Lora and Mike knew they wanted to feature a desert landscape in their engagement photos. There was one important caveat though– it had to be a dog-friendly location. Their Irish doodle Charlie is very important to them; having her included in photos was a must! Sweetwater Preserve was the perfect spot. The trails are lined with towering saguaros, beautifully expansive views, and lots of four-legged fur babies getting some fresh air.
Mike and Lora met each other back in 2018 via the online dating app Bumble. Their first date started with a visit to a brewery. What was supposed to be a quick first date turned into a 4 hour evening together. They left the brewery and went to a local dive bar to grab some food and continue getting to know one another. Obviously, things were going well!
Fast forward 4 years later. Lora and Mike went out to dinner together, splurging on two of Lora’s favorites: crab legs and red wine. Date night wouldn’t be complete without something sweet, right? So they headed to their favorite local ice cream shop in downtown Gilbert– Petersen’s. Mike stopped just before they could walk inside. With the giant ice cream sculpture behind him, he got down on one knee and proposed. Mike had carefully staged some of his friends at the bar next door and they quickly popped out and started taking pictures.
There was still one more surprise in store for Lora. After the proposal, Mike led everyone to another spot downtown. Lora’s parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousins as well as Mike’s mom, aunt, and uncle from out-of-state were all waiting to celebrate with them! What a fun night!
Prior to their engagement session, we talked about when it would be best for Lora’s dad to bring Charlie to the park. Most of us are not in the habit of getting our picture taken. Feeling nervous is totally normal. I wanted Mike and Lora to have a little time in the beginning to get comfortable in front of the camera BEFORE trying to incorporate a rambunctious pet. Lora and Mike should be just as excited to see Charlie as she would be to see them– rather than feeling overwhelmed.
Charlie started heading down the trail pretty quickly once she spotted us. While I took a few more portraits of Lora and Mike, she waited patiently behind me before running over and grabbing her first photo with them.
To get more of Charlie’s energy out, we walked back down the trails to the parking lot. Mike and Lora took turns giving Charlie lots of love while changing into their second outfits.
Mike openly admitted he was nervous at the start of their engagement session at Sweetwater Preserve. I told him that he was absolutely allowed to feel that way, but I promised he would have fun before our time together was up. As the sun was going down, I wanted to offer a few quick individual portraits to Mike and Lora since they were all dressed up. With ZERO HESITATION, Mike volunteered to go first! I knew I’d win him over!
Lora is known for sporting boots in various colors and designs. The boots that she wore with this fun black dress are the same boots she’ll be wearing on her wedding day!
As we turned around to leave, Mike spotted the pink mountains off in distance lit up by the sunset. So, of course, I had to grab a few more photos with them!
It will be just under a year before I see Mike and Lora again to photograph their fall wedding at the Hilton El Conquistador resort in Tucson. And I’m pretty sure Charlie will be making an appearance, too. I can’t wait to see how Lora and Mike incorporate her into the wedding day!
Check out other engagement sessions in Tucson on the blog!
Christy Hunter is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Tucson, Arizona.
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