Matthew Dippel was starting to lose hope.
He’d planned to photograph a friend as they stood on scenic Taft Point on Oct. 6 during a road trip to Yosemite National Park. He found a perfect vantage point and waited for his companion to appear on the ledge at sunset.
Instead, the Michigan-based freelance photographer said, a couple emerged. The man got down on one knee. The sunlight trickled in from just out of frame. It was seemingly too perfect.
Dippel began shooting.
He rushed over to share the photos with the newly engaged pair, but Dippel was unable to find them. So he posted one of the photos to social media Oct. 17, where it was shared more than 20,000 times — prompting a nearly two-week search for the couple that finally concluded Saturday.
“It went super viral, which I was not expecting at all,” Dippel said in an interview Monday. “Then I found them, which I was super stoked on because I was kind of giving up hope.”
Charlie Vo, 34, and Melissa Ngo, 31, were together for two years before their now-viral engagement took place, Vo said. The Alhambra, Calif., couple first learned about the photograph Saturday while reading about it in a local news outlet, he said. Vo didn’t believe it pictured him and his fiancee at first.
“We were both shocked,” Vo said in an interview Monday. “We had no idea this happened until now — it’s been going on for a couple weeks, apparently.”
Dippel, who said he specializes in concert photography, said hundreds of people reached out to him with names of couples who could be in the photo. But because Taft Point is such a common proposal spot, there were many false alarms.
“After a week and two days, I figured, maybe this couple just doesn’t use social media,” he said. Dippel added that it was a “big relief” to correctly identify Vo and Ngo using time stamps of photos they took themselves that day.
Dippel said he doesn’t shoot weddings or engagements but admitted that the shot of Vo and Ngo is the best photo he’s taken in his two-year career.
“That’s probably the most raw and pure thing I’ve ever captured,” Dippel said. “As far as the beauty and pure scale of Yosemite, I would say yes, that’s the best.”
He said camera- and photography-based companies such as Flickr, SmugMug and Canon have reached out to him in recent weeks to congratulate him on the shot.
“I genuinely wanted them to have the image in the first place, I didn’t expect to get all this attention,” Dippel said. “I’m just so glad they can have that image.”
Vo said the Taft Point proposal was actually the second time the couple had gotten engaged. The first engagement, which took place in February, was to reassure Ngo’s grandmother that the two would be getting married.
Ngo’s grandmother “would joke around and say, ‘You better get married before I’m not around any longer,' ” Vo said.
This time, Vo said, he wanted to be certain that his soon-to-be wife had an “epic” engagement photo to go along with the proposal and decided on Yosemite.
Although the couple had a friend take iPhone photos that day at Taft Point, Vo said the photo Dippel captured from afar makes the moment all the more special.
“Thank you again, Matt, for taking such an awesome photo for us,” Vo said.
The couple is expecting to receive a free HD print of the picture as well. Their wedding is set for April 20.