I recently had the pleasure of working with David to shoot his surprise proposal on Nami Island. Their visit was around the peak autumn season, so it would be a bit tricky to find a spot that wasn’t full of people. Fortunately, David was able to convince his girlfriend Huong to go to the island earlier than originally planned, taking the first train out of Seoul and the first ferry to the island. That made things a whole lot easier in terms of crowd management during the shoot
Our spot of choice was the picturesque Metasequoia Lane, which, like many famous spots around Korea, was made famous by a TV drama. The first order of business for me that morning was to get to the spot and set up the surprise basket that would get the proposal rolling. In the basket was a English bulldog stuffed toy, which represented their real-life pet, as well as a special note to Huong. I had prepared the basket a couple of weeks before during detailed email communication with David.
On the morning of the proposal, David and I kept in close touch over messenger and he planned their route carefully to give me ample time to prepare. Once I gave the signal, the couple made their way toward the spot. They strolled casually into the scene, taking photos with their phones. Huong eventually spotted the basket and the rest was history. Capturing the event with my long lens, it turned out to be more beautiful than we had imagined.
If the situation allows, I also like to capture video of the proposal using a hidden GoPro or a second camera. This adds another angle and helps to tell the story even better.
After the successful proposal, I introduced myself and congratulated the couple and we proceeded with the portrait session, which I include with every surprise proposal. We made sure to capture the yellows of the Gingko trees, the majesty of the Metasequoias, and the fiery reds and oranges of the maples.
That morning was an exciting and beautiful experience for all of us! The combination of thorough planning, scouting, and good fortune made it possible. I wish David and Huong all the best and I’m honored to have been a part of their special day.
Tips on Proposing / Shooting Portraits on Nami Island
- Timing – Nami Island is a beautiful spot, but you’ll definitely have to work for it if you want to have the island (relatively) to yourselves during peak season. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the photos. If you’re coming from Seoul, take the first ITX train which departs Yongsan Station at 6:00 AM. Then take the first ferry to the island, which departs at 7:30 AM. This will help you beat the tourist crowds, and the only ‘competition’ you’ll have are the other photographers and couples doing the exact same thing. At that point you’ll just have to be courteous and work around each other. Even better, if your budget allows it (and if it’s available), staying the night before at the Nami’s Jeonggwanru Hotel or one of their cottages would give even more exclusive and early access to the island’s best spots. If you’re not a morning person or your schedule simply won’t allow an early morning call time, then late afternoons are another option. The crowds tend to build up a lot around mid-day, and thin out significantly in towards the end of the day. Shoot an hour or two before sunset and you should be able to get relatively less busy backgrounds.
- Where to shoot – There are a handful of spots that people seem to gravitate towards the most. The first is the Gingko Lane, which is just busy all day long during its peak. Shooting on the outer edges of the lane helps a bit, but aside from that it’s a matter of waiting and working around the other folks who are there. A proposal would probably be tricky here unless you are okay with other people being in your frame. The second hot spot is the Metasequoia Lane. This area seems to fill up a bit later and has slow periods early and late in the day. This is how we were able to capture the proposal like we did. Another popular spot would have to be the Maple area. I have literally seen people lining up to get photos with certain trees, which are a beautiful fiery red at their peak. Fortunately, Nami Island has so much more to offer aside from the popular spots. There are plenty of other beautiful areas around the island and they are spread out enough to offer a comfortable, even relaxing shooting experience. I personally like the areas right by the water, towards the southern tip of the island. Get your shots quickly at the crowded spots if you must, then retreat to the more low-key areas for some peace and quiet. Also consider proposing in a less popular spot for a more intimate proposal.
- Weekends – During peak autumn season, the weekend crowds can be huge. Weekday international tourist crowds are busy enough without adding the rest of the people who come during their weekend off. Traffic can get so bad that the 5-minute taxi ride from Gapyeong Station becomes a 2-hour one. It’s even faster to walk to the ferry terminal. So unless you have accommodations on the Island and can shoot before the first ferry comes in, it would be best to avoid weekends on Nami Island during the peak autumn season.
Are you looking to do your own surprise proposal or pre-wedding shoot on Nami Island or anywhere in South Korea? Please get in touch!
Roy Cruz is a freelance photographer based in South Korea specializing in event, editorial, and portrait photography. Available for assignments nationwide and worldwide.