions. 

I wanted to capture real-life imagery and heartfelt emotion.
When people know that a camera is fixed on them, sometimes their reactions can be somewhat contrived and fake.

So I nimbly and quietly moved up and down taking as many photographs from as many angles as possible,
like a fly, nay, like a  spider on the wall.
Spiderman!! (Sound better than Flyman. hehehee)

And remember this is a public park and just like Murphy's law says: "If something can go wrong, it will."

Back to the rugby ball couple. Out of the corner of my eye I see a couple with a rugby ball being tossed in the air coming towards us. This happened right as I pressed record on the video camera.  How could I tell the couple, unbeknownst to them, that a wedding proposal was in progress?

I managed to establish eye contact with the girl who had just caught the rugby ball. With hand gestures I signaled "stop" and pointed to Anthony and Anais. I smiled and the couple understood and stopped in their tracks,  yet still out of sight from Anthony and Anais.  This was good because if they had walked just  two or three more steps forward, (in front of a tree that was hiding them,)  this might have attracted Anais's attention and caused her  to look over at them, and while doing so, she could have inadverently seen me with this bazooka of a lens.  (run on sentence)

Making the most of the situation and having a positive, can-do attitude, I merrily clicked away.

Anthony had gotten on his right knee and proposed to Anais. 

SHE SAID YES!!! Yay!!!!

Anais didn't have a clue about this surprise, and she didn't see me until Anthony pointed me out.  Hooray. Hooray.

Mission: Accomplished!!

What a great couple!! 
What a great little location and what a great view!!!

Anais & Anthony
Engaged on Dec. 8th, 2015

ps Thank you Adam from Tower 26 for introducing me to your wife Monica. And thank you Monica for introducing me to your son Anthony and trusting me to capture these once in a lifetime beautiful moments. 
Love & Light!!



                                Just saw this photo (below) on Instagram of a man proposing......

Shiggy Ichinomiya (itchy-know-me-yah)

For bookings, availability and questions, please
send a happy email to:

   SHIGGY   is a Los Angeles based and  internationally published photographer and author.
Shiggy is available for destination photo shoots all over the World.
He is trilingual and speaks, English, Japanese and German
and has traveled to over 25 countries. 
He is available for:
Corporate Portraits and Headshots.
Private VIP events with NDA (Non-disclosure agreements.)
Celebrity Photo Shoots.
Commercial and Editorial Shoots.
Shiggy likes doggies and loves Cali-Blu his adorabull, luvabull Pit Bull
He wants to and WILL qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Shiggy has finished two Ironman events:
Ironman Coeur d'Alene and Ironman Lake Tahoe.
Please contact Shiggy for availability, rates and
any questions. Absolutely any!!! He's here for you!!!!
Love, smile and peace
Clients include:
Fergalicious by Fergie Footwear
Challenged Athletes Foundation
Asics LA Marathon
Xterra Wetstuis
Triathlon Lab
Rocket Science Sports
Roka Sports
Blue Bicycles 
Wood Underwear
Gleb Collection
Rovi Moss Handbags
Shavua Israeli-The Israeli Weekly Magazine
FX Networks: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
"The Simpsons."
"American Horror Story."
"The Americans."
"Sons of Anarchy."
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Triathlete Magazine
Lava Magazine
Competitor Group
Babbitt Media Group
Betty Designs
Wattie Ink
UPR Kona
LA Triathlon Club
Jonathan Club
Mount Sinai Parks & Mortuaries
Lease Advisors
Mooyah Burger
Leigh & Luca
Pure Barre
Coast2Coast Swim Challenge

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Below: A link to Engagement Photographs: 
Below: A link to a Bat Mitzvah at Temple Israel Hollywood and the Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills  

Below: A link to a Laguna Beach Wedding: 

Below: A link to a San Francisco same-sex Wedding.
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Below: A link to a fabulous Wedding
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Below: A link to a "trash the wedding dress" 
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