Personal Post: Our Florida Keys Vacation Photos & Story with a Surprise Twist Ending

Ben and I took a quick trip to the Florida Keys at the end of January . I had never been before, and I will 100% be going again! It was awesome. Although our resort was on Duck Key, we spent everyday exploring different areas. Day one we went to Key west. The 7 mile bridge was so cool! Day two was spent under a palm tree on Sombrero Beach. We had dinner at a local place called Sparky's and enjoyed 30 cent shrimp and wings. The last day we drove to Bahia Honda State Park. We wanted our last day to be at the most beautiful location. Bahia Honda is known for the sandbars that extend far into the water. It was perfect! The weather stayed around 78. The water was slightly chilly but we definitely did not mind. It was clear, calm and the most gorgeous shades of turquoise you have ever seen! It was the close to the most gorgeous water Ive ever seen, second only to Turks and Caicos. Our trip was phenomenal up until the last day when something quite unexpected happened, with the most unexpected ending you have ever heard. Scroll to the bottom of the photos for the ending to this magical vacation tale.

** This next part is for the camera nerds like me out there. I knew that I wanted to shoot Ektar 100, because it offers very vivid colors and it's perfect for bright sunny days. My gear included a Nikon AF 28mm 2.8 Point and Shoot, a Canon A1 with the 28 2.8 and 50 1.4 and my Pentax 645N with the 75 FA lens. I was so pleased to get the scans back! I have already printed and frames some! 

