They were neighbors. And friends. Great friends, even. But that was all. It didn’t hurt that she is sweet, outgoing & incredibly gorgeous, and he is tall, dark, handsome & charming. But no, they were not going to be a couple. At least, that was not the plan.

Until the summer they spent apart. He was away in Utah, working as a nature counselor. He would go into the wilderness for 6 days at a time. There were no phone calls, no internet chats, no communications… for a week at a time. And when you can’t even talk to your best friend for a week…. What’s that old adage about absence?

And so they made an agreement. Every night at 9:00pm, they would look up at the stars and know that, (just like Fievel), “Somewhere Out There”, someone was thinking of and loving them right then.

After that summer, the neighbors, who had become best friends, became much, much more. They decided that they didn’t want to spend any more time apart… ever. So on an another adventure in Utah, together this time, on the top of Brian Head, Brand told Sheila that he wanted to spend his life with her. And in that big somewhere out there, she agreed.

We met at the beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale for their engagement session. It was a warm and sunny winter day, the kind that reminds us why we live in Arizona. It made for a very nice afternoon in the park. And the McDowell mountains are one of those places that make you fall in love with the desert.

It’s a popular hiking spot, but since we weren’t exactly dressed for a hike J, we casually strolled along bridge and hung out in the amphitheater. Sheila made friends with everyone she passed. It’s easy to see why Brand fell in love with her!

These two were just SO gorgeous together!  The romance just oozes! I mean….. Yowza!

Have I mentioned lately how I LOVE when my couples have FUN during a session? I mean, shouldn’t that be the goal, anyway??! These two are not only beautiful, but super funny and playful to boot. They had me laughing  along with them all afternoon! This is officially the 1st time a couple practiced yoga with me during a session! Ok, so we didn’t actually practice for long, and I didn’t really practice (camera in hand, and all)… but Sheila + Brand have some mad ‘Tree Pose’ skills!

Being desert/nature lovers, they  wanted to take a photo by the giant Saguaro cactus. The results…. Incredible!! Brand, you can be my photo assistant any day! And yes, I do have a serious love for black & white photos.  They just have a timeless, emotional appeal!

Brand is an avid hiker. And he has begun a tradition that every time he goes for a hike, he looks for a heart-shaped rock to bring back to Sheila. So, of course, he found one this day also!

So, as any good photographer would, I just HAD to take a picture of Sheila’s 2 new rocks that Brand has given her!

When a couple is really, truly in love, it just shines through and lights up everything around them. This light, this love… a wedding photographers dream!

As the sun began to set, we stopped under the ramada for a dance, a twirl and a very romantic sunlit kiss….

Sunsets here in Arizona, viewed from the wide open desert… they’re amazing. I feel fortunate (every single time) to witness them. And on this particular day, in the company of Sheila + Brand and in full view of their love, well… it was just magic.

Congratulations Sheila and Brand! You guys are fabulous and I had so much fun photographing you! Your joy and laughter is infectious, and I know your life together will be filled with love! I can’t wait to photograph your  Marshall Garden ceremony at the Scottsdale Civic Center! 💕

©Mindy Deluca, Life Story Photography.