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September 29, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They met six years ago in downtown Iowa City on a football game day. Mallory was looking for a friend and Edo, seeing her looking around, asked if she needed help. It was the beginning of their forever. That day, they ended up grabbing some drinks together, exchanged numbers and, after that night, “he kept calling me asking to hang out and I never turned him down. Eventually, we became inseparable.” Their first official date was a low key treat at a local Dairy Queen that sits right next to the Iowa River that flows through the center of the city. “I suggested that we sit somewhere outside to watch an eclipse that was supposed to happen that night. We lived in apartments fairly close to each other so we agreed to meet and walk to Dairy Queen. We sat at a picnic table and talked for hours. I remember having such good conversation that I think we forgot all about the eclipse.

They had been dating for five years when he asked her to look at rings. She remembers telling him that they “weren’t there yet.” She says she doesn’t make any decisions lightly and she wanted to be 100% sure he was the one. Less than 2 months later, however, it hit her: “I can’t and don’t want to ever live without him in my life. A few weeks later, we went to look at rings.” Edo says, for him, it was after dating a few years. “I realized how much we love and support each other.

This past August, a few months after looking at rings, Edo proposed. “We were canoeing on a lake on the border of Minnesota and Canada that day,” Mallory says. “We stopped on shore for a bite to eat and to walk around. I started to walk around the island and he followed me, saying to me, ‘I love you’ over and over, about twenty times. I thought he was acting weird and about ten seconds before he proposed, I realized that’s what he was going to do. He got on one knee and asked me to marry him. I couldn’t control my tears at all! Finally, I said, ‘Put that ring on my finger!‘”

When I ask them what they admire most about the other, Mallory says it’s “his dedication to do the right thing and his intense interest in always learning more.” Edo says, quite simply, that he admires “everything about her. She is loving, supportive, and always honest.” They love to travel and, most recently this year, have gotten into hiking and love spending time outside. “He loves to cook and I love to eat,” so there’s also that perfect yin yang.

These two are a joy to hang out with and we had so much fun together this past Friday evening! I’m so excited to share some of my favorite images from their session.



September 24, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

There’s a bit of discrepancy as to when they first met. Amanda says it was in Indianapolis when the Iowa Hawkeyes were playing in the Big 10 Championship, but Tyler says it was in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Tyler was friends with Amanda’s older brother, who lived in Santa Monica at the time, so a group went out there for a long weekend. “I had been friends with Amanda’s brother, Mike, for several years prior to this, and the rule always was that no one was allowed to talk to her because he didn’t want his friends dating his sister. Fast forward to the game where he had the tickets and he sat us next to each other. We spent the game chatting and the hung out for a couple days after. We were both living in Iowa City at the time so she messages me after we got back and we went on our first date…without telling Mike we were seeing each other.” (Mike is going to be a part of the bridal party so one could say he’s on board now!)


“We had been talking about marriage for a little while (I even had the ring already) so I felt like I was ready to propose, but I had no idea how to do it. We were living in Salt Lake City and I worked up in the mountains. One morning when driving to work I saw a hot air balloon and knew that would be an awesome way to propose. I contacted a company and scheduled a sunrise flight on Labor Day weekend and told Amanda I would like to get up early and drive up into the mountains. (Hilarious side note, she knew I was up to something, but assumed I wanted to watch the sunrise in the mountains. Our balloon ride was scheduled for 45 minutes after the sun was up, so she was grumpy that I wanted her to get up early and we had already missed sunrise.) We got up to Park City and pulled into the parking lot and she saw the vehicle with the balloon on the back and started crying! (We had talked about how fun it would be to do a hot air balloon ride.) I had the ring with me the whole time, but the basket was kind of cramped and I was nervous I would drop the ring. So we had a fantastic balloon ride, and after they landed it in the field, I asked the other passengers if they could get a picture of us in front of the balloon before it got deflated, and I proposed.” (Amanda says she thought he was going to propose during the balloon ride so really, the surprise was in the suspense!)


I had so much fun with these two during their session! We hit it off immediately and, with just a few more weeks left before their wedding day, I know we are going to have so much fun all over again in October! They are funny and genuine and caring and watching the love between them is such a treat.


August 25, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

When I first met Morgan three years ago, her and Ben had just moved in together. They had met at a wedding; Ben was an usher and “was trying to seat Morgan and she was less than pleased with my seating and sat herself.” After the reception, they ended up with at a bar with some mutual friends and other guests and Morgan bought Ben a drink (“Bold move, right?” she says.) But even with that meeting, it wasn’t love at first. They both describe their date as being the “worst date in the history of dates.”

