Sara + Chris | Oakland engagement shoot at Lake Merritt & Port View Park

June 14, 2019
couple running by lake merritt near the pergola

“Why are we running?” – Chris, to Sara, during this shoot.

The joy and love in this Oakland engagement shoot are SO apparent. I love how their personalities shine through and they get into the silliness.

The couple

Sara and Chris met in 2013 at a summer camp, where they both worked. Sara was, and is, camp director and Chris worked at the camp for four summers.

The summer of 2016, once the buses full of campers and staff rolled away, they were left standing side by side in the newly quiet forest.

It was this moment they realized their relationship had grown deeper than friendship. Though the summer was over, their romance was just beginning.

Fast forward to early 2018 and that was when Chris popped the question right by Lake Merritt – a place they enjoyed spending time together.

What was billed as a picnic with friends by their beloved lake turned out to be the perfect Friday afternoon to get engaged.

Chris hadn’t actually invited any other friends and Sara didn’t see the proposal coming. Her answer when he asked? “Shut Up!” After clarifying with “of course,” they enjoyed celebrating our engagement with champagne that Chris had snuck to the picnic.

The shoot

After a long fiancé visa process to get Chris into the US and able to live, work and get married (not in that order), we got to work planning this engagement session in the couple’s beloved Oakland.

It was only a few days after Chris’ landing in the States that the couple gamely decided to take me up on my offer to shoot their engagement – with the wedding just days away and sooo many other things going on in life (like seriously, I don’t know how they did it, they were SO carefree during the shoot!)

The lake seemed like a good choice to start as it’s a meaningful place to them for many reasons as well as pretty, close-by, and represents iconic Oakland.

Sara suggested in a planning session that they would like to incorporate some photos of a street sign that was meaningful for them. It was fun capturing this everyday scene in a romantic way!

My suggestion for a final place was Port View Park where I’ve shot a bunch before and I love for the following reasons!

1) there’s never anyone there except the fishermen. Great for shy couples or anyone that doesn’t want to feel like they’re performing on their shoot!

2) related note: when shooting in deserted places, the session will flow much more organically. No stopping and starting every time a jogger passes by!

3) amazing and varied scenery! OK so I happen to love shipping containers but there’s also tons of interesting concrete & wood, water for miles, the Bay Bridge and both the Oakland and San Francisco skylines!

Unfortunately the day we were there, authorities decided to close the park without warning, presumably because it looked a bit stormy. Maybe there were swells, high waves or a weather warning in place. Don’t you just love the Bay Area weather?

We couldn’t venture down the path that leads to the fishermen’s pier so contented ourselves with some lesser used areas of the park nearer the parking lot.

We made the best of it and it was still super pretty and with these two the subjects of the pictures, is that even surprising?

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Zoe Larkin is a San Francisco-based wedding & engagement photographer from London. She specializes in photographing intimate weddings for joyful, free-thinking couples. Zoe creates raw, personal images that evoke a range of emotions, combining documentary photography with a stylized edge. Her work has been published on Offbeat Bride, Equally Wed, Catalyst Wed Co, Love Inc Mag among others. She adores simplicity, kindness & Earl Grey. Zoe is an equality-minded vendor that celebrates diversity in all its forms. Read more about Zoe here