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What's the secret to an engagement photo that makes women swoon and men curse the fact that they'll never be able be able to top it? Dale Sharpe, 34, and Karlie Russell, 29, make it look easy — but it took a lot more than meets the eye to get this stunning shot.
The couple, who are based in eastern Australia's Gold Coast, met online in 2010. Though they lived on opposite ends of the country, they bonded over their mutual love of photography and decided to meet up over a sunset. Russell flew out to visit Sharpe, relocated a month later, and the rest is history.
Sharpe and Russell are now business partners (they shoot weddings and landscapes for their company, DK Photography), travel buddies, best friends and as of this month, fiance and fiancee — but we'll get to that in a minute. They've traveled extensively together for work and play, and the northern lights remains their favorite subject to shoot.
"We’ve witnessed them about 30 times across Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Finland ... It's just something we both love," Russell told TODAY. "It's not easy, as a photographer, to get great photos of them. We love the challenge."
Sharpe got a little more poetic in his explanation. "It's a surreal moment ... An unbelievable thing that you can witness on the planet," he added. "It’s a bucket-list item that everyone should see. It's terrible that some people won’t get to, and that's partly why we take photos."
Given his strong feelings, it may come as no surprise that Sharpe has been mulling over a northern lights proposal for nearly four years. When the two got an opportunity to travel to Iceland last year, he bought a $4,000 engagement ring and hid it inside a lotion bottle in his suitcase.
"Karlie is ... what I'd call a 'seagull.' Always picking over everything," he explained. "I thought for sure it would be safe in there."
But when their baggage came in overweight at the airport, Russell chucked the surely replaceable lotion into the trash — unbeknownst to Sharpe, until he went looking for it after they had arrived.
"I was furious at the time, but I had to smile and take it with a grain of salt," he said. "I was really disappointed that she threw away something I had worked so hard to save up for."
Soon, Sharpe went right back to saving, and with hard work, was able to put away nearly the same amount within a year. "This time, I smuggled it in a medical bag ... I knew she had already checked it before we left!" he said.
And after all that effort, the view from Norway was worth the wait. "Aurora was the best we’ve ever seen it," said Sharpe. He convinced Russell to pose for a selfie — despite her protests that they should focus on getting the landscape they came for — and was finally able to get down on one knee for that perfect shot.
The photo took off on social media and, according to Sharpe, has been covered by news outlets in more than 40 countries. For the couple, though, it's just a special memory immortalized on film. "It was about capturing the moment for Karlie," said Sharpe. "A lot of things are Photoshopped — altered to make it look real ... This photo is 100 percent real. It's something we can hang on our wall."
Now that their photo has gained a bit of fame, Sharpe and Russell want to encourage other couples to chase their own picture-perfect adventure, whether or not the evidence makes it to Instagram. "The message from the photo, for us, is to encourage other people to see the world," said Sharpe. "We get to do it together ... Ge out there and see something beautiful and incredible."