“When Ben and I met, he was living in Waterloo and I was in Minneapolis,” Morgan describes. “I drove to him since I had friends in Waterloo and had a place to stay. To keep the story short and simple, it was the worst first date ever. It started with dinner where I ordered a salad, which came with a pile of croutons. I’m gluten-free and reluctantly scraped them off the salad and prayed I wouldn’t get sick. Then we went to his family’s cabin where we went for a four-wheel ride and I got 100+ mosquito bites (I wish that was an exaggeration). Finally, the night ended with Ben driving us back home in the pouring rain and he crashed his truck into a ditch. He definitely thought I was never texting him back after that. It was horrible, but he made me laugh so much and I just knew there was something special about him.”

Worst first date or not, their connection and adoration for each other now is obvious to anyone around them, including me at the very first meeting. Morgan told me via text after their session that she’s just obsessed with Ben and she hopes it shows in the photos and I was like, “Girlll, you couldn’t hide it if you tried.” They are so so wonderful together and our entire shoot together was filled with so much laughter and fun. I asked them when they knew the other was the one. Ben said it was a collection of things. “It was the time I had to haul manure and she rode along with me just to spend time with me. It was the many times we traveled back and forth just to spend time together. It was watching her love the dog that I got that she didn’t want me to get. It was the struggles and triumphs of both moving to a new town, starting new jobs, and first living together all at once.”

Morgan said it was after several trips back and forth between Minneapolis and Waterloo. “The weekends we went without seeing each other made me miss him so much. They say distances makes the heart grow fonder and I think that’s true. I guess I really knew he was the one when I started looking for jobs back in Iowa to be closer to him.” la_porte_city_engagement_emilycrall_photo_2985.jpg

Ben managed to pull off a surprise proposal to Morgan and he says it was perfection. “I had been trying to find a good time to pop the question to Morgan that would be special. She mentioned that she wanted to do a margarita bar crawl in Des Moines for her birthday. So I set out to plan a surprise birthday bar crawl. Inviting my friends and hers all with out her knowing. (She was actually mad because she didn’t think any of her friends were coming; just mine). We started the day off by meeting all of our friends at the bar we met at. She was totally shocked and thought that was the surprise and then I popped the question.” This all happened back in the pub that they first talked after the wedding. Morgan says, “I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day! It was filled with surprises and love and so much fun.”



August 18, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They both say they met because fate brought them together. It was May 13, 2019. “Many things happened that led me to be at Elisabeth’s work on that morning,” Manny says. “As I sat in an exam room, I saw her turn the corner with her golden hair bouncing around. She seemed to be walking toward me in slow motion. All I could think of in that brief moment was that I knew she was going to be my wife.”

Elisabeth is an optometrist and Manny had brought his mother in for an eye exam. “It is fate alone that she happened to be scheduled with me,” Elisabeth continues the story. “I happened to be running late that day and was quite anxious as a result. I had to pass by the exam room they were in to get to the patient that I was scheduled to see first. I saw him sitting in the guest’s chair and I immediately became more anxious, because he was extremely good looking and I wanted to make a good first impression. He was very well dressed, wearing a navy button down with a small print polka-dot-like design. He looked like a professional and his features are striking. That is what I first noticed about him. When it was finally time for me to see his mother, I walked in and he stood to shake my hand and introduced himself as Manny. I began the exam and it was quickly apparent that his mother only spoke Spanish. I transitioned to doing the examination in Spanish and Manny seemed very surprised and interested in this. At the end of the exam, he asked me a little bit about how I learned Spanish. I was still in a rush, so I had to move on quickly. A bit later, I was walking down the hall to my next exam room. I saw him in the distance checking out at reception. He was not only looking at me, but was facing me. His feet were pointed at me. I remember seeing in an episode of New Girl that people point their feet at people they like, so I thought this was pretty funny. We looked at each other as I walked down the hallway. I remember keeping my smile small, because I needed to be professional. I eventually looked down when we got fairly close, then I turned into my next exam room to start with the next patient. I believe it was the next day that he sent me a friend request on Facebook. I thought about it hard for 24 hours, because I made it a point not to accept requests from people I met at the office. I made an exception for him because he was not actually my patient. We began to message over facebook chat and had so many of the important things in common.”clear_creek_trail_engagement_emilycrall_photo_2597.jpg

That first meeting in the clinic turned into a first date. “I was out of town the first weekend after we met,” Elisabeth says. “We did have a brief telephone call while I was in the airport. I remember he had a goofy sense of humor. After I returned, we had our first date the following Tuesday night on May 22. Manny picked me up at my house and took us to a restaurant in Mesilla that was called St. Clair Winery and Bistro. We had a lovely dinner. I can’t even remember what we talked about. I think it was clear that we both were having a wonderful time. The service was quite slow that night, but we didn’t really notice because we were enjoying each others company. The restaurant even gave us a free dessert in consolation, which was a bonus because we honestly didn’t care! When we left and got in his car, he went to answer a text message, I believe, and in doing so I saw that my name on our message chain was ‘Elisabeth Hottel Wife.’ We had only known each other for a week and it was our first date! I was glad to see that he was serious about the future of our relationship, and that let me know right away that we were both in this for the right reasons. It took all of the second guessing out of my head and made me immediately confident to keep moving forward with our relationship. I knew Manny was the one almost immediately. When we first began messaging, he referred to ‘in eighty years’ and ‘telling grandchildren.’ This totally took me by surprise, but it is exactly what I wanted and needed to hear. I was amazed that he was so upfront about his feelings and confidence in our future. I still slowed down in my mind because I wanted to make sure we were truly right for each other. It didn’t take long to know that for sure though.”


