Antonia + Connor's Santiago Oaks Regional Park & Cal State Fullerton Engagement
College is a time of discovery, of opening one's eyes and taking in the scope of the great, big world; of uncovering truths and untruths; of figuring out just who we are. For Antonia & Connor, it was all that and more. It was the place where they found each other.
I met Antonia & Connor several years ago at the university we all attended. A bit older than I, by the time I arrived on the scene, they had already begun dating. In my eyes, their relationship was a given, a staple of the community, a basic fact that always was and would never change. These two embodied what a strong relationship looked like.
It was only after sitting down with the two of them after their engagement that I realized when I met them, they had just begun dating. It was their instant gravitation towards one another, their matured and well-nurtured devotion and visible love that led me to assume for nearly 5 years that they had been dating for eons prior to our encounter with one another.
But maybe I'm skipping ahead...let's rewind a bit, to nearly 6 years ago, when they first met each other... (cue flashback sound effect)
Connor vividly remembers the first time he saw Antonia, at an event on the Saturday night of New Student Orientation, just mere days before they would begin their undergraduate studies at Hope International University. Connor, ever the extrovert, would go on to attend nearly every on-campus event that year, something that immediately caught Antonia's more introverted attention. She, on the other hand, did not want to be there that Saturday night. Little did she know...
Weeks later was the annual "Humans vs. Zombies" campus wide event where competitors marked with bandanas on their heads or arms signifying their roles as either humans or zombies, respectively, would pelt each other with bundled up socks until the last human remain standing. The game could go on for days or even weeks, as students would wait for potential zombie-sock-attack victims to race out of class trying to escape the ever-possible barrage of sock bundles. It was during that expansive, all-consuming, ridiculous event that Connor burst into the upstairs office in the main campus building where Antonia was working. As he deftly attempted to outrun a zombie and their assailing socks, he unwittingly made a distinguishable impression on this certain quietly sitting, keenly observing student worker.
Both living on campus, they began to notice each other at more and more university events. From their first conversation at one such event, Connor recollects Antonia's contagious determination in life, a passion for things she wanted to pursue and learn more about.
As with all modern-day love stories, subsequent Facebook requests were sent, accepted, and butterflies awakened to flight in their stomachs.
They began to go on long walks in the evening, away from the noise and distractions of campus life. They would walk to a certain spot on the adjacent college campus at Cal State Fullerton and have long conversations on a particular concrete bench in the middle of a lush courtyard about life, family, love, and a million other things that would happen in their day-to-day college lives.
Things started to change rapidly, but first, they didn't. Such a confusing statement deserves a bit of explanation...
You see, Connor got this HUGE opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C. for an entire semester for class credits and some incredible first-hand experience in politics. But their relationship was only beginning to blossom. So, they decided that they would see what would happen being so far apart for so long so soon after beginning to officially date.
For five months, they were apart. For five months, nothing happened, except for messages and phone calls to each other. But Antonia really started to feel that something was missing, that there was a void in her life previously not there. She figured that life would continue on as normal, being so busy with school and work and life in general that Connor's absence would not be such a big deal since they would still be communicating over the phone. But those late-night walks, those long conversations at their favorite spot on Cal State Fullerton's campus, those feelings of comfort...all of those things she got so used to doing with Connor, were put on hold.
Connor's 5 hour flight back from D.C. was immediately followed by a trip to the hospital.
Connor's grandmother had fallen ill, so he returned from his internship and immediately knew he needed to visit her. It was after this emotional reconnection that he walked out of her room, down the sterile hospital hallway, into the chaotic waiting room, thinking about how good tomorrow will be, the day he gets to see Antonia again after 5 long months, 5 insanely busy months, 5 really intense months. He missed those long walks late at night, those deep and yet hilarious conversations on their favorite bench at Cal State Fullerton, those feelings of joy, laughing at Antonia's perfectly-tuned-for-Connor sense of humor.
And then, there she was.
Hands down his favorite memory is this. Right there, right then. After 5 months of being apart, a long flight home, and an emotional visit with his grandmother in the hospital, Connor saw the one person in the entire world that he wanted to see most. And she was right there!
Antonia couldn't wait another day. Connor had just flown in and she knew where he would be... and besides, who doesn't like surprises? Especially one this good.
Remember when I said things started to change rapidly, but first, they didn't. Well that part was the but first, they didn't. From here on out, that's right, things started to change rapidly.
Their love grew and grew, through year after year of undergraduate studies, they became that cornerstone of a couple, that basic fact that I just assumed always had been and always will be.
And that leads us to this day. We got to spend three hours with these two incredible people, photographing their electricity. They have this magic between them. It was something that I inherently noticed the first time I met them, but didn't fully understand until I saw them through my lens. These two incredibly passionate people, who might come off as intimidating because of their intellect or their drive and motivation, or their innate sincerity and honesty, are absolutely perfect for each other.
I've only gotten to tell you one small story in their relationship, just a brief snippet into their journey. But I hope that those reading this, whoever you are, have had or will someday have the pleasure of meeting these two. I had always known Antonia & Connor in the context of academics, of the culture of college. When I got to sit down and have a one-on-one (well, one-on-two... you understand) conversation with them and photograph them for a few hours on a Sunday in November, my eyes were opened. I felt like I finally understood the essence of who they were and the depth of their relationship, something that I had merely accepted and acknowledged as fact for so many years.
Their story, their connection, their relationship is one of a kind.
So, I hope you enjoy the rest of the gallery of images from their engagement session. After spending the majority of our time at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, and grabbing the last group of shots above at this stellar spot up the road a ways from Santiago, we drove to their spot, the one where they would always go to have their best conversations away from the noise and flurry of campus life.
This is THE BENCH. Hours and hours of conversation became the building blocks and foundation of their relationship that is going on six years this Spring and will become a marriage a year later.
We absolutely adored our time with this couple. Getting to know them, photograph them, and tell their story is why we do this. Learning about their relationship and further developing our own gives us so much joy!
Congratulations to Antonia & Connor on their engagement! We are so excited for your wedding next Spring!!