, ,

Originally published in The Huffington Post

A mutual love of photography was all it took to overcome the 5,000 miles between one (very) long-distance couple.

English photographer Sophie Ellis and Portland-based filmmaker Patrick Eggert met through photo-sharing platform Flickr in 2010, and in December 2012, the two became engaged — despite the fact that they live 5,000 miles apart.

Eggert, 24, and Ellis, 20, were both sharing photos from their “365” projects (in which photographers take a self-portrait every day for a year) on Flickr when Ellis commented on one of Eggert’s photos. Eggert then began commenting on Ellis’ photos, offering words of encouragement. Ellis told HuffPost Weddings that Eggert kept her motivated to keep working on her photography.

“Patrick was this constant presence, always leaving a little message on each photo I posted, and it would be the comment I’d always look for first. There were days when I’d been at college all day, had been working an evening shift in a shop, and then had coursework to do, and the last thing I’d feel like doing when I got home would be to take a self portrait,” Ellis said. “Patrick would be that driving force every day telling me that I could do it, that I couldn’t give up on myself, and that changed my approach to photography and the 365 project hugely.”

After a few weeks of commenting on each others’ photos, the two began communicating by instant messaging and Skype, and their relationship grew. For the next year and a half, Ellis and Eggert communicated online, eventually realizing they had feelings for each other even though they had never met in person.

“Unlike meeting someone in person, we had no expectations and there was no pressure, so instead of worrying about everything we were able to just talk openly and honestly, and before we’d even met we knew more about each other than we’d ever shared with anyone else,” Ellis said. “From that, we both realised how important it was to have each other in our lives, and so it became easy to always make time to speak, no matter how briefly.”

Finally, in 2011 Ellis flew to Portland to meet Eggert for the first time — a meeting that was only awkward for a moment, when they realized Eggert is a foot taller than Ellis. The two continued their long-distance relationship for the next year, taking turns traveling to visit each other and communicating over text messages and Skype every day.

In December 2012, while Ellis was visiting Eggert in Portland, Eggert popped the question using (what else?) his camera. During a trip to a local beach, Eggert set up his camera’s 10-second timer, jogged over to where Ellis was sitting, and pulled out a ring.

“My brain was going a million miles an hour thinking, ‘Goodness, am I really going to do this?’” Eggert said. “Sophie was expecting me to put my arm around her as usual, but instead I got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage. The camera took the photo and honestly captured the most important moment of my life.”

The two are now working on getting Ellis a visa so she can move to Portland. Of course, they agree that photography will continue to be a huge part of their relationship.

“Whether it’s just to document the places we’ve traveled together or to actively set out and take photos with a specific final product in mind, we always have a camera with us wherever we go,” Eggert said. “We met through photography, [I] proposed in a photograph, and Sophie took our engagement photos after, so I think photography will always have an important role in our lives.”