There are lots of locations within Central Park to ask your beloved to marry you. As a photographer, where would I suggest you go? Well look no further than Gapstow Bridge, located at the very southern edge of the park beside the Central Park Pond. In today’s blog post, I will be sharing all the details of Andrea and Juan Carlos’s Gapstow Bridge surprise proposal. This beautiful spot offers a classic view of the NYC skyline, lots of privacy, and of course, a happy ending…because you know Andrea said ‘yes.’
Planning the Surprise
Juan Carlos contacted me many months ago because he was looking to surprise his girlfriend, Andrea, with a proposal during their trip to NYC. The couple lives in Mexico, so on our initial phone, Juan Carlos asked for some suggestions of where to propose. He had visited NYC several times, but certainly not for this reason.
While privacy was a concern, Juan Carlos also wanted to have an epic background for the moment he got down on one knee in front of Andrea. With these parameters in mind, I had suggested the Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle, the rocks beside the Ladies Pavilion, and my all-time favorite spot, Bow Bridge Beach. Juan Carlos, however, had done his own research and came across Gapstow Bridge.
During our initial emails, Juan Carlos sent me photos of other proposals he had found online. The majority of the photos were of Gapstow Bridge, and I determined that the view in these images was from the backside of the bridge with the camera pointed towards the NYC skyline. This spot is quite private, and aside from people walking on the bridge above, you normally have the space all to yourself. And thus, a plan started to form.
A Gapstow Bridge Surprise Proposal –She Said ‘Yes’
Juan Carlos and Andrea would be flying into NYC on Friday and the plan was to attend a concert on Saturday night. We scheduled the photo shoot for 4:30 p.m. so that he could get down on one knee and still have time to rock out with the Jonas Brothers (Andrea’s favorite band) that evening. We had two camera phone call meetings and agreed that I would meet the couple on the pathway leading down to the base of Gapstow Bridge. As instructed, Juan Carlos sent me a Whatsapp text that morning with photos of himself and Andrea so I would know exactly what they were wearing that afternoon.
I am happy to report that the proposal went off without a hitch. Andrea and Juan Carlos arrived exactly on time, and I followed them from the pathway down to the bridge. After a few minutes of happy tears, we began our engagement portrait session walking from the Central Park Pond down to the Bethesda Terrace. The session – including proposal – was an hour and a half in length.
Tips for Your Gapstow Bridge Surprise Proposal
If you are planning a similar Gapstow Bridge surprise proposal, then I have a few tips for you. First, bear in mind that this part of the park is going to look much better in summer when there is more water in the pond. Juan Carlos’s proposal to Andrea was on St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, the water level at this time of year on the ‘proposal’ side of Gapstow Bridge is quite low resulting in a muddy swamp. The original plan was for Juan Carlos to propose a bit farther back from the bridge, but this would have put the muddy pond in camera view. So instead, I sent Juan Carlos a photo of the area upon my arrival and warned him to move closer to the bridge.
Moving closer to the base of the bridge for your proposal has two other benefits. If you position yourself too far back, then you will also have tree limbs blocking your beautiful skyline background regardless of the season. Finally, note that during winter there will be a red ice safety ladder present. These red ladders seem to always be in the right place at the wrong time. (Check out my article here for a list of problems shooting in Central Park in winter.) The bottom line: get close to Gapstow Bridge for the best view that avoids ugly visual distractions.
Portraits in Central Park After the Proposal
After a proposal at Gapstow Bridge, you have plenty of time for portraits at some of the most iconic spots within Central Park. First, however, a word of warning. If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I always caution my clients that Central Park can get very crowded – especially on the weekend. If you can’t avoid the weekend crowds, as was the case with Juan Carlos and Andrea, then try to incorporate the crowds into your photos rather than avoid them altogether. Shots that blur the crowds in the background, use of a shallow depth of field, and selecting backgrounds up against a fence, tree, or lake are your best bet.
We started off the photo shoot by re-enacting the proposal at Gapstow Bridge. During the ‘real’ proposal moment, Juan Carlos has been too nervous to remove his sunglasses. That problem was solved with a quick do-over. And by re-enacting the proposal, I was able to get reaction shots from both sides of the ring.
From Gapstow Bridge we then headed over to the Pond. There are two rock outcroppings in the pond that offer perfect photo opportunities. The first spot closer to 59th Street is small but has a great wide-angle view of the skyscrapers on 59th Street. The second spot is larger but is always quite crowded. It’s a great location for wide-angle shots from the pathway, but you can expect to wait in line.
If you have time, your next stop should be Inscope Arch for some backlit photos. Beware, however, of the unattractive metal gates that always seem to be blocking one of the arch entrances.
Your next location is just a quick walk up the pathway to the right of Wollman Rink. Here you will find a rock overlooking the Wollman Ice Rink with a fantastic view down towards west 59th Street. This spot is always a crazy crowded. Unfortunately, there is virtually no way to avoid the crowds, except to shoot above everyone’s heads.
From here, it is a straight shot down the Mall to the Bethesda Terrace. The Mall is always an equally crowded space, but you can usually avoid traffic by taking photos in the side aisles located just before the bandshell. The benches are usually vacant here as well for photos.
Finally, you will arrive at the iconic Bethesda Terrace. A huge dose of patience is always necessary for taking photos in this area. My recommendations for any back staircase shots are to simply raise the exposure and blow out the highlights (thereby also visually blowing out the crowds). You can also make use of the side staircases – namely the left staircase – for photos with a lot less people walking into your frame.
If you have enough time during your photo shoot, then you can always add on Bow Bridge, a view of the San Remo apartment towers across the Central Park Lake, or the lovely little Conservatory Water Pond next to Fifth Avenue.
Meet Andrea and Juan Carlos
So now you have all the details of what to expect during a Gapstow Bridge surprise proposal. Let’s now take a moment to get to know Andrea and Juan Carlos a bit better. These two met two years ago at work. Andrea was working as an intern in Juan Carlos’s office, but sadly she had a boyfriend at the time. Andrea and Juan Carlos did strike up a friendship, however.
Andrea eventually left her internship, but happened to randomly bump into Juan Carlos again in a coffee shop. She had by now broken up with her boyfriend, but ironically Juan Carlos was there on a date. Andrea and Juan Carlos still kept in touch over Instagram. After a bit of time, the stars finally came into alignment and Andrea and Juan Carlos were free at the same time. They started dating, and the rest is history.
The trip to New York City was a complete surprise for Andrea. Juan Carlos told her that they were going to NYC to mark their two-year anniversary. And while he eventually told her about the concert, the proposal was a wonderful shock.
I wish Andrea and Juan Carlos the very best as they start planning their lives together. Enjoy the rest of the images from their Gapstow Bridge surprise proposal, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Looking to schedule your own Gapstow Bridge surprise proposal in Central Park? Drop me a line and let’s discuss your photography needs.
For more images from my surprise proposal portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com