Multiple locations. Fun outfit changes. Lots of variety. Sam definitely had a vision in mind when we first started talking about her and Dane’s Mt. Lemmon engagement session! The scenic byway through Mount Lemmon, AZ is absolutely beautiful. As the elevation within the Santa Catalina mountains changes, so does the landscape. This allows its visitors to have their pick of stunning backdrops.
Sam and Dane had a great extended friendship before getting serious. Their story is filled with secret crushes, long-distance struggles, and a proposal in California wine country.
Sam and Dane first met in junior high. In high school, they ran track together. “I always had a crush on her,” Dane admitted. They continued to keep in touch after graduation. Sam moved away to Kansas for school and Dane stayed in Arizona. A few years later, Dane drove down from Gilbert to Tucson to visit a friend who had just moved there. Conveniently enough, Sam had also moved back to Tucson. She got a text from Dane asking if she wanted to catch up and join a group of friends for drinks downtown. “Hanging out that evening reminded me a lot of the old days and how much fun we used to have,” Sam said, “something that I was currently missing in my life.”
A few months later, Dane drove back down to Tucson to visit his college friend. He reached out to Sam again and, again, she said yes. “This time he got brave enough and when all of his friends had left us, made a move and kissed me. It honestly took me by surprise.” In a good way, of course. Sam says that her interest in Dane was officially peaked and they began talking to each other daily. After a little convincing from Sam, they made their relationship exclusive and began dating long-distance. A little over a year later, and lots of trips between Gilbert and Tucson, Dane and Sam made the decision to move in together.
After living together for awhile and going through a pandemic lockdown, Dane says he knew Sam was the one he was going to marry. “I just didn’t know when or how I was going to ask her.” While planning their trip together, Dane decided this was the perfect opportunity to pop the question. He bought a ring and asked Sam’s parents’ permission to marry their daughter. Now it was just a matter of time. “The ring was burning a hole in my pocket,” Dane explained, describing the day it happened. He tried to get Sam to take a photo by the winery’s gazebo and she just told him they’d go after they finished wine-tasting.
While Sam heads inside to buy a few bottles of wine, Dane calmly enlists the help of a couple hanging out nearby. He told them what he was up to and they were thrilled to be in on the surprise! Sam thought they were just taking a quick photo of the two of them. As they got to the gazebo, Dane dropped to one knee. He told Sam he had an anniversary present for her (even though they had agreed not to buy each other gifts AND Sam bought him something anyway lol). “He asked me to marry him and, of course, I said Yes! Neither of us remember much of what was said, but it was perfect!”
Sam and Dane enjoy being outside together in their free time. During the pandemic lockdown, they would drive up Mt. Lemmon frequently, hike trails, and relax in their hammocks. Sam knew right away that she wanted to have their engagement session on Mount Lemmon since it was so special to them.
A couple of weeks prior to their session, Sam and I had a Zoom call to chat about everything that was important to her. She had carefully chosen three beautiful outfits for herself. Then we quickly paired up outfit options for Dane that would coordinate well with hers. There were also three separate locations on the mountain that she wanted to visit– each one with its own unique feel. I suggested which outfits I would pair to each location based on their colors and vibe.
With multiple outfit changes and locations, I knew we’d need a longer engagement session than normal. I looked into travel time between each stop, accounted for time to change clothes, and a little time to hike. Then, creating a timeline just meant a little bit of backwards planning! Lighting and the timing of sunset was our guide as to when we needed to start and end. Sam was so excited to feature everything all in one day! We were officially ready for their Mt. Lemmon engagement session!
We went for a short hike at one of the many picnic areas on Mt. Lemmon for Sam and Dane’s first location. Their outfits were amazing! And they only got better as the day went on. I told Dane he was giving me all the winter, lumberjack vibes.
We were about to head back to our cars when I noticed this huge log. I love being able to incorporate a few sitting poses when the environment allows for it. It’s fun to change things up a bit!
Dane and Sam underwent a quick wardrobe change and then we were off to our second location. During the pandemic, these two used to come out here to hike and relax in their hammocks together. At first, I was wondering how I could make this location look different than the first. Sure, they had changed clothes, but I wanted to give them a different vibe in this next collection of photos. We kept walking a little ways and then I’m pretty sure I gasped out loud haha. I think we found the perfect spot to add in variety while still having a woodsy feel to it!
Dane was all hyped up at this point in their Mt. Lemmon engagement session. Prior to these shots, he was literally jumping and skipping through the rock bed!
We ended this location with a sweet and romantic lift pose! Then it was off to our last stop of the evening.
As we turned the corner on Catalina Highway, we arrived to a very crowded Windy Point. The weather was absolutely beautiful that day and it seemed that a lot of locals decided to come watch the sun set at Windy Point Vista.
Before Sam and Dane got out of the car to meet me, I rushed over to them and told them I wanted to grab a quick picture. I learned earlier that day that Sam had lovingly named her Jeep “Velveeta.” And she just so happened to be wearing a dress that was the exact same color. So I grabbed a quick, fun photo of them hanging out in the car and then we made our way to the lookout.
Grabbing a few individual portraits of my couples is always really fun for me! You’re all dressed up and feeling great, so why not get a great photo of yourself, right? Plus, I love getting to use each of them as “smile bait” for one another. I mean, look at Sam in that dress! All I had to do was have Dane hang out just outside of the frame and she couldn’t help but glow and feel beautiful when looking at her fiancé.
Dane was also quick to smile when he saw Sam staring back at him. He made a few crazy faces at her too that I’m sure will make their way into their final engagement gallery. 😉
As the sun began to dip behind the mountains, I wanted to grab a fun dancing photo of the two of them. When I told Sam what I was thinking, she told me that her and Dane actually do some legitimate dancing together! Originally, I was going to ask them to do some simple twirls. Instead, I told them to just show me their moves in hopes of capturing something a bit more natural. And at the very end, Dane spun Sam around and dipped her! PERFECTION!
Before the last bit of light was gone, Dane grabbed a bottle out of their bag and they did a celebratory champagne pop. I love when my couples do something like this. It’s a fun way to make an already amazing day even that more special.
I’ll be celebrating again with Dane, Sam, and their friends and family at the Stillwell House downtown this fall.
Checkout more photos taken on Mount Lemmon here!
Christy Hunter is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Tucson, Arizona.
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