Around 2 pm on the last day of our beach relaxation day at Bahia Honda, I got up to go take some photos and I noticed Ben face down in the water. I asked him what in the world he was doing because the water was too cold to be snorkeling around in. He looked up at me in a sheer panic and kept saying "oh no" "oh no". I knew instantly what had happened. I ran to help. Ben had lost his wedding ring in the water. It slipped right off his finger. I suspected as much because of the cold water making our fingers shrivel. The water was very calm and only about knee deep. It was also very clear. Luckily there was a little collection of rocks as a place marker so we wouldn't forget where he dropped it. I had instant hope we could find it. He knew right where he lost it.  So we began gently searching the sand. Ben was literally having a panic attack. The sand was silty like quicksand, and after a little bit I began to worry. I asked a nearby family if I could borrow their goggles. They came over and after some explanation they began to help us.  Not only did they help us, but a few more people came over from the beach and spent the better part of 2 hours helping us comb through the shallow waters. I was so amazed that so many people gave their time to us. I was humbled and incredibly moved. One man told me he said a prayer. People are so good and you forget that sometimes, but we are reminded in the most unexpected ways. Some people who helped us didn't even speak English. I just pointed and motioned when they asked what we were doing, and then they jumped right in to help. It was now approaching 4pm. By this point I was freezing from being in the water for so long and my coverup and shorts were completely soaked. Ben was so upset he wanted to leave, convinced it was gone, but I couldn't give up.  Replacing it just wouldn't be the same. I started to get a little emotional, but it was not time to give up. Ben went to ask the rangers if they had a metal detector but unfortunately they did not. Just then a group of older ladies walked by. I looked over and asked them if they knew anyone who had a metal detector and explained what happened. One of the women named Betsy (aka the guardian angel) said she actually did know of someone, but she didn't have the number. She told me to call her work and have her friend look it up for me. So I did. And I got the number of a man named Joe Oliveros. When I called him up he answered on the very last ring, as I began to explain myself he stopped me and informed me he was 87 years old and he couldn't hear. He handed the phone to his son in law. I explained the entire story and how Betsy gave me his number and was hoping they might know someone close who could help us. Unfortunately, he didn't know anyone. He kindly offered to come the next morning to look for us. He told us he was on Key Largo about 2 hours away and he maybe needed to charge his metal detector. I explained that our flight left early the next day and we wouldn't be here. We spent the next few minutes trying to think of a way to mark the area and leave our info so he might be able to find it later and return it to us. At this point my heart sank. Just then he said "ok well, we're gonna come on right now." I was like, say what?! Really? I couldn't believe that he was willing to drive almost 2 hours for a perfect stranger.  He instructed me to text him my name so he'd have my info and they would leave right away and try to be there before dark. I agreed and hung up, texted him our info and proceeded to wait. An hour ticked by and the beach started to empty. More time passed. I had not received a text and decided to call him to see where they were. No answer. After a few more unanswered calls I began to worry. The rangers had told us that they close at 6:10 and everyone is expected to leave the area after dusk. I texted and called a few more times. I decided he must have either forgot his phone or it was dead/out of cell range. As 6pm approached Ben went to the parking lot to wait on them. He though maybe he could flag them down since they did not know where or who we were. I waited at the beach. It was completely deserted by now except for a few people. The sun was setting. I was nervous that they wouldn't make it in time before close, or it would be too dark to search for it if they did make it. It was 5:55 pm and I sat on the beach staring at my phone.  Then I got a text "They are here! Were on our way!" I literally jumped up and down and screamed out loud. "They made it!" A few moments later Ben arrived on the boardwalk with the two men. Joe was a short spry older gentleman dressed ready for the water and the metal detector looked to be about as old as he was! He introduced himself and got right to work. We pointed to the area where he last saw the ring. He had to wear special head phones hooked up to the detector to hear the beeps when it went over metal. We stood aside and talked to his son in law as he searched. We learned a lot about Joe during the wait. As we came to know more about Joe we learned that he has found several rings over the past 30 years. He has helped others in situations just like ours. Joe has also returned rings he's found to their owners by somehow tracking them down, sometimes several years after the ring was lost. He truly is The Lord of The Rings. This gave me some hope, however, it was a lot slower of a process than I realized. He then informed us that Gold is one of the hardest metals to detect. Great. After about 1o minutes, Ben motioned him to another spot. Joe slowly moved around that area. At times he would bend down and fish around in the sand very carefully. He did this on and off several more times. I started to feel really worried that they drove all the way down here for nothing. I felt so guilty. I just knew we wouldn't have enough time. By then the sun had all ready set and we had about 10 more minutes of light left. We stood there watching Joe sift around under the water when all of a sudden he nonchalantly stood up and said "Well you didn't tell me it was such a wide ring." He held his hand up and there on his pinky was Ben's ring. I think we were in shock for a moment. I could not believe it. We both screamed and I ran over and hugged him so tight. Of course I started balling as I was hugging him. I was so extremely happy in that moment. Ben and I both had tears in our eyes and thanked him a million times. We talked for a few more moments still in disbelief. I ran over and grabbed my wallet and tried to give him all the money that was in there, but he simply refused to take it. He said it made him feel good to see us so happy, and to just pay it forward. By that point the last of the daylight was fading away as we said our goodbyes and headed to the car. I'm pretty sure we were in a state of shock for quite some time. We just couldn't believe we had the ring back. We both felt sure it was gone forever and then this stranger drove 2 hours to find it for us. Tears just kept forming in my eyes as I thought about all the circumstances of the day. How our life had been directed all day from chance encounters and the kindness of strangers. I must say that this experience has renewed my faith in humanity. I still cannot believe that a man who didn't know us from Adam drove all that way and did such a kind thing for us. Maybe that prayer worked? Maybe humans are inherently good? Maybe this is a lesson about kindness and doing good things? This experience has been truly one in a million. In the grand scheme of life we could have replaced it At the end of the day it was just a ring, not a finger or a limb or a life that was lost. But it is more than that. It is a symbol thats meaning is more valuable than the gold itself and truly irreplaceable. I am so happy that we met Joe and I know that we will certainly never forget him. We will definitely be paying it forward for a long time! Thanks Joe!

A lady from a local newspaper contact me for an interview. She was writing a story about Joe and all the treasures he's found and good deeds he's done over the years. Here is a link to the newspaper article. The reporter got a few details wrong, but it is still a great article. http://pdf.keysnews.com/weeklys/freepress.pdf

Joe wading around with his detector. Notice how dark it is getting!

Joe wading around with his detector. Notice how dark it is getting!

Of course we had to have our photo made with Joe. 

Of course we had to have our photo made with Joe. 

Ethereal Lookout Mountain Maternity Portraits; Knoxville & Chattanooga Family Photography

Marie's Maternity photos in Chattanooga were a true dream come true. I love the soft and delicate colors contrasted agains the epic awesomeness of the location; A true testament to the nature of motherhood in my opinion! Because we though a cliff might be too treacherous for her 1 year old, we took some family photos on the Brow on Signal Mountain (where they live) before hand then a quick costume change (because why not) and off we went to Lookout Mountain. Maternity photos are some of my favorites to take. I love empowering mothers through beautiful portraits, and celebrating the bump in every way! Enjoy!

Dress: Sew Trendy | Film Scans Photovision Prints