Giant Wave Crashes Proposal Shoot, Epic and Memorable Photos Ensue

On November 21st, 2012, Matthew Hartman attempted to pull off an epic marriage proposal that his girlfriend would talk about for the rest of their lives. He led her to a large rock surrounded by ocean waters at Laguna Beach, California, and then sang her a song that he wrote for the occasion. Then he got down on one knee to pop the question. Or, at least that was the plan.

A large ocean wave had other plans for the couple. At just the wrong time, it decided to crash the party and sweep the girl off her feet before Hartman could. The whole thing was captured by friends in the video above.

Photographer and friend-of-the-couple Jonathan Hwang was on hand to shoot photos of the proposal as it went down. He was able to capture the whole thing in a series of images that the two lovebirds will treasure forever:











Here’s the story of what happened according to Hwang:

Ever since I got into the portrait photography world, I made it a goal of mine to capture that classic (and perhaps overused) shot of a couple standing on some sort of rock by the sea with a wave splashing up in the background; so when Matt told me about his plan for the proposal, I was ecstatic!

On the day of the event, I arrived just as his friends were laying down a path of candles out to the rock that Matt was planning to stand on. That idea was quickly swept away as an enormous wave engulfed both the candles and the friend who was laying them down. Having witnessed that scene, everyone began to panic and we almost decided to have the proposal on the beach instead of out on the rocks. I tried my best to reassure everybody, telling them, “What are the chances of it happening during the actual proposal?”

However, I was secretly hoping that the odds would be on my side and that they would get swallowed by a wave. After all, that was the shot I had dreamed about. Little did I know that I would get my chance right as the ring makes its first appearance. Looking back, it probably was not the wisest thing to put the two in potential danger, and thankfully nobody was hurt.

Furthermore, Matt was able to close the ring box moments before being washed away by the wave. After the two examined themselves for any injuries and finding none, Matt slowly opened the box and let out a huge sigh of relief upon discovering that the ring was still there.

In the end, it might not have been the most thought out proposal, nor was it safe by any means, but the results from that day turned out to be both spectacular and breathtaking–literally!

At the end of the day, the proposal was a success, and the photographer snapped a series of photos that most other couples probably wouldn’t ever ask for.

Image credits: Photographs by Jonathan Hwang and used with permission

  • Jonathan Maniago

    The pics look great, but it also reminds me of that article not too long ago about a bride drowning in a river during a photo shoot. I hope photographers would keep in mind the risks when attempting to shoot in similar locations.

  • Samcornwell

    That video and the pictures. Just absolutely fantastic. Great that nobody was hurt too.

  • Mark


  • Calvin G

    It’s hard to appreciate the photos when the subjects were this foolish. The rock was already wet so obviously waves had already hit there AND the guy has his back to the ocean. People drown doing things like that.

  • MarvinB7

    Good job, photog. The pictures look great! As admitted in the article, it was not the most wise situation to put people in, but making anything great does take risk.

  • Jeff C.

    Why hasn’t anybody asked if the guitar was damaged?!?

  • Daniel Thomassin

    Superbe photo !

  • garyobrien

    Geez. Good work. Encourage people to ignore their fears and put themselves in harm’s way.
    If you’re that keen on getting this image, take it upon yourself to set the pieces up and make it happen. Just pay attention to the tide charts.

  • Matt Corkum

    I think the images I great. I also think it was irresponsible of the photographer.

    Yes, making great art means taking risks, but in this case it seems that the photographer wasn’t the one taking the risks – his subjects were. And he did not inform them of the risk they were taking. That’s the difference here. If he stated that both the bride and groom knew there was a big chance they would be hit by a wave (as had just happened moments before) and all parties agreed to continue, then all’s fair.

    But the photographer intentionally kept that information from them (or at least the bride), secretly hoping they WOULD get hit by the wave. They could have been injured, and the ring could have been lost. Would the photographer have accepted liability if either of these events had occurred?

    The shots are good, and the photographer is lucky.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Did they die? /sarcasm

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    look how happy they are, smiling and laughing – quit moaning about insurance and dangers and just enjoy the photographs – because they clearly did. It’s not good for your own mental health to be complaining all the time

  • Angus

    i think god said, “don’t do it”

  • Swade

    I doubt it was the photographers choice to go on that rock. It’s a proposal, not an engagement shoot. When does a photographer tell a man how/where he should propose? It was a friend taking pictures of his proposal, so I highly doubt he was paid let alone take liability for their injuries. Not sure how this got 7 upvotes.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    Even if they might’ve slipped on that wet rock and hit their heads or something – how would exactly would they have drowned?
    If you look at the second last picture they were obviously not far out. There’s a rock way further out, Standing on THAT one would’ve been dangerous.

  • Ben Jacobsen

    never been around the ocean? People drown like this all the time. There’s a rock I shoot landscapes at where someone usually falls in once a year and ends up drowning. Mother nature knows when you’re not ready for her and that’s when she attacks. The fact a previous wave took out the candles and the person putting them out there pretty much guaranteed it would happen again. This was incredibly irresponsible and they’re very lucky to all be laughing about it after the fact…

  • ProtoWhalePig

    Read the damn article. It will tell you whose idea it was.

  • ProtoWhalePig

    Read the damn article. It will tell you that this was going to go ahead whichever photog was used.

  • ProtoWhalePig

    Read the damn article. It will tell you who put whom in the situation.

  • MarvinB7

    I did read it, along with the photogs own comments.

    “I tried my best to reassure everybody, telling them, “What are the chances of it happening during the actual proposal?”” “Looking back, it probably was not the wisest thing to put the two in potential danger, and thankfully nobody was hurt.”

    Thanks for being rude.