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Lauren & Peter’s Engagement Session at the Patuxent Research Refuge

An engaged couple sharing a romantic kiss on a bridge during sunset for their Maryland engagement photos.

Not long ago I had the chance to shoot engagement photos for Lauren & Peter. Their wedding is coming up next year, but in the mean time we needed to make some engagement photos. We settled on the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. It was a great choice, with a mix of nature and accessibility. It kind of feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but there’s also a parking lot like 150 feet away.

We started the session about 30 minutes before the sun started setting, before the sky started changing colors, but after the sun had dipped behind the tree line, draping the whole place in big patches of open shade with the occasional speckled light cutting through. The Refuge has these fields and paths, and a little understated bridge that gets overgrown with native plants, that almost seem tailor-made for photo shoots like this — Though, it very much is not. It’s actually an active research facility and visitors, especially those taking portraits there, really need to remain respectful of its purpose and the other visitors who may be simply trying to enjoy the serenity and wildlife.

But I digress. Lauren and Peter were fantastic in front of the camera. It took us a few set ups before everyone loosened up and got comfortable, but by the time we got to the bridge, we had a good rhythm between us and these two were falling more naturally into the role.

As we explored the Refuge, their natural chemistry was obvious to me. Capturing Peter’s spontaneous embrace of Lauren in the field was one of those perfect, pseudo-candid shots that you’re secretly hoping for as a photographer. They were incredibly easy to work with, just walking along the paths and being themselves, turning and twisting, open to ideas but injecting some of their own along the way — Lauren, sitting on a bench, was the picture of elegance and comfort, reflecting her personality perfectly. Peter leaning casually on a railing like he’s been doing this his whole life.

The whole session had a relaxed, authentic vibe that I love. There’s something about capturing the natural connection between two people that’s just really fulfilling as a photographer.

As the shoot wrapped up with the sun setting, now quite low, it was clear we had captured something special. The Refuge provided a serene setting, Lauren and Peter were amazing, and the photos turned out to be a beautiful reflection of their relationship – natural, full of love, and simply beautiful.

We finished up the shoot with a piggy back ride and then a few shots in the tall native plants of one of the footpath gardens near the visitor’s center, and a close up of the gorgeous rock Peter put on Lauren’s finger.

This shoot was a reminder of why I love portrait photography – it’s about real moments of joy and love that you can press just a little into something great.

Can’t wait for next year’s wedding!