Manny says he knew she was the one immediately. “I knew she was the one when she was walking toward me [in the clinic]. We hadn’t even exchanged words, but I had a very strong feeling that she was the one.” I ask what he admires most about Elisabeth and he says, “She’s very kind to the world.” Which, in my short time knowing them, seems absolutely true. Elisabeth is a genuine soul who bubbles over with happiness. Together, her and Manny make a formidable team of calm and peace. They never considered postponing their wedding due to the coronavirus and when hurricane force winds tore through Iowa the week of their wedding, they were completely calm about it, just excited to be married, even when the lack of power changed their hotel plans for them and all of their guests.

Elisabeth & Manny live in New Mexico so we did their engagement session shortly after they got into town for the wedding. We had such a beautiful (though buggy!) Friday evening to hang out before their Sunday wedding. clear_creek_trail_engagement_emilycrall_photo_2599.jpg


June 17, 2020

I have a lot of couples ask if they can bring their dog(s) along to their engagement session for a few photos. I end up photographing a lot of pups and yet, ironically, I don’t have any pets of my own! When it comes to photographing dogs, while I don’t have any experience as a pet owner, I do have a lot of experience as a photographer and I rely heavily on that to get the best reactions from both the animal(s) and the humans.

Here are 5 tips if you plan on having your dog in your engagement photos:

1. Be realistic. What I mean is that animals are similar to children; they have short attention spans and are usually really excited to be in a new place (grass! trees! water! new smells! adventure!) with new people (me…with an exciting “toy” that I’m looking through that makes clicking noises). Expect that the first few minutes will simply be letting your dog explore a bit and get used to what is happening. Your dog may not look at the camera. Your dog may not want anything to do with your beautiful family photo. And that’s okay! Those happen to be my favorite photos! Play with your pup and let me capture real life for you. The imperfect is what makes it perfect.



June 16, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

Their first date was in December of 2017 and it was also the first time they met in person. He recalls being a little nervous at first, but mostly because he was afraid there would be awkward silence. As it turned out, the date went really well. They talked about their families, what they wanted in a partner, if they wanted kids, and a lot of other topics that, for some, might seem too deep for a first date, but for them, was just the confirmation they needed that they were a perfect match.

That first date led to many more dates and just a few months into their relationship, they were madly in love. Samantha describes realizing that what she felt for Zach was so genuine and deep. “[This wasn’t] the puppy love that everyone has growing up when you are dating someone and you think you are in love, but the love that is true and honest and so real that it almost knocks you off your feet.” Zach says that for him, it happened over time. “I started to know once we went from seeing each other every few days to every day. When, when we would spend a day of two apart, I would start to miss her and I knew I wanted to be with her and spend more time with her. Shortly after, we moved in together and it felt natural, like I was home.”

He proposed a year ago, May 14, 2019. “It was a Tuesday. Sam was working from 2-10 that night so I made plans to meet up with her dad and ask him for his blessing to marry his daughter. After he said yes, I had planned on waiting a day or two before asking her. However, on my way back to Cedar Rapids, I decided to do it that night. I stopped at the store and bought a bunch of candles, champagne, and some other supplies. Once I got home, I set up with candles all over our bedroom. I made a little sign for our dog, Max, to wear that said, ‘Will you marry my dad?'”

“When I got home,” Sam says, “I walked in through the garage and all the lights were on in the living room and kitchen, but I couldn’t see Zach. So I said, ‘Hello?’ and Zach yelled from the bedroom, ‘I’m upstairs!’ The door to our bedroom was closed almost all the way and when I opened the door, there Zach was, down on his knee with a ring box in his hand with hundreds of candles all over the room and our sitting on the bed with the sign around his neck. Zach started talking and I honestly don’t know what he said because I said, ‘Yes!!’ and hugged him before he could actually ask me to marry him! It was everything and more than I could have dreamed of. It was so simple and so perfect and intimate.”

Sam describes Zach as being kind and loving and easy going and Zach says that Sam is outgoing, loving, caring, and confident. They are both looking forward to seeing all of their loved ones and enjoying the food at their wedding, but most of all, “finally being able to be married to Sam” and “getting married to the love of my life.” They are a sweet couple who trusted me with complete confidence even when we had to make some last minute changes to our locations due to the crowds at the lake. I am so, so excited to get to celebrate with them this October as they finally become husband and wife!!!