As a photographer, no matter how much you’ve scouted or what you think you’ll come away with from any San Francisco engagement session, you’ll always be surprised…if you leave yourself open to it. Chris and I met Carah and Michael at Java Beach in the city’s Sunset/Parkside neighborhood – which I love for it’s welcoming, neighborly feel and afternoon light. Just behind the cafe, I saw this interesting car parked on the sidewalk in front of this home so we decided to start the shoot there. On our way to the car, we got sidetracked (which is pretty standard) by this great wall/door, so we moved in a bit closer when – from inside the building – came a chorus of bagpipes. That’s the kind of thing you can’t really plan for, but puts a smile on your face when it happens. Carah and Michael had traveled to San Francisco from Maine to get the final details sorted before their wedding this fall. We thought it’d be a nice change for them to see the sun setting rather than rising over the ocean so we brought them down to China Beach, a beautiful little cove I’ve always wanted to shoot at. As the light grew warmer and eventually sank behind a distant fog bank, we explored around the beach and the weathered structure that serves as sunbathing deck and equipment station for the lifeguards. It was a mild and mellow afternoon with such a perfect ratio of all the elements you’d expect to find in a San Francisco beach scene, it’s as if we’d cast them as extras: a bodysurfer battling the surf, a couple of kids making out, a stoner tripping out on the scenery, a fisherman on the rocks, a girl and her dog checking in on Facebook, a squadron of Pelican’s investigating dinner options… and us fulfilling our role as photographers making the most of the day’s best light. Mike and Carah are incredibly good people and we can’t wait to shoot their wedding this fall at the Asian Art Museum!