On one of Cape Town’s last summer evenings, we rushed to Noordhoek beach to ‘watch the sunset’. Or so I was told. It happened to be the best excuse, as the sun began ducking rapidly behind the clouds leaving fiery orange streaks across the sky. We ran past the lagoon that had formed in the middle of the long expanse of white sand and hurried to find the best spot to witness it all.
He was unusually quiet, smiled nervously and offered me biltong. I wondered why, but continued shooting this incredible sunset alongside many photographers perched on the rocks with their tripods. He giggled at something and told me it was a girl with her dog. That right there should’ve alerted me. But when he suggested we walk up the rocks for a better view, I plodded along happily and grabbed his hand to avoid slipping down the rocks.
We escaped the other picnickers and playful dogs and found our little spot quite high up above the ‘hoek’. He laid a blanket down and I continued to shoot the remained slither of sun sinking on the horizon. When he told me I was lazy and needed to stand up to get better shots, I did and when I turned around, he was on one knee with a closed black box in his hand.
Excited and shocked with no idea what to say, so I said, “What are you doing?” which it turns out made him more nervous. He struggled to get the words out, his eyes teared up, as did mine and I said yes before I had even seen the ring. He claims that the closed box was a rookie error and I joke that I should’ve paused and said, “I’ll think about it.” But it was surreal, just the way it was.
And even more so when I discovered that friends of ours were hidden behind the dunes far down the beach and had been assigned the task of lighting Chinese lanterns to let off into the sky. The wind hadn’t played along and his plan of proposing beneath a sky of fire lights morphed into plan B. When he first saw a deserted lantern rolling across the sand, he sent a message of ‘abort mission’ to the team. That was the moment when he had giggled at the “girl with her dog”. But as fate would have it, as we returned to the parking lot as an engaged couple we saw two of his 50 lanterns float up into the black sky all aflame. Oh what a night. I can almost hear those wedding bells ringing.
All photography by myself, Vaughan, Mercia McShane and Yumna Martin.